Introduction: Retro Raspberry Pi Tumblr GIF Camera

I wanted a way to use my vintage cameras in a new, digital way. I have a few kicking around in various conditions, but haven't used them in ages because the film is costly to develop. Follow along with this Instructable to see how I put a Raspberry Pi and Pi Camera inside a retro film camera, and programmed it to upload GIFs to my Tumblr.

The code is based on Lara's free Instructables Raspberry Pi Class, which contains valuable background info if you're new to electronics, programming, or the Pi. If you have some Pi experience, you may appreciate the Pi Tumblr GIF Photobooth Instructable, which is a more concise overview of the class content. The same code can be used to run a photo booth at your next party! I chose to take my camera mobile with a big battery pack to capture GIFs at Maker Faire NY this year.

This Target Brownie Six-20 is a 40s camera, and it was pretty dirty and didn't take great photos, so I don't feel bad about gutting it. I'd think twice about cutting and drilling through some other members of my collection. If you take this on, be sure you're comfortable disabling your camera's ability to shoot film, as my methods are a bit destructive.

For this project, you will need:

I used the Raspbian operating system for this project, which includes Python 2, but you'll need to install some packages using the following lines of code in your Pi's terminal window in order to run the script:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install imagemagick
sudo apt-get install mpg321 -y
sudo apt-get install python-RPi.gpio python3-RPi.gpio
sudo pip install pytumblr

Step 1: Prototype Circuit

Picture of Prototype Circuit

I prototyped this project outside of the camera (no soldering required), then moved the components inside the camera. I recommend this method in order to troubleshoot installation problems vs. base functionality problems. Get it working before trying to shove everything into a tiny, sometimes metal, place!

One LED is programmed to turn on when the Python script starts up, and another flashes in time with the photos being taken after you press the pushbutton. A third LED stays lit while the Pi is processing and uploading the GIF, so you know when it's ok to take another.

Step 2: Disassemble Camera

Picture of Disassemble Camera

After I finished troubleshooting the code and circuit, I moved on to build everything into my camera.

In addition to opening the camera up from its box (this video was helpful in remembering how), I used a small screwdriver to remove the front panel of the camera. Set the screws in a cup or tray somewhere safe; they're tiny!

I (carefully) smashed out the lens glass to make room for the pi camera.

Step 3: Mount Pi Camera

Picture of Mount Pi Camera

I used double-stick foam tape to mount the pi camera inside the inside of the front panel of my vintage camera. I routed the ribbon cable through to the main body of the camera, which I opened up by cutting out the interior cardboard.

Step 4: Install Pushbutton

Picture of Install Pushbutton

I installed the pushbutton to be triggered by the original shutter lever, and ran its wires to the interior camera body as well.

Step 5: Prepare and Install LEDs

Picture of Prepare and Install LEDs

I soldered the LEDs up with some resistors and heat shrink tubing, then used some hot glue to secure them in place.

All the wires route back into the main body of the camera, which was big enough for the Pi once I cut out the cardboard.

Step 6: Test and Configure

Picture of Test and Configure

I plugged everything in again to test it out inside the new build, and I added a shell script to run my Python script when the Pi boots up, so I can operate it without a screen or keyboard. I also added my phone's tethering wifi network to my Pi so I could take it with me to Maker Faire.

The shell script should be located in /home/pi and contain:

#/bin/sh
cd /
cd home/pi/boof
python TumblrGIFCamera.py &
exit 0
You'll also need to add the startup script to /etc/local by appending this line at the end:
/home/pi/startupscript.sh
Additionally, the permissions must be executable on both the python script and shell script, which you can set with the following command lines:
sudo chmod +x /home/pi/startupscript.sh

sudo chmod +x /home/pi/boof/TumblrGIFCamera.py

Step 7: Close It Up

Picture of Close It Up

I routed the power USB cable through the back cover and closed up the camera, checking to see that it boots and the green LED turns on, and it flashes the white LED when taking photos, etc.

