How I modified a GameBoy digicam to take astro and macro images



It is a Gameboy Digital camera. A tool that turns any Gameboy right into a digicam.

Launched in 1998 and retailing for $50 (equal to $85 in as we speak’s cash) it was the smallest digital digicam in the marketplace on the time.

It really works similar to some other recreation for the Gameboy, it simply slots into the again. And similar to that, you’ve turned your handheld gaming console right into a fully-fledged point-and-shoot digicam. It was sensible because the Gameboy’s massive display screen was used because the viewfinder.

That is the sensor on this beast of a digicam. It’s a 14 kilo-pixel (0.014 Megapixel) 1/4″ CMOS sensor. It captures 128x128px photographs, that are cropped and saved as 128x112px photographs. The Gameboy digicam can retailer as much as 30 of those photos. There was no approach of getting these photographs of the digicam off the digicam and onto some other digital storage media on the time (There may be now although, extra on that later), when you had 30 photos you needed to delete previous ones. The one strategy to get photographs off the cartridge was to make use of this superb accent;

The GameBoy printer. An ultra-portable thermal printer that produced postage stamp dimension prints proper there in your hand and it was powered by batteries!

I purchased this Gameboy digicam in 1999 once I was 12 years previous with my birthday cash.

I’ve at all times liked it. I discovered it in a field lately and began enjoying round with it. It oozes attraction. The photographs are so distinctive wanting. You may immediately determine if an image comes from a Gameboy digicam. There actually isn’t something prefer it. It’s tremendous simple to take photos with it, dangerous photos that it. Taking good ones is a little bit of a problem.

Are you able to even guess what that is?

The low decision and having a shade depth of two bits (Which means it may well produce pixels of black, white, and two shades of gray.

For comparability; a contemporary digicam working in 10-bit shade area can produce over 1 billion completely different shades of shade.) makes correct lighting a necessity to get photographs which you could inform what they painting.

Additionally, the one settings you’re in a position to make in-camera is to vary the brightness and distinction, each of that are utilized on prime of the auto publicity function (which you’ll be able to’t flip off btw). So there is no such thing as a approach of locking in publicity or something related. Making issues much more troublesome/difficult.

So why use this digicam in 2022? It’s the restrictions which can be interesting. How a lot are you able to categorical and convey with a 0.014 megapixel picture in black, white, and two shades of gray? It’s the problem of taking absolutely the coolest photos doable with this know-how, pushing it to the restrict.

And that is what we’re going to aim to do! Now I’ve two objectives in thoughts.

I wish to take an image of the moon. I would like the moon to take up as a lot of the body as doable whereas nonetheless capturing the entire thing.

I additionally wish to take tremendous close-up images aka macro images.

Each of those require me to suit completely different lenses to the Gameboy digicam, so I’m going to make a fast swap system that permits me to vary between completely different lens mounts rapidly. For the reason that moon is waning I’ll begin with the mount for this lens:

A Pentax-Okay mount Chinon 300mm, F5.6, classic lens I bought actual low cost from a web-based thrift retailer. For what I paid for it, It’s loopy good glass.

So why did I select a 300mm lens? As I discussed earlier, I would like as a lot of the moon as doable to refill the body with out it being cropped.

When you’ve carried out any DSLR images with a 300mm lens that it’s fairly a little bit of zoom, however it’s nowhere near filling the body with the moon.

So why wouldn’t it on a Gameboy digicam? It comes all the way down to sensor dimension.

That is the scale of a “full-frame” aka 35mm sensor. Now, on the suitable is the scale of the Gameboy digicam sensor.

As you’ll be able to see it’s fairly tiny in comparison with a full-frame. It’s about 1/eleventh the realm.

Inserting this within the middle of the picture circle you’ll be able to see that solely a small a part of the picture projected by the lens really is captured by the sensor.

