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Modifying a webcam for 'night vision'


20120527131231_036Inspired by the nest of Blue tits that I had in my garden, I decided to make a birdhouse with a camera inside so that by next year I can follow the development of the birds while they are still in the nest.

Because there's not much light in a birdhouse and I don't want to disturb the birds with bright lights, I am modifying a standard webcam so that it operates better in the IR range of the light spectrum. The modification can be done in half an hour if you have some experience with a soldering iron and a scalpel.

Note that this hack does not give you true IR night vision: in combination with the IR LEDs it allows you to see more of the IR light spectrum, which is otherwise filtered out by the webcam manufacturer.

What you need

You need the following materials:

  • a webcam; I chose a small and cheap (€9,99) USB webcam from Conrad
  • infrared LEDs (that is, if your webcam has LEDs), also from Conrad
  • soldering iron with a thin tip, solder
  • scalpel
  • small Phillips screw driver

Read more: Modifying a webcam for 'night vision'

Modifying a Canon DIGITAL IXUS v2 for external shutter release


Canon DIGITAL IXUS v2For a KAP project I'm working on I need to be able to control a compact camera with an Arduino processor. Because I didn't want to risk damaging one of my 'good' compacts, I bought a second hand Canon DIGITAL IXUS v2 for just €15,- (including the battery charger and a 16 MB CF card). This camera is known as  Canon S200 DIGITAL ELPH, in some parts of the world.

Initially I didn't feel much like modding the camera itself: the scale of integration inside that body is so large that I was afraid to break it while working on it. So I went with mechanical solution: I made a bracket on top of the aluminium frame that holds the camera, and mounted a mini servo onto it. The servo horn I modified with a piece of plastic from an old toothbrush (see photo at the end of this article).

This would have worked, if it wasn't for the fact that the frame construction wasn't stiff enough: while pressing the shutter button, reaction forces pushed the servo upwards and away from the shutter. Using ty wraps and a piece of metal wire stabilized it a little bit, but it was not a satisfying solution.

So I decided to take the plunge and try wiring the shutter release instead. This turned out to work well, and is not too hard to do.

Read more: Modifying a Canon DIGITAL IXUS v2 for external shutter release

Modifying an RC servo for continuous rotation


Graupner C677 servo For an upcoming hobby project I need an RC servo that can rotate continuously through 360°. Most (cheap) RC servos are limited to a rotation angle of 180° degrees or less, including the Graupner C677 that I got. But by modifying the internal hardware and electronics it can be made to rotate continuously.

Because this procedure removes some material from one of the sprockets, it is a permanent hack (unless you are prepared to mess with tiny plastic parts and superglue to reverse it).

Note that this procedure is meant for a Graupner C677. It may not work on all servos: some are mechanically unsuited for modification. Please examine your servo's innards carefully before doing anything permanent to it.

Read more: Modifying an RC servo for continuous rotation

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