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Building a Digicam from Scanner Elements 111

Posted by chrisd
from the can't-believie-this-one-isn't-a-dupe dept.
An Anonymous Coward writes: "Want a weird & wobbly digital camera, but don't want to spend over $100? Well, Matthias Wandel, whose site is due for some /. lovin', used the guts of a cheap scanner, some camera parts, and scrap wood to build a very high quality digitcal camera. Read about progress at this site. Oh, and he also builds things out of legos as well." I personally think that his Jenga Pistol and wasp-vacuum are pretty neat too.
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Building a Digicam from Scanner Elements

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  • lens issues (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Alien54 (180860) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @05:20PM (#3467140) Journal
    For the lens, I used an obsolete 35mm F/2.8 screwmount SLR camera lens. The lens is so obsolete, its even predates the Pentax screwmount (which I still use). The lens has no anti reflective coating, and, a completely manual aperture - that is, it even predates the automatic aperture reduction when the shutter is released. Its entirely manual. Perfect for the job.

    Something like this is going to be next to impossible to find. and might be a photographic collectable as well?

    Perfect reading for a sunday afternoon. File away as technology to remember for after the end of the world.

    • Re:lens issues (Score:3, Informative)

      by zome (546331)
      there are plenty of them on ebay.
      I just bought a very old vivitar SLR completed with working 50mm f1.4 and non-working 85mm f1.8. These lens are totally manual.
    • Re:lens issues (Score:4, Informative)

      by psavo (162634) <psavo@iki.fi> on Sunday May 05, 2002 @08:04PM (#3467596) Homepage
      Something like this is going to be next to impossible to find. and might be a photographic collectable as well?

      My local shop has about 3-400 lenses _in shop_. And we're talking about Finland/Helsinki, not freaking NY/Adorama.

      For those who don't know: most modern lenses are fully manually operable, etc. you can set aperture & focus with your hands, without electric contact.
  • hmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @05:24PM (#3467150) Homepage Journal
    I tried something like this once, but instead of a scanner, I used a toaster.

    Well, I had to add some parts, but I can say for sure that the pics I took were hot.
  • Other inventions (Score:2, Interesting)

    by greyguppy (413383)
    I personally prefer the wasp-sucker. It looks good, serves a purpose, and has the 'home-made' quality to it.

    The marble gun seems dangerous, I can just imagine a kid understanding gun safety, yet building one of those

    I DO NOT WANT TO START A DEBATE ON GUN-CONTROL

    The Jenga thing however is stupid, as it makes you more likely to lose!
  • He seems to have confused high resolution and high quality. Getting a high resolution image is easy. That hard part is getting a high quality image. While the 2000x2000 pixel image size is somewhat impressive, I have seen better results with $300 1.5 megapixel cameras.
    • You seem to have missed the fact that he *built a camera out of a scanner*

      He was impressed with the resolution, and I think it looks pretty good too.

      The point was to try and build it, not try to create a perfect image... I'm sure you've seen better images with a 1.5 megapixel camera, that's what they're built to do... I'm sure we can also assume that the picture on the site was shrunk down with a sort of image program to make it more web friendly
      • Yea, and his pic that he had of his garage with the strange doors, it would be interesting to see what other stuff did.

        Id say its pretty slick, in fact his whole site is (+5 interesting)
      • Yeah, he said he got 2k*2k images out of that camera.

        Bigger thing is that because his camera is completely computerized, it can be distortion -corrected. So actually geometrical errors can be compensated for. Same goes for colors (just scan a picture of 'test pattern' and make a grid out of it).
        Hmm. Now that I think of, biggest problem is 'keeping image in focus', but that seems to handle well in his pictures.

        What i'm more surprised of, is that modern conan 1D / niikon D100 don't have these kind of functions. Niikon _surely_ knows distortion properties of their lenses and they already distinguish lenses with a microchip.
        • Same goes for colors (just scan a picture of 'test pattern' and make a grid out of it).

          Speaking as someone who worked in the printing industry doing just that sort of work for about 10 years, its is NOWHERE near that easy ;-)
          • Speaking as someone who worked in the printing industry doing just that sort of work for about 10 years, its is NOWHERE near that easy ;-)

            =) Sorry for stepping on your toes. That was pretty badly spelled, I didn't mean 'colors', but geometrical errors. AFAIK if picture is 'in-focus', geometrical corrrection is relatively (there we go again =) easy. Of course one have to decide which mehod to use for interpolating. Lot's of fun, I bet.
  • I opened and closed the garage door while I took the shot above. Really makes it look like there's something gone very wrong with the garage door.

