WEDDING SEASON SALE! 30% Off Training Systems!

Your content will be up shortly. Please allow up to 5 seconds
News & Insight

Will Nikon let us turn our film SLR’s into digital SLR’s? Maybe!

By Matthew Saville on December 19th 2012

I have to say, this is one of the most exciting patents I’ve seen in a long time.  Even if it never comes to fruition, it still proves to me once again that Nikon is thinking the same things as I am.  Researching and developing the same kinds of prototype cameras that I would love to also take out for a spin…

The concept is old-  Since all 35mm film SLR’s have detachable backs, which allow easy access to the image plane.  Why not MacGyver a digital sensor into position?  It’s been done before, with very Frankenstein-looking results from the late 80’s and early 90’s… Check out more on this awesome historical Nikon DSLR page!


Anyways, Nikon’s latest patent was just approved less than  two weeks ago, and once again describes a system in which a regular film SLR has the back plate removed, and a digital sensor plate is mounted.

One of the notable aspects of this particular patent is some sort of micro-adjustment screw that allows the user to adjust the sensor position, for fine tuning of the “film plane” match-up.

So, the question is, why on earth would Nikon do this?  Doesn’t everybody want the latest bells, whistles, and high-performance features in a digital camera?  Well, sort of.

Some photographers, especially Nikon aficionados,  have  a passion for tradition, history, and the continued practice of older methods or classic cameras.  So first and foremost, Nikon would be able to count on plenty of sales to collectors, hobbyists with money to spend, and similar types.  Similar to the “gold-plated, limited edition” type products that have been offered over the years.

Next, there are the more practical users who do plan to use a camera very heavily, and want the full-frame advantages, however they also are either on an extremely tight budget, or have specific needs that require more mechanical camera controls, …who knows!  It is possible for example that such a “sensor back only” could offer photographers a D800 or D800E sensor for less than the cost of an entire D800, with potentially better battery life.

However my main fear is that a ton of controls would be given up, controls that we have in fact come to appreciate.  Not just autofocus, which a landscape photographer can live without, but things like the built-in intervalometer / time-lapse creation, and the plethora of other menu and customization features that are included in already “affordable” DSLR’s such as the  Nikon D700 and Nikon D600.  So I don’t know if I would purchase a sensor-only camera back from Nikon at this point.  It would depend very heavily on of course the price, but also the abundance (or lack) of features and customizations that I have come to “need” on my current Nikon DSLR’s.  I’m not a bells-and-whistles kind of guy, but I do appreciate how deeply customizable my DSLR menus and controls are.  So maybe I’ll stick to shooting regular film when I’m nostalgic, and shooting my regular DSLR when I need digital results.

Until next time!


This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

Follow his personal wilderness adventures:

See some of his latest wedding photography featured on:

Q&A Discussions

Please or register to post a comment.

  1. Upper Left Canine

    I’d love to have such a thing for my Pentacon Six and Kiev 60… lovely… ;)

    | |
  2. Kid

    I would totally dig this. I shoot for fun and enjoy numerous analog SLRs; from Nikon to some more bizarre ones. Could be fun having digital sensor in an FM or perhaps even my old Praktica(?)!

    | |
  3. Barbara

    Now if we can get Leica and Hasselblad to do this…I’d love to convert my old 35mm and medium format film cameras since the Lord knows, I cannot currently afford new digital models.

    | |
  4. Eddasso

    I’m really all about the final result of an image. Yes, it is wonderful to have all the bells and whistles, but if you are saying I can have a D800 quality image out of an older camera, for a reasonable price, then I’m all for it. I’ve been considering going back to a medium format film camera in order to achieve the quality they can produce. I can’t afford a D800 atm, and for under $500 I can get a camera that rivals the best digital cameras on the market. The price you pay though, is convenience.  For portfolio building though, I would love to make that sacrifice.


    | |