Hackaday Links: Sunday, July 28th, 2013


[Chris Gammell] tipped us off that he’s building an online training program for learning electronics. The ten session course will cost money to take but you can get the goods for free if you’re one of the beta testers. We love to listen to The Amp Hour podcast which is just one of [Chris’] many endeavors.

Did you buy a Chromecast this week? We did, but we don’t have it in hand yet (ordered through Amazon). You can still get a look inside from the iFixit teardown.

Practice your Processing skills by using it to code a game of Pong.

A bit of lighter fluid and a hacked insert will get you a flaming wallet. We guess this is a different type of an anti-pickpocket device. [Thanks Stephen]

[Brain] used a $1.50 magnifying lens to help his Raspberry Pi camera module read QR codes better.

We really like [Aaron Christophel’s] LED matrix clock (translated). He started from a marquee that must be at least a decade old. He stripped it down and figured out how to drive it using a Sanguino as a controller.

Nikkor optical glass

Glass work is always a feast for the eyes, especially when it is hot glass. Watch as a Nikkor lens is made from beginning to end. It is wonderful to see the care taken to search by eye for defects, refraction issues, clarity etc. It may just be for the video, but it seems that the workers truly do take pride in their product.

What I found somewhat surprising was the amount of work that went into refining the glass BEFORE it was even put into a lens mold. I would have assumed that much of the work would have come after.

Hacking a Sigma lens to work with a Canon camera


[Martin Melchior] wanted to use an older Sigma lens with his Canon camera. The problem in trying to do so is that the camera uses a different communications protocol than the lens is expecting. But if you don’t mind cracking it open and doing a little microcontroller work you’ll be using the lens in no time.

The hack uses an ATtiny24 chip, two resistors, and a capacitor. You won’t need to do any coding, but you do need to burn the firmware to the chip (you can use an Arduino if you don’t have a proper AVR programmer). There’s plenty of room for the add-on hardware inside the lens so after reassembling the enclosure you won’t even be able to tell that the unit was altered. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like [Martin] took any pictures of the lens with his added electronics, but the schematic he posted should be enough for you to get the job done yourself.

If you’re into these types of DSLR hacks you should try something extreme, like using view camera parts with your modern camera.

Print your own adjustable lenses

[Christopher] is really going the distance with his liquid-filled 3D printed lens project. The idea is to create a bladder out of two pieces of clear plastic. It can then be filled with liquid at a variable level of pressure to curve the plastic and create an adjustable lens. He was inspired by the TED talk (which we swear we already covered but couldn’t find the post) given by [Josh Silver] on adjustable eyeglass lenses.

Don’t miss the video after the break. [Christopher] shows off the assembly process for one lens. Two 3D printed frames are pressure fit together to hold one piece of plastic wrap. Two of those assemblies are then joined with JB weld and some 3D printed clips that help to hold it. A piece of shrink tubing is used as a hose to connect a syringe to the bladder. By filling the lens assembly with water he’s able to adjust how it refracts light.

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Binoculars as a zoom lens

It may seem trivial at first, but the effect [Dan] gets when using binoculars as a telephoto lens is surprising. The images are well in focus with great colors. This technique not only brings your subject mater closer but also provides a depth-of-focus feature not normally available on simple cameras or camera phones.

The proof is in the example footage found after the break, but you’ll also find a video tutorial detailing the build. [Dan] already had the expensive components are a pair of mini binoculars and a Kodak Zx3 pocket camcorder. The camcorder is the same form factor as a smart phone so using different hardware will be a breeze. He started off by building a prototype out of paper. Basically it’s a bracket that properly aligns the camera with one lens of the binoculars. Once he had everything lined up he transferred his measurements to some sheet metal. The bracket for the binoculars is attached to the one for the camera using bolts and wing nuts to make it adjustable. One important part of the design is to gut a hole for access to the binocular focus wheel.

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A zoom lens for your webcam

We need to find the kind of friends that [Dino] has. They seem to drop off all of their older, yet totally awesome, electronics with him once they’re through with the devices. One example of this is the Sony Handycam that came into his possession. He decided to crack it open and repurpose the 20x optical zoom lens for use with a webcam.

We always like [Dino’s] style. You can tell that he has no idea if he’s going to be able to pull off his goal, but at the same time he has an intuitive sense that he’ll make it happen. In the video after the break he starts off investigating what components are in the camera. At first the lens is passing no light at all, but he just strips down parts until he can see through it.

There are a couple of servo motors which control zoom and focus. He removes those before attaching the CCD from a Logitech webcam. At the end of his video he shows a demo of the functionality, which is pretty finicky when focusing by hand. But we think this hack would make a fantastic camera for soldering projects, it just needs a custom controller so the motors can be once again used to adjust focus.

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Microcontroller gives you more control of your camera lens

Here’s one way to get more control of your camera lenses. [Vladimir] built an Arduino-based pass-through ring (translated) which intercepts automatic lens controls. It’s meant for use with the Canon EOS lenses which have their own electronics allowing control of things like focus and zoom.

It seems like part of the motivation here was to uses the lenses with other brands of cameras. But [Vladimir] does also talk about the possibility of improving on some of the sensors that don’t perform well in certain climate conditions (think of how crystal oscillators will drift as temperature changes).

The machine translation is a bit rough to follow, but it seems the adapter ring still uses the settings sent in from the camera but has the Arduino clone to translate them into a format that the lens is expecting. In addition to this there is a set of buttons on that small PCB beside the lens which allow for fine tuning the aperture.

This is a lengthy writeup, but there’s two more on the way that will help fill in the gaps of how this hack works with different lens models, and some more tips on how to use it.

[Thanks Vasily]