Hackaday Prize Entry: Rangefinder + Camera = SmartZoom

The interesting thing about submissions for The Hackaday Prize is seeing unusual projects and concepts that might not otherwise pop up. [ken conrad] has a curious but thoughtfully designed idea for Raspberry Pi-based SmartZoom Imaging that uses a Pi Zero and camera plus some laser emitters to create a device with a very specific capability: a camera that constantly and dynamically resizes the image make the subject appear consistently framed and sized, regardless of its distance from the lens. The idea brings together two separate functions: rangefinding and automated zooming and re-sampling of the camera image.

The Raspberry Pi uses the camera board plus some forward-pointing laser dots as a rangefinder; as long as at least two laser dots are visible on the subject, the distance between the device and the subject can be calculated. The Pi then uses the knowledge of how near or far the subject is to present a final image whose zoom level has been adjusted to match (and offset) the range of the subject from the camera, in effect canceling out the way an object appears larger or smaller based on distance.

We’ve seen visible laser dots as the basis of rangefinding before, but never tied into a zoom function. Doubtlessly, [ken conrad] will update his project with some example applications, but in the meantime we’re left wondering: is there a concrete, practical use case for this unusual device? We have no idea, but we’d certainly have fun trying to find one.

X-Ray Imaging Camera Lens Persuaded to Join Micro Four Thirds Camera

Anyone who is into photography knows that the lenses are the most expensive part in the bag. The larger the aperture or f-stop of the lens, the more light is coming in which is better for dimly lit scenes. Consequently, the price of the larger glass can burn a hole in one’s pocket. [Anthony Kouttron] decided that he could use a Rodenstock TV-Heligon lens he found online and adapt it for his micro four-third’s camera.

The lens came attached to a Fischer Imaging TV camera which was supposedly part of the Fluorotron line of systems used for X-ray imaging. We find [Anthony’s] exploration of the equipment, and discovery of previous hacks by unknown owners, to be entertaining. Even before he begins machining the parts for his own purposes, this is an epic teardown he’s published.

Since the lens was originally mounted on a brass part, [Anthony Kouttron] knew that it would be rather easy to machine the custom part to fit standardized lens adapters. He describes in detail the process for cleaning out the original mount by sanding, machining and threading it. Along the way you’ll enjoy his tips on dealing with a part that, instead of being a perfect circle on the outside, had a formidable mounting tab (which he no longer needed) protruding from one side.

The video after the break shows the result of shooting with a very shallow depth of field. For those who already have a manual lens but lack the autofocus motor, a conversion hack works like a charm as well.

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$8 3D Printed Photo Turntable uses Upcycled Parts

Whether you’re selling a product or just showing off your latest project, a photo turntable makes video shots a lot easier.  360° turntables allow the viewer to see every side of the object being photographed, while the camera stays locked down. Motorized turntables are available as commercial products costing anywhere from $30 to $150 or so. Rather than shell out cash, [NotionSunday] decided to create his own turntable using a few parts he had on hand and 3D printing everything else.

The motor for the turntable came from the eject mechanism of an old DVD-ROM drive. An Arduino Pro Mini controls the motor’s speed using an MX1508 H-bridge chip. Power comes from an 18650 Li-Ion battery. The whole assembly spins on the head assembly from a VCR.

Before you jump in on the comments, yes, VCR heads have motors. However, they’re typically brushless motors rated for 1,800 RPM. Running a motor like that at low-speed would mean rewinding the coils. In this case, using a DC motor and gear drive was the easier option.

[NotionSunday] 3D printed the turntable base and mount. The mount uses a magnet arrangement that makes it easy to switch between freewheeling or belt driven operation. The turntable itself is posterboard, with 3D printed edges.

Click through the break to see the whole video.

