A lot of people today have more or less written off digital cameras. This is because the phones in their pockets boast impressive photo capabilities, and the companies selling those phones spend a great deal of time advertising those capabilities. At the same time, however, there is a certain need for quality photos in the age of social media, and phones don’t always get the job done. This, in fact, is why we bothered to take a look at the best cameras for Instagram. Because be honest: Are you really capturing iPhone or Galaxy photos as good as the ones the companies advertise with?
The idea of investing in a new digital camera is actually quite exciting to a lot of people. Incredibly, these high-tech devices almost seem “old-school,” such that there’s something sort of classy about using one in 2020. There’s also a technical aspect of these cameras a lot of people still appreciate, though, which leads us to our main questions: If you’re really interested in digital cameras, could you build your own? What would you need to do it?
The answer to the first question is yes, though it’s a tricky DIY process, and there’s more involved the more quality you want in your camera. You can find plenty of tips, examples, and even tutorials online that can help with the more intricate details of the process. Here, however, we’re going to focus more on addressing the second question, and going over some of what you’d actually need to start the process of building your own digital camera.
Things to look for when Building your own Digital Camera
Naturally, the camera body is the most important part of the project (because you don’t want to end up with one of the cheap-looking, blocky designs you’ll find if you look up homemade cameras). And here, there’s good news: You can now actually 3D print a camera body. Cults showcases some designs you can download to use, and from there it’s merely a matter of gaining access to a 3D printer.
If you’re really building a digital camera from scratch, as opposed to putting together a kit, you’ll need to design the printed circuit boards (PCBs) yourself — which naturally involves a learning curve if you haven’t done it before. Altium’s advice for getting started with PCB design can help you to get a feel for the basics, and will even teach you how to use software to do it. Basically, you create a circuit board project within a software program and then add schematics to said project as needed. From there, it’s just a matter of research and tinkering to get the PCB to do what you need it for your camera.
Digital Image Sensor
Here again, you may be doing some circuit board design, though the digital image sensor is a little bit different from your standard PCB. This is actually one of the trickier aspects of the design process and can involve the placement by the hand of hundreds of light sensors on a panel just a few square inches in size. However, there are tutorials and examples out there about how to do it, and you should ultimately be able to hand-make a digital image sensor that will power your camera’s capabilities.
The lens mount may or may not be part of your 3D- printed camera body design. If it’s not, you’ll need to be sure you can either order one or print components to one that you’ll be able to fit said body design, though. In the simplest of cases, the lens mount can essentially be a casing for your lens; for a more complex, fully capable digital camera, however, you’ll need an adjustable lens mount that can help to establish depth and perspective.
You’ll need a lens as well, and this is a part you may simply have to order. Again, you’ll need to be sure that your lens fits the lens mount and body, or can be made to do so.
Beyond these basic components, your digital camera can essentially be made as complex or as simple as you’re prepared to manage. Various features for viewing, image finding, adjustments, shutter-shots, and more can be added to the device, even though DIY efforts. That said, starting with the basics is probably a good idea your first time around!