Have you ever wished to use your beloved vintage or modern Leica camera for both film and digital photography? Thanks to the ingenuity of Michael Suguitan, a full-stack roboticist, that dream is now a reality. Suguitan has single-handedly developed a modular digital back system called the “Leica MPi” that seamlessly transforms his Leica M2 film camera into a hybrid film-digital camera.
The Leica MPi digital back is a unique creation based on a Raspberry Pi Zero W microcomputer and a 12-megapixel 1/2.3″ camera module. The system ingeniously preserves the iconic features of the Leica M2, including its rangefinder focusing and mechanical shutter. Through a non-destructive process, the digital back easily replaces the existing film door and pressure plate, offering a reversible conversion within seconds.
With components priced at their manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), this inventive solution costs less than $100 USD / £100 GBP, making it approximately 1% of the price of the newest digital Leica camera available.
To gain insight into Suguitan’s creative process and witness the transformation firsthand, a YouTube video has been made available for viewing.
While the concept of a digital module for film cameras is not entirely new (as seen with Kodak modifying Nikon cameras for NASA and Leica’s own modular solution with the R-series), Suguitan’s innovation provides an accessible and cost-effective alternative for photographers. It allows film enthusiasts to explore digital photography while maintaining their beloved Leica camera system.
Although Suguitan’s solution may be considered “primitive,” it proves that a DIY digital system resembling expensive, exclusive camera backs is achievable at home with minimal investment. It breathes new life into film cameras and provides a quick alternative for less favorable lighting conditions.
This solution is particularly appealing to Leica film camera users who appreciate the charm of older technology. As technology continues to advance, future iterations could potentially feature higher megapixel sensors, ranging from 18 to 30 megapixels.
However, it’s important to note that this Leica MPi prototype comes with a caveat—a 5x crop factor. Achieving a 50mm lens equivalent in 35mm format would require using an ultra-wide 12mm lens. While limited options exist, especially within strong brands like Nikon and Canon, adventurous photographers may still find alternatives. The question remains: Are you willing to give it a try with your Leica M2?