I remember 10 years ago when digital imaging first started to make inroads into mainstream photography. I was having a conversation with a photographer friend of mine who was extolling the virtues, and future of digital photography. I rolled my eyes at him and swore that I would never give up wet process. Two years later I sold my view camera and my 35mm, went digital and never looked back. I was so amazed at the immediacy, and the possibilities that where only a mouse click away. I spent years watching the technology evolve, brimming with excitement as 22 megapixel medium format backs approached affordability. Reveling in the orgy of digital slr’s packing higher resolutions, better analogue to digital converters, and ever decreasing price tags. While I engorged myself with obsessing on histograms, and the image proudly displaying itself on the lcd panel I forgot the most crucial part of the image making process – the image. I forgot the time spent analyzing the scene, taking meter readings, and taking into account the film loaded in the camera. I forgot about the uncertainty, anticipation, and excitement of waiting. Waiting for the lab tech to bring the fruit of my labor, waiting to eagerly grab the loupe and splay my negatives on the light box. I forgot how good that all felt. 10 years later I feel like that kid again. It’s not because of some new kick ass Photoshop plug-in, it’s not some awesome new technique that emulates the films we all cut our teeth on. It’s because of a simple $50.00 camera that is beyond basic; and in some circles the notion of it being used as a serious image making tool would be heartily scoffed at. It is the Diana F+. It is a plastic camera with a plastic lens, 3 apertures, and two shutter speeds. It has light leaks, which require a hefty dose of gaffers tape to mitigate; It has zone focus; it’s three apertures, I’m still not 100% sure what they are. It is unpredictable at best. So, you might be wondering,why? Did I mention that it has three apertures that vary from camera to camera?? Well, this recreation of the venerable Diana from the 1960’s features interchangeable lenses. Currently there are four; a 20mm Circular Fisheye, a 38mm ultra-wide angle, a 55mm wide angle, and a 110mm telephoto. In addition it has the provision for a flash. Unlike the Holga (another popular toy camera) this provision does not come in the form of a more useable hot shoe. There is the caveat. The flash is a proprietary connection. Interestingly enough, the optional Diana Flash comes with an adapter to make it compatible with any camera that has a hot shoe. It is also supposed to come with a regular hot shoe adapter; mine did not Which brings me to the whole point of this post. I shoot a great deal with strobes, I love to mix strobes with ambient light, and I love to shoot with strobes in the studio. So I devised a simple way to modify the Diana F+ to accept a hot shoe. My modification also enables the user to directly plug a Pocket Wizard, or Elinchrom Skyport into the flash sync. From there, the sky is the limit. I use remote triggers, and this mod works extremely well with those too. So, without further ado, lets get too it.
What you will need:
A Soldering Iron
Sand paper or Dremel
A shoe adapter (I used the Bower Shoe Adapter for Tripod / Lightstand)
(2) 6″ strips of 22 gauge hook up wire (1 black, 1 red)
Small piece of gaffer tape (or electrical tape)
Small amount of plastic cement
Begin by arranging your workspace, lay out the needed items in easily accessible places. Take a deep breath, try to quell the excitement building up in you, as you begin the process of converting your Diana into a world class image maker.
1. Make sure your soldering iron is nice and hot.
2. Expose 1/2″ of bare wire from both ends of the black and red hook up wire. You can accomplish this by striping the ends of the wires with wire strippers, or with your teeth. (my preferred method)
3. Position the camera so the lens is facing away from you. You will notice the two connectors to the left of the viewfinder.
4. Begin with the connector closest to the viewfinder. This is your ground. Insert one end of the black wire into the hole. I made a loop with the end to increase the surface area of wire making connection. It also helps to wedge the wire in the hole while you secure it with the solder. Take your solder, and with the soldering iron melt the solder in the hole until it fills, or the hook up wire is secured. (you shouldn’t be able to pull the wire out of the hole)*
*While soldering, it is a good idea to wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth. Soldering generates a fair of noxious smoke, which I’m pretty sure is bad for you. Use caution when attempting this procedure.
5. Repeat the process with the red wire in the remaining connector. This is your positive connection.
You are halfway there!
6. Take the 1/8″ Stereo Connector and remove the plastic sheath. You do this by twisting the metal top counter clockwise. Thread the wires through the plastic sheath. Once removed you will notice 2 small gold prongs on the innermost portion of the connector. This is the positive connection, and the portion which you will solder the other end of the red wire to. The ground is the semi-circular terminal at the end, and is silver. You will also notice that each connector has a hole in it. The easiest thing to do is to thread the exposed ends of the black and red wires through these holes. Twist them to temporally secure them, permanently secure them with a small amount of solder. Be especially careful when soldering the red wire. If any solder gets on the outside of the connector or touches the ground it will short out the connection and you will have no flash.
7. Once you have soldered the black and red connections, plug the male end of the Paramount Hot Shoe Cord into the female end of the 1/8″ stereo jack. If you have a hot shoe flash handy, mount it to the other end of the Paramount Cord and turn it on. Depress the shutter button on the Diana, if you have followed all the above to the letter you should be greeted by a nice bright flash.
8. Once you are satisfied with your connections and testing, insert the 1/8″ stereo connector back into the sheath and tighten clockwise. Take your small piece of gaffer tape and tape the stereo connector to the front of the camera with the connection facing down.
9. You will now mount the shoe adapter to the top of the camera. You may have to sand the bottom of the shoe adapter so it will sit flush on the top of the camera. In any case you will want to sand the top of the camera where you plan to mount the shoe adapter. I chose to mount it between the two wires. Place a small amount of plastic cement on the bottom of the shoe adapter and a small amount on top of the camera. Mount it to the camera. Let dry.
You now have the ability to mount any shoe mount flash or remote flash trigger to the Diana with a minimal amount of intermediate wires. This is especially useful for Pocket Wizards, or Elinchrom Skyports. I use both, and with this modification I can now fulfill quite a few personal projects I have been working on.