Imagine having the capability to shoot an image with a resolution higher than most $20,000 cameras! Using a budget of about $250, my plan over the next 2 months is to build a 400+ megapixel camera out of a scanner and a vintage 8×10 view camera.

An old 8x10 camera, soon to be a scanner camera

Check out the concept and my progress after the break….

The concept:


The idea is simple, but not original: attach a modified scanner to the back of a camera. However, this will require heavy modification of the scanner. Also, mounting the scanner to the camera and focusing will require some ingenuity.

The Scanner:

Canon LIDE 80 (for now) – $30 on ebay
 
Canon’s LIDE scanners use a unique color LED system combined with a mirror-less micro-lens design that makes them perfect for photography with some heavy modification. These scanners are also great because they only require a USB cable for power allowing for more portability (connecting to a laptop on location).

The Camera:

8×10 View camera – $200 used
 
A large format camera (or at lease its lens) is needed to project an image large enough to nearly cover the entire bed of the scanner.

Limitations:

  • Exposure times are slow and anything moving will look oddly distorted. This effect can be very artistic, but is not always intended.
  • A 400mp 16-bit raw file will be around 3gb and will take a very long time to expose!
  • Scanning in color will require multiple exposures as well as an expensive IR blocking filter.
  • Banding and scan lines need special treatment (multiple exposures).
  • The setup is very large and cumbersome.
  • After disabling the LED in the scanner, some software won’t allow you to use the scanner

 

Current Progress (a few hours into the project):

Removing the lid
Step 1: Remove the lid 

Using a flat-head screw driver, carefully remove the plastic guides on the long sides of the scanner.
Step 2: Using a flat-head screw driver, carefully remove the plastic guides on the long sides of the scanner. 

Leaving the film guide attached to the glass, slide the glass toward the back of the scanner, lift up on the film guide end, then pull the glass straight out.
Step 3: Leaving the film guide attached to the glass, slide the glass toward the back of the scanner, lift up on the film guide end, then pull the glass straight out. 

Here is a view of the micro lens array (the black dotted strip) and the LED (the white strip near the top) The lens array is hot glued in and is a bit of a pain to remove.
Step 4(a): Here is a view of the micro lens array (the black dotted strip) and the LED (the white strip near the top) The lens array is hot glued in and is a bit of a pain to remove. 

 Using some needle-nosed pliers, carefully remove the micro-lens array. Start at one end and pull up until the glue breaks free moving down the line.
Step 4(b): Using some needle-nosed pliers, carefully remove the micro-lens array. Start at one end and pull up until the glue breaks free moving down the line.

 

Step 5 – Disable the LED( sorry but no photo): Use gaffers or thick electrical tape to cover the White LED strip leaving about 1-1/4” of the LED exposed at each end. Covering the entire LED would be ideal , but most scanning software won’t allow the scanner to work without some light shining though. 

Here is a comparison shot  of my progress so far. Note that the CIS housing creates a keyhole effect which I will later correct. The scanner also shows heavy banding that can be fixed with dark-frames (similar to the frames I use to get rid of noise on my star streak photos). Also notice that the sheep is white in the scanner images. That’s because the scanner scans near infrared.
 
Here is a comparison shot  of my progress so far. Note that the CIS housing creates a keyhole effect which I will later correct. The scanner also shows heavy banding that can be fixed with dark-frames (similar to the frames I use to get rid of noise on my star streak photos). Also notice that the sheep is white in the scanner images. That’s because the scanner scans near infrared.
   

Goals to complete this project:

  • Modify the CIS housing to remove the keyhole vignette
  • Create a “holder” to attach the scanner to the camera (I was holding it by hand in the photos above) The holder should allow me to focus on ground-glass before attaching the scanner
  • Figure out a way around the software limitations so that the entire LED can be covered up
  • Get a IR blocking filter (B+W and tiffen both make them)

Credit goes to Mike Golembewski for his in depth article on how to do this.

Keep watching for updates….

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3 Comments

  1. The 400 megapixel project: part 2 : Liquid in Plastic - Photography and Words by Dan Newton
    on November 1st, 2008
    1

    […] For part 1 of the project, click here. […]

  2. pdtnc
    on November 1st, 2008
    2

    one of the better uses of that model of Canon scanner 😉

  3. The 400 megapixel project: part 3 : Liquid in Plastic - Photography and Words by Dan Newton
    on January 20th, 2009
    3

    […] The 400 Megapixel Project – Part 1 […]