Nikon Digital Back Patent

Nikon patents bring back dreams of creating a digital back to fit SLR film Cameras?

A patent filed in Japan by Nikon has revived the long-time dream of installing a digital sensor in an existing SLR film Camera. The blog by Japanese Engineering Accomplishment came across a patent recently published which shows a device for mounting and properly adjusting digital image sensor on a back camera door that would be used for replacing the typical film door. But, the patent only includes the mounting of a sensor in relation to film guides - the obstacles that have been a hurdle to anyone accomplishing this long-talked-about idea were not addressed.

Nikon Digital Back patent

Attempts to apply digital sensors to film cameras goes back as far back as the first digital camera. The first SLR digitals were significantly-modified Canon and Nikon film SLR cameras with replacement backs installed on them. Although, attempts to design systems that might be mounted on a wide array of cameras, similar to Silicon Film, have come to nothing. The patent diagram displays a method of mounting and adjusting a digital image sensor to an alternate film camera back. The most basic issues of installing a retrofit digital image sensor inside a film compartment of existing SLR cameras include not having battery space along with the issue of constantly opening the back of the camera to adjust White Balance, ISO, or any of the other image settings .

And that's after the assumption that many photographers of today would accept living without a LCD on the camera back to view their images. Nikon's solution appears involving a replacement camera back which would allow the manufacturer more elasticity to overcome many of these issues.

However, as the post on the blog points out, there's still lots of engineering issues to overcome. The digital camera back would require knowing exactly when the camera's shutter was being released, so to sync exposure with the movement of the shutter. The layers at the front of the image sensor (IR, ow-pass filters and microlenses) would have to be exceedingly thin to avoid interfering with the camera shutter, which is installed very near the film plane inside typical SLRs.

Additionally, existing camera bodies leave very little room for fitting the mounting board of the sensor if it were a full-frame image sensor, although using a cropped-frame sensor therefore would require some means of concealing the viewfinder to display the relevant crop. All of these issues could be reduced if the backs were engineered to fit a new SLR camera body. As a consequence, existing film camera SLR users may not wish to get up their hopes any too soon - it's not likely Nikon would take on this challenge for each of their camera backs to fit the many existing camera versions.

Also think about that the vast volume of old bodies which can reasonably be thought to be disappearing as they fall into disrepair or break and that not all owners would be interested in buying a digital back, which makes the overall market for each camera back look increasingly small which means a handful of existing users would wind up sharing in the development expense of every unique back).

Although many film camera SLR owners have harbored a dream of adapting their old camera over to digital a long time. This patent doe not bring that possibility a lot closer. The blog at Engineering Accomplishment points out, if you assumed Nikon continued their development of film cameras, then it's time to replace the F6 about now. If Nikon has intentions of doing anything about protecting an intellectual idea which one of its R&D engineers came up with (a fairly typical fate for patents), I think it will still involve first buying a new camera.

New Article Dec 28, 2012

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