Motorized Lens Controller Techs Up Your Webcam

If you’re familiar with the DSLR camera market, you’d know that modern lenses are works of technological art. Crammed full of motors and delicate electronic assemblies, they’re bursting with features such as autofocus, optical stabilization and zoom. [Saulius Lukse] has been experimenting with motorized lenses for webcam applications, and has built a controller to make working with them a snap.

The controller is capable of controlling up to 3 stepper motors, as well as a voice coil, which should be enough for the vast majority of lenses out there. Microstepping is supported, which is key for optical systems in which tiny adjustments can make a big difference. The controller speaks USB and I2C, and is now based on an STM32 chip, having been upgraded from an earlier version which used the venerable ATmega328. The board is designed to be as compact as possible, to enable it to neatly fit inside camera and lens assemblies.

The board has been used to successfully control an 18x zoom lens, among others. Combining such a lens with a webcam and a good pan and tilt mechanism would create a highly capable surveillance package, or an excellent vision system for a robot.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen work from [Kurokesu] in these parts – they’ve done work on pedestrian detection before, too.

13 thoughts on “Motorized Lens Controller Techs Up Your Webcam

  1. Again, microsteps do not necessarily increase resolution especially when you hit stuff like 1024 microsteps. There is no guarantee the motor even moves between the microsteps. Microsteps are a great way to make stepper move smoothly though. I doubt any of those lenses he is using would benefit from any more than 16x.

    1. You are correct, Macona. Sufficient motor resolution usually implemented in the reducer. Microstepping in most cases used to make lens re-arrange optical stages quietly.

  2. This seemed like a neat project, but then I realized that while the website looks like a personal blog it is just Yet Another Company trying to peddle their Yet Another Arduino for $50. I wish there was a tag or other way to block the commercial products that are endlessly pushed in the hacks category.

    1. Hi Jrfl, that’s kind of true. Kurokesu is still a one-man band, so technically it’s a personal blog. Also, that is not an Arduino board and is designed for DIY lens hacking.

      1. The previous version of the board was based on the atmega328 and programmed with the arduino bootloader/libraries. It did have pololu style stepper motor drives on it, so I suppose it could more precisely be called Yet Another RAMPS. The newer version does not have schematics or any code released so it is possible that it is not arduino based, but it seems unlikely considering the effort it would take to convert the existing arduino based codebase into a different language.

        I get the desire to try and fill a niche with your small volume product, I just wish HAD would not mix such products in with the hacks.

        1. Well, the previous version was an open-sourced pretty successful experiment. It was until main motor driver (not even remotely Pololu compatible) was discontinued. Unfortunately in order to use new motor driver NDA agreements were signed and core schematics and firmware remains closed source. But non-disclosure agreements do not cover evaluation board. API, schematics and layout files for use in custom projects will be released soon. Besides the updated core unit, the codebase is lightyears away from what it was in mk1.

          Jrfl, if you have more specific questions for a particular use, feel free to contact me directly. I am open to to suggestions.

  3. I invested in the Logitech C920 enclosure kit since at the time I didn’t have a way to machine the case as I found the drawings are open source last I knew. Yes, looks like at least there is a simple drawing.

    Saulius provides great customer service also and neat to see the advancement of this controls since last I looked I was wanting to look into controlling the focus more remotely as well as interacting with the controls on the lenses via the ewbcam software, and custom software, if I ever decided to use the DSLR autofocus lenses I have. So far I just use the old Minolta lenses which worked out great when I’ve used since I’ve only needed to focus on a target region at a distance.

    1. Reminds me that I have the Conkin adapter rings, for the Formatt Hitech filter plate adapter, that need to be machined slightly to fit so to eventually research some spectroscopy capabilities using this setup. Seemed like a really cost effective method to use the system without the hot lens to view IR or UV or VIS regions and then look at pixels histograms also since seems like the easiest COTS spectral analysis method.

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