A Single Pixel Digital Camera with Arduino

[Jordan] managed to cobble together his own version of a low resolution digital camera using just a few components. The image generated is pretty low resolution and is only in grey scale, but it’s pretty impressive what can be done with some basic hardware.

The heart of the camera is the image sensor. Most consumer digital cameras have tons of tiny receptors all jammed into the sensor. This allows for a larger resolution image, capturing more detail in a smaller space. Unfortunately this also usually means a higher price tag. [Jordan’s] sensor includes just a single pixel. The sensor is really just an infrared photodiode inside of a tube. The diode is connected to an analog input pin on an Arduino. The sensor can be pointed at an object, and the Arduino can sense the brightness of that one point.

In order to compile an actual image, [Jordan] needs to obtain readings of multiple points. Most cameras do this using the large array of pixels. Since [Jordan’s] camera only has a single pixel, he has to move it around and take each reading one at a time. To accomplish this, the Arduino is hooked up to two servo motors. This allows the sensor to be aimed horizontally and vertically. The Arduino slowly scans the sensor in a grid, taking readings along the way. A Processing application then takes each reading and compiles the final image.

Since this camera compiles an image so slowly, it sometimes has a problem with varying brightness. [Jordan] noticed this issue when clouds would pass over while he was taking an image. To fix this problem, he added an ambient light sensor. The Arduino can detect the amount of overall ambient light and then adjust each reading to compensate. He says it’s not perfect but the results are still an improvement. Maybe next time he can try it in color.

CAMdrive is an Open Source Time-lapse Photography Controller

[Nightflyer] has been working on an open source project he calls CAMdrive. CAMdrive is designed to be a multi-axis controller for time-lapse photography. It currently only supports a single axis, but he’s looking for help in order to expand the functionality.

You may already be familiar with the idea of time-lapse photography. The principal is that your camera takes a photo automatically at a set interval. An example may be once per minute. This can be a good way to get see gradual changes over a long period of time. While this is interesting in itself, time-lapse videos can often be made more interesting by having the camera move slightly each time a photo is taken. CAMdrive aims to aid in this process by providing a framework for building systems that can pan, tilt, and slide all automatically.

The system is broken out into separate nodes. All nodes can communicate with each other via a communication bus. Power is also distributed to each node along the bus, making wiring easier. The entire network can be controlled via Bluetooth as long as any one of the nodes on the bus include a Bluetooth module. Each node also includes a motor controller and corresponding motor. This can either be a stepper motor or DC motor.

The system can be controlled using an Android app. [Nightflyer’s] main limitation at the moment is with the app. He doesn’t have much experience programming apps for Android and he’s looking for help to push the project forward. It seems like a promising project for those photography geeks out there. Continue reading “CAMdrive is an Open Source Time-lapse Photography Controller”

A Remote for CHDK Cameras Made Possible with Arduino

[AlxDroidDev] built himself a nice remote control box for CHDK-enabled cameras. If you haven’t heard of CHDK, it’s a pretty cool software modification for some Canon cameras. CHDK adds many new features to inexpensive cameras. In this case, [AlxDroidDev] is using a feature that allows the camera shutter to be activated via USB. CHDK can be run from the SD card, so no permanent modifications need to be made to the camera.

[AlxDroidDev’s] device runs off of an ATMega328p with Arduino. It operates from a 9V battery. The circuit contains an infrared receiver and also a Bluetooth module. This allows [AlxDroidDev] to control his camera using either method. The device interfaces to the camera using a standard USB connector and cable. It contains three LEDs, red, green, and blue. Each one indicates the status of a different function.

The Arduino uses Ken Shirrif’s IR Remote library to handle the infrared remote control functions. SoftwareSerial is used to connect to the Bluetooth module. The Arduino code has built-in functionality for both Canon and Nikon infrared remote controls. To control the camera via Bluetooth, [AlxDroidDev] built a custom Android application. The app can not only control the camera’s shutter, but it can also control the level of zoom.

Improving A Modern Instant Camera

Instant film never went away – Fujifilm has been producing instant film for decades before Polaroid ceased production. Yes, cries of a lost photographic heritage were all for naught, and you can still buy an instant camera. [Dan] picked up a Fujifilm Instax Wide camera – an instant camera that produces not-square images – and figured some electronic tinkering could vastly expand the capabilities of this camera. He took it apart and made some modifications, giving it a bulb mode for long exposures and multi-exposure capability.

