Hacking an 8mm Camera

What if you used a Raspberry Pi and a Camera Module to breathe new life into an old 8mm film camera? That was the question on Claire Wright’s mind when she and her father set to work on modernizing an old motion picture camera that they found at a garage sale five years earlier. Inspired by YouTubers, technology, and the blend of analog and digital, Claire and her father harvested one of the lenses and the classic pistol grip from the original Keystone 8mm. Adding a Raspberry Pi, Camera Module, portable screen, and battery helped them to create the Pi 8 camera. Claire tells the story best:

The resulting footage leaves no doubt that older lenses have a big impact on 8mm style. In particular, check out this footage from the Pi 8 Camera, taken in Bastrop, TX:


Bastrop, incidentally, is where some of the Raspberry Pi team had some amazing BBQ in 2015:

Liz took this picture of Rachel and most of the meat in Texas in Bastrop last year.

Liz took this picture of Rachel and most of the meat in Texas in Bastrop last year.

Back to the cameras. I think Claire’s onto something because she’s not the only one exploring the renaissance of retro motion picture capture. Kodak announced that they’re getting back into 8mm film with a new camera, which they unveiled at CES.

If you’re feeling inspired by Claire and want to build your own Raspberry Pi-based camera, then Instructables has you covered with many Raspberry Pi camera projects for you to try.


karan avatar


Cody avatar

Maybe in the near future Pi will replace RED cameras XD

Jimmy avatar

Kudos to you! I hadn’t thuhogt of that!

Darren Cotton avatar


W. H. Heydt avatar

So…two questions come to mind…

What is the focal length of the lens they used? (A “normal” lens for 8mm is 12.5mm focal length.) And is there any chance that the next version of the Pi Camera will have a D-mount? (D-mount is what 8mm cine cameras used.)

Pi8_Maker avatar

The Pi8 focal length is adjustable, the camera module is mounted on two rails and is moved in and out of the lens focal plane with a lead screw. A lens “plate” has been fabricated for lens with different mounts.

Homer Hazel avatar

I love the fact that a slice of Raspberry Pie was being consumed during construction of the Pi8.

Pi8_Maker avatar

Cherry, but it was all we had, yummmm ….

Roger avatar

Details, details, construction details!!
Did you remove the lens from the pi camera module?
How did you mount it?
Was there a reason not to use the existing camera body and retain the lens turret?

All this really says is “I managed to fit a Pi camera to a lens” and that’s been done before.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice achievement, and the video is quite impressive (although it does demonstrate rather nicely why a rolling shutter is not a good idea on fast moving objects, just look at the verticals on the roadside crash barriers). It also seems not to suffer from the vignetting which other attempts to fit a different lens seem to suffer.
So, nice project, could have been useful with more documentation.

Pi8_Maker avatar

Yes, the original lens is removed
The camera module is mounted to a small carrier that slides on two rails from an old CDROM, the camera module and carrier positioned into the lens focal plane and focused by a lead screw that is adjustable from the front. We have built a motorized version…
The first attempt was to mount the module in the existing camera case, however the space is tight and needs a adjustment scheme.

John avatar

all i can see is the meat.
sorry, the article itself was also very amazing.

JDF avatar

I would really like to see the film gate preserved, otherwise it’s just a doublet lens on a Pi cam. Synchronizing a physical frame gate with a digital camera is a big challenge. The usual approach is to make the camera a “still” camera instead of a motion camera and each time the gate is in the full-open position a new picture is captured and stored individually. Since this would happen at a rate of 24 times per second (frame rate of cinema motion pictures) or faster there is a serious data communication and storage challenge.

Roger avatar

Two things @JDF, frame rate for 8mm is a lot less than 24fps, more like 16 to 18 fps, depending on the camera, and whether you’re shooting standard 8 or super 8,
and combining the blade shutter of the 8mm with the rolling shutter of the pi camera is going to produce some horrendous results. I guess the Rolls Royce of conversions would be to fit the Pi camera inside an old 8mm film cartridge, thus retaining the balance and the triple turret of the original camera.

Marek avatar

Are you sure that you lens focus is ok?
For me it looks that it`s little out of sharp.
Are you planning to use all 3 objectives in this revolver mount ? It`s gonna be heavy but you`ll have wide and short lens.
All best

esme avatar

very cool project! glad it turned out well. =)

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