Category Archives: Photo DIY projects

Another category that I hope to add to occasionally, normally the projects will only require hand tools.

Old Tessar

Cheap LED lightsource

Found some cheap LED work-lights (39 SEK about £3.50 each) and mini tripods (10 SEK about £0.90 each) that with a little work were turned into light sources suitable for table-top and macro photography, all that was required were a couple of pieces of aluminium (25x13x9mm) that were drilled and countersunk for two screws and a central hole that was drilled and threaded 1/4″ Whitworth, these were then glued and screwed with small self-tapping screws onto the housing of the work-lights, I would have preferred to have them mounted internally but there was too little space between the battery compartment and the outer housing.

 

Tripod fitting

Close-up of the tripod fitting.

Mounted work-light.

Mounted work-light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch close-up

First close-up using two work-lights as primary light source.

This was the first test image using the LED light sources, used cloudy setting for WB, good enough for a first try, could have used custom WB to improve on this.

Flash diffuser

I recently found the need for a simple flash diffuser (a macro project) and started looking around for suitable DIY material, as part of another project ( XA repair) I had bought some 35mm film (Fujifilm Superia), the plastic canister that the film rolls are packed in looked promising so I began by cutting the end off of the canister, the HDPE material that the canister is made of is very tough so I used a fine toothed saw to cut it off, you may be able to use a knife but it will have to be really sharp (don’t cut yourself!) once the end was removed it is just a matter of slitting it from end to end, this is easily done with scissors, and that’s it, clip it onto your built in flash and you are ready. The first two images below show tests shot taken with and without the diffuser in place, there is a slight difference in colour temperature, a slightly warmer tone (better skin tones?) but this can easily be adjusted in Darktable or in the camera’s WB settings, some colours are actually closer to reality, the green of the film canister is a good example, the flash image without diffuser is far too saturated, the diffusion is quite subtle, there is a slight bounce flash effect so shadows are softened and for example highlights on the chrome frame of the Newtons cradle are less conspicuous. It worked really well on the macro images I took, I should add that the ambient light source for the test images was fluorescent tube so not the best combination, not bad for something made out of scrap!

Without diffuser

Without diffuser

With diffuser

With diffuser

Diffuser front

Diffuser front

 

Diffuser rear

Diffuser rear

 

 

 

Olympus XA light-trap repair

Before going digital around 2002 I used Olympus cameras (OM1, OM1n and XA) the SLR’s were sold but I decided to keep the XA, unfortunately when I tried to use the camera a few years later it was clear when opening the camera that the light-traps were in bad condition, after a film was exposed and printed it was clear that the problem was not only cosmetic, there were visible streaks and fogging on the film, at the time I thought that this could be remedied, but I put the camera away and more or less forgot about it. Early this year while browsing through Flickr I found that there was quite a following for this old classic camera, I therefore decided to make a repair to the seals and breathe life into the camera again, but first of all I had to check that it was in working order, fortunately I had removed the batteries before putting the camera away, after buying and installing two new LR44 batteries I could see that the electronic shutter and exposure meter were in working order so I decided to go ahead.

The biggest problem was sourcing a suitable material for the seals, the old ones had been made of some very thin self-adhesive foam that had perished , so all that was left was a powdery or sticky residue, I could find nothing thin enough for this project, then I stumbled upon a suitable material at home! This was a sheet of a matt black foam material that had been used as part of the packaging of a mini electric screwdriver, it was about 1mm thick, slightly too thick, but I found that if I cut a strip and used a rolling pin from the kitchen it was compressed to a stable thickness of about 0.5mm which looked suitable. OK now we have the material, but the most time consuming part was removing the old light traps and residue, before starting work on this I put a piece of tissue over the rear lens to protect it from the the material that was to be removed, I also removed the film pressure plate from the backplate to aid the material removal/installation. I tried several different tools but in the end I found that the most suitable tool was a toothpick that was cut off with a sharp knife to form a chisel, with this it was very easy to get under the sticky surface and lift it from the back-plate of the camera without damaging the internal painted surface, do not use metallic tools for this, it is extremely easy to scratch the paint! The only part were I could not use this tool was the latch section of the backplate, here I had to use the pointed end of the toothpick due to lack of room for the whole width (quite fiddly).

