This Is Not-A-Camera

not a camera

What’s this? A 2-Dimensional wooden camera cut-out? Nope. We lied — it’s actually a digital camera squeezed into 1/2″ sheet of walnut!

[Olivia Barr the Third] originally made this for her 101-year-old grandmother [Olivia Barr the First], who recently got into photography in her late 90’s! [Olivia]  wanted to make her a digital camera that was light and easy to use. She succeeded and has started an art project over at — Spy photography? Kind of?

The small 3″ x 3.5″ camera packs an HD video camera with 16-bit mono audio, and is able to take 1280 x 960 stills. It uses a microSD card, a 3.6v 250mAh battery and has a power button, status LEDs and even a USB port.  It was laser cut out of 3 sheets of walnut board and glued together, sandwiching the components in place.

Just for fun, she’s also made a “selfie” version which is laser etched onto a piece of mirror for easy framing of your face.

35 thoughts on “This Is Not-A-Camera

  1. Grossly overpriced obviously and basically an advertisement for it. Sadly I was expecting a real hack with breakdown and instructions on how to do it yourself. Luckily doesn’t look too difficult to do yourself. The specs are very low it seems. Anyone wanna estimate how much it really cost to build? outrageous that the markup is so huge

  2. Looks like all she did was strip a very cheap digital camera or get the parts from said camera and squeeze it into a wood shape. Doesn’t seem very impressive and the $150 markup speaks for itself. Fact she’s providing very little detail and excessive markup screams advertisement.

  3. so 150 bucks which could be put towards a better quality camera. This thing looks like its worth no more than 20 bucks as a novelty. Hopefully theres not that many idiots who would fall for this crummy gimmick.

    Can’t imagine anyone paying that much for a novelty camera with the those specs.

    1. Thanks for the pointer, I hadn’t seen those before. I’ll have to throw a few of those into my next amazon order to tinker with. You wouldn’t have seen any schematics or know what the raw camera chip is, would you?

      (am googling as I ask, may have to answer my own question later)

        1. That’s 480p though. I have a 480p version which is pretty crappy. The 808 #16 has 720p and similar quality to a gopro 2.

          Very cool little cameras as they’re even light enough to be lift off by a cheap mini quadcopter.

  4. Have bitten my tongue long as I can…
    While it would be nice if this project had a bit more info, OSH still means “Free as in speech, not as in beer”.
    Open hardware projects cost real cash money to produce, and for the most part do not meet the requirements for patent. Hence I am sick and tired of the “You need to show me how to make it for free” comments. Pretty simple to take the concept and build one yourself init?
    OH, but I want the whole step by step so I don’t have to spend the cash on 20+ prototypes and experimental units, do the R&D and take a risk it will all turn out to be crap. All on my own nickle.
    Being in the middle of trying to bring an OSH project to market (And yes, all the source material including BOMs are available, but if you think I am giving away the tricky bits, you are nuts. It’s trivial… figure it out) here is a partial list of items that go into determining our retail “price point”

    Cost of Materials including shipping and taxes (including import duties)
    Amortization of Inventory Costs
    (Can you say supply chain? Can’t use the cash tied up in parts to pay the light bill)
    Assembly Labor (Want fries with that?)
    = Unit Cost

    Paypal and Credit Card Charges (5-7% +)
    Bank Charges
    Printing Costs (Instructions, packaging, etc)
    Packing Matls and Labor
    Domain and Server Costs
    Tool and Fixture Maintenance
    Warranty replacement costs.
    Customer support costs (Labor and Phone Charges)
    Amortization of Engineering Costs
    Legal (Business License, Trademark Registration, Incorporation etc)
    Utilities, and facilities maintenance.
    = Overhead

    50% of Unit Cost
    = Retail Markup
    (If you don’t get this one, you either live with your parents, or need to take a basic business course)

    Total Cost = Unit Cost + Overhead + Retail Markup

    Profit = Retail Price – Total Cost
    (If profit is < 0 you're doing it wrong)

    Not quite the same as making an Arduino powered lock for your dorm room…

    Good article about how to not loose your ass

    1. You misinterpret our expectations.
      OSH != Free Tutorial To Build.
      HAD == Free Tutorial To Build.
      Glad we cleared that up.

      HAD is based on a community that hacks for fun and not necessarily profit. If they want to run ads for income… oh wait, they do and we support that.

      Things like the the Re:Load Pro still earn respect because of the openness of the project. We have a chance to learn as well as a chance to buy a cool/useful product. Proprietary parts like the heat sink and enclosure would likely cost me more to build myself than to buy, so he still has room for profit– Even after providing his ‘trade secrets’

      1. And if this had been developed in the HAD projects page, it might be reasonable to expect more details. Maybe. ‘Cause I haven’t started a project on the hosting setup here and I don’t know the terms.

        But the GP is right, OSH doesn’t mean “show me every step” and neither does being posted on HAD. It’s a cute laser cut camera, and someone has already figured out what the probable camera used is, and if you can’t casemod something to wrap around a camera on a small circuit board then look at another post that talks about building stuff. This post is just about a “neat commercial project” that might spawn some ideas for other people. So use the discussion to figure it out and brainstorm instead of complaining that someone else is selling something you didn’t do first or didn’t charge enough for.

        I didn’t know these ‘spy’ cameras were this cheap til I read these comments, so the post has spawned some ideas in my head that I had been kicking around with prototyping w/ a Pi camera because cheap AIO modules weren’t in the catalogs I had (really, the camera modules in my old digikey hardcopy were either low res 1/4th vga, or really pricey, or were raw CMOS. Old catalog is old).

