Digital camera becomes video transmitter

canon

In the arena of high altitude balloons, Canon’s PowerShot series of digicams are the camera du jour for sending high into the stratosphere. There’s a particular reason for this: these cameras can run the very capable CHDK firmware that turns a $100 digicam into a camera with a built-in intervalometer along with a whole bunch of really cool features. It appears this CHDK firmware is much more powerful than we imagined, because [Chris] is now transmitting pictures taken from a Canon a530 to the ground, using only the CHDK firmware and a cheap radio module.

These PowerShot cameras have an ARM processor inside that runs VxWorks, a minimal but very capable OS for embedded devices and Mars rovers. By tying in to the Tx and Rx lines of the camera, [Chris] can issue commands to the OS, change settings, and even install his own code.

With the help of [Phil Heron]‘s SSDV encoder written in C, [Chris] was able to get the camera to transmit images  with a small radio transmitter that fits in the battery compartment. Right now, [Chris] has only built the CHDK + SSDV for the Canon a530, but with how useful this build is, we expect to see an improved version very shortly.

Reading punch cards with an Arduino and digital camera

[digitaltrails] wanted the data on a few old IBM 80-column punch cards he had lying around, but didn’t have decades old computer hardware in his garage. He decided to build his own out of LEGO, an Arduino, a digital camera, and a bit of Python.

The hardware portion of [digitaltrails] build includes a crank-operated feed mechanism made entirely out of LEGO. For each turn of the crank, the feed mechanism sends one card down a chute where a photodetector wired into an Arduino tells a camera to take a picture. After that, a servo is activated, sending the card into the ‘already scanned’ bin.

On the software side of the build, [digitatrails] used the Python Imaging Library to scan one row of pixels where each column is expected to be. The software outputs the code and data contained on the 80-column card as well as a very cool ASCII art version of each card.

Considering you just can’t go down to Fry’s and buy an IBM 80-column punch card reader, we’re loving [digitatrails]‘ clever way of getting data off an otherwise unreadable storage medium. Check out the video of the card reader in action after the break.

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Adding a remote shutter to a cheap digital camera

[Luo] sent in a very easy way to add a remote shutter to just about any Canon Powershot. Even though it’s just a button, battery, and USB cable, we’re sure this would be a great project to teach the younglings about the power of soldering.

Some Canon Powershot digicams are impressive beasts with the ability to take time-lapse, long exposure, and high-speed photos. These cameras are generally crippled by their firmware, but by installing CHDK these features can be enabled.

[Luo] read the CHDK wiki and found the firmware has the ability to snap a picture whenever a button is pressed. All he had to do is send 5V down a USB cable. After whipping up shutter button housed in a tin of Eclipse gum and attaching a cable, [Luo] had a functional shutter.

With the CHDK firmware, you can do a lot of really interesting stuff with the old Canon camera sitting on your shelf: we’ve seen a lot of intervalometers and even a few book scanners that use a similar setup. Nice work, [Luo].

A Simple Dolly for Time-Lapse Photography

[Henrique] wrote in to tell us about his time-lapse photography hack. Triggering of the camera is done via CHDK, or Canon Hack Development kit. This experimental kit allows Canon Powershot cameras to run scripts as well as other neat features without permanently changing anything. User scripts for this hack and others can be found here.

Once the Camera was set up to take pictures in a predetermined amount of time, a LDR (light dependent resistor) is used to detect when a picture is actually taken. A LED on the camera flashes every time an image is stored in the camera, so this provided an easy way to sense when this happens.

Once this signal is received, a PIC 16f84 processor and the associated circuitry then causes the stepper to step once per shot. The results of this experiment are very impressive, so be sure to check out the results after the break.

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Tesla coil bullet-time photography

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One thing we can all probably agree on is that Tesla coils are one part high-voltage electricity and two parts pure awesome. [Rob Flickenger] thinks so too, and he built a pretty nice one in his workshop some time ago. He took a bunch of pictures showing off the coil’s capabilities, but he thought that one photo taken from a single angle didn’t do much to relay just how fantastic it is to watch a Tesla coil in action.

Taking a cue from the Matrix movies, he bought a stack of Canon point and shoot cameras and constructed a bullet time rig in his workshop. In order to get the pictures just right, he flashed each camera with a customized version of the CHDK firmware that allowed him to trigger all ten shutters with a single button press. A few scripts help facilitate collecting all of the images for processing, after which he identifies the good shots and stitches them together. You can see the awesome results in the video below.

[via LaughingSquid]

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Laser triggered photography

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Popped balloons or bullets fired into apples, anyone can photograph with a quick sound based camera rig. Lasers have been used forever in motion detection. And even door bell chimes have been used before for remote camera shutter releases. No, [SaskView] wanted to go further and created his Laser Triggered High-Speed Photography setup, to photograph (of all things) milk splashes. We liked the simplicity of the project however;  requiring no programmed microchips or overly complicated circuitry – rather he took a quick trip to the local dollar shop, used the amazing CHDK firmware, and he produced perfect results every time.

[Update: CHDK, not CHKD firmware. My mind must be elsewhere. Thanks jbot and agent smith]

Pictures from space for $150

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Ever wanted to be able to launch a balloon into space, track its location via GPS, take some photographs of the curvature of the earth, and recover the balloon, all for the low low cost of $150? [Oliver Yeh] sent in his teams project, Icarus, which does just that. The group of MIT students found that they could use a weather balloon filled with helium to reach heights of around 20 miles above the earth;  their particular balloon achieved 93,000 feet (17.5 miles). Then, utilizing only off the shelf components with no soldering, conjured up a GPS tracker using a Motorola i290 Prepaid Cellphone. They then used a Canon A470 loaded with the chdk open source firmware to take pictures. After seeing the results of their launch, the team hopes that this could rejuvenate interests in science and the arts.