Using a Sony NEX as a digital back for a Nikon FE film SLR camera

Photographer Robin Guymer found a better use for his Sony NEX-3 mirrorless camera - he made a digital back out of it for his Nikon FE SLR film camera - check his website for more info:

Via Petapixel

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  • so, Sony cameras are still good for something 🙂

    • T.I.M

      Of course, never listen to music tapes with a Sony camera ?

    • EcoR1

      In other words: Sony is the only thing that can bring Nikon back to the current day 😉

      • Lol yes, you can say that too given the current situation 🙂

  • doge

    What a waste of time.

    • why, peoples time is their own so who are you to say whet others fine interesting or like doing

      • worldchanger

        I believe he’s entitled to his opinion, even if you don’t agree with it and vice-versa.

        • soo

          thats right in a way it is a waste but interesting all the same, and debating is what these web pages are all about

  • Pablo And-Jennifer Gabetta

    Just another Nikon with a Sony sensor… nothing to see here…

    • zzzxtreme


  • jonebize

    People sure are getting desperate for that digital FM2.

    • yes, indeed – even if they make it with a fix lens

      • jonebize

        Peter, don’t make me sad. =(

      • VanHoff

        …When an animal sees its darker hour it fights fiercely than ever…
        Nikon can’t present a New full frame camera with a fixed lens and excuse a month later by saying that it was going to be very expensive to have a new mount system and the PROPER lenses for it, which at this point is (we their loyal customers) the mirrorless camera everybody is expecting from Nikon. It is the right time and the only lifetime -100 years- chance for Nikon to prove why we must keep investing thousands of dollars in their gear, if they present another lame camera system (see keymission and the failed DL line) it will be the very users that will put the last nails in the coffin.

        • Speak for yourself. I’m not expecting a mirrorless camera from Nikon.

      • MB

        I am not sure how many people longing for digital FM have actually used that camera …
        It was nice and small camera at the time and great for use with nice and small lenses of that time, but it would not be very pleasant to use these days with current huge zooms like 14-24, 24-70, 70-200 and similar, even 85 and 105 1.4 primes would be too awkward for me … DF maybe big in comparison but it is the most compact of current Nikon FX DSLRs and way more usable for current days and lenses … at least IMHO …
        On the other hand you may have something with digital FM lookalike with EV and fixed lens …

        • jonebize

          The whole point is to use the nice and small lenses! I want a camera I can carry around my shoulder all day like I used to =( . Without being APS-C (Fuji) or ugly (Sony). FM2!!

          • MB

            I wish so many things but not all are possible, no harm in wishing though…

          • true

            What is it that makes it small? Lack of electronics in the lenses?

        • Yes, I think we all understand that DSLR cannot get as small as film SLR. This is why I said a fix lens. Just look at the Sony RX1 – you can easily fit it inside a Nikon FM camera and will have some extra place for a bigger battery. This is how Nikon should celebrate their 100th anniversary, not with a different color D5 and D500….

          • jonebize

            DSLR’s may not be able to get as small as a film SLR, but mirrorless can. They can certainly be smaller than a Df. The Sony A7 series is a fine size. They just feel like toys compared to the quality of the film SLR’s. All I want is a stronger aesthetic and a prettier viewfinder. If someone would take the good aspects of the Fuji’s and Sony’s, I’d buy one right now. That’s why I’m saying there’s still an opening in the market.

            And “true”, you asked what makes them small. Lack of electronics, sure — why not? But if I want MF lenses, I can use the old lenses. We’ve also seen FF autofocus lenses that are not huge.

        • Not everyone wants to use their camera with huge zooms or oversized primes. Nikon still makes a number of modestly sized AI-S primes and could undoubtedly sell more if they made a camera that works with them better.

          • MB

            1.8 primes are great compact lenses I agree, but they are huge when compared to manual lenses, similar to Df when compared to FM, so the whole set will be significantly larger. As for sales volume I am not so convinced too many enthusiasts would pay 3000$ for a camera and additional couple of thousand for a set of primes …

            • Yeah, a manual focus ‘FM3d’ might not sell in volumes like a D7xxx would, but it theoretically wouldn’t take a ton of R&D and could hit a market that wants the old school feel of a Leica but lack’s the rockstar income to afford one and a set of lenses.

              Small body/small prime use is why I switched to Sony, but if Nikon had a good offering – even manual focus – I would have stayed with them (or gone Leica if it was cheaper/Fuji if they had full frame).

