Camera remote shutter release - breakthrough for Canon

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Camera remote shutter release - breakthrough for Canon

Postby Bruce » Tue Sep 30, 2008 11:02 pm

One topic that comes up from time to time is what camera to use for wing mounted photos. A wide angle lens, and ability to disable auto power off are 2 of the 3 main requirements, but the 3rd and tricky one is how to remotely trigger the shutter. Very few point and shoots have IR remotes and none that I know of have an electronic/plunger remote. I've seen all sorts of remotely actuated contraptions including stuffing the camera and a solenoid inside a "modified" shampoo bottle. Personally, I've been using a Canon S70 with an IR remote. The remote does work, but it's not reliable and is a pain in the butt to get exactly the shot you want. More often than not the shot is like this

Well, I've come across an absolutely brilliant piece of firmware that can be loaded into a whole bunch of Canon point and shoots. It's called CHDK, and has been written by some very smart camera enthusiasts. Basically, it's loaded (via the SD card) as a firmware upgrade, but only resides in RAM so turning the camera off erases it and returns the camera back to Factory firmware. What this upgrade does is provide access to the camera's operating system and to all the camera hardware. It comes with a menu system that provides access a number of advanced features and additional icons (such as a battery indicator - foolishly left off from most Canon point and shoots). Plus, it allows scripts to be written in Basic to control the camera just about however you want. The best thing is that it also gives you access to the USB port. By simply monitoring the power state of the USB port (not the data pins) you can trigger the shutter every time 5 volts is applied to the USB port. Bloody brilliant :P

You can learn a whole lot more from their expansive web site here: You'll see a list of supported cameras in the right panel. You'll also see that people have written scripts to perform bracketing, intervalometers, lightening strike detection, all sorts!

Unfortunately this firmware upgrade does not cover the S70 (it's getting pretty old these days) but does cover the SD800, which I (well the wife :? ) also have. This also has a wide angle lens and auto power off disable.

In just an hour or two I had the firmware loaded, a simple script written and a USB cable rewired to 3 AAA batteries (4.5 volts) and a switch. A push of the button and sure enough the camera took a photo. WOOHOO!.

So, I was just about to start building a long USB cable to stretch from my control bar to the wing tip, when I got thinking about a wireless link. Looking through the forum at CHDK I saw that some other people had tried this using a variety of things from pet electric-shockers, rc toys, and wireless door bells. The last one seemed a good possibilty and I rushed out to Home Depot and snapped up a $20 wireless door bell. With very little effort I soon got a 4.5v pulse from the doorbell end of things.

So here's some photo's of the setup. Cost - about $25.

The door bell transmitter and receiver

The guts of the receiver

The camera setup - same mount but replaced my S70 with the SD800

The receiver velcro'ed to the leading edge near the camera mount

And of course the transmitter switch velcro'ed to the downtube, on a retractable leash so I can hold it when need be.

and the final result 8-)

This setup, particularly with the scripting ability, opens up new possibilities. For instance, with one push of the button you could have the camera take 10 photos so that you can get that perfectly timed photo of a wingover or loop ;).

Even if you have no intention of setting up a wing mount camera, it's well worth checking out the CHDK firmware as it adds a bunch of advanced features to your humble point and shoot - as long as it's a Canon!

Have fun,

Joe Jackson
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Re: Camera remote shutter release - breakthrough for Canon

Postby Joe Jackson » Wed Oct 01, 2008 8:58 am

Nice post Bruce, thanks for the info. Been messing with the issue a bit, but not very actively, great to see that procrastination once again pays off!
(Loved the 1st pic of you w the remote)


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A Solution for Dummies

Postby remmoore » Wed Oct 01, 2008 9:12 am

This is more of an indirect reply to Bruce's terrific solution. I was looking at his first shot - holding the infrared, trying to point it at the camera at just the right moment, while navigating through who-knows-what kind of air.

My solution was to build a tiny mount for the infrared remote. It snuggles into the corner bracket hardware so that it always is pointing at the camera. I don't even have to think about it because it is designed to fit in only one location/direction.

I'm sure my camera is inferior in several ways - I can't program it like Bruce's, and it will shut down after 15 min. of inactivity, for example. If, however, you like your current system, except for having to point the remote, you might consider mounting it.


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Re: Camera remote shutter release - breakthrough for Canon

Postby WMichelsen » Wed Jan 05, 2011 10:02 pm

Inspired by Bruce's success, I embarked on this same project. Bruce's advice certainly streamlined the process. I'm sure he spent many many hours figuring it all out, and his work saved me gobs of research and experimentation.

