DIY Camera Controller – Part 1

October 30th, 2009 by Louise

More Pages From This

Part 1 - Intro
Part 2 - Parts List
Part 3 - Schematic
Part 4 - Sensors
Part 5 - Bread Board
Part 6 - The Program

Splash - My new microprocessor camera controller 11Interested in High Speed Photography? What about wildlife photography? Or time lapse photography? If you are here is a gem of a DIY project for the brave among you..

This project is to build a computerised camera controller which you can use to photograph fast moving events such as water drop splashes or balloons bursting, capture wildlife automatically or take time lapse sequences such as flowers opening or a house being built!

Skills you will need to have (or learn!) are soldering, identifying electronic components, making coffee or suitable alternative, ability to donate loads a money to my paypal account – Well, last one is optional actually πŸ˜€

So, if you are interested read on, if not bog off and find something else to do..

Splash - My new microprocessor camera controller 11

Example photo taken with this controller.

If you want to check out my first set of photos taken with this controller have a look at My Flickr Set. All 20 photos were taken by setting the controller to take 20 shots and then hitting Run on the controller. You can see the first image in the set was out of sync, I found the bug in the program and corrected it πŸ˜‰

The completed project will have the following features:

  • Easy to use 5 button interface.
  • A 4 line LCD display to select modes, enter settings etc.
  • Works on any 9-12V dc supply (battery/ mains adapter)
  • Interval timer – Set number of frames and interval between frames.
  • Various sensor options – Sound activated, light activated, optical switches, laser trip wires etc
  • Laser trip wire detector and laser emitter in one housing, just aim at reflective target to set up.
  • Sensor sensitivity digitally adjustable with current, maximum and minimum values displayed.
  • Single or dual sensor operation.
  • 2 dual sensor modes:
    • Cross Beam – Object must break both beams at the same time to trigger camera, using 2 laser trip wires crossing each other photo is only taken when something wonders into the crossing point
    • Directional – Set up two laser trip wires and photo is only taken if beam 2 is broken within a set time of beam one being broken – Catch birds flying to the nest but not leaving.
  • Measure camera shutter lag in milliseconds.
  • Delay timers – Set a delay in milliseconds between object being detected and firing camera/ flash – Useful for water splash type photos etc.
  • Offset Delay – Added to delay time for each frame – Allows you to create animations of water splashes for example.
  • Trigger camera or external flash.
  • Built in Nikon DSLR infra red remote – Trigger your D40X/ D80 etc without a shutter release cable.
  • Works with almost any camera which has an electronic shutter release cable, or infra red remote release if you are willing to ‘Hack’ the remote.
  • Its cheap, at current UK prices about Β£60 for the controller and about Β£10 for a laser trip wire.
Adruino Duemilanove

Example photo taken with this controller.

Interested? then read on..

This project is built using a open source microprocessor board known as the Arduino. As it is open source you can get the development environment to program/ debug it for free, there are thousands of free downloads and projects you can build with it, there is a superb web community to draw on for assistance and most importantly it is cheap as chips πŸ˜‰

The Arduino boards come in various flavours, even ones you can sew into clothes and build electronic gadgets into your favourite T shirt!

I will begin this DIY project using theΒ  Arduino Duemilanove and bread board, this is not best suited to a ‘Finished’ project though as it will not be exactly ‘portable’ When I have covered how it works I will finish up with details of how to build the project using the Arduino Pro Mini board to make a finished portable project you can stick in a box with a battery and take on the road with you.

Arduino Pro Mini 328 5V (blue) + FTDI Breakout Board (red)

Example photo taken with this controller.

Which version you go for depends on what you intend to do, if you have little or no interest in microprocessor controllers and just want to build this project then the Pro Mini is the way to go, the connections to the Pro Mini are the same as the Duemilanove except you have to solder the connections to the board and make up another circuit board from veroboard to house the other components. The Pro Mini does not include a USB interface on the board so you will either need to get a breakout board/ lead or get me to upload the program to it for you.