    Looking at the pic [http://www.sentex.net/] [sentex.net] that looks like no under statement. It look it is designed to act as door from star-wars.

    [http://www.sentex.net/] [sentex.net] I must say that looks like the safest prototype for a ejection seat =)

  • by Malc (1751)
    He mentioned that it lacked an infrared filter. I didn't see any pictures though. Can anybody guess if it's sensitive enough to take pictures of people in total darkness?
  • It's going fast. See http://216.239.33.100/search?q=cache:-aZjsTBQ3rYC: www.sentex.net/~mwandel/+&hl=en [216.239.33.100] for a Google cache.
  • "I opened and closed the garage door while I took the shot above. Really makes it look like there's something gone very wrong with the garage door."

    Imagine this thing taking a picture of someone walking from the top down. Now that would be some trick photography.
    • Imagine this thing taking a picture of someone walking from the top down. Now that would be some trick photography.

      You can get this effect [sourceforge.net] with effectv [sourceforge.net] under linux with v4l device. Works great and there are other good effects too.

  • There's some great stuff on that site. I especially like the wasp-sucker, and the marble machines.

    I figure I'm not alone in liking this kind of stuff...

    Infact, the site is already getting slower and slower... Slashdot effect...
  • If this is his camera, how did he take the pictures in the article?

    Seriously, I've often wondered whether there could be a good way of using a lens/projector to blow up the size of a negative/slide on my flatbed scanner. I've been surprised to find that my Epson GT7000 does a better job of getting details from the shadows of slides than a dedicated Canon 2700 slide scanner, but the resolution is of course much lower. Before I borrowed the slide scanner, I tried things like projecting a slide onto the glass plate and scanning that, but although the light rays are focused properly, they are travelling in the wrong direction to be picked up by the CCD. As Matthias mentioned in his article, using a ground glass screen might be an option, but a poor one.

    Would it help to remove the scanner's own lens, and focus the projector somewhere below the glass plate, do you think? (I've already discovered I can improve the detail on scanned slides by tweaking the lens, so removing it completely is not difficult.) But the prism optics in the scanning bar might screw things up a bit... Hmm. Buy a decent slide scanner I think.
  • This guy also built his own network-booster out of an old loudspeaker. Now, that's what I call a genious.
  • So, would an infinite number of simple logical marble machines running for an infinite amount of time eventually produce the collected works of Shakespeare in binary?
  • by Bombcar (16057)
    Do you realize this is from 2000 or earlier? Taking slashdot.org to a new height of old news (but the marble machines are nice)
  • I'm sure we already had this discussion recently. But it is one lego brick, two lego bricks, many lego bricks, several pieces of lego.
    • I don't think that's correct at all.. sort of your mentioning it, I've never heard of the plural of lego being lego and have ofter heard them referred to as legos
    • Technically, there is no plural of "LEGO" (yes, all caps) because LEGO is a trademark name, not a noun. There is no such thing as "a LEGO." The correct term would be "LEGO piece" or "LEGO element" or "LEGO brick." Remember, all trademarks are technically descriptive adjectives when used in product names, not nouns.

      However, outside the world of official trademarks, most people I've ever heard refer to LEGO bricks as simply "Legos" or (when the context is already established) just "bricks" or "pieces". Just like people say they had "Pop-Tarts" for breakfast or "some Oreos" for dessert. Technically, there is no such thing as "a Pop-Tart" or "an Oreo" or "a can of Spam", only "Pop-Tarts toaster pastries" and "Oreo chocolate sandwich cookies" and "SPAM luncheon meat"...but in casual conversation, people usually make the trademark into a noun. Actually, this is something companies have to watch out for, in more "official" media like the press or television, because if they allow their trademark name to be used in too widespread fashion as a generic noun, it will become invalidated, and they will lose it...like Trampoline, Asprin, and many other companies' trademarks have in the past.

      DennyK

      • Maybe it is an American English thing. I come from England, where the term legos sounds completely strange and wrong. We have always referred to several pieces of lego as lego as in I am going to play with my lego or I would like some more lego.