Once the actual physical material was removed it was necessary to clean the surfaces with a solvent, or in my case two, I found that the wife’s acetone free nail polish remover worked but seemed to spread out the sticky residue, I therefore used denatured ethanol for the final cleaning, all cleaning was done by applying the solvent to the head of a cotton bud, these were the solvents I had available, I have not tried it but I would guess that Isopropyl alcohol would be suitable as well, do not use pure acetone, I am almost certain it will remove the paint from the backplate!

The next job was to cut strips of the foam material, top and bottom strips are approximately 2.5 to 3mm wide, the large piece closet to the hinge is 11mm wide and a very thin strip for the groove in the latching section is about 1.5mm wide, I tried using scissors but the result was not good so I used a modelling knife instead, cut using a ruler or similar straight-edge to get a clean straight cut against a good underlay. All that was now left was to cut the strips to suitable lengths and glue them into place, for this I used a small tube of contact adhesive, applying first a layer to the camera back and then to the strips of foam material, apply a very thin film of adhesive, I found that the easiest method for doing this was to squeeze out a blob of the adhesive onto a piece of paper and then use a small piece of card (cut to the right width) as an applicator, normally one would wait a few minutes before positioning the material but the film of adhesive is so thin that it dries almost immediately, do not rush this stage, glue only one section at a time , start applying the material from one end and lay down carefully, contact adhesive adheres directly so you will have no second chance and no possibility of adjustment, once in place you can trim any excess material if the strip was too long, any adhesive that is visible beside the strip can be removed by very carefully rubbing with the top of an index finger, be extremely careful not to damage the foam strip when doing this, it is easily damaged!

Final job, make sure the camera is free from rest products from the removal and glueing process, then replace film pressure plate, if all is correct the back should snap closed on its latch without using pressure and if you check very carefully when closing there should be no deformation of the back, open and close several times and you should see marks left in the material from the opposing edge in the camera. If all is well remove the tissue protecting the rear lens and load a film, good shooting!

Note: Test image below is taken direct from a negative scan using my Minolta Dimage Scan Dual III film scanner, image has not been modified.

Foam before rolling to half the thickness

Foam before rolling to half the thickness

Perished light-traps

Perished light-traps

New light-traps, note marking from opposing edge

New light-traps, note marking from opposing edge

 

First test image from camera after light-trap repair

First test image from camera after light-trap repair

 

 

 

A DIY focus rail for focus stacking.

The following description of my DIY focus rail is meant to be a general guide for using draw runners as a cheap linear bearing construction component, the idea is not my own it was given to me by my brother (who also has a background in mechanical engineering),
I had problems sourcing units of the right size, normally the units used for kitchen draws and the like are far too large, but at a local DIY supermarket I found some small units, these are made by a German company called STABILIT® part nr. 474.02.013, length is 182mm (closed) these are made from steel (no plastic parts) and are really smooth, with no noticeable play in vertical or horizontal directions , they are composed of two sets of six steel balls and are listed as having a maximum working load of 10kg, more than enough for most camera/lens combinations.
I decided to keep the construction as low-tech as possible, partly from the point of view of price but also so that others may repeat or at least use the basic idea in their own constructions.
The only parts I needed to buy were the tape measure, M10 threaded rod, bearing and the runners, everything else was made from what I had available.
The side plates, end plates and runner plates are all made from 12mm film faced plywood, you should be able to find this material at your local well-stocked DIY store, you won’t need much, so you should be able to find off-cuts if you are lucky, MDF could also be used, but would need to be of a dimension that allows screwing into cut surfaces, I pre-drilled all screw holes with a drill which had the core diameter of the screws used, this was to prevent splitting in this quite thin material.
Although there are several parts that I have turned on a lathe or milled it would be feasible to construct the unit using hand tools only, an electric drill(with stand if possible) and a jigsaw would suffice, also the “nut” that I turned from POM plastic could have been rectangular in shape, the difference would be mainly cosmetic, the unit should work just as well if care is taken with precision.
The following dimensions are for the unit I built and could easily be modified for other rails/runners:
Length: 260mm
Width: 104mm
Height: 58mm
Total movement: 164mm
The unit consist of the following parts:
Two side plates, no machining necessary.
Two end plates, plate at winding handle end is countersunk to retain a cheap Chinese 6000 2RS bearing (held in place by a turned metal ring, again this could just as easily have been a rectangular piece of sheet metal). The plate at the opposite end has a cut-out to allow movement of the carriage, this could possibly be replaced by two bars (one top, one bottom), untried, this could cause stability problems (less stiff).

