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PixController Universal Camera Controller Board 
Connecting other Digital Cameras

Overview Specs Board Dimensions Motion Sensor Camera Port Phone Jack 2.5mm Port


Introduction

The PixController Universal board supports "hardwired" cameras (digital and 35mm). A list of supported cameras and PIC control chips can be found by clicking here. "Hardwired" means you have to modify the camera in order the be remote controlled by the PixController Universal board. This is not a hard process to do in most cases, and we include step-by-step examples on how to do this. 

Caution! Please keep in mind that if you modify a camera for use with the PixController Universal board, or any other PixController board we are not responsible for any damage to your camera. This can be a delicate process, and if you do not have any experience in working with small electronic devices, and you are not comfortable with soldering please get some help when taking on a project like this. In most cases you will also void the warranty of your camera. If you do not feel comfortable modifying a digital camera we suggest you look at our RS-232 Universal controller, which will no require you to modify the camera.


Digital Camera Modification Tips
(For help modifying digital cameras not found on our list)
If you modify a digital camera not on our list we would be happy to 
post your modifications on our web site for other users.


1. Choosing a digital camera - The first step in this process is to locate a camera that will work well as a trail camera. Things to look for are to make sure it's a "point-n-shoot" type camera. This means it won't have a zoom lens, and you want something with a fairly flat camera face. The reason you don't want a zoom lens camera is because most cameras with a zoom lens tend to be slower and can make more noise when the zoom the lens out on power up. This can also make it more difficult to get your camera into a water proof case. Secondly the flat face of the camera front will also help when you put your camera into a case. You will need to mask the flash from the camera lens to avoid "flash bleed", which will wash out your night photos. Another point to remember is when you construct your camera build it with 2 separate pieces of glass for the flash and camera lens.

2. Locating the Shutter and Refresh contacts -  This next step can be a little overwhelming or down right scary the first time you do it. You will have to open your digital camera up and locate the Shutter and Refresh contacts. When taking your camera apart remember to put all of the small screws into a container so you don't loose them. Keep notes on how you took it apart so you can put it back together!

The Shutter and Refresh contacts are often located right at the camera's shutter button. In most cases you will find a button soldered down to a small circuit board, which may have 4 solder contacts. One will be the Shutter, and one will be the Refresh (if your camera has one), and in some cases one will be the Common or Camera ground.

To find which contact is what you will need to use an Ohm meter, and set it in the "Ohms" position. This is best done with 2 people since you will need more than 2 hands to perform this task.

Next, have one person press down on the shutter button. When pressing down you will feel a half click, and this is the Refresh, or auto focus. The camera will use this to focus the camera and top off the flash before taking a photo. Not all digital cameras have this function. With your ohm meter move it from contact to contact, and you are looking for a switch closing. You will see the meter go from infinite resistance to less than a few ohms when the button is pressed in. Do this process for the shutter too, which is the shutter button pressed all the way down. You should find one contact that's in common with the shutter and refresh, and this will be your "common" contact.

Make note of these positions, Shutter, Refresh, and Common, and solder a small gauge wire to them so you can connect them to the appropriate contacts on the Universal board.

3. Locating the Power On/Off contact - Lastly you will need to locate the power on/off contact. With a push button power on/off type camera this is usually a button under the power button on the camera. Again it probably will have 4 contacts like the shutter button does, but it may only have 2 contacts as well. Using the method you learned in locating the Shutter and Refresh contacts you will do the same thing here. One contact will be power on/off and the other will be ground. Solder a small gauge wire to the Power on/off contact, then connect to appropriate contact on the Universal board (power on/off).

With Lens Cover Slide type digital cameras you will be looking for a small switch usually located on the lens cover slide itself. Again, you will attach one wire the power on/off, and one to the ground. Good examples of this are with the D-380, and D-395 wiring examples for the RSP3i-U or RSP4i-U PIC chip.

4. Is the camera fast enough? - One big consideration when choosing a digital camera to modify is if the camera can power up fast enough to shutter a photo. The easiest way to tell is simply power up your digital and time the amount of time it takes to have the camera ready to shutter a photo. Any time that is 3 seconds or under is considered good enough for trail camera use. Slower cameras can be used, but you need to make sure you setup your trail camera in an area where the subject will stay around for the initial power on delay. This delay is caused by charging up the cameras flash, and also it can be caused by the memory card. With some cameras the larger the memory card the slower the camera will power up. This is especially true of the Olympus D-390 and D-395.

5. Is the cameras flash good enough? - Another consideration is if the cameras flash is good enough. Sometimes the manufacture will provide specifications for the flash range. Usually anything over 12 feet is considered useful. Anything 6 feet or under is considered poor. One thing you can do is force the ISO setting to 400 or better to achieve longer flash ranges (not all digital cameras have this feature).



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Remote Outdoor Surveillance & Wildlife Camera Systems
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