        On the Lego Website [lego.com] they seem very careful to always say LEGO bricks. By the way there is an article about Mitchel Resnick [lego.com] who came up with the design for Mindstorms.

        I think you are correct in that Lego in this context is an adjective rather than a noun. It it is the material that you use to build things, similar to the word wood. You would buy 3 planks of wood rather than 3 woods. Similarly you use several lego pieces, and not several legos.

        Maybe this is another example of Americans destroying the English language... Even if you did want to make it plural, you would spell it legoes or else the o would be pronounced short has in log rather than long as in hole.

  • by bflong (107195) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @06:04PM (#3467295)
    the guts of a cheap scanner, some camera parts, and scrap wood to build a very high quality digitcal camera.

    ...you should see the web server he made with a cheap watch, some cat 3 cable, and toliet paper... oh, nevermind.... it just exploded.
  • Progress? (Score:3, Informative)

    by idonotexist (450877) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @06:06PM (#3467300)
    Well it is now May 5, 2002. Perhaps he purchased a new digital camera since his latest update? The text below is from his site. I think it is safe to assume this project is collecting dust.

    July 2000 Update:
    Well, within a year of building this contraption, I bought a digital camera anyways. My first digital camera was an Olympus D340R, bought it in June 1999. Then, in June 2000, I bought a cannon PowerShot S100 (the Digital Elph). Awesome little camera. Haven't used my scanning contraption much, although it is still capable of producing images sharper than what comes out of a 3.3 megapixel digicam.

  • I can't figure out why the garage would look like that is it is being opened. I would understand why one side would like like a triangle, but both?
  • by Mao (12237)
    I must say his homemade organ tops everything else he shows on his homepage. From the sound samples he included on the page, it seems the organ actually works quite well. I once did a science project in high school on the accoustics of a violin, and found out accoustics is one fuzzy SOB. The tiniest error in craftsmanship can really ruin the sound. This guy is awesome.
  • If I still had the pics to prove it, I would post them somewhere.

    I once had one of those old Logitech hand scanner jobs. So what I did was take the glass top off my stereo cabinet and would use the hand scanner on that to take pictures. It worked surprisingly well, actually. It was only B&W, but the pics were damn near perfect.

    I got my GF at the time to take her pants off and squat over the pane of glass...

    Yes, I'm being serious... :-)
    • I once had one of those old Logitech hand scanner jobs. So what I did was take the glass top off my stereo cabinet and would use the hand scanner on that to take pictures. [..] I got my GF at the time to take her pants off and squat over the pane of glass...

      You almost rose to the rank of a true geek there, but what a wannabe you are! Real geeks don't have girlfriends. I bet you had sex too, right? Begone! And leave us to our regular expressions.
      • You almost rose to the rank of a true geek there, but what a wannabe you are! Real geeks don't have girlfriends. I bet you had sex too, right? Begone! And leave us to our regular expressions.

        Who says geeks can not have girlfriends or sex? Maybe not with supermodels, but none the less. I am a System and Network Admin for an ISP, program, use Linux/FreeBSD/IRIX/other Unix flavors, that in itself would qualify me to be a full fledged geek. But, I have a girlfriend and am sexually active.

        Stereotypes Begone!


        r00tdenied
      • You almost rose to the rank of a true geek there, but what a wannabe you are! Real geeks don't have girlfriends. I bet you had sex too, right? Begone! And leave us to our regular expressions.

        GF is as in GeForce (I/II/III/IV + nVidia + closed source). Although I don't quite understand that squat thing. And glass? I remember seeing a i387 processor clone that had a plasticky window built over core but..

        Oh well, back to coding.
  • 2000x2000 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hatless (8275) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @06:42PM (#3467383)
    One thing the guy didn't mention (unless my eyes are going) was the specs of the scanner. If it's a low-end (say, 300 or 600 dpi) scanner, I'm curious as to whether higher-density scanners have higher-resolution CCDs. It's a terrible point-and shoot, but large-format photographers would be very ineterested in, say, an affordable 4000x4000 or even higher-resolution camera like this, twenty-second exposure times and all. It would be a terrific gadget for landscapes, architectural photos, and still-life studio work. At the current 2000x2000, of course, it's just a curiosity.
  • I thought the best thing about these new fangled scanners was that you could only do black and white face plants with a photocopier - now you can do it in colour at 1200dpi!

