In the early days of digital photography a small American company, Imagek, started developing a digital sensor module that could be installed in film SLRs. The idea still generates excitement today, more than ten years after the company (by then named Silicon Film) failed. Photographer and blogger Olivier Duong has taken a look back at the promise and disappointment of the Silicon Film dream.

Silicon Film - an idea that still spurs the imagination.

Duong has collected images from the time, including some from dpreview.com and Imaging Resource's contemporary coverage of the company's initial EFS-1 model. Based around a roughly 1" sensor, giving a ~2.6x crop factor, the system offered a 1.3MP camera that could store up to 24 images on its internal memory and promised up to 300 images per battery change. Even back in 2000 (around a year after the idea was first touted), Phil Askey was expressing doubts about the company's ability to deliver.

Dpreview.com covered the story when Silicon Film originally promised to launch the EFS-1 and was one of the few sites to publish a full-resolution sample from a prototype example.

Duong says he hopes someone would attempt a crowd-sourced version (which, in turns out, someone is), overlooking the many potential problems and still wanting one, despite the drawbacks of the system, many of which were identified by Askey at the time.

The lack of battery space, the need to open the camera to change ISO, White Balance or any other image setting, and the need to indicate a crop in the viewfinder if anything less than a full frame sensor is used, are all difficult to get around, especially considering that this had to work in more than one model of camera. And that made the large assumption that many modern photographers would be willing to live without a rear LCD to check their images.

For a still-more detailed look at the challenges of creating a digital insert for existing film SLRs, read forum regular Joseph Wisniewski's posts about the physical challenges faced and the economics of why it's probably simpler to go out and buy a D600/EOS 6D, rather than wait for someone to breathe life back into your F6/EOS-1V.