Introduction: 1950's Leica Slide Projector LCD Conversion for Under $30

About: Just love making things.. I wish I had space to do it but everything you see was made in my 600sf One Bedroom Condo!
In this Instructable I will show the steps to turn a vintage slide projector into a modern LCD projector without damaging the original projector so that it still can be used for slides. All that is needed is a "keychain" LCD player and a vintage projector (and some bits and pieces from your junk drawer).

Just for fun I wanted to make this "add-on" look as if it belonged to the original projector by painting the LCD package with metallic "hammered texture" paint. I also framed the LCD screen with an original vintage "Kodak Kodachrome" slide holder.

  • Vintage Leica Slide Projector (Free)
  • LCD Key ring - $19.99
  • Spray paint - $7.99
  • Light Switch Plates - $1.99
Total cost under $30.

This projector  is what the A/V crew back in public school only could dream about! so....   

Step 1: The Projector...

Over Christmas I was rummaging through my parents basement when this brown case caught my eye. Not that it looked very special except for the word "Leica" in old green brass on the side. Hoping for a box of old cameras I opened the case and found a 1950's model Leica slide projector. While not a windfall that an old M1 Leica camera would be it was still cool. I pulled it out and plugged it in and to my amazement it was still functioning with the bulb shining brightly!

The original slide attachment slid onto the projector on two metal rails. The piece that held the attachments was removable so I could use it to hold my new LCD conversion.

Step 2: The LCD...

I found a cheap LCD key ring at a camera store that was the perfect size for this project as the LCD was 1.8" which is almost the exact same size as an actual slide. There were 2 problems: 1) was that this was a very low resolution device, I could see the pixels on the small screen so I was sure I would see them when it was projected on the wall & 2) this device only showed images it would not play videos.

I decided to still use this device as the size of the package made it easy to work with. I had an older digital camera that I pulled apart to see if I could use its LCD screen but there was so much other electronics and functions in it and the ribbon cable to the LCD was so short I could not get it to work. I reasoned that since it was a 1950's slide projector the resolution did not have to be high as that would add to the "authenticity" of the experience.

The first step is to open the key ring and separate the parts from the case.

Step 3: Modifying the LCD...

Once the key ring is taken apart you can un-fold the LCD from the circuit board. This is required so that you can since the projector light through the back of the LCD screen as opposed to using the built in LED lights. On most LCDs there are several layers of material on the back of the screen to channel and reflect the light through the LCD. These need to be removed so that the LCD is transparent. The circuit board will need to be put back into the case with the LCD "open". To do this cut a groove cut into the plastic case but make sure it is tight enough that when the case was reassembled with the LCD outside that the two halves hold the edge of the LCD so you do not have to worry about adding structure to hold the screen. You can now test fit the Kodak slide over the LCD.

I left the LCD backlight in place as it is off to the side, and mounted as part of the LCDs plastic frame so it does not interfer with the Leica light shining through the LCD. I have heard that in some devices the logic detects if the backlight is not working and shuts down the LCD. I did not want to take that chance so I left everything in tacts except for removing the covers from the back of the LCD to allow light to shine all the way through.

Note:Slide projectors actually invert the image when projected. To compensate for this I just flipped the images in photoshop and relaoded them into the Key chain.

Step 4: Build the LCD Holder...

I used plastic light switch plates to mount the LCD as they were cheap and easy to get and also the right thickness. With a dremel I cut the plate to fit in the original Leica attachment holder. The first plate gives a mounting platform and the second plate will hold the LCD. Once the plates are cut spray them with metallic hammered finish spray paint so that they match the paint finish on the vintage projector.

Step 5: Putting It Together...

Insert the first plate into the attachment holder once the paint has dried. Place the second plate over the first and drill a hole for the mounting screw. Epoxy the glass that was protecting the LCD in the key ring over the plate hole and screw the top plat to the bottom plate. Then reassemble the Key ring Case and attach the slide frame to the LCD screen.

I needed something to hold the Key ring case to the light switch plate that could also be removed in order to plug in the USB to recharge the Key ring and to load new pictures. I thought of several options but I wanted something low tech to fit with this project so I just bend a piece of metal to act as a "clip". It held the case firm but was easy to remove and did not look out of place on the device. Lastly I touched up the screw with a bit of the spray paint to blend it in.

Step 6: Ready for the Show!

Load the Key ring with the images for your slide show and attach it to the holder with the clip. Press the "on button" on the top of the Key ring and insert the LCD attachment into the slide projector, sit back and watch the show!

The picture was better than I originally thought but was still pretty pixilated. The key ring automatically rotated through the images switching every 15 seconds, It was difficult to take good pictures of the slide show as room had to be dark to project the image on the wall. I was projecting the images onto a piece of white cardboard that was 3'x4' and the picture itself was about two feet wide at a distance of about 8ft from the projector.

The best part of this attachment is how inconspicuous it looks. Someone just looking at it would think it was an original attachment from the 1950's.

This is the perfect way to watch childhood photos with your family at holiday gatherings!

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