E-film in the news again

Today's obvious April Fool's joke about a digital film cartridge from RE35.net may be a good opportunity to reminisce about previous efforts to bring digital sensor to traditional film-based cameras. The first and best known of these was the EFS-1 cartridge announced by a company called ImageK in 1998.

Originally named ImageK, Silicon Film is best known for never getting its much hyped e-film product to market. In 1998, the company claimed it had made a digital film attachment for 35 mm film cameras. This generated lots of interest and publicity only to die out before ever being produced.

The product – originaly dubbed “EFS-1”, then “(e)film” – looks like a cartridge of 135-format film, and was supposed to replace the normal film cartridge in a standard SLR camera such as the Nikon N90s, to record the images digitally.

E-film installed in a Nikon N90s.

The product was first announced at the DIMA conference in February 1998. A supposedly working prototype, built around a 1.3 Mpx CMOS sensor, with a 2.6x crop factor, was shown on PMA 2001 in February 2001. After that, not much really happened. The company announced several releases, but never met its own deadlines. In September 2001, the parent company, Irvine Sensors, announces the suspension of Silicon Film operations.

At that point, the product had already become irrelevant, as real DSLRs, such as the Nikon D1X and Canon D30 had become available, with higher resolutions and lower crop factors.

It should however, be noted that at two real film/digital hybrids have existed. These are the Kodak DCS460 from 1995, which is really a Nikon N90s film camera with a 6 Mpx digital back, and the Leica R8/R9, which also was a film camera that from 2005 could be fitted with a digital back.

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