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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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: