Building your own Digital Deer camera.

Discussion in 'Catfishing Library' started by VerotiK, Oct 2, 2005.

  1. VerotiK

    VerotiK New Member

    Messages:
    230
    State:
    Harrison, Arkansas
    So you want to build your own deer camera? The advantages of using a digital camera for your deer camera are great. You dont have to buy film, and you dont have to pay for processing. Plus you always pay more because you absolutely have to get the 1 hour photo because your so excited to see whats on there, and thats twice as much. It doesnt take long for that film and processing to add up to enough to pay for a digital setup. The setup I just built is more of an experienced builder type camera, but you follow the same basic steps which i will outline here.

    First step is to buy your materials. For digital deer cameras, i prefer to use the Sony DSC-P41 camera. The advantage to these cameras are the picture quality, battery life, and power-on time. Averaging 5 pictures a day, the camera batteries will last 2 weeks or more. I have my camera set up on a feeder and usually get 20 or more pictures a day, and the batteries will last around 5 days.

    You can pick up these digital cameras at Walmart on clearance ( most of them are already gone) or you can usually find good deals on ebay. I got my last one for $130, list price was around $300 new.

    The second thing you need is a camera control board. There are manufacturers of boards, though i only have experience with 2. The manufacturers that i recommend are Pixcontroller (http://www.pixcontroller.com) and Snapshot Sniper (http://www.snapshotsniper.com).

    Pixcontroller has 2 different boards available depending on the options you want. Both of thier boards are dip-switch programmable for different cameras, delay time, night/day, and video capture. They range in price from between $40-80 for the board alone, but are also available in kit form (recommended) so you have most of the supplies you need.

    Snapshot Sniper only carries one type of board, but in 2 different versions. One has the motion sensor on the front, and one has the motion sensor on the back, depending on which way you want to mount it. The thing i really like about the SS board is that instead of dip-switches, it has an LCD screen with on-screen programming, which is very easy and convenient to use. The Snapshot Sniper boards are around $40 and do not come in a kit form, but all the supplies will be listed below. We will be using the Snapshot Sniper board for this project.

    You will need a case. Most people, including myself, use Pelican micro-cases. You can get them on ebay for around $20 shipped, or there are many websites like www.cases4less.com that sell them close to that.

    Those are the 3 basic things you will need. There are several small pieces of hardware and misc items that you will need to complete the project. Here is a parts list (sorry if i leave anything out).

    Parts
    Sony P41 Digital Camera
    Camera Control board
    Pelican Case (model 1060 used here)
    micoscope glass slides, or other source of small, thin glass
    #6x32 screws, nuts and washers
    various size heat shrink tubing
    Solder
    Electrical tape
    Goop marine or automotive adhesive
    small guage wire, such as telephone or networking wire
    Sony flex cable

    Tools
    Screwdrivers
    Soldering Iron
    Glass cutter
    Drill
    Drill bits
    Exacto knife
    Nutdriver or pliers

    First thing you want to do is get all your parts together in your work area. Make sure you have a clean work area and you have everything you need before you begin.

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    Next thing you want to do is lay everything out inside the case and make sure it fits before you get started. This is a crucial part of the project. On this project i also install a slave flash and a slave flash controller. This is on more of an experienced level, and i recommend you build a basic camera system before attempting this, unless your pretty decent with soldering and electronics.

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    Now that you have figured out where you want everything, you can start drilling holes for your board. First print a template out off the website and mark the holes. MAKE SURE you can put the board where you mark the holes. You dont want extra holes in the case, so measure twice, drill once!

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    Now make your own template for the camera so you can drill the holes for the lense and flash. Again, its very important that you make sure everything lines up and is going to fit before you cut your holes.

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    Once you have your holes cut, you will need to cut away the foam lining on the front of the case so you can glue down the glass that will protect the camera, and also glue down the motion sensor freznel lense. Use an exacto knife and cut it out the best you can, then use an adhesive remover to remove any of the glue or residue left over. Its ok if there is a little bit left, but try to get as much off as you can so you get a good water-tight seal.

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    After you have all your holes cut, and all the foam cut out, you can take the microscope slides and cut them to fit. I usually try to leave around 1/4" or so on all sides of the hole for glue to stick to and seal. Once you have all your pieces cut, take your Goop and smear it all around the hole but be careful not to get it in the holes, you dont want it where your lense will be looking out. Once you have applied the glue, let it sit for a minute or so to get tacky, then put your glass down and gently press it into the glue. It needs to dry for 20-30 minutes before going any further, and it wont be completely dry for several hours, so be careful not to slide the glass around in the glue and smudge up the lense hole viewing area.