The smaller sensor mainly sees this 300mm lens as a 3200mm lens. This is called “crop issue”. The smaller the sensor the smaller portion of the picture produced by the lens is captured by the sensor. It’s”cropping the picture”. The sensor within the Gameboy digicam has a crop issue of 10.81. Which means that to get the identical degree of zoom on a full-frame sensor you would want a focal size 10.81 instances as lengthy.

Now time for some math. The moon is about 3475km in diameter and the gap from earth varies between 356600km and 406600km. When you stand on the face of the earth and search for you’ll be able to think about that the night time sky you’ll be able to see is 180° broad. Utilizing the small-angle approximation angle method the moon will take up 0.49 to 0.56° of the night time sky.

The sphere of view of a digicam in levels could be calculated with this method 2 arctan * (sensor dimension / (2 * the focal size of the lens)).

The shortest facet of the picture sensor that’s captured on the Gameboy digicam is 3.15mm. So 2 arctan * (3.15/(2*300)) = 0.6°

On the time of capturing this video, the moon is 368000km away from the earth, which comes out to 0.54°. Which means that 90% of the peak of the body can be coated by the moon. Which I believe can be excellent as 100% protection can be very troublesome to border.

All good so let’s get began designing a mount for this lens!

Whereas taking the digicam aside I seen this beautiful huge scratch-looking factor on the sensor.

Besides it carefully it doesn’t appear to be a scratch however reasonably a deformation is the casting of the highest of the sensor. Right here have a look below the microscope.

I ponder how this handed high quality management. I’m undecided the place I put the receipt nor if they’ve a 25-year guarantee. I assume I’ve to stay with it. We’ll see how a lot it exhibits up within the photos. Perhaps I can work round it.

The sensor was made by Mitchubitchi. That’s cool! I didn’t know they did electronics like this. After some googling, I discovered the datasheet for the sensor. It’s the M64282FP. They name it the Synthetic Retina LSI. “This gadget can detect a picture and course of the picture concurrently as human retinas can” 16usec to 1 sec publicity time and 1 lux low gentle capabilities. Spectacular! Hyperlink to the datasheet.

Let’s design a 3D printable mount for the sensor and make a fast swap lens system.

I’ll be utilizing the CAD/CAM software program Fustion360 for making these elements. The standards I set for myself for this design have been to do no everlasting adjustments to any unique elements of the digicam in order that I simply can restore the digicam to its unique state and solely use unique screws, no inserts and solely 3D printed elements.

GameBoy-Digital camera-lens-adapters-v6.step_Obtain

All of the design information can be found within the hyperlink above

The primary half I made was the half that will get clamped down between the 2 cartridge shells.

This design won’t be able to swivel or something fancy like that. It’s going to be fastened angle to be as stiff and robust as doable. I then added the ball form as exactly as I may to get a decent match in opposition to the opening after which a cup that may settle for the sensor holder.

Talking of which, is designed like this: The sensor screws into the again utilizing the unique screws. A screw for retaining the sensor holder within the cup prevents it from rotating.

On the entrance of the sensor holder is an M33x2mm thread. That is used to mount completely different lens adapters. There are fairly just a few activates the thread as it’s going to eradicate any gentle leak. Threads this dimension are fairly simple to print in case you have a decently tuned printer. A normal tip relating to threads. At all times finish the male thread earlier than the feminine thread and create a aid on the prime. This can make sure that the highest surfaces of each elements register in opposition to one another and lay flat.

Relying on how effectively your printer is tuned you will have so as to add some tolerance to the threads. The best approach to do that is by utilizing the push-pull command and lowering the scale by 0.05mm for a well-tuned printer and 0.1mm for a not-so-well-tuned printer. Not less than that could be a good start line. You can do that to each female and male threads however I often solely do it on one of many two.

I at all times select to do that on the thread that I’ll print fewest off as then I don’t should do it on all different threads I make after this. On this case, I’ll do it on the sensor facet as I’ll print a bunch of various adapters.

Subsequent, we have to speak about flange distance. A lens is designed to focus at a particular level behind the mount.

