Lego digital camera – “Percy” – All you need is love

Up to now, I haven’t seen any impressive Lego digital camera. I saw a very simple one produced by Lego but that looks like a simplistic low-end point-and-shoot camera which lacks details and don’t have the usual charm of Lego. So I decided to take up the task and do it myself.

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Watch out…

This camera was inspired by five year old son. My boy has made a Lego camera which looks strikingly similar to the folding bed camera I modified previously. (Instant back in time – Shooting with a 90 years old Lego Instant Camera) He has taken his Lego camera to pretend to take pictures and even built a Laser pointer with Lego to assist focus. It is very well-designed and the feeling of holding it is like holding my vintage camera.

The left one below is made by him; the right one modified by me with a hundred years old camera which now takes instant film – Contessa Nettel Lego Instant camera

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It inspires me to build a real Lego camera for him. Ideally it would have a feeling of vintage camera in taking pictures but it has to be user-friendly. Even small kids who don’t know how to set aperture and shutter speed can use. Hence I made this camera – named Percy. It is a real digital camera that can take pictures. It has various shooting modes, automatic, aperture priority, shutter priority, art filter, etc. It uses manual focusing, assisted by the preview on the screen at the back. It’s so easy to use that my son knows how to use it right away.

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How I made it?

I extract the lens from a old Pentax point-and-shoot camera which is no longer working since the day I acquired it. I use another Olympus Mirrorless camera EPL3 (that has some sensor issue) as a digital back, given by my friend.

Applying some Lego technic bricks (See the grey gear on the left), I have built a simple focus system. It took me around half a day to do all the above. When I built the prototype, my son was very excited to take pictures with it. After taking a dozen of pictures, he accidentally dropped it to the floor and the Lego fell all over the place. He wanted to cry. I told him it just takes very short time for me to fix it. Actually it took me around half an hour to 45 minutes to rebuild it. It is a bit stressful to do. It is similar to losing two hours of work in Microsoft Word and you need to re-type it using your vague memory.

I did a light seal, similar to my other Lego instant cameras. This is challenging as always due to the tight space it is and the need to maintain a flexible focus system. With the experience of modifying so many cameras, it is doable and it took around 1-2 hours to perfect the seal.

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Compared to my previous Lego instant camera, this camera is more light-hearted and funny. I didn’t build a tripod socket for it. I did do careful light seal so that it wouldn’t have light leak. I put two eyes on the camera lens plate. It now looked like an EMOJI with a surprising look.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This camera is manual focus. The focus is adjusted by the grey gear in the left hand side.  With the preview screen, the manual focus is very intuitive. I used the camera to teach my son what’s focus. It is much more effective than explaining to him using a normal digital camera (usually auto focus).

The resulting photos are fun and playful. It is a bit dreamy due to the use of the old Pentax lens. The good thing about using a digital camera back is that I can apply a variety of digital filters. Kids always know how to play around with the filters. My son likes pop-art, Japanese light-tone and soft-focus filter. I like the black-and-white filters. Here are some of the picture taken with the Lego Digital Camera.

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Some previous posts related to Lego cameras:

World first Lego Instant Camera

90 years old Lego Instant Camera

Instant camera made out of Lego

 

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A peculiar incident on a Minolta 7s camera – Part 2

Here we continue to talk about the restoration of this peculiar Minolta Hi-Matic 7s that found me on its own.  If you haven’t read part 1, please read it first here.  Then you’ll understand why it is important for me to restore this camera.

3. Light seal

It is typical for old cameras light seal foam has decomposed in the camera or became unusable condition. This part is easy to fix. I just took some time to remove the old seal using lighter fluid and toothpicks. And sticking new ones on. I cut those light seal scraps myself. A guy said he used two hours to measure the length. I don’t know why it takes so long for him as it only took me less than twenty minutes to measure, cut and stick onto it.

The light seal is made of black cloth sticking onto the camera film compartment.

4. Cosmetics

This is the final touch-up of the exterior of camera. Just carefully clean the camera surface and use a bit of art skills to paint the the camera. Luckily the leather looks fine and no need to replace. This is an easy fix. 

Before (bottom) and after (top/left)

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Afterthought

It looks refreshing after restoration. I finished this at 2am last night. I felt relieved after restoring this. Can’t wait to shoot a new roll with it and to understand what is the calling for me to restore this camera. I’ll post an update on pictures I shot with this Minolta Hi-Matic 7s and the new thoughts about this camera.

