The RPi-Powered Street Photography Camera.

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**Update: thanks to exposure from this worklog, I won a Mars 2 Pro resin printer! Things are going to start back up as soon as work allows and I get used to printing.**

I've been playing around with film cameras for years - despite having more digital gear than I know what to do with, film has never left my side in almost two decades. Amongst the DOZENS of cameras that I've owned and used with pleasure of the years, the LOMOs have certainly earned a rare fondness from me. The light leaks, the unpredictability - the way that you can shut your brain off and just shoot...they're inimitable. No nonsense - very Soviet in that regard. So I decided to build a "from the hip" digital street photo camera inside a broken LOMO LC-A. No LCD, no tapping menus or pixel peeking, no fancy settings...hell, basically no settings at all. I want to turn this thing on - press a button - and be done.

 I've been a "film is not dead" evangelist for a long time - and have my work on even (no affiliation, I just appreciate their contributions to the film and camera community greatly). But I think there's space for a DIY "from the hip" street digital camera, don't you? One without all the bells and whistles that I find often distract from simply making art, and not some overpriced hipster sh*t sold at UO that automatically syncs with your Instagram to make sure those artificial little pumps of your daily social dopamine don't cease*. Just press a button, take a picture - MAYBE twist a dial but not more. What better enclosure than the no-nonsense, almost brutalist LOMO LC-A for such a project?

*I'm not judging your instagram use. I just think F***book is tearing our social fabric apart :)

So with almost zero 3D modelling experience, only one successful RPi project under my belt, and a collection of skills learnt only from reading books and raw experience...I set out to make the LOMOPI. 

Perhaps the fanciest I want to get with this project (other than status LEDs and a charging port which I forgot to include in the printed case...) is to perhaps have a rotary dial for different camera settings. That will allow me to keep a single switch for firing, but allow me to go from photo to video, black and white perhaps and then another burst mode someone suggested (could be similar to an actionsampler)? We'll see - it may be beyond my coding level.


The first version of the 3D printed body. It's not a perfect fit, and needs to be updated but is close enough. It's "slimfit" because also envisioned a slightly wider version that can accommodate an LCD screen, larger batter and slide-out tray for access to internals.

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 20.69 kB - 11/10/2020 at 16:38


  • 1 × Raspberry Pi Zero W
  • 1 × Raspberry Pi Camera Module (V2 or an HQC module)
  • 1 × Broken LOMO LC-A Camera Or another film camera you want to use - please try not to break working cameras
  • 1 × LiPo Battery/Powerpack or 18650 holder with charge port
  • 1 × 3D printed case I have a "close enough" STL in the project - needs to be revised

View all 7 components

  • QUICK UPDATE: Buttons!

    Gradivis11/13/2020 at 16:59 0 comments

    Defying all odds given the covid pandemic, the switch buttons that I ordered from Spain arrived within 5 days! Another score for small business over Amazon (although Amz would have taken only a couple I'm trying to be good about that).

    I ordered 4 push button switches which are 8mm and in theory fit the holes left by the old buttons on the camera, but they're a little heavy and the bare metal look will better match the Lubitel 166 when it gets here. So I bought a 100 pack of switches for 5 euros and found many that will work perfectly. In fact, I already epoxyed one in place. Just need to figure out where I put the dial plate from the original camera or find a decorative replacement...

    Wire, LEDs and resistors also arrived today since I was out after moving internationally, but my station soldering iron and heat gun are ready to go - the only thing I need now is a female USB charging port to attach to for charging the 18650 board. It has an on/off switch for hard reset if I open the thing up, but I also will use one of these hundred switches (some tiny) for triggering a graceful shutdown.

    Anyway here's me clicking the new button.

    As you can see I need a ring around it, and on the right there is another hole for a button, so I'm thinking I will have burst photo coded to one, and single photo to the other. I'll save video for the Raspitel-166 (Lubitel 166 + RPI) project.

