60 Year Old Digital Camera??




About: I enjoy taking a pile of junk and making something unusual out of it. I like wheeled vehicles, and currently own two motorcycles, two electric bikes that I've built, and an electric scooter pushed by a soc...

I'll be the first to admit that this project solves no critical problem and serves no practical purpose other than to have a bit of fun with other people.

My goal was to install a modern digital camera inside the housing of an old, obsolete camera.  I thought it might be fun to pull this camera out in a crowd of people and make them wonder why in the world an old man would continue to use a camera that was obviously as old as he was, as opposed to something more modern.

I initially thought about finding an old huge Polaroid instant camera (you know, the giant ones in molded plastic cases), but decided I didn't want to lug one of those around.  I also considered using an old bellows camera, but was afraid I would run into focal length problems.

I settled on an Augus C3 camera, since there are a lot of these available at cheap prices, and they really look old!  Plus, the C3 was built with the lens off-centered on the front of the camera, just like most modern digital cameras are made.  That would make it easier to line up the digital camera with the lens opening on the old camera.

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Step 1: Materials and Tools Used

The materials used were:
- a Pentax digital camera ($15 at a garage sale)
- an Argus C3 camera (in non-working condition) ($9)
- a piece of scrap 1/8th inch black micarta
- small scrap of wood for shim
- small piece of closed cell foam
- miscellaneous fasteners
- glue

Tools used were:
- rotary tool with a cut-off wheel and grinding stone
- drill & bits
- bandsaw (jig saw would work as well)
- sense of humor!

Step 2: Building a New Camera Body

The first thing I did was remove the front and back from the C3.  My plan was to make a new housing to hide the digital camera, and cover it with the front and back of the C3.   I briefly thought about sawing out the center of the molded camera body, but these things are made of some pretty tough stuff.  So, I decided to make a housing that I could use the original camera's front and back.

I made the housing out of some scraps of black micarta I had laying around.  Basically I built a box with no front or back.  I drilled and tapped holes on the side so I could use the original C3 hinge and catch to attach the back. 

Before mounting the C3's front, I first enlarged the hole where the lens was (after removing the lens assembly), and kept enlarging and test fitting until the digital camera's lens would fit with a reasonable amount of extra clearance.

From the body of the old C3 I removed the various knobs and mounted them on the new housing (just for looks)

I also cut a part of the top away from the new housing to allow for easy access to the digital camera's power switch and snapshot button.

During this process I continually test fitted the digital camera inside the new body to make sure everything would fit.  Once I figured exactly where I wanted the camera to be attached, I built wood shims inside the new housing to ensure the camera would not accidentally shift its position once it was inserted.  I didn't want to glue the camera in place, because it would need to be removable for access to the battery and the memory card.

Once the digital camera was accurately positioned, I carefully measured where a cut-out needed to be on the back of the camera so I could see the digital camera's screen..  I cut out this window using a rotary tool with a cut-off wheel.

Step 3: Refining the Inside of the New Body

In order to make the camera easily removable, I decided to use a hard stop and the top, bottom, and left side, and a foam wedge on the right.  To remove the camera (to access the memory card or battery), I simply remove the foam wedge and slide the camera  backward and slightly to the right.

To keep the camera from moving in and out I glued pieces of foam around the window I had made in the rear door.  When the door is shut, the foam compresses against the camera preventing any in/out movement.

Step 4: How the Camera Works

The on/off control, the indicator lamp, and the shutter button are all accessible via the cut-out on the top of the camera (photo 1).  The other controls on the top are just for looks.

 In photo 2 you may also notice that I enlarged the former viewfinder windows to allow the digital flash to be used.

In photo 3 the camera has been turned on, and the lens has extended.

The only downside I've run across in my design is that I currently have to open the camera's back to access the zoom function (photo 4), but I may eventually fix that by cutting another window in the back if it becomes an issue.  When I need to zoom, I simply flip the back open.  So far, it has not been a problem.

Step 5: Why Bother?

I've had a lot of fun with this camera, taking it places and watching people's puzzled looks as I appear to be using an old beat-up  camera that was made about the time I was born!  I have even had people approach me and ask if I can still get film developed -- with no idea that the heart of my camera is actually digital!  I have also had people ask me how many pictures I can take with the camera, and they always look puzzled when I tell them, "Oh, around 4,000 or so."

If you want to have a bit of fun with strangers, build one of these, take it with you on vacation and watch people's reactions.  You wouldn't get a stranger reaction if you strapped a pay phone to your back and went down to the beach!

Life would be very dull if we didn't have a bit of fun every now and then.


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    18 Discussions

    Running Wolf

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Way cool idea.... and been thinking of trying to do something like this. I live in a town that has a D-Day reenactment and was thinking it would be cool to have a digital mounted in a 1940's style body to try to participate in the event next year.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Where would I find micarta like you used? I am going to do the same project and use it for WWII reenacting. This is an awesome project by the way!

    1 reply

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome project! You have inspired me. I kinda wish though, that you used the original shutter button, electronically adapted or something.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I would have liked to use the original shutter, but unfortunately I didn't have enough clearance inside the case to link it up, and my old eyes aren't good enough anymore to try to solder to tiny circuit boards. Thank you for your comment!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I have a good friend who is a WW2 reenactor. He's always bugging me to come to reenactments and try it out. As a history buff and hobbyist photographer, I'd love to go out and take pics of the "battles" but a modern digital SLR would be definitely out of place. I've long thought about how to put a good quality digital camera into the guts of a vintage body.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    That would be really neat! You might want to consider putting a digital camera into an old box camera. Box cameras are easy to find, and there's plenty of room inside for mounting a digital camera. You will need a way to aim the camera, though. One thing you might consider is to cut down the depth of the box camera's housing and then you could cut a window in the back like I did on the C3. Just a thought. Thanks for your comment.

    Phil B

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Digital cameras are such an advance over film cameras in many respects, but often have a sterile stainless steel look. Even the manufacturers are beginning to make digital cameras with a retro look, for example the new Fuji X100. But, at $1,200 for the Fuji, your's is much more reasonably priced. 

    By the way, the Argus C3 was affectionately called "the brick" in its day.

    1 reply
    knife141Phil B

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Phil -- Thanks for reminding me of this camera's nickname! It was called "the brick" for good reason. The body of the camera was very thick and heavy -- it may have been bakelite. Thanks for your comment!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I could not stop laughing when I finished reading your instructable :-)
    A couple of my friends are professional photographers who'll fall for this for sure ....

    Well done indeed sir, that's one of the best mods I've seen in a long time.

    I'm gonna try to find one of these this weekend, and I honestly hope I can replicate your excellent work.

    Congrats and job well done.


    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I got the idea for this while on a trip overseas. I was standing in a huge group of tourists and thought how much fun it might be to be taking photos amid these people with a camera that appeared to be ancient and obsolete. It has been fun!

    I loved my C3, some of my clearest, cleanest, most inspired photos were taken with that old Argus. When that gave up the ghost, my wife gave me a Pentax K1000, and the interchangeability really gave me new opportunities. Now on my 2nd digital camera and want to get back to a SLR style digital. Hmm, with the low price of point and shoots these days, it makes me want to follow your footsteps into the past and present. Excellent job!


    1 reply

    The old Argus C3's were great cameras. My dad had one, and I believe the C3 was the first 35mm camera that was affordable. Many are still used by film photographers today. They were almost unbreakable. Heavy, but durable!
    Thanks for your comments.