        1. The expansion of Open Source Hardware is greatly dependent on the development of a business model that will allow an OSH project to be marketed at a profit. OSH takes lots of cash to develop and produce, vs open source software which requires only time, braincells, and bandwidth. Since 99% percent of new hardware (of all types) does not meet the patent requirements of novelty, usefullness, and non-obviousness, as a company that wants to embrace the OSH philosophy your only avenue is to copyright your drawings and schematics, trademark your product, and make sure you disburse your open source information under a proper license. Which license is still a matter for debate, but we use the Cern OHL ( which we feel has an adequate scope to encourage reuse and external contributions while ensuring derivative uses carry the same license and encouragements.

          It is my feeling that the constant, less than polite flames by some members of the HaD readership in response to anyone who seems to want to make a profit off an open source hardware project, is counterproductive in encouraging the development of open source hardware. TANSTAAFL.

          Do I think the project in the OP is open source? No, but it doesn’t claim to be…
          Is it a hack? Well the HaD editors seem to think so…
          Is it a “maker” project? Yep.
          Would I buy one? No, I think it is overpriced for what it is, but that is a marketing question, not a philisophical question. In our own case, the basic engineering and testing is complete, but we are still fighting to get our materials and overhead costs down to a level where we feel the retail price point has reached the “Ehh, at that price, why not just buy one” level.
          Do we feel guilty about anything? Well yeah, but not as relates to our project… (I once ate a strawberry in the grocery without paying for it)

          Once again, my original rant was directed at those few readers who seem to think that any enterprise that involves possible profit is evil. The purpose of collaboration should be supportive problem solving, not non-productive flames.

          As evidenced by a few of the above posts, some folks got the point.

          1. I often snag images of project like this, as it give me ideas for future projects. I bought off ebay broken 35mm camera and later a telephoto lens with the idea of installing a web cam. Now this thread came along and now I got a better idea. I’m with you, I would not pay that much for an ‘art project’, but then again we are not the target consumer for it.

            As for manufacturing costs, again, this thread was on target. I work as a manufacturing engineer and very few people any any clue what costs are sunk into a product. Even with a hobby side business, there are overhead costs. Your 3D printer cost is spread over all paying jobs. Add expendable supplies. CAD software. Your time, if you think your time is worth anything.

            What I need to do is get off my but and post something….

    2. Sounds like you have developed a complex.

      Something is not open if it is not open. Simple as that. Windows presents enough information to make a clone, yet it is not open source. Neither is this project. Anyway, this product on etsy does not seem to have a damn thing to do with whatever you are trying to sell, so why are you offended?

      What has you feeling a need to be aggressively defending your position? What has you feeling guilty?

      1. What in the HAD policies makes so many think that everything here must be done with simpler parts, no arduinos,or completely open source with a free version available asap? Perhaps the defense against one of these could be used as a preemptive cure for the rest?

  5. If I were German , perhaps. I will compare the prices for here, but I suspect that the shipping and wait for it to arrive from parts unknown would be more than the extra spent. That is the benefit of the box store.

    What has me interested is the communication method employed but the micro camera. I think it would be a worthy opponent to put against a logic meter as a test of my ‘cheap ass bench tools’ designs. Well, that’s my thoughts after being woken up by what must have been the apc ups alarm complaining about the power; it hasn’t reoccurred so it isn’t that smoke battery.

  6. I suspect the creater of said project lurking here but regardless. We all understand the concept of profiting off your time and energy but there’s no way in hell that with raw materials and manufacture that this is worth the exuberant 150 bucks. You can get a much better digital camera for the same price at those specs. Your charging 150 bucks for what is essentially a novelty camera with crappy specs.

    The idea of hackaday in theory is to provide an open source community. Where others can share and benefit from this work, If you wanna charge that ridiculous price thats your business but not including anything besides here it is you can buy it here without any info is just advertising. The point of HAD is to share your knowledge so others can benefit and copy said work.

    I’m going to say that this project has no merit being here if its just an ad pimping the product without any info how it was done Its very vague and non-specific but highly specific how how to purchase it

  7. Its not an issue about whether the creator wants to sell it (which is already obviously grossly overcharged) its the issue that it doesn’t contribute anything in the way of information about making said project. It’s literally here it is order it from here. The point of HAD is to contribute to the community not make something not share any information on how to make it themselves. Its nothing more than an ad and is not what had is about. HAD is a DIY community this creator isn’t sharing anything besides how to buy it. Brillant.

    1. This is where I’m at too… I don’t mind the price if there’s a build list and a documented sequence to arrive at the final product. This could have been very educational. Instead, it’s just a wordy ad.

      1. Agreed should never have been included here. Provided a link to her page and all there is is a link to where to buy it. The point of HAD is to provide details and information so others can do the same if they desire to. So others can do the same.

        Wish HAD would scrutinize these hacks better as all this is is free advertising for buying said hack. Gives no information whatsoever on how you can build it yourself: No instructions nothing

        1. So instead of using the community here to try to discuss the probable devices used, we should all just tell HaD what they did wrong? Sounds like a great way to fix nothing at all.

          I’ll come back once I get one of the 808 camera and probe the logic it uses. Maybe that’s good for an article, but I’d rather help the community than whinge.

        2. Is it free advertising when we know no one is going to buy it because it is over-priced? We’d like to think most of our readers here are skilled enough hackers that they could see this project for the idea that it is, figure out how it works (it’s pretty simple), and if they really want to, recreate it — isn’t that what hacking is about? Getting ideas, manipulating products, and creating something new?

          If you want to be spoon-fed instructions about every project — go to Instructables or something.

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