Monday, 10 October 2016

SLR Nikon FE Film Camera with Digital Back - fully operational!

How to make a Film Camera into a Digital Camera

In early September I started this project with very little idea as to how this could be achieved, or whether it was even possible. I was inspired by Oliver Baker's work on his "franken camera" project with a range finder Konica and a Nex 5. From that I had a few ideas I wanted to try. The biggest hurdle to overcome was installing the sensor at the film plane without it hitting the shutters. If this was not possible then the project was dead. The idea to install the sensor filters on the inside of the Nikon shutter was my breakthrough moment which enabled the sensor to be rebated into the film plane to a point where it achieves perfect infinity focus and yet is still clear of the shutters. The bonus of this method is the infra red filters can be removed for shooting with a bare sensor. Many DSLR owners are getting this conversion done for multi spectrum and astronomy photography. This 1980 Nikon FE can swap to either spectrum in a minute.

I took a few wrong turns with this project. My first idea was to use extension PCB ribbon cables for which I paid for drawings ready for production. However at $800 AUD that idea died. I then tried to meld and scallop a Sony Nex 5 onto the Nikon back. This looked good but the battery had to be installed in the motor drive and a shutter switch fitted elsewhere. Subsequently during one of many trial installs the motherboard went up in smoke. This turned out to be a bonus as the replacement Sony Nex 3 was a lot easier to install complete including battery. Meaning I could still use the motor drive.

Below are photos of the working 1980 Nikon FE with "electric film" provided by a Sony Nex 3 with a 14mp APS-C CMOS Sensor at 1.5 crop. In my next post I will go into detail just how the camera works, a few sample pictures and a nice surprise was it takes really good movies too as I did not expect it to be able to do this.

How to fit a Sony Nex CMOS Sensor to any SLR Film Camera  Prepare Sensor for Film Camera

YouTube video of this at  Demonstration of converted film camera
Web Site for installation details at  Film Cameras to Digital

Play back mode with photo in normal colour.

Play back mode with photo taken with bare sensor in B&W

Filters removed from sensor. Installed in a metal frame which inserts behind
mirror up against the inside of the Nikon shutter frame. The blue tape
is just to pack out the sides a bit as the dimensions are critical to
prevent mirror lock up.

The sensor is allowed to float via the tape so it drops into the film plane.
Note how deep the rebate has to be to obtain the correct film plane position.

Looking into the Nikon with mirror up and prior to installation of the filters.

Filters are installed on the other side of the camera shutter frame.
The film rails have been widened by 0.5mm each side to allow the
rebated APS-C sensor to drop in between them. This issue resolved.
Read my Detail Page on fitting a sensor to the film plane

Nikon FE, Leitz Elmarit R wide angle lens, MD 11 motor drive
 & Sony Nex 3 "electric film"

Side view with a Tamron 80-200.


  1. Sir! You are amazing!!!
    Btw, I noticed that your fight hand is shaking, did you go to hospital to check about this?
    Hope all good with you!
    Thanks for sharing!
    (Forgive my poor English, plz.)

    1. Thank you Sir. And thanks for the concern on my shaking. It is just a tremor I have always had since I was young. Too many nail gun injuries with work and it makes for some interesting soldering results lol. Don't apologise for your English as it looks better than most Australians! Regards Robin.

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