        • StevenS

          I started picking up film bodies after dumping them several years ago because I missed the creative process of film (another subject altogether). What does fit this however is, I picked up an fm2 and fe2 and mf primes and the better zooms of the day. They are much smaller and of better finish than I remembered them and are also noticeably smaller than their contemporaries. A few to mention 25-50 f4, 35-70 f3.5, 80-200 f4 in zooms and 20 f2.8, 24 f2.8, any of the mf 50mm, 105 1.8 or 2.5, as well as a few others. Yes some of the better newer lenses may be sharper because of advancements over the years, but not as much as it would seem. If they were made today, I’m sure they would be just as sharp as the af lenses made now, but wouldn’t need to be any bigger than the legacy glass was. The af and all the other electronics bloat the newer lenses and bodies.

          I think a digital back for a film Nikon would add enough bulk that the experience would not be the same. My reasoning is my experience with the early 2000’s Frankencameras. I had the Fuji FinePix S1 Pro and the Kodak DCS 720x and 760. The Fuji was a Nikon F60 and the Kodaks were F5 bodies. I had the back off one before and the film rails were still in the body, so the concept of a add on back, indeed, has been done. It just was not user removable. I’m sure it could be made smaller today. I think it could even work on an f6 type body. But the now we are back to more of a dslr beast anyway.

          Back to the experience of using an fm2. For previsual capture and the presence of thought, it is liberating. Load up about 15 exposures and think, and then when ready, capture, then move on. Make the 15 exposures count. For most, it is a different mindset than how most capture digitally. The whole process sharpens the creative process and it does carry back to digital when using that medium.

          • MB

            I agree with you on pretty much everything.
            Those old MF lenses are amazing in every way and I still own a couple. In center they were as good as current ones and way smaller, but current lenses are bigger not only because of AF, some also have much larger optics because of today demand for edgde to edge sharpness where older design just couldn’t compete (Sigma 50 art and Otus are blatant examples).

            • StevenS

              I believe that has to do with the angle at which light hits the sensor. With film it was mostly irrelevant, but with digital it has a larger impact on sharpness and other artifacting like CA. Look at large format lenses for 4×5 and even larger and the huge image circle some of these have in comparison to the size of the optic. Many of the better lenses post decent numbers in the corners fairly wide open. Of course they improve dramatically when stopped down. Their sweet spot is f11 to f16. Nikons older designs were f5.6 to f8 by design. Open them up and great for portraits, nice bokeh and a little spherical aberration and on stopping down, quite sharp. Now the design is sharp at maximum aperture. And there you are correct with the Otus and the Art lenses, they do get much larger. I have no experience with the Otus. From some of the other newer designs, it seems to create a sterile feel, such as onion ring bokeh or harsh transitions. The older lenses has a certain soul. I want sharp corner to corner for some images, others I want that soul.

              It’s nice to have choices:)

    • saywhatuwill

      But this is a FE that had aperture priority. The only mechanical shutter speeds were 1/90 and B.

  • T.I.M

    What about a 54MP digital back for my F6 ?
    (Nikon, I know you can do it)

    • Roy Sze

      but they never will

      • MB

        Sure they will, it will be called D820 🙂

        • T.I.M

          D30x30 please, remember you are a computer so don’t try to think.

          • MB

            I am not, this reply is hard coded in my recently updated BIOS 😉

          • MB

            By the way in my electric dreams I used to dream about digital camera with square sensor, cubic in shape, with tilt-able shaded screen that could also be used as a waist level finder similar to those good old Rolleiflexes, unfortunately they ripped of my dreaming chip away…

            • T.I.M

              Square formats (any size) are not “natural” for humans.
              Look strait ahead and you will realize that you see more things side way compared to up-down way.
              That’s why they made the TV HD format.

            • MB

              I wouldn’t know about humans but I enjoyed those TLRs very much 🙂
              Oh and by the way isn’t that 30×30 square?

    • Michiel953

      With a bit of filing your f6 will take 30×30.

      • T.I.M

        The F6 have a switchable data back so it should be easy to do a digital back for that camera.

        • Michiel953

          More filing then

          • T.I.M

            I have not shoot slides for months, my Velvia is now expired, digital make us bad people….

            • Michiel953

              So say you. Just get that file, and maybe a hammer and a hacksaw (haven’t sold those have you?). You’ll feel better afterwards.