Step 8: Battery Power

Picture of Battery Power

If you're staying put with your camera, you can power it from the USB hub or wall power supply, but I wanted to take mine with me by adding a USB battery pack. I used velcro tape to secure it to the underside of the camera. Ideally the battery would fit inside the camera body somewhere, but for my purposes (long day, need easy access to battery activation button), this arrangement worked just fine.

Step 9: Use It!

Picture of Use It!

Get out there and take some GIFs! See all mine on my Tumblr page.

Step 10: Final Thoughts

Picture of Final Thoughts

I had some connectivity issues occasionally, which kept the file from being uploaded, and then it would get overwritten with the next GIF. So ideally in the next version, the code would be optimized to save all the GIFs with different filenames so as to keep them all.

The Raspberry Pi model A fits inside my camera, but was significantly slower in "developing" the GIFs than a faster RasPi 3 I've tried this code with before.

I need to add another shutter indicator LED that's easier to see from the photographer's point of view while holding the camera. As it stands I have to look in the side to see when to shout out "change!" to capture the subject in different moments.

Please share your thoughts and feedback with me in the comments! I'd love to hear what you have to say.

To keep up with what I'm working on, follow me on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat.

Comments

keebie81 (author)2017-10-02

I followed this tonight to start working on mine. Everything from the lesson worked except it wouldnt create the gif and gave me an error of sh: 1: convert: not found.

I then found this instructable https://www.instructables.com/id/Raspberry-Pi-Tumb... which was far easier to follow than the class guide which I couldn't find the mention of me needing imagemagick installed.

Maybe adding these steps to this guide would be simpler. Linking to other guides is handy sometimes. But then sometimes it fails if that other guide gets edited in the future or disappears. Also sometimes its confusing to find.

But anywho I now have it working and can move to trying to implement my own changes in code and fit in to my camera body I have.

bekathwia (author)keebie812017-10-03

I hear ya! I'll add a list of required packages. The project you linked is an edited version of the raspi class project, with info all in one place rather than spread out through the introductory lessons (but it is all there, I know because I edited it both the class and that project 'ible). If you are new to raspi, the class is the way to go, as it guides you through each step of pi setup, but if you've already got some experience, a shorter list of requirements would be helpful. Thanks for your feedback!

BrownDogGadgets (author)2017-09-28

Very fun project! Question though, why did you go with an external power bank over fitting a battery on the inside? It seemed like you would have enough space for one.

Thanks! As I mentioned in the Battery section, ideally it would go inside, but I used what I had on hand that would last through Maker Faire, and be easy to turn off/on. Also, bonus port for charging my phone! =D

Whoops, I totally missed that explanation. That makes complete sense.

LeeG (author)2017-10-01

I would have been a little more impressed if it had a camera sensor and used the original lens. You could have installed this in any old brick.

bekathwia (author)LeeG2017-10-01

Thank you for the backhanded compliment! You are welcome to try building your own.

cindabear (author)2017-09-29

Very neat! Perhaps in future projects, purely for aesthetics, you could use a photo of a shutter to block out around the lens area where the circuit board of the Pi camera shows through. Would you be able to cut a hole for the Pi camera lens and tape it in there, too? This is such a nifty hack, I'm sure you can easily go an extra teensy step and have gorgeousness!

bekathwia (author)cindabear2017-09-29

Nice idea! Thanks for the suggestion. I like the green color and that I can easily show folks how the project works, but of course you could cover everything but the tiny camera lens with paper, vinyl, etc.

aCuriousCreator (author)2017-09-27

That's really cool :D awesome photography hack GIFs for the win

Thank you!

Donald Bell (author)2017-09-27

Awesome project, Becky! I have a "Brownie Fiesta" on my shelf looking for a project. This is perfect.

bekathwia (author)Donald Bell2017-09-29

Thanks Donald! Would love to see your version.

Fabrice L (author)2017-09-28

Quel gachis!...

About This Instructable

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Bio: Becky Stern is a content creator at Instructables. She has authored hundreds of tutorials about everything from wearable electronics to knitting. Before joining Instructables, Becky ... More »
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