After this, I think I should restore my Canonet QL17 . It seems to have opened a new door for me to restore more old cameras.

Feel free to leave any comments and let me know your thoughts.

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Comparison (Top is after; bottom is before):

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Reference to Part 1: https://instaxmagic.com/2020/02/09/a-strange-incident-regarding-a-minolta-7s-camera-part-1/

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A peculiar incident on a Minolta 7s camera – Part 1

Every vintage camera begins with a story. Recently I encountered one. A vintage camera has come all the way to visit me.

A few weeks ago I was searching for a rangefinder film camera for my friend. I visited several camera shops. I saw a Minolta Hi-Matic 7s that looks quite good in Dot-Well camera shop. But I haven’t purchased it as it appeared to be overpriced.

Info for Minolta Hi-Matic 7s: http://camera-wiki.org/wiki/Minolta_Hi-Matic_7s

Two days later, my primary English teacher texted me and said she has found an old camera at her mother’s place. She recently went there to tidy up a bit and would like to give it to me. She thought this camera would be suitable for me. I was shocked to learn that this camera is exactly the same model (Minolta Hi-Matic 7s) I saw in the shop and this one is a rarer black version. This is a bit spooky…

I feel that the story hasn’t ended here. There might be some reasons why this camera is so determined to reach me. I feel obliged to use this camera. However, the condition of the camera isn’t very good. It has been stored in a box for probably 30-40 years. This camera model was first made in 1966. Therefore it could probably be 54 years old by now. I have to do a CLA (Clean, Lubricate, Adjust) before I can use it without wasting the film. This is the first time I tried to clean up a 135 rangefinder camera.

So the restoration starts. It is an interesting process for someone who likes to clean up and fix something, or those who loves nostalgia.

1. The Viewfinder

The viewfinder is full of dust and also some marks on the glass and mirror. I use some lens cleaner and lighter fluid to clear them. Taking off the rangefinder compartment is a bit tricky. Luckily I found some very useful youtube channel discussing dissembling a Olympus 35 RD rangefinder. It is quite similar to Minolta Hi-Matic 7s.

I couldn’t help but wondering how does the camera went through all these years without anyone touching it. If it has a life, it must be bored and perhaps felt hopeless. It is symbolic that its viewfinder is dusty and can no longer see the world clearly. 

Top (After); Bottom (Before)

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2. Lens

The lens are dusty and are impacted by some fungus. This camera hasn’t been used for several decades. Although it is put inside a box, still the dust and the moisture affected the camera over time. The dust is easier to deal with. Just use a blower to remove them. For the fungus, I remove them using water and lens cleaner. Care must be taken not to damage the coating on the lens.

A bit of work to reach the lens. I have to be very careful not to hurt the lens with the screw driver.

The lens part is challenging. Any excessive use of force will scratch the lens. A camera with a scratched lens is a hair in the mouth. I would probably disappoint the one who bestowed the camera to me. Also I may never know why this camera comes to me. 

After cleaning

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Please read part II to check out how does this old camera look after restoration. Click here!

 

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Revisiting three old pictures taken with Canonet QL17

Some time ago I posted about the pictures I took with my Canonet QL17 (Took a year to shoot a roll with Canonet QL17 camera). When I look at the printed photos today, I realised something that I overlooked before.

This train picture appeared to be underexposed. However, it leaded me to focus on the greenish and yellowish light in the picture. It gives a feel of nostalgia and peacefulness. Indeed this colour tone reminds me the metro station in Japan and Taiwan.

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This isn’t a random dog, but a dog of my neighbour. I saw it quite often and I think it recognises me too. How cute is it to see a dog waiting for her mum in the pet stroller? It does take me 30 seconds to do light metering and focusing. It hasn’t complained that I spent so much time in focusing. I always wanted to give this picture to my neighbour but I haven’t done it yet. May be it should be a new year resolution?

This one was taken in the same supermarket. This dog is standing there so patiently to wait for its mum. It does seem to take a serious look to my camera. I wonder if it is posing for me?

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New York

Following the London trip, I flied to New York. The first thing I’m not used to is the hotel room is very small. It made it difficult to do anything. I walked along the street in Time Square. It is very crowded and is a bit chaotic. If one has experienced in Asian cities, it would be pretty easy to adapt to a chaotic street. Then I noticed this very interesting advertising board. I stood there and took this instant picture with my Instax Square camera. This advertising board just looked very New York.

