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Digital film cartridge for standard 35mm cameras

Russ Arcuri , Feb 23, 1998; 11:08 a.m.

Okay, here's something that looks really interesting. www.imagek.com is advertising a plug-in 35mm film cartridge that stores images digitally. I've never been interested in a digital camera, but a digital cartridge would probably be fun to play with.

Of course, some questions need to be answered, like:

  • What's it cost?
  • What's it use for a power source?
  • How delicate is it? Will normal handling (for transfer of images to a computer, etc.) be likely to break it?
  • Will it require any focus compensation? Presumably the ccd is thicker than standard film. Maybe DOF will cover it?
I realize these aren't questions anyone here is likely to know the answers to. I figured it would be of interest to photo.net regulars, though.


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Russ Arcuri , Feb 23, 1998; 11:10 a.m.

I just thought of another question: What effective film speed does it operate at? ISO 400 would be nice...

Russ Arcuri , Feb 23, 1998; 11:17 a.m.

Sorry, another question to ponder: Does the fact that there's no film to wind cause problems in the camera? i.e. the camera detects the presence of a cartridge (with DX code, I assume) but can't find film to wind. Also, the film sprocket hole counter would have problems, yes?

Russ Arcuri , Feb 23, 1998; 11:18 a.m.

Hmmm.... I'm starting to think this thing might be a hoax....

Russ Arcuri , Feb 23, 1998; 11:43 a.m.

I just sent off a message to their e-mail address with these questions and a couple more. I'll post a summary of the answers here, if I get any.

Chuck Fan , Feb 23, 1998; 11:49 a.m.

It might be a hoax. But if it weren't, the film advance won't be a problem, at least with a Nikon. You can set Nikon AF cameras on any mode without film, set the ISO manually, and the camera will work fine. The film counter will blink "E" of course, but that doesn't seem to effect any other operation.

The reason I think this might be a hoax is, to make a plug in digital cartrige, which presumable sits in the normal cartrige chamber, you will have to have a CCD that's at least the size of a 35 mm frame, very thin, so it doesn't catch on the shutter, and have smooth or sealed back so it doesn't scratch the film pressure plate. I wonder if the technology exist to make such a CCD. Also, there seem to be a need for the camera to communicate to the cartrige "power up, I am taking a picture", and there doesn't seem to be any way for that to be done electronically with a normal 35mm SLR.

Russ Arcuri , Feb 23, 1998; 11:51 a.m.

Chuck -- EOS cameras work without film in them as well. However, this is different -- what happens if there's actually a film cartridge in the chamber, but no film is being taken up on the spool? I don't think this is the same thing as running with an empty chamber.

Paul Wilson , Feb 23, 1998; 12:19 p.m.

My N90s will work fine with a rewound cartidge in it, which would be similar to your scenario.

What I don't get is where they fit both the power to run the cartridge and the space to hold 30 1.3 megapixel images. Also, as Chuck pointed out, how does the cartridge get the info that a shot is being taken?

This seems like an interesting concept, but the technology just isn't there. If this were a whole back for a certain type of SLR(like an N90s), it would be a little more believable.

Nes Suno , Feb 23, 1998; 01:13 p.m.

I just quickly looked at the web site and I'll hazard a guess. This is not a shipping product; it is a veiled plea for venture capital. The image reeks of Fake Marketing Prototype. The core technologies probably exist (thin CCDs, flash memory, etc.), but implementation would be a nightmare (distance from cartridge to shutter window is probably different on almost every single 35mm camera, data transfer issues, power issues, etc.).

Irvine Sensors is traded on the NASDAQ and files with the SEC on a fairly regular basis. They look like a real company albeit a highly speculative penny stock.

Looking back at the "ad" I find it faintly amusing.

Mike -- , Feb 23, 1998; 01:56 p.m.

Flash photography would probably suck with the "EFS" system, just as it does with other high-end digital models (except the new DCS 520 which uses E-TTL flash metering). The light bouncing back from the shiny cover of the CCD would cause severe overexposure, requiring you to either dial the flash down 3 stops or use Manual flash mode. And, how do you go about d/l the images from the little cartridge? From the pictures on Imagek's site, I don't see any provisions for a SCSI or Firewire outlet. Now, let's talk about the storage medium... Current high-end models use Type III PCMCIA cards like the Viper 260mb, which essentialy operate like mini-hard drives; Image information is written onto a tiny glass disk. I'm not a computer expert, so maybe someone else out there could enlighten us as to how this little EFS cartridge stores image information.

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