16 Megapixel Outdoor Security Camera On The Cheap

Looking for a high quality security camera? Despite digital cameras continually getting better, and less expensive, security cameras haven’t seemed to follow the same path. So? Better make your own.

[donothingloop] was looking for an outdoor, network capable camera of high resolution. He Some people might have thought about using the Raspberry Pi camera module, but let’s be honest — it’s not great. Instead, he found a pair of used Nikon Coolpix L31 cameras, and he only paid $15 for the both of them.

Now the Nikon Coolpix L31 isn’t exactly the sports edition, so to make this an outdoor security camera, it’s going to need an enclosure. An outdoor halogen work lamp enclosure fit the bill perfectly. It’s rugged, already has the glass built into it, and at $12 the cost of this project wasn’t going anywhere!

To control the camera, he’s still going to be using a Raspberry Pi — it’s one of the most cost effective ways of getting something like a camera feed on the network. He 3D printed some adapters and was able to fit everything inside the lamp enclosure quite nicely — and just look at the quality of the images it records!


Not bad for a project with a BOM cost under $60! For more security camera hacks, check out [Dann Albright’s] experimentation in home security.

61 thoughts on “16 Megapixel Outdoor Security Camera On The Cheap

    1. There’s also the minor issue of wear and tear on the shutter, aperture, and focus mechanisms in a consumer-grade camera like this. I guess it depends on how they’re capturing images. If it is repeated still photos, the camera’s going to be dead in weeks/months. If it’s video and has one-shot focus, probably a year or two before the aperture mechanism gives out.

      1. I’ve shot a LOT of timelapse using Canon point and shoot cameras, and have yet to wear one out. I’ve shot at least 500,000 frames on my G1x. I always turn off autofocus. It shlows the rate at which you can shoot, and causes the image to jump around.

      1. I will gladly pay few buck more to be able to stream video, also there is new RPi camera module these days and also there are old camera modules with proper security camera M12 lens. All you actually made is timelapse rig. Sorry.

  1. Onvif 1080P outdoor china cameras are $40-$60 shipped on ebay. so if you want something that works with most security recording software, I would go that route if you are buying things. If you have parts laying around? Build it!

    1. Thing is those Chink cameras suck…
      Cheap lenses + tiny sensor = poor picture and light sensitivity, not to mention that they are so unstable that all of them have a timed reboot as an option (which you’re definitely going to need). The ONVIF implementation is only very basic, “advanced” features like motion sensing almost never works in a usable manner.
      Every single one that I’ve played with or installed gets hot to the touch after some time, the thing must be cooking on the inside, and that was at room temperature ambient.
      We had a DOA rate of these maybe 1/3.
      Not worth the money.

        1. You claim that it’s offensive, but you likely mean derogatory. For instance, the term “honky” or “cracker” is intended as a derogatory slur, but for which I take no offense. They don’t mean anything to me. Not that I generally make a habit of being offended in the first place though…

  2. I’ve got a bunch of old phones with HD cameras. They also have WiFi built in. The problem is supplying power. I’m not too excited about running wiring out to my soffits or wherever. Ideas?

    1. What’s the problem with running wires? Most people run wiring into their garden too and it’s no issue, just get some waterproof stuff that’s appropriate.
      And if it’s low power it’s even easier, you can make your own weatherproofing since little can go wrong in a catastrophic manner. Check out instructables.com for some waterproofing ideas.

  3. In lost of places the local authorities put free cameras all over the place that you can take home with you, they are put on poles so you can easily spot them.

  4. I’m not a fan on articles on various sites that rely on some freak luck of finding somebody disposing of good hardware for no cost. That’s not helpful for any reader.

    “How to travel for free: Some guy handed me a bag of diamonds, and it is easy to trade those for cash at various places. So simply trade those diamonds and you can travel for free!”, yeah thanks for the ‘idea’

    1. And the grapes out of reach are most likely to be sour anyway.

      A hack is what someone did with the materials they had / found,
      and not a how to duplicate it tutorial –

    2. Then use a lower MP camera. I just posted a comment to another entry pointing out that some very good digital cameras are available cheap, if you’re willing to have fewer megpixels.

      An article that has to be followed exactly will always cost you a lot. An article that give you ideas to adapt to your situation, or use what you have or can scrounge, is much more valuable.


