Camera Slider 1.0 #DIY

I’ve recently been keen on learning how to use and control stepper motors in a practical application. And it became apparent that the use of a stepper motor in a photographic slider (herein referred to as a PanoSlider) was an excellent challenge to start with. The reason? The PanoSlider had to provide fast, smooth, accurate, and powerful motion while being controlled by an intuitive user interface.
The actual design of the PanoSlider began in a typical fashion: by wandering around my collection of materials and devising a simple, easy, solid structure. I settled on a discarded construction level as a frame. 3/4″ PVC pipes were screwed onto the sides with sheet metal screws, and hot-melt glue (HMG) was added to prevent the pipes from rotating.  HMG is a generally underrated material, and its use is often limited to children’s crafts (and results in many finger burns).  In reality, it can be used as a fast-setting substrate with good strength, and its poor bond strength is useful in making temporary joints (for instance – I mounted the Arduino board to the PanoSlider assembly with HMG, then simply broke it off when it was no longer needed).

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Tracker V2

NOTE: The Tracker V2 I described below had a major flaw: the curved threaded rod.  It was removed from the design and replaced with a straight section of Acme rod in Tracker V2.1, which works very well.  See Tracker V2.1 for more information and be aware that using a curved section of standard threaded rod is a bad idea!  Further improvements and a paint job were added for Tracker V2.2.

Having finished a first attempt at building a working Star Tracker, I’ve recently set out to build a second (final) version.  The goal was to use scavenged (read: FREE) mechanical components and cheap electronics from eBay China to build an automated tracking mount which could be used to capture high-quality DSO (Deep Space Object) and Planetary images.  I’ve also made an attempt to make it look nice.

The main body of the tracker was based around the pivot assembly – a modified treadmill roller.  Treadmills contain a large amount of useful mechanical and electrical components, so I try to pick up any old treadmills being given away on the local classifieds.  After disassembling the roller, I shortened the shaft and body to a practical and aesthetically pleasing length.

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DropCam – High Speed Photography

Inspiration for this project came from a MakeZine project:

Using a lightstand as a base, this Lego build was positioned above a glass bowl filled with water.  An Arduino Uno board controlled the camera shutter, a flash, and the Lego ‘Dropper’.  The time delay between the drop and the flash trigger was entered into a laptop.  The results can be seen at:  A video of the rig in action is shown below.


The camera and wireless triggers were controlled via a 4N35 Optocoupler circuit (keeping the Arduino and the equipment completely isolated).  The shutter speed was quite slow (~1/10s).  This was due to the inconsistent shutter lag that plagued the operation at speeds faster than 1/10s.  No problem though, the flash stopped the motion better than the shutter could have.

Don’t mind the colour-clashing lego…