[Dan] began his tinkering by figuring out how to put multiple exposures on one frame of film. The Instax Wide camera has an eject sensor, a wire for the shutter button, and a few wires leading to the motor. By adding a switch to turn off the motor and a pushbutton to bypass the ejection sensor, [Dan] can stack multiple exposures on a single frame of film.

Multiple exposures are one thing, but how about longer exposures for light painting and all those other cool things you can do with microcontrolled LEDs? Modding the camera for that is pretty easy. All you need are a few mini toggle switches. It’s just a simple matter of opening the shutter for as long as you need, painting a scene with light, and flipping a few more switches to eject the film. [Dan] is getting some pretty respectable exposures with this – somewhat impressive considering the camera’s fixed aperture.

Ephemeral Photographs Staged with Artful Inventions

[Gordon Kirkwood’s] focus as a photographer is in capturing ephemeral phenomena, that is, things that are exhilarating to see but also fleeting. In the pursuit of documenting such blips of beauty found in the natural word, he has taken on engineering the circumstance through which they occur by means of technology.

One of the amazing mechanical creations he’s constructed to aid in his photography is a large computer controlled, bubble blower. A few stepper motors work to dilate three segments of soap-soaked rope engaged at 120 degree angles to create a triangular aperture. When the aperture closes, the segments overlap slightly, covering themselves with a consistent coating of suds. When the segments stretch apart, a fan blows a current of air towards the center, pushing the sheath of fluid into ginormous glimmering orbs which he uses as the focal point in some of his photographs.


More currently, [Gordon] has been developing a body of work that involves zapping botanical subject matter with a quarter-million volts from a portable arc producing device he’s created and capturing the reaction with an ultra low-tech camera (the kind with the bellow and sheet you hide under while exposing the film). Using a method all his own, the shots recorded on large format film are claimed to turn out with even more clarity than any current digital camera in use today. [Gordon] has launched a crowd funding campaign to support a pilgrimage to the majestic island of Hawaii, where he’ll use his lightning producing apparatus on ten different specimens of tropical plant life so that he can record the outcome with his tried and proven technique. (see below an artsy shot of his lightning summoner)


Sometimes Kickstarter isn’t so much about commercialism as it is starting a dialogue with the world and beginning a personal adventure. May the journey lead to new inventions and larger, more ambitious projects! Oh yeah- the bubble blowing machine is a must-see in action. Wicked cool:

Continue reading “Ephemeral Photographs Staged with Artful Inventions”

Photographing a Display Controller Die

Who doesn’t like integrated circuit porn? After pulling a PCD8544 display controller from an old Nokia phone, [whitequark] disrobed it and took the first public die shot.

As we’ve seen in the past, removing a die from its packaging can be a challenge. It typically involves nasty things like boiling acid. Like many display controllers, the PCD8544 isn’t fully encapsulated in a package. Instead, it is epoxied to a glass substrate.

Removing the glass proved to be difficult. [whitequark] tried a hot plate, a hot air gun, sulphuric acid, and sodium hydroxide with no success. Then the heat was turned up using MAPP gas, which burned the epoxy away.

After some cleaning with isopropanol, the die was ready for its photoshoot. This was done using a standard 30 mm macro lens. Photo processing was done in darktable, an open source photography tool and RAW processor.

[whitequark] plans to take closer photos in the future using more powerful magnification. These high resolution die photos can be useful for a number of things, including finding fake chips and reverse engineering retro hardware.

Finding Meteors, Satellites, and Star Trails with a Raspberry Pi


The Raspberry Pi is an incredibly popular, cheap, and low power computer that also has a nifty camera add-on that is completely programmable. This opens up a log of possibilities for long-exposure photography, and [Jippo] has found the best use so far: long exposure astrophotography for capturing meteors, satellites, and star trails.

[Jippo] is using a stock Raspi and camera module with a little bit of custom software written by his friend [Jani Lappalainen] that grabs image data from the camera and saves it either as a time-lapse, or only when something significantly changes. This would include meteors and Iridium flares, as well as passing planes, reflections of satellites, and of course long-exposure star trails.

So far, [Jippo] has already captured enough images to amount to a great night of skywatching. There’s a great picture of a meteor, a few pictures of satellites reflecting the sun, and some great star trails. The software [Jippo] is using is available on his site along with a gallery of his highlight reel.