        • Achim Schäfer

          mechanically that is correct – but the digital back must communicate with the camera body.

          and don’t say that Phase One or Hassi have digital backs for the film cams – that are studio cams that are used very different than a (D)SLR – or try to use a Hassi with digital back for street or sports photography…

          and what would be the result of a F6 with an optimal digital back? Something like a D610 at best…

          • T.I.M

            of course I will not mutilate my F6 to make it digital, in 150 years it will be a museum piece (you should see my friends kids faces when I show them what is a film camera….)

  • saywhatuwill

    It’s a cool idea, but it defeats the purpose of a compact camera. I guess it’s definitely proof of concept.

  • animalsbybarry

    Why would anyone do this
    A simple F mount to E mount adapter (manual) will do the same thing

    • Thylmuc

      Really? Including aperture transmission and shutter speed wheel? I know that there are a lot of people who don’t care for the operating concept of a camera. Others, however, do, and might have their specific preferences.

      • csmith

        yea because the ergonomics of this masterpiece are exceptional…

    • Robin Guymer

      I have one of those too on a Nex F3. It feels lousy, looks lousy, the shutter sounds tinny, it’s hard to focus compared to the Nikon FE’s prism focus. There is no comparison to the mechanical electronic jewel of a Nikon FE to that of a plastic Nex. I do feel I get better digital photos through the Nikon than the Nex with adapted lenses – just my opinion.

    • Achim Schäfer

      perfectly right, Barry! Especially if a newer Sony (A6x00 or A7 II-series) is used and an adapter with AF and aperture transmission.

      If using a A7 II-series or A6500 you also get image stabilization with any old glass…

      There is really no need for such DIY things…

  • brn


    Because he can.

  • Rhonbo

    Adapt it to a view camera instead.

  • Tom Taubert

    Here is a chemical sensor for a film camera. Each image is kept on a 36×24 mm section of the roll. Specialized sensors are available (monochrome, color, portrait, indoor..) If you have an old film camera, the chemical sensor may do the trick.

    • Having shot both for quite a while, I have to say they chemical sensors lack the resolution.

      • nwcs

        Film has its charm but I agree, the resolution of modern cameras surpass 135 format and smaller film.

        • Sawyerspadre

          I think I read somewhere that film can resolve around 12 megapixels. Good light has a big impact. So film is like a D700, but with only one ISO for each roll of 24 or 36 sensors.

          • nwcs

            I have also read between 12-16mp so we’ve been past film for some time. The only thing film has is a more random structure for color which helps with a few things that Bayer does poorly at but I still shoot film sometimes because it’s fun. My old F100 died on me recently so I’m back to the Minolta X700.

            • Achim Schäfer

              a good film can resolve around 50 lines/mm – that is corresponding to 100 pixels/mm (for a line you need a black and white pixel sitting side by side.

              so such film equals a sensor with 8,5 MP…

              there are special b/w films for repro/document photography that can resolve around 150 lines/mm – this would correspond to a 77,5 MP sensor! But such films have ISO values below 25 (twenty five!) and often are orthocromatic (that means they are blind for red)

            • Frank Papp

              “Velvia has the highest resolving power of any slide film. A 35 mm Velvia slide can resolve up to 160 lines per mm.”



    • Frank Papp

      The chemical sensor also gets cleaned after each shot!

      • nwcs

        Just watch out for scratches on the sensor during winding…

        • Sawyerspadre

          And it’s full frame, that roll of sensors…

  • Aldo

    This is almost as cool as it is pointless. I miss my f3

  • YUNO USE A7_?!

    Ok, so this is kinda neat, but not very practical. Wonder how much effort it would take to link the shutters in some way?

    • Eloise

      Well I guess you should build some kind of “electronic” cable release which triggers the NEX (for say a 1 second exposure) then immediately triggers the FE.

    • Robin Guymer

      The shutters can be linked if your good with electronics which I most definitely am not. Check out the guy in England with his Frankencamera where he did link the shutters on a Konica and a Nex 5.

  • Still better than a Df

    • true

      That’s pretty sad

  • TwoStrayCats

    Next up: the pinhole digital. A bellows, a sheet of aluminum foil – and a Sony something.

    • Carleton Foxx

      Go to it brother!

  • GearHeavy

    The D820 prototype…

    • RC Jenkins

      Nah it’s the new mirrorless camera 🙂

  • Spy Black

    I find this fellow rather entertaining in how he shows you how to put that sucker together. Love when he dumps the Nex and it falls apart. It’s kinda like watching Julia Child cooking and she screws something up and rolls along with it.

