Tips and Tricks

The Leica MPi is a Raspberry Pi-powered Leica M2 conversion that’s completely reversible

While there are plenty of digital Leica cameras out in the world, that’s not enough for some people. For example, people like robotics engineer Michael Suguitan, who has used his considerable talents to stuff a Raspberry Pi and High-Quality Camera Module into a Leica M2. It’s called the Leica MPi, and the process is completely reversible, allowing it to turn back into a standard Leica M2 at a moment’s notice.

As an MPi, it has about a 5x crop factor, which limits Michael’s lens options somewhat unless he wants to shoot super telephoto. He has been using it with a Voigtlander 12mm f/5.6 lens in order to get a field of view equivalent to about 60mm on a full-frame sensor.

Film to digital camera conversions are always fascinating to me. Not only are the ingenious solutions intriguing in their own right, but such modifications always seem to present different and sometimes unusual compromises and limitations. What interests me is which of those compromises and limitations people are willing to live with for their own chosen genres, styles and techniques.

One thing that’s particularly interesting and unique about this camera is that it’s capable of utilising the rangefinder nature of the camera. The sensor is mounted onto a spring-loaded back that Michael can adjust with screws. This keeps the sensor at the same flange distance as the film plane. His calibration of the sensor position essentially involved him taking focusing, taking a shot, tweaking, then rinsing and repeating. But once set, it’s good to go.

He did have to remove the anti-aliasing filter from the Pi HQ camera so that the M2’s native shutter could easily pass over it without getting caught. This means it’s susceptible to a wider spectrum of light than just visible. This limits the camera to black and white during the day, but Michael says that nighttime scenes can typically be corrected in post.

The Raspberry Pi camera’s electronic shutter is also synced up with the Leica M2 mechanical shutter button. It’s tied into the PC Sync output of the camera, which is normally used for firing a flash. In this case, it sends a signal to the Pi telling it to shoot a photo. There is a slight delay, as there is when using flash, which works to the Pi’s advantage here. The M2’s mechanical shutter is fully open before the Pi shoots its photo.

As the Pi is the one shooting the photo, the exposure of the shot is controlled electronically via a display and buttons on the back of the MPi, with shutter speeds in 2-stop increments for quick adjustments from 1/15 to 1/1000 sec.

Another great benefit of Michael’s design – which I wish we’d see more often – is that it is completely and easily reversible. All he needs to do is remove the cables from the flash sync socket and remove the bottom plate for the Leica. Then the entire Raspberry Pi module, along with the HQ camera, pulls out in a single piece. All that’s required to shoot it with film after that is to replace the standard Leica back and pop the bottom plate back on.

A fantastic and completely reversible conversion. It doesn’t appear that Michael has made the schematics and code for his module available to download. Still, there is no shortage of analogue-to-digital camera conversions you can pull from. And you should be able to figure out some of the mechanical gaps from Michael’s video up top.

You can find out more about the Leica MPi and see some of Michael’s sample shots over on his website.

[via Leica Rumors]

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