    That's all folks!

  • PART 3: Installing the Camera Leatherette

    Gradivis11/12/2020 at 10:36 0 comments

    I was really excited to see the camera leatherette had arrived from Germany today. I got twice as much as I would need for the project in case of messing up, and the order included the double sided tape I would need (in a sheet) so that glue isn't necessary. The first thing I did was give the body a good sanding at 400 grit so that the adhesive had a better surface to stick to.

    It may because of my background in traditional print production and familiarity with cameras, but this was the quickest part of the project so far. I got the double-sided table installed with ease, wrapping it as a single sheet and then cutting with fine scissors so it matched the case. And extra from unprecise cuts I folded over the

    I was more deliberate with the leatherette. I cut it to general size with the backer I had pulled off the double-sided tape, and then began by lining up the bottom so that it was parallel with the body's edge. After that I carefully pressed it down around the rest of the body, and made some small trims to clean it up. There are a couple of places that need some fine-tuning once I find my sharp sewing scissors, but not at all bad for ten euros and it's looking SO much more put together. As a bonus, the fit of the LOMO top plates and body is much more snug now, and should close up securely without the gap seen in the photos.

    That's it for today I think! I'm waiting for push buttons to come in from Spain, and some wiring for power from eBay. I'm still thinking about whether to include a rotary dial or not, I also need to TEST the thing as well as figure out an enclosure for the back. The dual 18560 pack I bought - while providing plenty of power - is a bit wider that I want and so the Rpi sticks out of the back where there is a hole. I may have to head back in Fusion360 if I can't find something repurposeable.

  • INTERLUDE: I have a problem...

    Gradivis11/12/2020 at 09:13 0 comments

    Well, not with the LC-A, more of a personal problem. At about 3am this morning I couldn't sleep (which isn't abnormal) and was thinking about how I could improve this project even more. Well that turned into thinking about V2.0, and what I could do not only to improve the design but also make my life easier. 

    So I decided instead of waiting for more of my belongings to ship over from the U.S. (and rely on USPS until next year) I bought a Lubitel 166 instead from someone 50km away. I've owned a couple of the Lubitel series before and they're great cameras - I'm wondering if there's enough space inside to keep everything stock, and replace the focus matte with an LCD? Side note...I also bought a high quality Sony camera module for this one...I'm going to attempt to focus down the stock LOMO triplet lens (note to self: research diopters). Here's the beaut I bought:

    So that's the problem I have. But it's a good one, because I'm really excited to finish both cameras but in particular to play around with keeping the original triplet lens, some sort of diopter as well as the high quality camera module. One option is to frankenstein something out of a lens adapter like I've used with FD canon lenses which have a glass element. I also have 3-4 lenses from loupes, old cameras and one little macro lens that might do the trick. It'll be an experiment in options, that's for sure, but if I have an LCD that will fit the body and live view I can focus manually and then set in place.

    If you want to "dive deep" read on below for a short history on the sister Lomo Lubitel 2 camera I wrote many years ago.

    Read more »

  • PART 2: The Camera Module and Lens(es)

    Gradivis11/11/2020 at 12:20 0 comments

    Through the original Viewfinder, which I have kept (taken with an iPhone)

    The Original LOMO LC-A Lens before disassembly, which I have kept in perfect shape just in case I can still integrate it.

    And here's a shot from my working LC-A back in my college days - if only this sort of thing could be emulated - un-retouched it really encapsulates the magic of film:

    I'm waiting on a Sony HQC but for now I have a V2 Camera Module which takes perfectly adequate photos and will allow me at least to test wiring and code.

    Using a cheap plexi camera mount (but one that camera with a magnetic lens set and O ring) I jammed the camera inside the LC-As front panel and then expoyed it in:

    Despite keeping the original viewfinder,  I had to make a vertical cut into it with a dremel cutting disk so the the body would meet the top plate more closely. I can still see through it perfectly although I did have to clear it of plastic debris.

