Repurposed SLR analog camera

Do you have an old camera that is well passed its prime? Maybe its sitting in a shoebox at the back of a cupboard collecting dust with all the years of negatives and numerous packets of old photos, or albums it once produced….

Well it’s time to dig it out of retirement and put it to some use. Unless it’s your Grandpas old Leica – if’s it’s a Leica, leave it where it slumbers cause it’s probably worth a fortune!!

DISCLAIMER: this post features cameras that have been altered to serve a function they were not meant to do. Some – actually, no lets say – ALL cameras were harmed in the making of this post. If you’re a photography aficionado and this sort of thing is regarded as needless vandalism, or purposeful devastation that makes you want to weep -Then please DON’T READ ANY FURTHER – bypass this post completely.
For the rest with an interest reinventing the purpose of the camera- read on.

There are some crazy things people are doing with old vintage cameras, anything from windowsill plant pots to meat grinders are being created out there by some very talented people.  Here are a few examples from around the net…..


Camera hacked into an industrial inspired lamp @


Camera hacked into an industrial inspired lamp with flash bulb as the lamp, @ cargo collective

Improvised widow sill herb garden from old camera parts @ digifotostarter

Camera meat

Meat grinder camera @


Awesome upcycled projects made from camera bits @ halfcraftstudio

If you’ve been following me for a while now you will have noticed that I have a few peculiar obsessions – one with LAMPS and the other with chairs. I try to control the obsessions, but sometimes I just can’t fight the urges to acquire, or make more. What we really need is a table – unfortunately there is no room with all the chairs and lamps, and besides, I’ve never come across a table that I really liked – with the exception of our Paolo Piva coffee table that my dad gave us when we moved into our first flat (that baby is a sure keeper)….  That said, it should be no surprise to you all that my favourite camera hacks are the LAMPS, mainly because it would be hard to fashion a chair or a table out of a Camera – just stating the obvious if that paragraph was a little confusing.

I picked up an old analog SLR for $2 from a thrift store. It looked like it had been unloved for a number of years shoved in the back of a damp dark cupboard with its rusty screws and mildewy powder accumulated around the lens cap and on the protective case, to be fair it looks like it’s been submerged in a lake for the most part of it’s life. I haven’t tried it to see if it works, but to be honest I really don’t care if it works, or not because I REALLY, REALLY want another lamp!!

I know very little about Cameras, as in the mechanics of a camera, what their insides look like etc. So, I thought I better put some research in on the subject, the last thing I need to do is electrocute myself, or my family because I didn’t insulate the piece adequately, or took shortcuts where I shouldn’t have.

I found in my searches that it is illegal in Australia to do any electrical work for yourself – and I get it, I certainly wouldn’t embark on rewiring my house or anything, but making a sweet harmless little lamp? – That’s just crazy!! Luckily I don’t live in Australia, I live next door – in NZ and we’re all kinds of crazy, also known as extreme risk takers. If I zap myself for doing something stupid – that’s my own stupid fault.

Lets get on with it shall we? Onwards to the wonderment of illumination!!!

If your interested in converting a camera into a light source and it is NOT illegal in your country; then the following information is for you!!

I found two good info sources about converting an old SLR into a lamp. Both have the bulb where the lens would be usually. Or if you are not familiar with the anatomy of a camera like me – I call it – it’s snout.

yes, shamefully, I may be of an age that predates smart phones and tablets, even the internet (although I won’t admit to that last part)…… Yet, I never really had anything to do with photography. I REALLY don’t like being in photos and I’m not really interested in taking photographs either. Except where I need to convey something visually and the process is stupidly easy like my apple devices allow. Point click magic. None of the aperture, grey test, adjust the lighting, speed – blah blah nonsense, ugh I am lazy and I prefer instant gratification without the effort – so sorry if this offends your very being – lets still be friends.

The first image below will link you to written instructions on how to convert a camera to a lamp with a shade. I liked this one because it looked like a telescopic lens (SNOUT). I’ve dubbed this the Rudolph camera lamp.

The second image will link you to a great little post with a manual slide show of instructions and pictures. This is really useful if you have no idea what lies beneath the outer skin of the camera. Unfortunately, it’s not the model or make of the camera I have, but at least it will give me an idea of the internal mechanisms.

“Even the sun directs our gaze away from itself and to the life illumined by it.”
Eberhard Arnold,

apartment therapy

Written instructions for making a camera lamp on apartment therapy.


Really good visual slideshow of camera to lamp conversion on Kootoyoo

My design would incorporate my SLR with an old edision bulb in the top plate where the flash thingy would sit. Which means I still need to dismantle the innards and make sure all exposed metal pieces are carefully insulated, but it also means there will be drilling and possible glue involved to keep all the pieces together, should they come apart after the invasive dismantle.

Here is my first concept designs:

Camera hack

Camera hack 2

It’s a pretty basic and clean design that I am after. A bulb, a camera and a small tripod….. That is a close enough resemblance to the $2 swamp camera, and as you can see, it’s not very vintage looking compared to some of the examples at the top of this post, so to account for this I made the design less vintage-box-brownie and more industrial modern chic. I want the bulb to be on top of the Camera instead of out the snout. I want to appreciate the visual beauty of the design of the camera without obscuring it with a foreign object on the front.

I do have a few technical issues with this design:

  1. The first is, that the edison dolly bulbs have a screw in base and don’t come in bayonet and the corresponding fittings are not available by individual sale here in NZ. We’ve fallen into this trap many times before, but have been lucky on most occasions with second-hand tool shops and op shops. My first choice would be to use an edison style bulb, but if my luck should run out on this occasion and a screw in fitting cannot be sourced without buying a whole ceiling drop pendant brand new, I will happily revert to a more standard looking bayonet bulb, hence design #2.
  2. I am a little concerned about the disassemble process and what I might find…. I have tried, and tried and I cannot even get the back off to access where the film roll goes…… so it’s going to be a bit of an unknown adventure for me. My father has an obsession with SLR’s so he may be useful in this part of the process.
  3. I also need a stand, or at least something that resembles a stand but locks tight and doesn’t move. I’m sure one will turn up in an op shop soon…. Fingers crossed.

I will need to ask hubby nicely to help me with the prep work, which I assume will involve a big drill and maybe a hammer?

************************************ fast foward>>>>>>>>>>>MANY MONTHS PAST…..

So, I located a stand for 50cents at an op shop…. It’s contemporary with the camera. But that’s as far as I’ve gotten with progress on this project. Time ran out, baby came along, the rest is history…

Everything looks good in black and white. Especially lack of progress. Sigh…

I’m super keen to kick this project back in gear now that bubs is 6 weeks old, and has calmed down from the initial 5 weeks of shock and horror at being initiated into this world. All recently new breeders will nod silently in agreement.

Keep an eye out for the next installment to come.


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