With this competition I’m focusing community attention on getting better motor controller support into the Camera Axe 5 sooner, while rewarding the winner with some free hardware. I now have a working Camera Axe motor sensor prototype and I’m looking for help making it more useful for photographers. Why would you want to connect one or two motors to the Camera Axe? Well, this would let you control a pan/tilt head and automate taking very high resolution panoramas, or you could put your camera on a rail and take very cool time-lapse photos. Those are just two ideas out of a very very flexible tool.
The person who gives what I judge to be the most help contribution related to the Camera Axe motor sensor will win two motor sensors with motors from the Camera Axe store when they are released, or $100 credit to buy whatever you want on the store.
Here are some examples of what I’d consider a helpful contribution:
Mechanical designs for pan/tilt head to be controlled by motors or a rail system
Help finding individuals or companies willing to make these mechanical systems for our store
Ideas for new uses of the motor sensor
Help writing the Camera Axe software or laying out motor sensor menus
Those are just a few ideas to get you thinking so don’t let that limit your thinking. One limitation is the current design only allows one motor per sensor port on the Camera Axe so at most you can have 2 motors.
To register your idea for a chance to win put it (or link if you want to host the contribution on a different site) on one of these four places (there is no advantage to posting to more than one so please don’t):
I’m working on a new stepper motor controller sensor for the Camera Axe. As you cans see I’ve decided to go for a really full featured stepper controller and put controls for 3 stepper motors and a microcontroller on the sensor. The camera axe will talk to this board via the IC2 protocol. This was the best way I could figure out to control more than 2 stepper motors with the camera axe, and even if you only need two stepper motors (three is really nice for some uses cases) this design has advantages. Some of those are being able to power off the stepper motors to save power, and using less program space/cpu cycles in the Camera Axe’s main controller. The only disadvantage is a slightly more expensive sensor board.
There are a lot of use cases such as:
Panoramic and/or rail timelapse
Interfacing with a microscope to do focus stacking and micro-gigapixel type images
Focus stacking and gigapixel type images for macro images
The biggest unknown I have about this board is if I really need a separate 5V power source instead of taking it from the batteries powering the motors. I have some experience of this sort of setup (same power source) working fine, but I have read that sometimes it can lead to flakiness. I wonder if that’s true or if people didn’t put enough filter caps in their design.
If anyone wants to help with the mechanical designs for some of these use cases let me know.
Comments are about the design or the use cases are always welcome.
Based on the feedback from this poll it looks like a multi-flash add on for the Camera Axe and a timelapse panoramic sensor are top on this list. The timelapse panoramic sensor is more work and I’m working on it, but the multi-flash device is easier so I’m doing that first.
My current plan is to make this run on 3 AA batteries, and have it plug into one of the Camera/Flash ports on the Camera Axe. It will control up to 4 flashes. For those who need more than 4 flashes these can be daisy chained together to support even more flashes. If anyone has ideas on how to make this better, let me know.
Here is the current circuit. I plan to finalize the design during the next few days. If anyone has suggestions on how to make it better let me know.
After six months of work, the fourth version of the Camera Axe is finally ready. For those new to the Camera Axe it’s a programmable camera and flash trigger with two sensor plugs that can be used for a wide range of sensors. It can do anything from timelapse to photographing a shooting bullet. For a little background information read about versions 1 and 3 of the Camera Axe. This version is open sourced under the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 3.0 License. I do sell kits, assembled versions, and various sensors at my store.
Camera Axe Video:
Here is a list of improvements from version 3 to version 4 of the Camera Axe.
The screen is much larger and this makes the menuing system easier to use.
The case is is much nicer because I had custom cases made for this project.
Added two LEDs to indicate when the camera or flash is being triggered.
Much nicer 3.5mm jacks for the sensors and camera/flash plugs.
Added a dedicated external power plug for those wanting to use external power.
The buttons feel much nicer.
Batteries last four times longer.
A new microcontroller that has two times the space for more features in the future.
The software is a complete rewrite and has too many improvements to list, but I’ll mention the greatly improved intervalometer mode and the new fast trigger mode.
The kits are easier to assemble (no wires or drilling needed).
There’s more information information about sensors, reprogramming, flash/camera cables, and much more at www.CameraAxe.com.
The major improvements are a new 3 PCB design, which makes this much more durable than the previous version. The other huge improvement is using the Honeywell SD5600 Optoschmitt Detector which has a fall time of 15 ns. Previously I was using a standard photo transistor which had a response time of 15 us. This new design is 1000x faster! This actually matters on faster bullets since sometimes the old sensor wouldn’t notice a fast small bullet. The SD5600 never misses.
The only downside to this new design is that it’s a little more expensive. Here’s the BOM.
This sensor has two IR sensors spaced exactly two inches apart. The user inputs the distance from the sensor to the desired position of the projectile when the picture is taken. Based on the time it takes the projectile to travel those two inches between the sensors, a velocity for the projectile can be determined. Since bullets and other projectiles basically travel at a constant velocity, it is easy for the microcontroller to calculate the delay in microseconds until the picture is taken.
Here’s a link to the Eagle files I used to create the PCBs.
Using the Projectile Sensor with the Camera Axe
There are 3 PCBs and everything is labeled so it’s supper easy to plug them together. You will need the 3.0.04 or newer version of the Camera Axe software. Turn on the Camera Axe and hit menu until you get to the projectile menu. Set the distance you want the bullet to be from the second gate when the picture is taken and then push the right button until you get to the “Trigger on” menu for the projectile sensor and set this to low. Now hit the set button. If the sensor continuously displays the speed of the projectile that means the sensor boards aren’t lined up correctly. Look at it from the side and bend the boards so the emitter is pointed directly at the detectors. Once it’s sitting there waiting for a projectile put your finger through the two sensors and it will report back to you the speed of your finger. Once you get this it’s working.
Mounting the Projectile Sensor
I mounted a projectile sensor to my pellet gun and it is working great. The pellet’s velocity ranges from 985 feet/second to 1060 feet/second. Below are a bunch of pictures of how I did this mounting.