  • Thylmuc

    Funny how the typical comments come up. There is always a guy who doesn’t understand the operational paradigm of older cameras (which has actually nothing to do with digital vs. analog), and another guy who points out that film can be used (neglecting that there may be people who don’t want to or can’t use film).
    Almost nobody commented on the concept, however.
    While I appreciate the effort that went into this, we need to see that there is no synching between the two cameras. Which means that before triggering the camera, the Sony add-on also has to be triggered. Very cumbersome.
    Due to the fact that there is an optical block in front of the sensor itself, this block had to be reused, but didn’t fit in between shutter and sensor surface/film plane. So, he moved it to the front of the shutter, into the mirror box. Clever, but also rather complicated.
    In the end, this camera shows exactly the unsolved problems of adding a sensor to a camera not designed for it, namely synching the sensor with the shutter, and bringing the sensor surface right to the film plane despite cover glasses etc in front of it. And it did not solve these problems either.

    • Spy Black

      “In the end, this camera shows exactly the unsolved problems of adding a sensor to a camera not designed for it…”

      No, it shows what happens when a curious tinkerer goes at it. Such a back could easily be engineered, it’s simply unlikely that it would be a profitable endeavor. It’s all about money.

      • Thylmuc

        easily. In that case, please provide your solutions.

        regarding money, you may be right. which is weird. If I can convert my F2, which I really like, into a digital camera of a similar resolution to the Df, I would be willing to pay the same price. Am I alone?

        • Spy Black

          No, I’d love that too with my F2, but there’s very few of us for someone to go engineer such a product.

    • Kim

      With this kind of makeshift contraption (with no syncing between the two shutter-systems) you must eventually choose between using the FM’s shutter (and leaving the NEX in “bulb”) or using the NEX’s shutter, as in this case. Effectively making the FM only a big and cumbersome lens-adapter.

      • Robin Guymer

        It is an FE not an FM. There is no choice on shutter. It will only work on the Nikon FE’s shutter and light metering. The Nex shutter is redundant as it is now on the other side of the sensor and does nothing except close and open. Unfortunately the Nex won’t work without it as the software looks for it. A nice compact digital back could be made for the FE if the Nex shutter could be removed. Regards Robin (builder of the “makeshift contraption”)

        • Kim

          I’m so glad we all can decide what to spend our valuable time on!
          Because the two minutes I’ve spent on “digital back for an FE” is quite enough, I think 🙂

      • Spy Black

        True, but ha had a blast making it.

    • Tom Taubert

      Typical comments come up as funny. There’s always a guy that has no sense of humor.

  • maxx

    The Nikon future?

  • Eno

    Not quite the Sony-Nikon marriage some would have hoped but a mixture between the two camera brands nonetheless. 🙂

  • Now that is interesting

  • Ande Notos

    Um… Ok… Why?

  • Would LOVE a digital version of the FE/FM line. Part of the reason I dumped my D800 and got an A7RII is because it’s around the size of my FE2.

    They could literally stick any FX sensor in a FM3a, change nothing else, and take my $2k. I don’t even need a screen or AF. Make it like those Leica’s without the screens.

  • An American in Canada

    What I would do for a similar solution for my Rolleiflex TLR… Maybe the GFX could make it happen?

  • Sawyerspadre

    It’s a good thing he has the motor drive on the camera, as that will wind the film so much faster, OH, now wait, there is no film.

    • peter w

      I was wondering to, why? perhaps for weight? balance?
      BTW he uses his thump to rewind the shutter.

  • Kriztoper

    I like the idea, to be able to switch filter in front of the sensor without losing light coming in the lens

  • Julian

    I’ve still got my old FE too, but I don’t plan to mod mine, its still working fine.

    • saywhatuwill

      I just put batteries in my FE the other day after years of non-use. I used my N8008 instead and that basically stopped being used in 2009. My problem with the FE was that there was a small nick somewhere on the back that would scratch the film. I couldn’t find it anywhere until recently with a magnifying glass. I finally got rid of it but haven’t tried the camera out yet. Maybe today.

  • Daniel Högberg

    If Nikon had introduced a FF mirrorless in the size of the analog Nikon FM2 a few years ago, NO ONE would have bothered with the Sony A7-series. Nikon would have ruled the mirrorless market. Everyone on the whole f’cking internet screamed at Nikon: “MAKE A FF NIKON FM2 MIRRORLESS AND RULE THEM ALL!” -but did Nikon listen? No. Typical Nikon.

    • Jean G

      Mirrorless? Beurk!!!

  • @nick0g:disqus
    OMG this is amazing.

  • Jean G
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