  • by Selanit (192811) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @07:02PM (#3467424)
    This guy has waaaay too much time on his hands, but that wasp-sucker actually looks useful. (It's on the same page as the Jenga pistol.) Of course, once you've spent nine hours sucking up a nest of yellowjackets, what do you do with the buggers? I mean, most of those suckers are still alive, and it's not like they can't fly right back out once the suction is turned off. I suppose you'd have to figure out some way of killing the captured bugs en masse -- spray a can of wasp poison in there, submerge the capture box, something like that.

    Of course, you could always package 'em up and mail them to your worst enemy . . .

    As for that marble crossbow, that thing is SCARY! Marbles travelling at 150 miles per hour can do some serious damage!
    • Take off and nuke the site from orbit.

      It's the only way to be sure.

    • and it's not like they can't fly right back out once the suction is turned off.
      from that page:
      A piece of metal or cardboard can be slid in a gap where the hose connects to seal off the box, and the box just sits on top of the intake spout for the blower, so it can easily be removed from the machine for purposes of showing off one's catch.
    • by cheese_wallet (88279) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @08:36PM (#3467674) Journal
      "Of course, once you've spent nine hours sucking up a nest of yellowjackets, what do you do with the buggers?"

      You freeze them overnight. They don't survive. Yellow jackets are a pretty serious problem here in florida, second only to fire ants.

      The bug guys down here vacuum them into a tuperware like container, freeze them overnight, and then sell the carcasses to pharmaceutical companies that extract the toxin from each individual stinger to make an antidotes for people that are unfortunate enough to have disturbed a nest.

      "...submerge the capture box, something like that."

      That actually doesn't work very well. wasps and bees and such don't drown very fast.

      --Scott
      • Agreed . . . as a kid we'd try to drown flies in a Pepsi bottle filled with water.

        We'd wait an hour or so (actually probably only about 15 minutes with the amount of patience we had back then) and then dump them out. They appeared drowned (a-ha foul creature you die!). But alas, in a few minutes they'd just jump to their feet, dry off their wings and fly away . . . bastards.

        What a way to waste time.

      • I usually burn them.
        A bit of kerosene usually does the trick..
    • An Idea, you read about the apple juice maker the guy made? How about using that for the wasps? hahahahahaa. Okay, sick idea :)
    • He has the same amount of time that everyone else has, but look what he does with it. Plenty of people might say, "Gee, wouldn't it be great to have a machine to suck up wasps, or shoot marbles," or whatever, and their friends would reply, "Yeah, give me another beer," and that would be the end of it. This guy's a genius. He dreams up these contraptions, and then he actually builds them. I thought the pipe organ was great. I'm not surprised he works at RIM [rim.net]. They're lucky to have him. Makes me want to run out and buy a BlackBerry, if I could afford one.
  • This guy at the bottom of the article about scanners notes a "streaking artifact" by a reflective spot. My guess is that it's caused by an effect called "blooming".

    When the potential well of a CCD pixel is full (a photon hitting the ccd pixel creates an electron-hole pair, and the potential well at the pixel position captures the electrons and depending on the welldepth and wellsize can handle from a few tens of thousand to a few hundredthousand electrons) the electrons start "bleeding" to neighbouring pixels.

    This bleeding (AFAIK) always occurs in one direction (in this case horizontal) because the potential bariers in one direction are different in size than in the other direction. In one direction a voltage difference is used, in the other direction physical "channelstops" are used, the n-type semiconducter there is replaced by p-type there and the insulator layer is thickened).

    Most modern CCD chips have anti blooming (extra circuitry that gets rid of the excess electrons before they "bleed" away to neighbouring pixels), but I guess that is not needed when you know the maximum amount of light that is going to hit the CCD chip anyway (as is the case in scanners).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Make a scanner out of a digital camera... um... yeah.
  • Yes, but after catching the wasps, how does one dispose of them? Wait for them to expire of natural causes? Far too time consuming. Perhaps he can build an add on to the wasp-vac that freezes them, or encases them in goo, or maybe generates an electrical charge with which to fry them. Perhaps the encasement unit can be refashioned to be disposable, and then a catapult like device can be erected to launch the entombed wasps into the neighbors yard. Maybe there is some member of the Myrmecophagidae family, like the echidna, that can be built into the unit to eat the wasps.
  • Go check out the page on service tunnels. It's interesting he got the idea from lock picking in Feynman's book (which of course we've all read).

