If your pointing device is a mouse, turn it over. The chances are you’ll see a red LED light if you’re not seriously old-school and your mouse has a ball, this light serves as the illumination for a very simple camera sensor. The mouse electronics do their thing by looking for movement in the resulting image, but it should be possible to pull out the data and repurpose the sensor as a digital camera. [Doctor Volt] has a new video showing just that with the innards of a Logitech peripheral.
The mouse contains a microcontroller and the camera part, which fortunately has an SPI interface. The correct register to query the sensor information was deduced, and as if my magic, an image appeared. An M12 lens provided focus with a handy 3D printed mount, and the board went back into the mouse case as a housing. The pictures have something of the Game Boy camera about them, being low-res and monochrome, but it’s still a neat hack.
If you’d like to give it a go you can find the code in a GitHub repository. You might find it worth finding a gaming mouse though, for the much higher resolution sensor.
Continue reading “A Mouse Becomes A Camera”
Back in the late 1990s as the digital revolution overtook photography there were abortive attempts to develop a digital upgrade for 35mm film cameras. Imagine a film cartridge with attached sensor, the idea went, which you could just drop into your trusty SLR and continue shooting digital. As it happened they never materialised and most film SLRs were consigned to the shelf. So here in 2023 it’s a surprise to find an outfit called I’m Back Film promising something very like a 35mm cartridge with an attached sensor.
The engineering challenges are non-trivial, not least that there’s no standard for distance between reel and exposure window, and there’s next-to-no space at the focal plane in a camera designed for film. They’ve solved it with a 20 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor which gives a somewhat cropped image, and what appears to be a ribbon cable that slips between the camera back and the body to a box which screws to the bottom of the camera. It’s not entirely clear how they solve the reel-to-window distance problem, but we’re guessing the sensor can slide from side to side somehow.
It’s an impressive project and those of us who shot film back in the day can’t resist a bit of nostalgia for our old rigs, but we hope it hasn’t arrived too late. Digital SLRs are ubiquitous enough that anyone who wants one can have one, and meanwhile the revival in film use has given many photographers a fresh excuse to use their old camera the way it was originally intended. We’ll soon see whether it catches on though — the crowdsourcing campaign for the project will be starting in a few days.
Oddly this isn’t the first such project we’ve seen, though it is the first with a usable-size sensor.
At least as far as the inner workings are concerned, there’s not a whole lot of difference between an single-lens reflex (SLR) camera that uses film and a digital SLR (DSLR) camera that uses an electronic sensor except the method for capturing the image. So adding the digital image sensor to a formerly analog camera like this seemed like an interesting project for [Wenting Zhang]. But this camera ballooned a little further than that as he found himself instead building a complete, full-frame digital camera nearly from scratch.
The camera uses a full-frame design and even though the project originally began around the SLR mechanism, in the end [Wenting] decided not to keep this complex system in place. Instead, to keep the design simple and more accessible a mirrorless design is used with an electronic viewfinder system. It’s also passive M lens mount, meaning that plenty of manual lenses will be available for this camera without having to completely re-invent the wheel.
As far as the sensor goes, [Wenting] wanted something relatively user-friendly with datasheets available so he turned to industrial cameras to find something suitable, settling on a Kodak charge-coupled device (CCD) for the sensor paired with an i.MX processor. All of the electronics have publicly-available datasheets which is important for this open-source design. There’s a lot more work that went into this build than just picking parts and 3D printing a case, though, and we’d definitely recommend anyone interested to check out the video below for how this was all done. And, for those who want to go back to the beginnings of this project and take a different path, it’s definitely possible to convert an analog SLR to a digital one.
Continue reading “SLR To DSLR Conversion Becomes Full Camera”
Digital cameras are a ubiquitous consumer and professional product here in 2023, and because of the wide availability of parts it’s relatively straightforward to construct one for yourself. Four decades ago though, film was king, but that hasn’t stopped [Georg Lukas] from building a digital camera for the 1984 market. The hardware is definitely from recent years, the extremely affordable ESP32-cam board that many of us will have worked with already. Meanwhile the 1984 part lies in the recording format, it makes EGA 16-colour low-res pictures and stores them in the archaic TGA file format.