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Microscope DSLR Mount Using PVC & Heat

Microscopes are a great way to see the mysteries of the universe hidden at the smaller scale. When they were first developed, scientists had to rely on illustration to convey their findings through the lens. Thankfully we can  now rely on photography to help us out instead. Many microscopes come with a special port — often called a trinocular port — for mounting a camera. Using this, [Brian] developed a DSLR mount for his microscope using a hacker staple: PVC pipe.

squareThe virtues of PVC pipe are many and varied. It’s readily available in all manner of shapes and sizes, and there’s a wide variety of couplers, adapters, solvents and glues to go with it. Best of all, you can heat it to a point where it becomes soft and pliable, allowing one to get a custom fit where necessary. [Brian] demonstrates this in using a heat gun to warm up a reducer to friction fit the DSLR lens mount. Beyond that, the mount uses a pair of lenses sourced from jeweller’s loupes to bring the image into focus on the camera’s sensor, mounted tidily inside the PVC couplers.

PVC’s a great way to quickly and easily put a project together — so much so that there are fittings available specifically for using PVC to build stuff. Video below the break.

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Gliding To Underwater Filming Success

If you are a fan of nature documentaries you will no doubt have been wowed by their spectacular underwater sequences. So when you buy a GoPro or similar camera and put it in a waterproof case accessory, of course you take it with you when you go swimming. Amazing footage and international documentary stardom awaits!

Of course, your results are disappointing. The professionals have years of experience and acquired skill plus the best equipment money can buy, and you just have your hand, and a GoPro. The picture is all over the place, and if there is a subject it’s extremely difficult to follow.

[Steve Schmitt] has an answer to this problem, and it’s a refreshingly simple one. He’s built an underwater glider to which he attaches his camera and launches across the submerged vista he wishes to film. Attached to a long piece of line for retrieval, it is set to glide gently downwards at a rate set by the position of the camera on its boom.

Construction is extremely simple. The wing is a delta-shaped piece of corrugated plastic roofing sheet, while the fuselage is a piece of plastic pipe. A T-connector has the camera mount on it, and this can slide along the fuselage for pre-launch adjustments. It’s that simple, but of course sometimes the best builds are the simple ones. He’s put up a video which you can see below the break, showing remarkable footage of a test flight through a cold-water spring.

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Talking Arduino Tells GoPro What To Do

It’s 2017 and even GoPro cameras now come with voice activation. Budding videographers, rest assured, nothing will look more professional than repeatedly yelling at your camera on a big shoot. Hackaday alumnus [Jeremy Cook] heard about this and instead of seeing an annoying gimmick, saw possibilities. Could they automate their GoPro using Arduino-spoken voice commands?

It’s an original way to do automation, for sure. In many ways, it makes sense – rather than mucking around with trying to make your own version of the GoPro mobile app (software written by surfers; horribly buggy) or official WiFi remote, stick with what you know. [Jeremy] decided to pair an Arduino Nano with the ISD1820 voice playback module. This was then combined with a servo-based panning fixture – [Jeremy] wants the GoPro to pan, take a photo, and repeat. The Arduino sets the servo position, then commands the ISD1820 to playback the voice command to take a picture, before rotating again.

[Jeremy] reports that it’s just a prototype at this stage, and works only inconsistently. This could perhaps be an issue of intelligibility of the recorded speech, or perhaps a volume issue. It’s hard to argue that a voice control system will ever be as robust as remote controlling a camera over WiFi, but it just goes to show – there’s never just one way to get the job done. We’ve seen people go deeper into GoPro hacking though – check out this comprehensive guide on how to pwn your GoPro.

Motorized Camera Dolly Rolls With the Changes

Over the last semester, Cornell student [Ope Oladipo] had the chance to combine two of his passions: engineering and photography. He and teammates [Sacheth Hegde] and [Jason Zhang] used their time in [Bruce Land]’s class to build a motorized camera dolly for shooting time-lapse sequences.

The camera, in this case the one from an iPhone 6, is mounted to an off-the-shelf robot chassis that tools around on a pair of DC motors. The camera mount uses a stepper motor to get just the right shot. A PIC32 on board the ‘bot takes Bluetooth commands from an iOS app that the team built. The dolly works two ways: it can be controlled manually in free mode, or it can follow a predetermined path at a set speed for a specified time in programmed mode.

Our favorite part of the build? The camera’s view is fed to a smart watch where [Ope] and his team can take still pictures using the watch-side interface. Check it out after the break, and stick around for a short time-lapse demo. We’ve featured a couple of dolly builds over the years. Here’s a more traditional dolly that rides a pair of malleable tubes.

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