There are better ways to enjoy your old 35mm gear than this iPhone-to-film-camera adapter
We love shooting with film cameras and lenses, but we're not sure the 'Digi Swap' is the right solution for enjoying classic gear.
The Digi Swap is a new gadget set to be launched at the upcoming Camera and Photo Imaging Show 2022 (CP+), in Japan. It’s an adapter and app that enable you to use your iPhone as a kind-of digital back for an old 35mm film camera. It’s an awkward-looking contraption and one that got us thinking about how there are better, cheaper, and simpler options out there for enjoying old analog gear.
Let’s talk about it.
What the Digi Swap does
The Digi Swap is a machined-aluminum adaptor that can connect an iPhone (including the iPhone X, XS, 11, 11 Pro, 12, 12 Pro, 13, and 13 Pro) to just about any 35mm film camera. (Other film format adapters are in the works, apparently.)
Once connected—using the official Digi Swap app—users can shoot digital photos using their adapted film camera. You set the ISO sensitivity with the app, but use your camera to set the aperture and shutter speed. When you press the shutter button, your phone captures a digital photo. You can even shoot video.
Seriously, and I can’t stress this enough, the Digi Swap is a very clever way of doing things. And it’s especially cool that most of the controls are handed off to the camera itself. But the whole rig—with camera and iPhone attached—is just, well…awkward.
It’s not that Digi Swap doesn’t solve a real problem, but we feel there are better ways to take digital photos with your old lenses.
Lens adapters are better
One of the best option is to use a lens adapter and a mirrorless camera. Most mirrorless cameras—even crop sensor models—will provide substantially better image quality than the Digi Swap method, even if you have the newest iPhone.
Whatever combination of vintage lens and mirrorless camera you have, you’re almost certain to find an adapter that works (and probably for cheap). Even better, you’ll most likely (depending on the camera) have access to features like focus peaking (where the in-focus areas of the image are highlighted in live view or the EVF) so you’ll be better able to get sharp photos with manual focus lenses.
Things are a bit trickier with DSLRs, but there are still some adapters available—like the Canon FD-to-Canon EF or Nikon F-to-Canon EF—so, depending on what lens you’re trying to use, you might be in luck.
Of course, adapters aren’t perfect either. You rarely get autofocus or electronic aperture control, but they’re a lot more convenient than strapping an iPhone to the back of an old film camera.
Just shoot film
Another great way to take high-quality photos with classic film-era lenses is—and I can’t believe I have to say this—to just shoot film. It’s fun, can be affordable, and doesn’t involve ridiculous adapters. And again, you’ll get much better image quality with 35mm film than you will with an iPhone and the Digi Swap rig/app.
And it’s easier than you might think to convert film photos into digital files. You can easily scan negatives with a relatively wallet-friendly flatbed scanner or digitize them using a macro lens and film holder. Or, if you’re getting your film developed in a lab, you can generally get the negatives scanned as part of the processing.
Who is the Digi Swap for?
As Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr. Ian Malcolm, says in Jurassic Park, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Yes, the Digi Swap allows you to get digital photos from a film camera or old lenses, but so do adapters and/or shooting film and digitizing the results. If it was were a bit less clunky and/or easier to use, I could potentially see the appeal. Still, we love the idea behind it—breathing new life into old gear.
When will the Digi Swap be available?
Digi Swap is due to be revealed properly at CP+ next month. Details like pricing and availability will likely be announced shortly thereafter.