A low-res camera is fun, but there are two other angles on this which are definitely worth some time. The first is that his description and code are worth a read for anyone with an interest in programming an ESP32 camera, while the second invites us to consider whether such a camera could have been made using parts available in 1984. We remember camera peripherals for 8-bit microcomputers which were a C-mount lens positioned over a decapped RAM chip, and thus we can’t help wondering whether an RGB split to three of those sensors could have been constructed. Whether a 6502 or a Z80 with 64k of memory could have processed the three images into one is another matter, but at least if any of you want to try there’s a handy 1984 computer still popping up on eBay.
The megapixel wars of a decade ago saw cameras aggressively marketed on the resolution of their sensors, but as we progressed into the tens of megapixels it became obvious even to consumers that perhaps there might be a little more to the quality of a digital camera than just its resolution. Still, it’s a frontier that still has a way to go, even if [Yunus Zenichowski]’s 489 megapixel prototype is a bit of an outlier. As some of you may have guessed it’s a scanner camera, in which the sensor is a linear CCD that is mechanically traversed over the focal plane to capture the image line by line.
In the 3D printed shell are the guts of a cheap second-hand Canon scanner, and the lens comes from a projector. Both these components make it not only one of the highest resolution cameras we’ve ever brought you, but also by no means the most expensive. It’s definitely a work in progress and the results of a sensor designed for the controlled environment of a document scanner being used with real-world light leave something to be desired, but even with the slight imperfections of the projector lens it’s still a camera capable of some fascinating high-resolution photography. The files are all available, should you be interested, and you can see it in action in the video below the break.
It’s by no means the first scanner camera we’ve brought you, though some of the earlier projects now have dead links. It is however easily the one with the highest resolution.
Continue reading “A 489 Megapixel Camera For Not A Lot”
Shooting space launches often requires the use of remote cameras for safety reasons. However, that means there’s no photographer on hand to wipe lenses down if they happen to get condensation from the prevailing weather conditions. [Michael Baylor] was having issues with atmospheric moisture interfering with his launch shots, so built a custom automatic lens cap to help solve the issue.
The design is simple, consisting of a large shutter that pivots to cover the camera lens when photos aren’t being taken, controlled by an impressively-beefy servo. Not only does the automatic cap protect the lens from condensation prior to the moment of launch, it also closes to cover the lens as the rocket leaves the frame. This protects the lens from all the dust and debris flying its way, kicked up by the rocket exhaust on takeoff.
[Michael] found that the lens cap easily outperformed his usual anti-condensation solution. While his camera with the auto-cap shot mostly-clean pics, another camera fitted with 18-hour handwarmers suffered significantly from condensation. The plan is to add just a little heat to the auto-cap setup to stave off condensation for good, even when shooting at pads like Vandenburg, California.
Details on the build are slim, but the basic concept is all there. Throw together a servo with some 3D-printed components and a microcontroller and you can build a setup custom-tailored to your own rig and use case. If you find yourself needing a capable long-range camera remote, too, we’ve seen those before as well! Video after the break.
Continue reading “Automatic Lens Cover Helps Cameras Cover Space Launches”
Whether you’re shooting video or photos, having a camera remote can really improve your productivity. No longer do you have to run back to the camera to press its tiny buttons! [Frank Zhao] is a Sony user, so decided to whip up a custom remote using the ESP32 for his Alpha camera, adding special features along the way.
The build communicates with the camera over WiFi, but can fall back to Infrared if there’s an issue with the radio link. It’s built around the M5StickC, which is a pre-built device featuring an ESP32 and a small display in a handheld form factor. It let him build the remote in half the size of the official Sony device. With limited buttons on board, though, he relies on the IMU to control many advanced features with motion gestures.
The remote enables a bunch of functionality that Sony didn’t bake into its cameras from the factory. There’s a sound-activated shutter release, dual shutter mode, and several timer-based tools including astrophotography modes. There’s also a big knob you can add for focus pulls, and a mode to reset the auto-focus when you’re frustrated that it isn’t working properly. Some of the features work better than others, as sometimes, the camera doesn’t respond to commands quickly enough. Regardless, it’s pretty neat that [Frank] has unlocked so much extra functionality with his custom $20 remote.
We’ve seen other homebrewed tools open up new creative possibilities for cameras before, too. If you’ve got your own nifty camera hacks, let us know on the tipsline!