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The only Instax taken outdoor this week

These days I’m mostly staying at home due to the widespreading virus threat in the city. What a photographer can do if he doesn’t have chance to go out? There are not much stuff to shoot at home. Hence today I took my camera to the supermarket and shot the only outdoor instant picture in the past week.

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Daily pictures with Kodak Retina iia

This roll of film was taken around mid-18 to Jan-19, using my Kodak Retina iia. It was the first roll I put into this camera. The earliest picture was taken in the summer of 2018. I remember I wasn’t a big fan of 135 film at that time. But I quite like the previous pictures I took with Canonet QL17. As such, I was fancy to use an older style 135 camera such as this Kodak camera to take some pictures.

More often I prefer taking pictures with instant film than using 135 film. But there is  another kind of enjoyment to wait for 135 film to develop. It made me quite nervous before I saw the results. I always feel that I have messed up lots of pictures, like incorrect focus or exposures. But it turned out most photos are still acceptable.

I like the casualness of these pictures. Sometimes it’s even out of focus. But it’s authentic. Life isn’t always in focus. These pictures remind us something about daily life.

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It is tricky to take pictures for my son. Either I can’t see his face or he gives an expressionless face. I think the kids’ photographer knows it very well. Kids are frequently uncooperative in photo shooting. However, some little girls seem to understand by instinct that the photographer is their good friend. They know how to look good in front of cameras and they love to be photographed. They realize their interest and the photographers’ interest are aligned. Both are better off with a well-taken photo.

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Kodak Retina iia

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A trip to London with Instax Square

These were taken in October 2019 during a trip to London. It is my first time to London. It is a refined city and everywhere are historical buildings. Even the offices and retail shops are frequently situated in historic sites. Surrounded by these aged sites, I think it would make people thinking more long term and devote more time to reflect their life.

Ionly brought my Instax Square with me this time because of its light weight. I glad that I brought a film camera as it would fit my mood at the moment.

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Interestingly, I used Ross London Xpres 75mm F3.5 lens for this Instax camera. The lens was made in UK as well. It seems to be a perfect fit for this trip.

Original camera manual

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Chinese New Year

This is probably one of the most quiet Chinese New Year. Most of the time I’m staying home for this holiday. Luckily I purchased some flowers before the holiday began. Hence I still have some new subjects to take pictures with. I also took a few new pictures using the 135 films on my Rolleiflex.

I also took the time to fix some of my cameras. I have taken off the lens from my Instax Wide for sometime. Now I tried to install another lens from Zeiss Ikon. I used that in an Instax Mini before and I like the feeling of its pictures very much. This Chinese New Year is the best period I can do these unfinished businesses.

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Take another year to finish a roll with Kodak Retina iia

I’m the type of slow photographer. This time I used more than a year to finish this roll of 35mm film. I still remember the first picture I have taken in Taiwan during X’Mas 2018. I just finished the last picture two weeks ago.

I like this Kodak Retina iia camera. It looks so classic and has a very vintage bellow. It is special when you take out to shoot. The lack of auto or semi-auto mode don’t bother me at all. Almost all my film pictures were taken in manual mode, using cellphone for light metering. It is already a luxury to have a range finder system for me to focus on.

Normally I use ISO 400 for 135 films. It is convenient for both indoor and outdoor shooting. For the pictures from this roll, I forgot the film I used. It should be a Kodak ISO 400 film. It appears a bit too coarse-grained for my taste compared to the Protra film I used before. The pictures are mildly washout, not sure if it is because I’m storing the film inside the camera for too long. The earlier pictures look a bit more washout than latter pictures.

For the focusing, this Kodak Retina has a clearer viewfinder than my Canonet QL17. However, the colour looks more pleasing in my previous 135 roll with Canonet QL17. But I suspect it is due to the difference in film.

In these 135 film pictures, I have a feeling of ‘slowness’ when I look at the pictures. In photos with my Olympus mirrorless digital camera, I have a feeling of ‘instantaneous’ or ‘freezing motion’. It should relate to the time required in manual focus in my film camera. It takes much longer time to compose and hence most subjects I shoot usually quite static. It is probably what we need in our world nowadays. Things change too quickly for us to catch up. It’s time to slow down and see the world in a different perspective.

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