Totally different lens techniques have completely different distances. Like Canon makes use of 44mm and Nikon makes use of 46.5mm. The Pentax-Okay mount is 45.46mm. I doubt I’ll be capable to hit that precise quantity with this many items related collectively, so I did the following neatest thing. I made it adjustable. I added an M58x2mm thread to the entrance of the adapter which I then can fine-tune the flange distance with the digicam working to completely hit that 45.46mm. As soon as I’ve it dialed in I’ll add a tiny drop of glue to forestall it from transferring.

Since there may be a lot thread engagement there received’t be any gentle leak from this joint both. One factor to be careful for is gentle leak across the 3D print to lens interface. I extremely suggest printing the flange adapter floor in opposition to the mattress of the printer to ensure it’s utterly flat. When you do that you just shouldn’t have any points. Additionally, use a black filament and loads of partitions on the prints to forestall any gentle from discovering its strategy to the sensor.

I additionally printed this little lens tripod adapter. I would like as little stress on the Gameboy digicam cartridge as doable and the Gameboy is way lighter than the lens. This fashion the middle of gravity of the setup can also be actually near the mounting level, which reduces stress.

That is the way it turned out. Let’s see how a lot zoom this factor has.

It is a lego determine that stands 43mm tall. Let’s put it on the different finish of my home, 13 meters away. That could be a fairly loopy quantity of zoom! I believe I’m able to {photograph} the moon.

At 10 pm that night time began heading out to the sector. The snow is a stunning 30cm deep. 10 minutes of strolling later I’m out on the sector. I go searching and the place the heck is the moon? Seems it doesn’t rise till Midnight. Sigh. Didn’t even take into consideration checking that earlier than setting out. Again we go. Wait two hours. Stroll out once more. This time I may see the moon via the bushes whereas strolling.

When it’s this darkish the FPS on the Gameboy digicam goes all the way down to 1 or 1/2 a body per second, making aiming and focusing fairly the problem. It took like 5 minutes to even discover the moon after which it takes a strong 30 seconds earlier than it’s carried out setting the auto publicity. After which I have to focus.

It seems to be like my math was appropriate because the moon is filling up the entire body. It’s fairly loopy how rapidly the moon strikes within the body at this degree of zoom. Whereas the digicam is setting the auto-exposure the moon has moved far sufficient that I generally wanted to reframe the shot.

After the auto-exposure did its factor the FPS did bounce as much as maybe 5 making issues quite a bit simpler. Simply respiration on the tripod would shake the entire thing although. Fortunately for the reason that FPS was so low you can hit the A button actual fast and it could save the body it was presently displaying which was drawn 1/tenth of a second earlier, making it doable to get sharp photographs. And man simply have a look at these photos I managed to seize!

Throughout some photos, some clouds handed by and made issues look actually cool. Keep in mind this can be a image of an object 368000km away taken with a toy digicam from 1998.

However wait you would possibly say. Didn’t you say there was no strategy to get the photographs off the Gameboy digicam earlier? Properly, fortunately we stay sooner or later and there are answers obtainable now. They arrive in two classes, those that fake to be a Gameboy printer and the extra refined ones that immediately learn the information from the cartridge. The first one is actually low cost and straightforward to DIY for a few {dollars} however is gradual and a bit cumbersome to make use of, and the second one is round 50 bucks to purchase however very easy to make use of. It actually exhibits up as a detachable drive in your pc and you’ll simply drag and drop the photographs onto your laborious drive.

Being each low cost and don’t have the persistence to attend weeks for supply, I went with the DIY answer. I even have all of the whopping 2 elements wanted at house.

These elements are an Arduino and a Gameboy Hyperlink cable.

If in case you have a knockoff cable or one that you just don’t care about you’ll be able to merely lower one finish off and solder it straight to the Arduino. Mine is an unique cable and I don’t wish to dedicate it to this undertaking, so I’m going to make a customized PCB that may double as a connector, utilizing a freaking laser.

I solely had 0.8mm copper plated FR10 board at house so I lower a prime and a backside board and can stack them collectively later to get the 1.6mm thickness that the center part of Gameboy cable wants.