If you are interested in micro-controllers, and maybe want to play about with them making some other cool gadgets, then the Duemilanove is a development board with USB interface for uploading programs and female headers on all inputs/ outputs so you can quickly rig up circuits by plugging in jumper wires to a bread board. Using the Duemilanove and bread board means you can knock this project together without soldering, well almost without soldering as one or two things may still require it.

Adruino Duemilanove and Arduino Pro Mini 328 5V compared.

Example photo taken with this controller.

The Duemilanove also comes with a ‘Started kit’ which includes a slack handful of components such as resistors, LED’s etc and a small bread board. The bread board is very small however and only suitable for the simplest of projects so I would recommend buying the bare Duemilanove and obtaining the bread board (or two) and other components separately.

If there is enough demand for it I may put together kits of components needed for this project, if I get bulk purchases and split them up into kits I should be able to offer them at a better price πŸ˜‰ If you are interested then please leave a comment on this page.

More Pages From This

Part 1 - Intro
Part 2 - Parts List
Part 3 - Schematic
Part 4 - Sensors
Part 5 - Bread Board
Part 6 - The Program

Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you would like me to email you as I add sections to this tutorial just ask in the comment. If you don’t want your comments shown to the public just use *PRIVATE* as the first line and I wont publish it πŸ˜‰

Now I have whetted your appetite you should proceed to part two of this extravaganza where I will detail (most of) the tools, equipment and components you will need.

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11 Responses to “DIY Camera Controller – Part 1”

  1. Barry Parker says:

    Hi Lou, Have made and boxed the Camera Control , see this link , just got to do the sensors now :-)

    • Loopy says:

      That looks really good, I knew I meant to change something in the software, and now I see what it was LOL Loopy Lou, I’m never going to be allowed to live that down now πŸ˜€

  2. Steve says:

    Hi, I would be interested to buy this as a kit if you ever get around to it; perhaps you should you take a trip to China they would probably build it for the UK component costs! πŸ˜‰

  3. Calv says:


    Fouind this site searching for info on diy flash/camera triggers. You have done a great job !
    I do know a bit about PIC’s and a year or 2 ago bought a fair amount of bits and pieces but time went by and it ended up on Ebay. Im now single again and have time to play again. The Arduino stuff looks good and I am goiing to have a play with one and do a few bits and bobs before I plug anything into my D300.
    I would also be interested in a kit.



  4. […] Does anyone have any ideas what I may have done wrong Here is a link to the camera controller DIY Camera Controller – Part 1 Louises Place Alan H Reply With Quote   + Reply to […]

  5. flab0y says:

    Like what you’re doing. I am working on trying to mate a board camera and a controller together to make a trail camera to catch animals on my land. I would be very interested and very appreciative of any opinions or comments.

    • Louise says:

      It should be quite possible to link the two things together, you can trigger the board camera via the camera trigger on this controller as it is pretty much just a solid state switch.

      The laser detector may be too visible for wild animals, I have never tried so cant say for sure, but an infra red laser or emmiter/ detector would be fine for short trip wires across a trail for example.

  6. Bambi says:

    For the Canon users out there, I found this link page which describes the IR waveform needed to simulate Canon RC-1 remote. There are links to and from other articles for different versions of Canons remotes.
    This link is mainly for the 5D but it looks like people have it working with a 7D and a 550D. There are other articles out there for different models of remote.

    You should be able to adapt Louises excellent code to use excellent cameras as well as Nikon’s πŸ˜‰

  7. Jeremy says:

    Hi Louise, I have scoured the internet and your tutorial for building a water drop machine is the best and most detailed I have come across.

    So I am going to have a go at it, but before I start I just wanted to check with you that there were no updates that I needed to be aware of.

    • Louise says:

      I have not done anything with this project for .. over two years at least.

      However, Bambi has modified the code significantly for water drops and collisions, may be worth popping over to his site and having a look..

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