Never miss a roadside photo-op with an easy camera hack.

When you’re driving for days on the highway, you see some interesting things. If you’re like me, you usually don’t have the time to get your camera out and snap a picture. Especially if it is just a goofy looking car, or an interesting tree or something. This hack will make it really easy to get pictures of sights on the highway by allowing you to snap a picture at the press of a button.

First, I sourced some cameras. Wal-mart had a decent selection of really cheap digital cameras for under $30. I bought two 7.1 Megapixel vivitars. Removing them from their packaging and snapping a few sample pics, it became evident that the picture quality wasn’t going to be fantastic. The optics on these things are pretty cheap.  It will work fine for this project though.

I began planning all kinds of ways to trigger these. Optimally, they would be always-on for quicker response time. I realized however that all the methods I was thinking of were ridiculously over complicated for this project. All that was really necessary  was to extend the power and shutter buttons. I can turn one on and snap a picture in about 3 seconds.

After soldering in some extenders and wiring this to a breakout box, I made simple harnesses for them out of the package they came in and a few small suction cups. This should hold them in place well enough for this trip.  I snapped a few example photos around town and the results are acceptable. Nothing amazing, but enough to show someone that school bus full of sad clowns that drove by while they were sleeping.

Comments

  1. That’s awesome! I commute every day and at least once a week there is something on the road where I wish I had my camera handy, I may put that together this weekend!

  2. Mark says:

    I like this. One thing I hate about digital camera’s is that you can’t just grab it and shoot. You have to wait for it to boot up, and if you just leave it on, it runs the batteries down in no time.

    • I’m not sure on those particular cameras, but I would think that you could hack together a car charger plug, and just run that into your lighter outlet.

    • n0lkk says:

      The reason I keep a disposable film camera in the console as well as a inexpensive digital camera. At least until development of film stays relatively in expensive anyway. I don’t know of a hack that could universally still with the boot up time. Using rechargeable batteries, along with creating a drop in charger could address the battery issue. I’m surprised we aren’t seeing drop in charger hacks

    • filisoft says:

      I know it’s outside the price range, but a DSLR will boot in less than half a second if it’s in stand-by. I leave mine in stand-by in the bag for weeks. When I need it I just push the shoot button. It boots and takes the picture instantly.

      • fartface says:

        My dslr boots up in 1/4 of a second from off. Canon t2i, but then the old out of date D20 and D40 do that as well.

        Older nikons took forever to boot from cold as well as all sony’s, those seem to run windows and take forever.

  3. Whatnot says:

    Nice presentation, but in my area you cannot leave anything like a camera visible in a parked car (it will cause punks to smash your window and if not it will cause cops to constantly be on your case that you encourage such).
    And also I’m not completely convinced of the placement, and if it’s a good idea to reduce toy view to the outside.

    There are fixes for those issues though I suppose. You can mask that they are cameras for starters.
    And obviously in some people’s cases they don’t have these issues.

    • mh says:

      I believe that pretty much sums up the difference between a hack and a commercial product :-)

    • Caleb Kraft says:

      suction cups allow for repositioning/hiding.

      • Whatnot says:

        There you go, simple solution

        Mind you when GPS units became popular there was actually an issue with suction cups when it was discovered that thieves looked for the telltale circle it left on the window to find cars that probably had a GPS unit in the glove compartment, I kid you not.
        But seeing how ubiquitous GPS is now I bet that they could not sell them anymore so it’s an issue of the past.

  4. adr says:

    for a better quality at a similar or lower price point check out craigslist and ebay, plenty of unloved point & shoots out there – and better than adding more cheap crap to land fills too.

    • raidscsi says:

      Me and a friend picked up some nice Canon Powershots, cheap $20-30, CHDK, this could be done a lot nicer using used cameras.

      I would have move the camera guts into a project box, and then used a RJ45 connector/cable to do shutter, power, and power switch. Then power all the cameras from a DC regulator in the control box.

      Using weatherproof connectors, you could potentially use magnets(and a safety tether), to mount the cameras outside the vehicle.

      But this gets overly complicated, and what he built works, so good job.

  5. n0lkk says:

    The only complication I’d add would be for extra controls for all the family members. There could be a drawback for Caleb with that,though. One of the boys looks to be approaching the age where he will begin appreciating the appearance of women. In time mamma craft will ask who took the photo of the woman with big boobs wearing the tube top, and short skirt? That must have been dad mom. However that would take incredible timing,that’s the one question I have; where the sample shots taken on the move? The other is would law enforcement have a problem with the camera displays being in view of the driver? I suppose making something to cover the displays and control should satisfy most LEO.

  6. Hirudinea says:

    Nice, did you consider a rooftop mounted camera with a fisheye? Also if these cameras do video a nice upgrade might be adding controls to switch for video to capture beautiful scenery to bore people who come over to visit.

  7. Jason says:

    How do you know if the camera is on or off? What if it is already on and you press the power button to turn it on(which then turns it off), and then try to take a photo? It could also be a problem if you turn it on and then it’s own power saving shuts it off, and you assume that it is still on because that is the last state you had it in. Maybe there is a way to put a small LED near the power button to indicate it’s power state.

  8. Mike says:

    Cool idea. Simple and efficient. Zwat’ I like about Hackaday.
    If LCD is on to let user know it’s powered, then that would be a hazard (turn head left/right/accident).
    I agree with the previous commenter – hook it up to an LED or crank up the Power On/Power off beep volumen.
    Nice van. Used to have one. The popup piece with stove and fridge is hard to beat. It held up extremely well off road. Miss that van.

  9. Nippey says:

    Hi i recently used my SGS2 to create a video from the street in front of me to test some image processing algorithms. (The hands-free equipment has a hole just for the camera)

    As a result I was thinking of voice-activating it or misusing the cable-remote of my headphones for shooting images. Let’s see…

  10. nah! says:

    damn, panorama camera on the roof is the way to go

  11. Dr. DFTBA says:

    I feel like that type of thing would make someone’s wife angry.

    “ugghhh, Caleb? Why did you have to build this? It’s not like it’s that rare to see anything. And can’t you just remember it yourself? And what’s with these wires all over the place? I’m not letting you hook that up to the car.”

    I disagree. But whatever. Just out of curiosity, where will your road trip take you?

  12. Aaron S says:

    Question: Why’d you solder the leads together like that (facing the same direction)? Why not solder them facing each other so that it forms a clean, continuous wire?

  13. Ross Patterson says:

    I feel like that type of thing would make someone’s wife angry.

    What is this “wife” of which you speak?

  14. Ross Patterson says:

    Inquiring minds want to know what the rotary desk set is doing on the dash of such a fine example of German engineering!

  15. Tom the Brat says:

    Um. I think I’d just keep one in the junk tray with the droid I use for phone, navigation and about everything else. Would be cool, though, it it was powered from the car and always on.

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