All of the design information can be found within the hyperlink above (EasyEDA format)

I’m utilizing a 50W Raycus Fiber laser fitted with a 110mm lens. It really works within the 1000nm wavelength making it wonderful for chopping metals. The targeted spot dimension is extremely small which makes any such laser ship all its energy into a really small space in comparison with a CO2 laser which additional aids the chopping potential, but in addition the potential of constructing very tiny markings.

They’re extremely quick as they use a tilting mirror to intention the beam whereas a CO2 laser strikes a heavy gantry round. Max pace is round 7 meters per second! Which is foolish quick.

The draw back is the very restricted dimension of the work space. However it compensates for this by sounding freaking superb.

Listed below are the completed boards. The settings I used when chopping weren’t optimum so the pads that aren’t related to something thus had little or no floor contact with the board form of fell off. However the remainder of the board turned out effectively sufficient for this utility.

Now naked copper tends to make dangerous connectors as copper oxidizes rapidly and the floor turns into non-conductive. So to increase the lifetime of this connector I’m going to tin it utilizing solder. It’s not one of the best answer, however it’s going to final a lot, for much longer than naked copper.

I used this flux in gel type that turned out to work nice. An excellent-thin layer of solder is all that’s wanted so I eliminated any extra utilizing a solder wick, then cleaned off the realm with some isopropanol alcohol.

I then glued the boards collectively utilizing some CA glue and used the pins to align the boards, 3D printed a connector in order that I don’t plug within the cable the incorrect approach

and a case for the entire thing to make it look a bit snazzier.


All of the design information can be found within the hyperlink above

Alright, let’s flip this Arduino right into a Gameboy printer emulator! First, obtain the “Gameboy Printer Emulator” undertaking by Brian Khuu from github.

Then add the Arduino sketch and open the serial monitor. Set the baud fee to 115200. That’s it actually on the programming facet. Now, all we have now to do is to print a picture from the Gameboy digicam and the Arduino will spit out a pair of hex digits for every pixel. We’ll then copy that and open this web site that’s linked on the GitHub undertaking web page. This web page turns the hex code into photographs. Paste it within the window and hit replace. Increase! Now you might have a pixel-perfect picture out of your Gameboy digicam which you could obtain as a PNG or JPG. You may even select completely different shade palettes to vary the texture of the photographs. I personally want the Gameboy pocket look. Maybe as a result of that’s the handheld I had once I grew up, however the unique Gameboy inexperienced may be very iconic.

Earlier than I neglect listed here are some tricks to make the switch course of rather less painful. You don’t should switch one image at a time. When you push “choose” on the principle display screen, then select “hyperlink”, then “print”, then “Possibility” you’ll be able to quick-select all the photographs you wish to print.

Then hit print and it’ll print all these photographs in sequence. The web site that converts the hex to pictures understands that there are a number of photos within the stream so you’ll be able to simply copy-paste the entire block and it’ll robotically make separate photographs which you could obtain. The quickest strategy to delete all the photographs from the cartridge is to wipe the entire cartridge, maintain the beginning and choose buttons throughout boot up and it’ll ask you if you wish to delete every thing. By far the quickest strategy to begin taking photos once more however it’s going to additionally delete any recreation progress or songs you’ve made within the DJ studio.

Oh yeah I haven’t talked about that, there are some mini-games you’ll be able to play and you can also make some dope music within the DJ studio however the entire menu system of the Gameboy digicam is, to place it in sort phrases, a bit odd. I believe what occurred was the CEO of Nintendo gave some new builders the duty of constructing the software program for the brand new Gameboy digicam. The builders made two variations, one which was tremendous clear {and professional} and one which was made as a joke. They then despatched the joke model to the CEO for approval whereas all guffawing collectively anticipating a name from the CEO any second. After they didn’t hear again from the CEO in a few days the lead designer was confused and gave the CEO a name. Hey CEO, how did you just like the Gameboy digicam software program? – Yeah sorry Bob I didn’t have time to look it over, I simply despatched it straight into manufacturing. I belief you guys did a very good job.

