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3D-printed adapter lets you use Nikon F-mount lenses on Apple’s 1996 QuickTake camera

Although better known for its computers, MP3 players and smartphones, Apple was also a pioneer in the digital photography space. Apple’s first digital camera, the QuickTake 100, was released in 1994 in partnership with Kodak. The binocular-like camera captured 640 x 480-pixel images, and its internal memory held just eight shots.

The QuickTake 150 was released more than a year later for $700, a $50 savings compared to its predecessor. The QuickTake 150 shipped with a macro conversion lens, added Windows support, including more image formats, and had double the storage of the original QuickTake. The QuickTake 200 was significantly different, having been built by Fujifilm instead of Kodak. Today, we’re focused on the QuickTake 100/150 because photographer and designer Brian Benchoff has built a 3D-printed F-mount adapter for the QuickTake 150.

Using F-mount lenses on the QuickTake isn’t as straightforward as attaching a new lens to the camera. To adapt an F-mount lens to the QuickTake, Benchoff had to move electronic components around to allow for a revised optical path. Benchoff writes, ‘The basic steps in creating a Nikon adapter for a QuickTake are simply opening up the camera, moving the sensor PCB forward through the use of standoffs, removing all optical elements (lenses) from the optical path, and mounting a 3D printed F-mount adapter exactly 46.5mm in front of the sensor. Do that, and you’ll be able to take pictures.’

Benchoff’s adapter design needed to include some cutouts to ensure no disruption to the aperture/shutter motor and allow unfettered access to the camera’s power switch. Why go through the trouble? Benchoff writes, ‘There is exactly one reason why anyone would want to put a Nikon lens on an Apple QuickTake: crop factor.’ The sensor is only 6mm across, resulting in an effective crop factor of about 7x. That means if you attached a 50mm prime to the adapted QuickTake 150, it provides a similar field of view as a 350mm lens. Attaching a telephoto lens means you basically have a telescope.

AppleQuick Take 150 with Nikon F-mount adapter. The connection between the adapter and the camera is custom-built by Benchoff. The metal mount is an off-the-shelf component.

Unfortunately, the camera has quite a few limitations that prevent it from being well-suited to telescope work or even action photography with a long lens. The viewfinder isn’t operational when using the adapter, and there’s no LCD, so you must view images on a compatible computer. Benchoff used a Powerbook Duo 2300c with System 7.5.5. He writes, ‘To take a picture, I set up the camera, press the button, fiddle with the focus and aperture on the lens, and download the pics to the computer. From there, I select the best pictures and re-shoot, playing with the framing. It’s hard, and I had to rebuild a few Powerbook Duo batteries to make this setup portable.’ The camera includes automatic aperture and exposure, so you’re at the mercy of the metering system, which isn’t always reliable.

‘Portals to the Past, Lloyd lake, SF. Shot on Quicktake 150, Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8D lens’

Image credit: Brian Benchoff

‘Quicktake 150 shot taken with Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8D lens. Lloyd lake, SF.’

Image credit: Brian Benchoff

Every image requires time and effort, which is part of the appeal. There’s also an inherently nostalgic quality to images captured using a 640 x 480 CCD sensor designed in the early 1990s. To share his images, Benchoff created an Instagram clone for vintage digital cameras called 640by480. You can check out Benchoff’s latest images here. You can also sign up for your own 640by480 account and start sharing your own vintage digital camera images.

All images courtesy of Brian Benchoff