    When I worked at CERN last summer, discovering the tunnels reminded me of NetHack; in all buildings the floors were numbered, but at some points you could descend the same staircases well below one (where they used certain letters instead). There wasn't any of that fun lock-picking: it's a scientific research facility and nothing is secret. In addition to heat pipes and fat pipes, you could see some 30kV cables going to the accelerators, and vacuum pipes (for protons etc) coming out. Then sometimes there was water leaking on top of them, it made you feel really safe. (Often the radiation safety seemed so bad that all the water there must have been heavy water. You know, the kind which weighs 2kg for every kg.)

    Guess I was scared of a power outage, because at some places you had a kilometre of the shoulder-wide tunnel without any exits. Interesting how a kilometre of walking is nothing on the ground, but when the tunnel's so narrow you have to tilt sideways to get through, it feels a lot longer.

    About the lock-picking - there were some 'forbidden' doors but you really didn't want to go there. That would be the way to the accelerator, or another highly radiative facility.

    By the way, because of how CERN is situated, you could go from Switzerland to France via the tunnels. Which was cool because the French customs officers were being such jerks.

  • by FFFish (7567) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @08:19PM (#3467631) Homepage
    ...are what make the Internet great. Man, I love reading this sort of thing. Makes me wish I were crazy...
  • This, as we all know, is the mark of a rtue geek:

    "...but going through my collection of miscellaneous gears..."
  • by linuxbert (78156) on Sunday May 05, 2002 @09:20PM (#3467761) Homepage Journal
    it was canadian..
    just goes to show what can be accomplished when we have snow for so long..

    so yep.. this guy did have alot of free time
  • we slashdotted his brother's geocities page. and here I thought none of us read the damn articles...
  • I know a guy who sells very-high-end digicams.

    The "large-format" camera is a modular system. There is a camera body which holds everything together, a lens (you can figure that one out for yourself) and a back. The back holds the film, or whatever, at a certain spot. The lens focuses the image on the plane where the back is holding the film, and *click*, it exposes the film.

    This was designed so the photographer could have a Poloroid back for instant previews, one back with 100 ASA film for slow exposures and so on. With the advent of digital systems, the large format system was a goldmine because the shutter, body and lens were already there. All that had to be developed was the back.

    There were (and still are) two types of backs. One has a HUGE ccd there, and is designed for moving subjects. They use low quality CCDs (because the're so big) and they were very expensive.

    The other type was much cheaper, and worked like this guy's gadget, by moving a 1 column CCD across the focal plane. One only had to match the resolution in the short axis with a CCD, and then move the CCD with a servo. It would (obviously) only work with a still scene.
  • The scanner seemed likea waste of time, but he's a real craftsman with those marble machines. They look pretty classy made out of wood, and with the bells and teeters and such I'll bet it's a blast to watch them work.

    Also glad I found his site and saw links to rolling ball clocks. Used to have one of those as a kid... Now I can have one on my desk annoying co-workers at 12:59:59. Yay! Lunch is over, everybody back to work (kaa-shunk-shunk-shunk!)

  • Hey,

    Just let me demonstrate my "magic black box" digital camera made out of a calculator and a coffee maker...it'll record 200 hours of video at the highest quality...and if you invest only $6 million....But just don't ask for the schematics!

  • i assume he didn't have a digital camera (to be so desperate to build one out of chumps of wood and a scanner) and his scanner was gone for good, so how he took the pictures to upload to his site ? :)
  • Cool hack, but it would be tied to the computer. Plus, the cathode lamps in scanners make the power supplies ungainly. You could buy a little webcam for much less than $100, and get much better shots from it. Awesome idea, well implemented, but not of any real use.


  • How the heck did he take the pictures for the website?! The camera wasn't done yet....

  • If the CCD he was using was so sensitive to IR, I wonder if he could have gotten anything out of it if he'd taken a picture at night. Maybe not enough light.
  • Waitaminit here. What I want to know is...

    First, he says he doesn't have a digicam. Then he goes and trashes his scanner. So how in the world did he get the pictures of the contraption on the website???
  • The Viking spacecraft which made the first successful landings on Mars in 1976, took pictures of the surroundings using scanning cameras that where remarkably similar to this.

    See reference [nasa.gov]

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