Breathing New Life into Vintage Cameras with I’m Back Film

Yvan Cohen

Tue Nov 14 2023

Breathing New Life into Vintage Cameras with I’m Back Film

Now here’s a confusing, and rather fascinating, development. A start-up company has created a digital film canister that fits into (or is it ‘onto’) analogue cameras - instantly transforming them into digital cameras.

For legions of fashionistas who have taken to using film cameras as a stylish accessory for their Instagram shoots, the advent of a digital film canister promises the kudos of retro hip combined with the convenience of taking pictures with a digital sensor.

Fashion and technology neatly rolled into one

Developed by a company called I’m Back, this nifty gadget attaches to almost any existing 35 mm camera. A canister-shaped device is placed where a traditional roll of film would sit, with a sensor extending across the area behind the lens, ready to be exposed.

So far so good.

Before you get too excited, however, there is an aesthetic downside to this gadget.

Because digital photography requires a screen and a whole bunch of electronics, the ‘I’m Back’ system requires the addition of an extension that clips onto the bottom of the camera. Suddenly, your vintage film camera doesn’t quite look so cool.

Pentax Camera with I'm Back Attachment. Photo by I’m Back

Another downside, for the purists at least, is the device’s Sony IMX 269 micro-four thirds sensor, which means images shot using traditional full frame lenses will end up heavily cropped.

Full frame vs Micro four thirds. Photo by I’m Back

Even so, a 20 MP Sony sensor will deliver high quality RAW and JPEG files and I’m Back have included presets designed to re-create the look of Kodachrome and Fujifilm. You can even shoot 4K UHD video at up to 60 frames a second. Files are saved to an SD, while Wi-Fi connectivity makes it possible to upload seamlessly to the Web.

On its website I’m Back Film boldly claims that “For over three decades, the world has held its breath, waiting for the day when the concept of a digital film roll would materialize.”

I’m not sure anyone was actually waiting for this retro techno-twist to make its appearance, but it will no doubt be welcomed by a broad range of amateurs and professional alike.

Preserving the past with digital vintage cameras

Shooting with mechanical cameras is an entirely different experience from using the latest digital models. Plus, it’s a great way to breathe new life into old gear that would otherwise be gathering dust.

‘I’m Back Film’ is surely not going to be for everyone and while this is not a high-end piece of gear, it is doubtless an enjoyable creative tool.

The company’s website suggests a style that is a mix of eccentric inventor meets techno-geekiness. As AI looms, however, and as camera manufacturers compete to push the frontiers of digital technology ever further, there is something refreshing about an endeavour that seeks to look back, repurposing tried and tested picture taking machines for the modern age.

Written by Yvan Cohen | Yvan has been a photojournalist for over 30 years. He’s a co-founder of LightRocket and continues to shoot photo and video projects around South East Asia.

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