“I’m Back” Goes Medium Format – Digital Back for Analogue Cameras

Remember “I’m Back” from 2018? A conversion kit for transforming your analogue SLR camera into a digital DSLR. No, it isn’t a high-performance piece of gear for pixel peepers but it is a lot of fun to play around (and work) with! Now, almost a year later, I’m Back is back, with a new digital add-on for analogue medium format cameras!

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Samuel Mello Medeiros is a busy man. He is CEO of the company behind I’m Back and he seems to be a keen inventor and never-resting entrepreneur, indeed. After bringing the original I’m Back digital back for analogue (35mm full-frame) SLRs to market back in 2018 –read and watch our coverage here–, he felt that

the family is still not complete.

So he went back to the drawing board and, along with his colleagues, he created yet another digital back. This time for large, and undoubtedly professional-grade, analogue medium format cameras. the result is part of an Kickstarter campaign which is live as we speak.

“I’m Back” Digital Back for Medium Format

The concept behind this new line of digital backs is similar to the existing line for 35mm SLRs: Choose an adapter for your cameras make and model, attach the “I’m Back” digital back to that adapter and off you go!

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The build-in camera captures the image projected to the ground glass of the host camera through an attached lens. That way, all the grain and imperfection goodness of past days are being recorded to a SD card.

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This digital back was never designed to deliver perfect, high-res imagery. It was created to breath new life into long-gone tech while preserving its soul, so to say. Same goes for the new medium format digital back. Supported cameras include some famous medium format cameras such as:

  • Rolleiflex Automat
  • Mamiya RB67
  • Mamiya 645
  • Mamiya C330
  • Kiev 88
  • Hasselblad 500 / SWC / 1000
  • Bronica S
  • Bronica ETSsi

For each of these models (and more to come) there is a dedicated adapter, the digital back itself is the same for each of them.

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Technical Specs

As stated before, the aim here is to create beautiful pictures and video, not to deliver high-end specs on paper. Having said that, the pure specs of this digital back are somewhat underwhelming but only on paper: The camera used for capturing the ground glass projection is build around a Panasonic 16 megapixel 1/2.33-inch sensor. It can shoot 1080/50p(60p) video or stills with a resolution of the aforementioned 16MP and that’s pretty much it. So you see, this is more about transforming old and dusty medium format cameras into digital cameras to have fun with but of course you can use this if you’re after that special in-camera look for a project.

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The “I’m Back” features a build-in touchscreen for controlling the camera settings and you also can hook up an external microphone and a USB battery pack to the unit. Furthermore, wifi is build in so you can connect a phone in order to stream a live feed to it and to control the digital back.

Gadget or Creative Tool?

The specs are not impressive. And that was never the goal for this device. It can’t compete with professional digital back add-ons such as the Mamiya Leaf Credo 50 Digital Back, selling for $ 19,995. It’s obvious that the “I’m Back” plays in another league well below professional gear. But still, in these days of pixel-count mayhem and overly sharp and clean imagery, a splash of vintage imperfection might be the cure. For us here at cinema5D this concept and Samuels presentation of the original “I’m Back” for 35mm cameras made such an impact, we just had to honor his efforts with a show award at Photokina 2018.

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Just like vintage glass, such as ARRIs signature primes or the freshly announced Sigma Classic Art Primes, this digital back has a certain look. As Samuel states, the “I’m Back” is dedicated to

those who want to have fun and are tired to discuss about high resolutions and megapixels!!!

And that’s it: Don’t pixel-peep but go out there and shoot something beautiful with all the imperfections and grainy oddities you might encounter on the way.

The Kickstarter campaign runs until September 5th. All of the early bird tiers are already sold out but you still can get a digital back fitting your medium format camera for 399 CHF (roughly $ 400 / 360 €). You still need a SD card for recording stills and video since it’s not included, everything else you might need is. Just choose the correct adapter for your camera.

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Samuel with his new digital back.

If everything goes smoothly, the new “I’m Back” adapter for medium format cameras should be shipped out by June 2020. Remember, this is a Kickstarter campaign, not an online shop. Things can go south pretty badly and your investment might be lost. However, since this is not their first product, you can expect some expertise and hopefully this new back will be delivered just as fine as the last one.

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Sample shot from the Kickstarter campaign (the resolution is not great since the uploaded photo was tiny already)

Link: Kickstarter | Homepage

What do you think? Is this digital back worth dusting your old camera again? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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