I included a few enhancements of my own:
- Smaller case than the original doorbell package.
- USB-A female jack so I could use standard USB to mini-USB cables
- mini phone jack on the remote so I could use my old finger ptt switch

First... Get camera running with CHDK and a script to trigger off the USB port. This was the first big step. If you can't get CHDK running, the rest of the project is pointless.
Bruce pointed me to the CHDK web resources and gave me his scripts. Knowing it could be done, it still seemed to take a while to sift through the web for the right stuff. Verification is good. Bruce brought over his remote system, and after some config settings, we confirmed my camera & CHDK with his rig. I'd be happy to do the same, if you are tinkering with this.

Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos during the process. All I really have is the final result (below), and the parts list. The most important thing in this is to remember where the speaker wires and power wires were when you unsolder them from the doorbell PCB. The USB output and 10K resister are in parallel acting as the old speaker. Also, replacing the 2-C batts (3V) with 3-AAA (4.5V) doesn't seem to hurt anything and comes closer to the target 5V needed for the USB output.

Wireless Doorbell (Lowes $15)
Serpac M6 case (Frys $9)
3xAAA battery holder (Radio Shack $1.50)
10K resistor (HSC $0.03)
SPST toggle switch (HSC $1.25)
USB-A jack (HSC $0.95)

Finger Switch Remote
Micro-switch (Jameco Electronics $0.95)
Velcro Tie (Junk Drawer $0)
Mini-stereo cable (Fry's $3)
Mini-stereo jack (HSC $0.45)
5-Minute Epoxy (Junk Drawer $0)
(Alternately, just buy a replacement PTT finger switch from

Finished Remote Camera Rig

Original Wireless Doorbell and Project Box

Receiver Guts

Trigger w/jack

Jack connection

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Re: Camera remote shutter release - breakthrough for Canon

Postby diev » Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:08 pm

Nice Wayne, much cleaner than mine....
details of mine here....

and a video of it here...


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Re: Camera remote shutter release - breakthrough for Canon

Postby Ryan » Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:14 pm

Nice Wayne. Very clean. The one thing I wish I'd done differently with mine is skipped the m/f usb plug. Seems like I have to find a better way to keep it from coming loose. I wish I had hardwired it. Kind a non-issue now since my G9 allowed some condensation into the lens which immediately fostered a little fungus growth (not uncommon I hear) right in the middle of the lens. It has rendered it next to useless.
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3rd party Firmware for shooting video for Canon DSLR's

Postby Eric_F » Mon Jan 10, 2011 5:21 pm

Thought this pertains a bit to this thread. At least as it relates to a firmware for a few Canon Digital Camera's. Magic Lantern's firmware makes significant improvements to either of these DSLR's ability to shoot HD video.

Specifically either the less expensive Canon EOS 55D /Rebel T2i ($600.00-$800.00) or the more expensive Canon 5D MKII ($2500.00).

Neither of these camera's are great choices for mounting on your wing like Bruce, Wayne or Diev are referring too doing but they are definitely preferred for shooting non glider mounted video because of the quality of the footage, the ability to use interchangeable lens, and being able to have a shallower field of view (narrower range of focus).

The Software/Firmware specifics can be found here:

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Re: Camera remote shutter release - breakthrough for Canon

Postby flying1leap » Tue Jan 11, 2011 5:35 am

Ok, so I have 2 comments.
First, how about a show and tell of BOTH the wing mounted system, and the system Eric describes? I'd be interested in BOTH! Though I think that they should be done on different nights.
Second, seems that IF you do build the wing mounted system, you might consider a different camera, as the one Bruce describes is only 7.1 MP. A quick search, and I found the PowerShot SD1400IS which has a MSRP of $229.99, and has a 14.5 MP image, and a lens that is equivalent to 28 -112mm. What would be the BEST camera for this application? Thanks!

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Keep em Safe

Mark Mulholland

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Re: Camera remote shutter release - breakthrough for Canon

Postby Ryan » Tue Jan 11, 2011 7:57 pm

The list of supported cameras is here They're all pretty nice cameras. I will probably get a G12 eventually now that my G9 crapped out. A little larger, but not noticeable on the wing and it has a viewfinder and lots of other manual features that make it a good all around camera. You get what you pay for.
Love the lift you're with!

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Re: Camera remote shutter release - breakthrough for Canon

Postby WMichelsen » Wed Jan 12, 2011 10:15 am

The 3 big considerations for a camera used to be (and still are):
- wide angle (wider than 28mm equivalent)
- remote trigger
- doesn't turn itself off or readjust after some time period

Now CHDK and these remote doorbell rigs vastly expands the camera selections. And, the lighter they are, the farther out on the wing they can be. So, 28mm equivalent lens is OK.

Anyway, I'll bring my remote rig to the next meeting for anyone who is interested. (Good idea, Mark)

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