    The power pack arrived today as well - dual 18560 batteries with USB output and USB charging input (which I need to figure out how to do elegantly). Bonus - it also has lights for battery level and status - I'll do smaller hole in the leatherette so it's visible in daylight still but not as powerful.

    Can't wait for the leatherette to get here. I also need to figure out a solution for the back which is ugly right now so I won't show you - once I get the rpi wired up to take power for the 18650 power back and a button to fire I'll be almost ready to go!

  • ​ PART 1: Designing and Printing the Body

    Gradivis11/10/2020 at 16:26 0 comments

    Well, I just had a huge post typed out and then got a 404 upon submit - good reminder kids...web forms are NOT a substitute for a word processor or hell, even a notes app. Anyway, back to business.

    I may have mentioned elsewhere, but while I've dabbled in computer modding and camera electronics out of personal interest for years, I am at MOST a hobbyist and tinkerer. I am not trained in electronics, embedded systems, coding, 3D modelling or anything of the sort. The only models I've made are hand-carved from wax, and I've only done one other successful project with the RPi. I bring this up now, because going back through to post these I've already identified a lot of things I would do differently and places where I can make improvements (so watch out for V2.0). And also because if you f**k something up following my worklog, it's on you. Trust, but verify.

    If you would like to try this project out yourself, I'll upload my STL to this project shortly. Please note I have NOT updated it since the first print yet, so it's not production ready so to speak but it will get you close if you want to tinker.

    Not owning a proper caliper, and only having a printed A4 sheet for measuring corner radii, I spent a good couple of hours measuring and remeasuring all of the donor plates from the original LC-A before assembling and gluing them together. I had to measure the outer dimensions I was bringing over, but also the inner dimensions, corners, positioning and diameters of holes etc. Never having done something like this before to this level of accuracy was definitely a learning experience. Even with multiple times measuring, I was still 1-2mm off in places due to my rudimentary tools. Needless to say I now own two calipers, because I'm not doing that again.

    After a quick hand-drawn wireframe, I loaded up Fusion360 and ended up with something like the following. In the second image you can see my perfect usage of the scientific method to determine whether it would fit or not...

    My VERY precise pre-print retrospect it's amazing it turned out as well as it did.

    Not having a 3D printer (yet), I decided to jump on Reddit to see if I could find someone to print this for me and not only did I find a specific sub for exactly that ( but found someone in my home country who was able to print and have the model arrive at my door in 2-3 days. The cost was less than shipping would have been from a commercial service, and the quality better than I had hoped for the very first print:

    The good:

    • The fit is close enough that I can work with it
    • The quality is better than I expected (will be covered with leatherette so aesthetics don't matter)
    • I'm confident I will be able to fit all of my components in with room to spare
    • I didn't totally fuck things up for my first 3D model

    The bad:

    • The fit isn't as close as I would like, and I will have to file some parts and make a few small cuts
    • I forgot to include a hole for the female USB charging port...

    Carefully holding all the pieces together that will eventually be epoxyed/screwed in.

    So that's pretty much it for the printed case to accept the LC-A donor parts. Going forward I think I would almost certainly re-do it with multiple pieces - that way I could set up an access hatch on the bottom to access the RPi and battery without taking the entire camera apart, as well as join the LC-A pieces to the printed frame more permanently. As you can see from the image above, alignment isn't perfect but I'm hoping some filing, filling and a few screws will help keep everything together! Stay tuned for more, and thanks for reading.

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Richard Hogben wrote 11/10/2020 at 15:20 point

Short burst of photos saved to mp4 could be fun

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Gradivis wrote 11/10/2020 at 16:21 point

I like that idea a lot! I'm considering adding a rotary dial for different modes - single photo, video, black and white and that could be a fourth. I'll have to read up on how to code that, but I think would be all the functionality required. Thanks for the idea!

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