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    Now you get to start modifying the camera to be able to take pictures. The first thing you want to do is take the flex cable and you will see that the end without the wires has a hard plastic blue coating on one side of it. This needs to be removed. This isn't too difficult, but you need to be careful so not to damage the cable. I use an exacto knife for this. Start on the cable and work towards the end slowly, making sure to remove all the blue plastic.

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    Once you get all the plastic off, this is what it should look like.
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    There are traces on the flex cable that need to be removed. When holding it in your hand, you can double check which oned to take off by looks at where the wires are soldered to the cable. There will be 3 wires soldered to the cable. There on one side of the wires there is a single trace with nothing soldered to it. Leave this, it will act as a guide when inserting the cable. On the other side, there are 2 traces with nothing soldered to them, these need to be cut off flush so none of the traces are left exposed.

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    Next is to insert the cable into the camera. Basicly what this cable does is attatch to the control switch plug of the camera that controls the on/off and the shutter. This allows you to make those connections outside of the camera, which is controlled by the camera control board. There are 4 screws on the camera that you need to remove to gain access to the inside. Before you start, sit down and touch something metal that so you discharge any static electricity. You dont want to ruin your camera. Remove the 4 screws, 2 are located behind the battery door, and 2 are located on the bottom of the camera. Then pull the camera apart gently. At the top of the camera, you will see 3 ribbon cables. You are looking for the blue one. It has 6 traces. Take a jewlers screwdrive undneath the cable and work it up and down gently to remove the cable from the plug. You can also use tweazers, but make sure they are flat, not crosshatched, as this will most likely damage the cable.

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  2. VerotiK

    VerotiK New Member

    Messages:
    230
    State:
    Harrison, Arkansas
    Now you can insert the flex cable. Hold the cable with the 4 contacts pointing down. Insert the cable into the plug with the blank trace up against the right side of the plug.

    (Images borrowed from www.pixcontroller.com)

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    Once you have the cable inserted into the plug, fold the rest of the cable down flat against the back of the camera and then insert the blue cable back in the plug, so as the cables are sandwiched together. Be careful to make sure they are lined up. About 25% of the time, you will have to repeat this step because the cable is misaligned. Once you have it inserted, you can rout the wires outside the camera. I prefer to take out the tripod mount in the bottom of the camera and feed the wires out that hole, and then seal the hole with Goop. Also, make sure to put a piece of electrical tape over the exposed contacts that the pigtail wires where they are soldered to the cable.

    If you used the flex cable from Pixcontroller, the wires will be as follows:

    Red - Shutter
    Black - Common/Ground
    Blue - Power on/off

    Once you have the camera wired up, you can test and make sure that the cable is inserted properly by shorting out the wires as follows:

    Touch the black wire to the blue wire and the camera should turn on. If it doesnt, the flex cable is misaligned.

    Next, touch the black wire to the red wire, and the camera should take a picture. *Note: if the camera is set to autofocus, the camera will not take a picture immediately, but try to focus first, then take a picture. This will need to be changed before putting the camera in service. Camera settings will be listed below.

    After making sure that everything is wired up and working correctly, it is time to connect the camera to the board. Instructions for this will be supplied from the board manufacturer. All you need to do is attatch the wires from the camera to the appropriate spot on the camera control board. This can be done in several different ways. Pixcontroller gives you the option of using a telephone headset phone port or a 2.5mm stereo jack. Snapshot sniper just allows for the wires to be soldered directly to the board. Since i have both boards, i soldered a telephon headset jack to the snapshot sniper board so that my camera will be interchangeable between both boards. Once you have the camera connected to the board, you are pretty much done. If you decide to build your own, i will help any way that i can, or i will get you in touch with someone who can help.

    This is what the camera turned out looking like, inside and out.

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    Here are the settings that you will need to set your camera up as to get the best quality pictures.

    Red Eye Reduction : Off
    AF Illuminator: Off
    Power Save: Off
    Beep: Off
    Focus: Infinity
    ISO: 400
    Camera Setting: Program (this makes all the settings above manual instead of letting the camera pick it's own settings)

    Here are some pictures that i took as a test. Note that i said before that i added a "slave flash" inside the case along with the camera. You can tell quite a bit of difference. The first picture is with the camera flash alone and i am standing at 25 ft. The second picture is at the same distance but using the slave flash.

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  3. whichrod

    whichrod New Member

    Messages:
    102
    State:
    columbia sc
    hi , so what was your total cost after it was all said and done?
     
  4. VerotiK

    VerotiK New Member

    Messages:
    230
    State:
    Harrison, Arkansas
    Using the Sony P41, you can build one for:

    Sony P41: $150
    Case: $ 20
    Controls: $ 50
    Misc parts $ 25
    _________________
    $245