      1. I agree. The main idea of this is using a halogen lamp enclosure to waterproof a camera, which is a pretty ace idea. It’s cheap, waterproof, is easily mountable, and would have cable holes.

    3. – That’s not helpful for any reader.

      It is. A lot.
      The number of perfectly good stuff most people give away for a song is huge. Not to mention what is literally thrown away because the owner can’t read a manual page or because he/she simply lost interest.
      Just make an habit of paying a weekly visit to your local flea market to see what I’m talking about.
      All we have to do is exploiting consumerism at our advantage: if weak minded people are easily lured by advertising into buying a new tablet/phone/TV/computer/whatever every six months that means lower cost hardware for us.

    4. I got 13 not working roombas for 300€ just by telling lots of people “hey i can pay for you for you trash robot!”, then sold 2-3 as spare parts and voila, ~10 free robots eager to join my robot army. All of them can move again with an arduino and a motor driver.

      Short story, hardware at low cost exists, just hunt it.

      1. I’ve only ever met 1 person in my life who had a roomba type device.
        And when I say ‘met’ I mean online, in person I know of no such people

        Oh and that 1 person would not have sold it to me.

    5. I see your point, but you never know what you’ll find laying round your works / neighbourhood – stuff that is relatively common to you might be another person’s unobtainium and vice-versa, and some of us might never realise there’s a source of awesome bits available to us until one of these articles points it out.

      Sometimes I scavenge useful bits from the scrap piles of industrial units or businesses if I’m visiting, most of the time the person giving permission looks at me as if I’ve got two heads for wanting their “junk”, yet to others it’s an awesome lucky score and they tell me I’m “so lucky” or something.

      I scavenged a huge pile of obsolete but hugely powerful UPS units that a colleague had pulled out of a skip – the company had scrapped a load of industrial UPS units, recycled the dead batteries for scrap value and tossed the rest. My colleague was pulling the huge transformers out of them to weigh in the copper and thought I was mad for wanting the ~2ft long PCB’s bristling with insanely high-power HEXFETs, massive capacitors, and chunky heat-sinks. That’s three different takes on the same piece of junk.

      Likewise all my lovely workshop fluorescent lighting came out of a customer’s office being refurbished – they were filling a skip with fittings, and piling up hundreds of spare tubes for safe disposal. I could’ve carpeted my lawn with fluorescent tubes for free, but to them they were old junk being replaced by LED fixtures. Grabbed as many as I could fit in the car, passed surplus on to friends in need as it never hurts to be owed a favour or two! That’s how the world works.

  5. I use a xiaomi yi,its a action camera that runs linux and it have wifi, and i use on as a timelapse camera. It have taken one picture every 15 sec since newyear. About 22 gig every day. Going to be a nice one year timlase video when it is done.

    1. How are you getting the pictures off the memory card whilst it’s taking a picture every 15 seconds?

      I have a Yi but haven’t tried any timelapse stuff with it, I did do a rather nice timelapse with my Mobius once but it stopped in the middle of what was a really nice cloud moving sequence, it hadn’t filled up the memory card so some other isse with it.

      1. I just run a script on the camera that takes a picture, and transfer it to my computer over wifi (using netcat), and i have a script on my computer to receive the images name them after date and time and such, if transfer is successful, then it erases the image on the sd card and moves on. (my poor 16gb samsung microsd now have been through over 4TB, and still works perfectly). If the computer is not responding, it just keep taking pictures and transfer them when computer is back online. (wifi in this camera is very fast).

  6. I just installed a LaView 1080p IP camera system with an NVR and the whole setup works great. I’ve purchased Chinese made netcat 1080p IP cameras and augmented my setup with them and they are just as good, if not better than the more expensive LaView cameras. 1080p is wayyyyyy better than NTSC based cameras. I have a PTZ cam with RS485 arriving today with 20X optical zoom for less than $250, you can count freckles with that… I mean it’s not 4K video, but…. So I don’t know what the whole “security cameras haven’t seemed to follow the same path” statement is all about? More HaD writer artistic license / hyperbole I guess.

  7. I really like the idea of the floodlight case as an exterior housing. However, make sure to replace all the fasteners on it with stainless versions – in a moderately damp climate, I rarely get more than a few years out them before the stock (steel) screws rust up solid!

  8. what sort of tags do you call these? “diy security camera, halogen lamp enclosure, make your own security camera, nikon coolpix L31, security camera hack” i thought they were meant to be one word things to link other articles with the same thing.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.