Why are there no digital backs for 35mm SLRs?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by G. Huang, Jan 4, 2004.

  1. G. Huang

    G. Huang Guest

    I noticed that the price of DSLRs have come down to sub-$1000 range. The
    natural question would be why aren't the companies like Nikon and Canon
    not making digital CCD backs to expand the capability of their existing
    top SLRs (F5, F100, EOS1s, etc.). Since all these SLRs can take data
    backs, CCD backs don't require anything more in terms of interfacing
    signals, (in addition, maybe with faked film sprocket movement to fool
    the SLR). I know the full 35mm size CCDs are expensive but even 23x15mm
    CCDs can still be very usable for a lot of us. All that's needed is a
    new focusing screen with a rectangle marking the CCD area. So, is it not
    making sense economically for these companies?
    G. Huang, Jan 4, 2004
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  2. G. Huang

    Wes J Guest

    Leica will be having one for its R8/9 cameras. Probably in the 10MP range.
    Some rumors say the forthcoming Nikon F6 will have interchangeable backs
    including a very high resolution digital. Time will tell.
    Wes J, Jan 4, 2004
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  3. G. Huang

    jriegle Guest

    There is no way for the camera to communicate with the digital back such as
    exact movement of the shutter synchronization. IOW, the camera's onboard
    software was never designed to work with digital backs.

    I'm sure Canon and the others would rather sell you another camera body
    jriegle, Jan 4, 2004
  4. G. Huang

    Tom Thackrey Guest

    I can think of several possibilities:

    1) the back would cost as much as a whole body, eliminating any advantage.
    2) the size of the back would be too big. It has to contain the battery,
    memory card, dsp, sensor, lcd, usb port, and controls.
    3) less than full sized sensors would require focusing screen replacement
    which means they couldn't be used on some bodies.

    If you look at MF backs, most are part of a system that includes a tethered
    computer and external power supplies.
    Tom Thackrey, Jan 4, 2004

  5. In the late 90s (1998, I believe), there *were* digital backs. Kodak
    and Nikon had teamed up and produced both add-on digital backs and
    standalone camera 'kits'. I remember speaking to a newspaper photog that
    used one. There was no LCD screen, and the unit size looked to be about the
    same as attaching three or four winders stacked. Not convenient. Do a
    search on the Kodak DCS 460. I was told at the time the unit was $15,000.

    There is limited communication to the data backs on most cameras, and
    no way to force a user 'pause' to allow for memory buffer and writing to
    the media. Switching backs almost certainly puts the CCD in harm's way. And
    when you can design the entire chassis around it, you can make things much
    more compact and convenient, not to mention adding in the controls you want
    in a handy place to reach them. Just more efficient to make the entire

    - Al.
    Al Denelsbeck, Jan 4, 2004
  6. G. Huang

    John Guest


    As an R8 user I am rather eager to see the new unit, but more importantly to
    know HOW MUCH. I'm tipping it'll be about 2 thirds the cost of a Canon 1Ds',
    but I hope not.

    Check it out

    John, Jan 4, 2004
  7. G. Huang

    Paul Rubin Guest

    Are you joking? Something from Leica costing less than something from
    Canon? Tell me another one.
    Paul Rubin, Jan 4, 2004
  8. G. Huang

    Lourens Smak Guest

    Who hasn't.
    Because they would like to sell you a new body (plus a few new lenses)
    instead of a cheap-ish accessory that you can use with your old camera
    for the next x years. That's what YOU want, but it's definitely NOT what
    Nikon and Canon want. Nikon and Canon are the very last companies to
    expect such a thing from. They want to sell you stuff, the more (and
    more expensive) the better.

    O.t.o.h., Kodak did make exactly what you describe, based on a standard
    F90 and F5. Do a websearch for "Kodak DCS 460" to see it. (or change
    number to 410/420/660/760 and a few more). A 3d-party like Kodak, who
    also work on the Leica digiback, is the *only* company to expect such a
    product from. (hope Nikon won't kill such a project in the future.)

