A black motion system with two stepper motors. A green circuit board is fixed in a rotating cage in the center, and the entire assembly is on a white base atop a green cutting mat. Wires wind through the assembly.

Pi-lomar Puts An Observatory In Your Hands

Humans have loved looking up at the night sky for time immemorial, and that hasn’t stopped today. [MattHh] has taken this love to the next level with the Pi-lomar Miniature Observatory.

Built with a Raspberry Pi 4, a RPi Hi Quality camera, and a Pimoroni Tiny2040, this tiny observatory does a solid job of letting you observe the night sky from the comfort of your sofa (some assembly required). The current version of Pi-lomar uses a 16mm ‘telephoto’ lens and the built-in camera libraries from Raspbian Buster. This gives a field of view of approximately 21 degrees of the sky.

While small for an observatory, there are still 4 spools of 3D printing filament in the five different assemblies: the Foundation, the Platform, the Tower, the Gearboxes and the Dome. Two NEMA 17 motors are directed by the Tiny2040 to keep the motion smoother than if the RPi 4 was running them directly. The observatory isn’t waterproof, so if you make your own, don’t leave it out in the rain.

If you’re curious how we might combat the growing spectre of light pollution to better our nighttime observations, check out how blinking can help. And if you want to build a (much) larger telescope, how about using the Sun as a gravitational lens?

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CinePi Project Promises Open Source Movie Making

Today, there’s open source options for pretty much anything mainstream, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still some niches out there that could benefit from the libre treatment. The CinePi project is a perfect example — before today we didn’t even know that an open hardware and software cinema-quality camera was out there. But now that we do, we can’t wait to see what the community does with it.

Inside the 3D printed enclosure of the CinePi, there’s a Raspberry Pi 4 with HQ camera module, a four-inch touch screen, a Zero2Go power supply with four 18650 cells, and a Notcua fan to keep it all cool. The design intentionally favors modules that are easy to source from the usual online sources. You’ll need to be handy with a soldering iron to follow along with the beautifully photographed assembly guide, but there’s nothing that needs to be custom fabricated to complete the build.

The software was clearly developed with the user experience in mind, and in the video below, you can see how its touch interface makes it easy to change settings on the fly. While an amateur auteur might need to enlist the assistance of their geeky friend to build the CinePi, it doesn’t look like they’ll need them around to help operate it.

Of course, the big question with a project like this: what does the video actually look like? Well the technical answer is that, in terms of raw performance, the CinePi is able to capture 3840 x 2160 CinemaDNG video to an external device such as a NVME SSD or a CFExpress Card at 25 frames per second. But what that actually looks like is going to depend on what kind of post-processing you do to it. For the more practical answer, check out the short film TIMEKEEPER which was shot partially on a CinePi.

If this all looks a bit high-tech for your liking, don’t worry. You could always 3D print yourself a 35 mm movie camera instead.

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A Non-Destructive Digital Back For A Classic Leica

As digital photography has become so good, perhaps just too good, at capturing near-perfect pictures, some photographers have ventured back into the world of film. There they have found the imperfections requiring technical skill to cope with that they desire, but they’ve also come face-to-face with the very high cost and sometimes sketchy availability of film stocks. From this has come the so-called post-digital movement which marries analog cameras and lenses with digital sensors, and of this a particularly nice example comes from [

Perhaps the best thing about this conversion, and something which should propagate forward into other builds, is the way it does not hack or modify the original camera beyond the replacement of the already-removable back. A vintage Leica is a pricey item, so it would be a foolhardy hacker who would proceed to gut it for a digital conversion. Instead he’s mounted everything that makes a digital camera, the sensor, Pi Zero, and screen board, behind the camera body. The Pi shutter trigger comes from the Leica’s flash terminal, meaning that there’s plenty of time for it to take a photo while the shutter is open.

He’s admirably preserved the usage and properties of the Leica, and his photographs as can be seen in the video below the break bear testament to what is possible with the camera. He still has to work with the tiny sensor size though, meaning that all photographs are at a much higher zoom level than on the original. We would love to see a camera conversion like this one that incorporates appropriate lenses to bring the picture to focus on this small sensor.

We won’t own a Leica any time soon, but we like this conversion. It’s by far the most sympathetic, but it’s not the first rangefinder conversion we’ve seen.

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Raspberry Pi Camera Conversion Leads To Philosophical Question

The Raspberry Pi HQ camera module may not quite reach the giddy heights of a DSLR, but it has given experimenters access to a camera system which can equal the output of some surprisingly high-quality manufactured cameras. As an example we have a video from [Malcolm-Jay] showing his Raspberry Pi conversion of a Yashica film camera.

Coming from the viewpoint of a photographer rather than a hardware person, the video is particularly valuable for his discussion of the many lens options beyond a Chinese CCTV lens which can be used with the platform. It uses only the body from the Yashica, but makes a really cool camera that we’d love to own ourselves. If you’re interested in the Pi HQ camera give it a watch below the break, and try to follow some of his lens suggestions.

