Towards More Interesting Instant Cameras

When [Ch00f] was getting jeans rung up at Nordstroms, he noticed how fast thermal receipt printers can put an image on a piece of paper. This observation isn’t unique to the circles [Ch00f] frequents – there are a few small receipt paper printers out there that connect to the Internet, iPhones, and a whole bunch of other Kickstarter-friendly keyword devices.

Nevertheless, a device that can make a hard copy of an image quickly and cheaply isn’t something you just stop thinking about. After rolling the concept around in his head for a few years, [Ch00f] finally came up with the perfect build – a camera.

The hardware for the build is based around an STM32F4 Discovery board. It’s a bit overpowered for this sort of application, and this is one of [Ch00f]’s first adventures in ARM-land. The rest of the hardware consists of a thermal receipt printer and a JPEG camera, the latter of which replaced a cellphone CMOS camera module that was lost in a move.

A custom camera requires a custom enclosure, and for this [Ch00f] made something remarkable. The entire enclosure is CNC milled out of a beautiful piece of figured walnut. The end result looks far too good for a prototype, but it does polish up nicely with a bit of linseed oil.

Now [Ch00f] has an instant camera that takes the idea of a Polaroid and turns it into something that produces a print for tenths of a cent. There’s a time-lapse function – just a zip tie on the shutter button – filters with the help of highlighters, and the ability to record movies in flipbook format.

It’s a great project, and also something that will make for a great crowdfunding campaign. [Ch00f] has already started work on this. He already has a sleek, modern-looking website that requires far too much scrolling than should be necessary – the first step to a winning Kickstarter. [Ch00f] also learned a lot about ARMs, DMA, dithering, gamma correction, and the JPEG format, but that’s not going to get anyone to open up their wallet. You know what will? A slick video. You’ll find that below.

22 thoughts on “Towards More Interesting Instant Cameras

  1. Lovely wooden enclosure +10 … but those terrible cheap switches – what was he thinking about… this build demands recessed wooden buttons or vintage brass fittings … the 1980’s Radioshack switches… urghhh!

      1. This has gotten to be an ugly subject among researchers and regulatory agencies. A metastudy of papers have showed clear funding bias (industry-funded papers show a high prevalance of BPA non-association with symptoms, while government/independent funded studies have shown association). Note that “association” (correlation) isn’t causation – there’s no clear etiology in this yet. Unfortunately this has all been compounded by hysteria/clickbait/conspiracy types who are also not very objective. Also there has been a huge amount of invective and misdirection from industry, who maintain that the funding bias points in the other direction, providing researchers with a continued paycheck. Plus ça change…

        The FDA (whom I’ve found to be afraid of their own shadow when it comes to contradicting industry over systemic safety issues) maintain that the low levels from packaging materials etc. are okay, though most of the rest of the world holds otherwise. My sense (I’ve worked with manufacturing/packaging for many decades) is that the register receipt source is a bit of a red herring (especially for the easily-distracted hysterics), particularly since the U.S. producers of the paper very quietly got out of the business in the late 2000s over increased scrutiny of water pollutants in their discharge/treatment facilities. Why not blame China/Indonesia/Malaysia?

  2. Thermal Paper. So it is a very short memory you get from the images. Also: Do not hang them in rooms that are full of sunlight. They just turn yellowish er even fade out. I’m not sold.

  3. Why not use the printers enclosure space and add another pcb with camera and logic? (don’t own this printer, don’t know the dimensions) Also could reuse printers button for taking a snapshot. These come reasonably priced on aliexpress @25$ w/ shipping.

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