I’m undecided what else can clarify the alternatives made right here. Like, what the heck is that this?

What does a head popping out of the mouth of itself should do with viewing photos? Or a boy nearly crying when taking photos? And the error messages. Like what the precise heck is the very first thing that got here to thoughts the primary time I had considered one of these pop up.

Anyhow whereas making an attempt to neglect I ever noticed that image I made a decision to print a Canon mount for the digicam. This fashion I can take some candy macro photographs. I’ll be utilizing this tremendous good Canon 100mm F2.8 lens. I made a tripod mount for this one as effectively, as making an attempt to take handheld macro photos with a 1100mm equal focal size lens could be tough, to say the least.

I scavenged the home for some lifeless bugs and located a bunch of cool stuff. Maybe I ought to clear extra usually?

I’ve this photograph tent that I’ll gentle with two 98CRI,100W LED’s mounted in softboxes. Maybe the CRI ranking doesn’t matter that a lot on this case when the digicam can solely seize 4 shades of gray. I simply needed to flex a bit.

I’m additionally utilizing the Ikea JANSJÖ LED lamps that I’ve modified with 98CRI 5500K LEDs as an alternative of the horrible yellow inventory ones. This fashion they match the softbox LED’s shade temperature and shade render index completely and I take advantage of them as accent lighting when taking product photos.

Anyhow, let’s take an image of a fly’s face!

I can get even nearer however it turns into extra obscure what you’re seeing at this level.

Hair on a fly

Listed below are another cool photographs:

A wing of a dragonfly.

The tip of a wing of a dragonfly that’s a bit broken.

The face of a dragonfly.

The face of a butterfly.

The wing of a small moth.

A wasp.

Wasps are imply jerks that don’t contribute something helpful to nature. I as soon as by accident bumped a hidden nest that was beneath me whereas putting in a ladder on the highest of my roof. I used to be caught up there for half-hour warding off wasps. It was 30°C exterior so I used to be sporting shorts and I’d taken off my t-shirt. I’ve had extra enjoyable on the dentist.

Now, this can be a homicide hornet.

They sound like freaking helicopters after they get within the home, however I at all times catch them and allow them to again out. Why? They eat wasps. They’re additionally fairly chill to people. They appear cool as heck too.

I took another cool photos too:

My spouse’s eyeball

And these snowflake photos are in all probability among the coolest photos I’ve ever taken on any digicam:

I’m so impressed by what this little digicam can ship. Snowflakes have plenty of distinction between the form and background which did make them quite a bit simpler to {photograph}. These photos alone made the modification value it. Extra photos of random issues:


Mirror selfie

Plasma ball

I additionally made a few mounts for some CCTV lenses I had laying round from my FPV flying days.

It is a 1.6mm lens and a 2.8mm.

The 1.6mm lens is actually broad and positively counts as a fisheye lens. It’s fairly cool to have the ability to take photos like this with such a small sensor as effectively.

That is my canine taken with the 1.6mm lens:

And right here is one taken with a 50mm lens for comparability (I needed to be on the opposite facet of the room to take this one):

Even a 2 bit 0.014 megapixel digicam can take good photos below the suitable circumstances. Taking good photos could be troublesome at instances although as you at all times should struggle the auto publicity and it’s a must to gentle the scene strategically. However the modification was 100% definitely worth the time invested. I’ll cherish these photos for a very long time to come back.

Have you ever taken any photos with a Gameboy Digital camera? Please share!

Concerning the Creator

David Windestål is a Sweden-based engineer and RC fanatic. He’s the founding father of and part of the group at HackMakeMod. What’s additionally attention-grabbing is that he makes meteor rings, and you’ll study extra about them right here. For extra DIY initiatives, RC stuff, and different cool issues, comply with David on Instagram and his YouTube channel. This text was additionally printed right here and shared with permission.