The broken camera he converted is slightly interesting, and raises an important philosophical question for retro technology geeks. It’s a Yashica Electro 35, a mid-1960s rangefinder camera for 35 mm film whose claim to fame at the time was its electronically controlled shutter timing depending on its built-in light meter. The philosophical question is this: desecration of a characterful classic camera which might have been repaired, or awesome resto-mod? In that sense it’s not just about this project, but a question with application across many other retro tech fields.

A working Electro 35 is a fun toy for an enthusiast wanting to dabble in rangefinder photography, but it’s hardly a valuable artifact and when broken is little more than scrap.  One day we’d love to see a Pi conversion with a built-in focal length converter allowing the use of the original rangefinder mechanism, but we’ll take this one any day!

How about you? Would you have converted this Yashica, repaired it somehow, or just hung onto it because you might get round to fixing it one day? Tell us in the comments!

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Pieca Is A Pi Camera With Some Very Nice Lenses

The advent of the high-quality version of the Raspberry Pi camera has given experimenters a good-enough quality camera system that they can use it to create better devices than mere snapshot cameras. It’s been used by experimenters for some exciting projects, but so far, very few of them have broken away from the Pi camera’s C-mount lens system. [Tom Schucker]’s Pieca is an interesting departure then, because it takes the Pi HQ camera into new territory by using Leica rangefinder lenses.

There are enough Pi camera projects that by now the process of setting one up should be pretty well known. This one is a bit different in its use of a focal length reducer, mounted inside a 3D-printed Leica lens mounting plate. The result is that the Leica lens is better matched to the much smaller size of the Pi camera sensor compared to a 35mm frame.

The camera’s aesthetic design is on the chunky side, probably because of the choice of a Pi 4 rather than a Pi Zero. It remains very usable though, and produces photographs with a distinctive feel. You can see more in the video below the break. Meanwhile if you aren’t lucky enough to own a stable of Leica lenses, perhaps you could think about adapting more common optics? We’ve seen it before with the original Pi camera.

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Optical Sensor Keeps Eye On Wandering Saw Blade

Over the last year or so, we’ve been checking in on the progress [Andrew Consroe] has been making with his incredible CNC scroll saw project. While we were already impressed with his first prototype version, he somehow manages to keep pushing the envelope forward with each new upgrade, and we’re always excited when one of his progress reports hits the inbox.

Recently he’s been struggling with the fact that the considerable flexing of the scroll saw’s ultra-thin blade introduces positional errors while cutting. To combat this, he’s developed an ingenious sensor that can track the movement of the blade in two dimensions without actually touching it. Utilizing the Raspberry Pi HQ camera, a 3D printed framework, and some precisely placed mirrors, [Andrew] says his optical sensor is able to determine the blade’s position to within 10 microns.

In the video below [Andrew] goes over how his “Split Vision Periscope” works, complete with some ray traced simulations of what the Pi camera actually sees when it looks through the device. After experimenting with different lighting setups, the final optical configuration presents the camera with two different perspectives of the saw blade set on a black background. That makes it relatively easy to pick out the blade using computer vision, and turn that into positional information.

The periscope arrangement is particularly advantageous here as it allows the camera and lens to be placed under the work surface and well away from the actual cutting, though we’re interested in seeing how it fares against the dust and debris that will inevitably be produced as the saw cuts. While he hit all of his design goals, [Andrew] does note that his mirrors do leave some room for improvement; but considering he hand cut them out of old hard drive platters we think the results are more than acceptable.

An incredible amount of progress has been made since the first time we saw the CNC scroll saw, and we’re eager to see this new sensor fully integrated into the next version of [Andrew]’s impressive long-term project.

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Explore The Cosmos With This DIY Digital Telescope

Getting a closer look at the Moon isn’t particularly difficult; even an absolute beginner can point a cheap telescope towards our nearest celestial neighbor and get some impressive views. But if you’re looking to explore a bit farther, and especially if you want to photograph what you find out there amongst the black, things can get complicated (and expensive) pretty quick.

While building this 3D printed automated telescope designed [Greg Holloway] isn’t necessarily cheap, especially once you factor in what your time is worth, the final product certainly looks to be considerably streamlined compared to most of what’s available in the commercial space. Rather than having to lug around a separate telescope, tripod, motorized tracker, and camera, you just need this relatively compact all-in-one unit.

It’s taken [Greg] six months to develop his miniature observatory, and it shows. The CAD work is phenomenal, as is the documentation in general. Even if you’re not interested in peering into the heavens, perusing the Instructables page for this project is well worth your time. From his tips on designing for 3D printing to information about selecting the appropriate lens and getting it mated to the Raspberry Pi HQ Camera, there’s a little something for everyone.

Of course if you are looking to build your own motorized “GOTO” telescope, then this is must-read stuff. [Greg] has really done his homework, and the project is a fantastic source of information about motor controllers, wiring, hand controllers, and the open source firmware you need to tie it all together. Many of the ideas he’s outlined here could be applicable to other telescope projects, or really, anything that needs to be accurately pointed to the sky. If you’d like to get started with night sky photography and aren’t picky about what kind of things you capture, we’ve seen a number of projects that simply point a camera towards the stars and wait for something to happen.

[Thanks to Eugene for the tip.]