    Lourens Smak, Jan 4, 2004
  9. G. Huang

    Paul Rubin Guest

    The 460, 560, etc. were not ANYTHING like what you're imagining. They
    were complete cameras that were based on F90/F5 chassis that Kodak had
    bought from Nikon and stuffed with electronics. They had no film
    transports or anything like that. They were NOT backs that you could
    put on your existing F90 or F5 and take off again. Also, they started
    at around $5000 US, several times more than an F5 cost. At those
    price levels, nobody would seriously care about using parts of their
    old F5 instead of buying a separate camera that could be supported and
    serviced in one piece.
    Paul Rubin, Jan 4, 2004
  10. G. Huang

    Skip M Guest

    Because if they made replacement backs for existing cameras, what motivation
    would you have to get rid of your F5/1v and buy a D2H/1D/1Ds? Those
    companies are not going to shoot the sales of their high end digital SLRs in
    the foot to give you the opportunity to save a little money.
    Skip M, Jan 4, 2004
  11. G. Huang

    Skip M Guest

    Just a point, the DCS 760 was a Canon 1n based dedicated digital SLR, not an
    add on digital system.
    Skip M, Jan 4, 2004
  12. G. Huang

    Lourens Smak Guest

    With the F90 and F801 they were; only the F5-based model (660 and 760)
    can't be used as a film-camera.

    Lourens Smak, Jan 4, 2004
  13. G. Huang

    Lourens Smak Guest

    That's the 560, the 760 is F5 based. The 460 uses a stock F90/n90, and
    there are older models which use a standard F801/n8008 too.

    Lourens Smak, Jan 4, 2004
  14. G. Huang

    Alan Browne Guest

    There are a high number of "back" (door) variants on 35mm cameras. If
    the manufs were to do this, they would only do it for the higher end
    bodies. In the end the DSLR's cost what the "backs" would cost.

    By integrating the fucntions correctly into new bodies, the result is
    much better than a seperate back.

    Imagine if you change the back ISO ... the body would ignore that and
    the metering would be off (until you adjust the body ISO)

    The viewfinder would not indicate the cropping ...(unless you have an
    appropriate focus screen to replace the existing one, or the back is not

    Yes, it can be done. But it is not economical. Were there a good
    business case for it; a 3rd party vendor would have stepped up by now.

    In fact, IMO, the best "back" for all of our lenses would have been the
    Sigma SD-9/10 bodies with Nikon, Canon, Minolta, etc. lens mounts. But
    Sigma firmly planted their heads up their arse on this one...

    Alan Browne, Jan 4, 2004
  15. Besides, there is no electrical comparison between a film camera and a
    digital camera. If Nikon were to make a digital back for their F5, for
    example, the whole camera would have to be incorporated in the back, and the
    rest of the body would be essentially empty. The motor drive mechanism would
    just be empty wasted space. There is no way to get the mirror position
    information to the back, so other modifications would have to be made inside
    the camera, enabling it impossible for the user to switch back and forth
    between film use and digital use. It would be far better to start with a
    film camera body and build a dedicated digital camera around it, or for that
    matter, design a digital body from scratch.
    William Graham, Jan 4, 2004
  16. G. Huang

    G Huang Guest

    The companies always have to strike a balance between the potential of
    selling more bodies and keep a loyal customer base. Otherwise, they
    would just change the lens mount every time they release a new body.
    Using your logic, what motivation would you have to get rid of all your
    EOS lenses and buy all-new DEOS lenses when you buy a DSLR? Besides, if
    Nikon can claim that F5 can be readily transformed into a DSLR with a
    back, would it be big selling point to those trying to decide between an
    F5 and an EOS1v. Of course, this would only work if the price of a back
    is lower than a DSLR body.
    G Huang, Jan 4, 2004
  17. G. Huang

    Wes J Guest

    I've heard in the $10,000+ range.

    Wes J, Jan 4, 2004
  18. G. Huang

    G. Huang Guest

    I suppose it depends on who will actually make them. Most of Leica
    digital cameras are re-badged Fuji or Panasonic models, and are only
    modestly more expensive than their sister models. If this is the case
    for the D'back, then I am also hopeful that there will be backs
    available for other top cameras.
    G. Huang, Jan 4, 2004
  19. G. Huang

    Paul Rubin Guest

    You mean like the Digilux, which is roughly comparable to a Canon G5
    but costs about $2000? Nah.
    Paul Rubin, Jan 4, 2004
  20. G. Huang

    T P Guest

    The problem is that several patents for a digital back to fit 35mm SLR
    cameras are held by the Silicon Film Corporation, who have (several
    times in the past few years) promised to make a working digital back
    but do not seem to have delivered so far.
    T P, Jan 4, 2004
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