Two carriage plates, on my construction these have been recessed to improve stability, but this is not absolutely necessary, just make sure that any screws that are used for attaching the runners are a tight fit.
A tripod attachment plate, made from 4mm steel plate, thickness is dimensioned to allow for a 1/4” Whitworth thread direct in the plate, this could be made from other material, just keep in mind that you will then have to find another manner of fixing a stable threaded section (insert?), I drilled some large holes in the plate to save weight, these holes have no other function and could be left out if required,

A camera fixing plate, made from 3mm steel plate, again this is not critical and could be made from other materials, the most important thing to remember here is that it is necessary to have risers of some kind ( in my construction 10mm aluminium) so that the carriage movement is raised above the side plates, I had to do some machining to the knob that I made with the 1/4”Whitworth thread for camera attachment, but this could just as easily have used a plastic gear wheel with a screw glued in position or something similar, you will have to use your own inventiveness here! To finish off the fixing plate a piece of 2mm black rubber sheeting  was glued in place with contact adhesive.

The threaded rod (M10) needs no machining , just cutting to length and deburring, it is held in place through the bearing by two low-profile M10 nuts, one on each side, Loctite was used to secure the locking.

The plastic nut, (length 37mm, outside diameter 40mm threaded internally M10), turned from POM plastic, nylon or similar plastics could be used, this part could easily be made from rectangular material and drilled, if so make sure that the drilling is done on a pillar drill, it is extremely important that the hole for the M10 thread is exactly in the middle! The nut has two 5mm pins opposite each other extending from its middle line, these are inserted into 5mm holes drilled into the carriage plates, this transfers the nuts movement to the carriage, because the threaded rod is only supported by the 6000 2RS bearing and the plastic nut the connection is semi-floating, allowing the construction to take out any out-of-trueness in the moving parts, this works really well, and movement is exceptionally smooth, the length of threading in the nut helps to remove any play between the nut and rod,

A winding handle with a small knob was also turned from POM plastic, this could be replaced by a radio knob or similar, inventiveness again!

I finally added a tape measure to the top edge of the right hand side plate and a pointer to the camera attachment plate, this aids in moving the carriage in set increments, this can of course be done using the winding handle (1,5mm per revolution) but it is easy to lose count!

The total cost was about £10 for parts, you will have to be inventive if you wish to make a unit using this method but even if you had to buy everything you should be able to keep the price to an acceptable level, although of course sourcing things like the plastic could be a problem, so lateral thinking will be required!

Underside view showing tripod attachment plate.

Underside view showing tripod attachment plate.

Topside view showing camera fixing plate and machined knob

Topside view showing camera fixing plate and machined knob.

Nut and thread assembly, camera attached.

Nut and thread assembly, camera attached.

 

Side view, camera and macro lens attached, moving section protruding through forward end plate.

Side view, camera and macro lens attached, moving section protruding through forward end plate.

 

Front view, runners clearly visible.

Front view, runners clearly visible.

Close-up, tape measure and pointer.

Close-up, tape measure and pointer.

 

 

And finally, the first result from a 10 image stack using the focus rail.

Ten image stack using the the DIY focus rail.

Ten image stack using the the DIY focus rail.

 

 

Tethered remote control.

 

This post is a quick guide to how I used an old netbook and my Samsung Chromebook to remote control my Canon EOS 600D.
The netbook (A Packard Bell PVA80) was surplus after my wife bought a “proper” laptop, the battery was bad and Windows 7 starter edition crawled on this machine, I bought a cheap battery (had double the capacity of the old one) and was then on my way, first thing was to format the hard drive and install Xubuntu (a “lightweight” Ubuntu distro) this installed with no problems, all hardware was discovered, next job was to install tethering software, Linux has several programs that can do this, I decided to try one called Entangle which has the advantage that it is fairly lightweight and is really only for tethering, no editing or photomanager included, (wanted to keep it clean and simple), it also has support for almost any DSLR that allows tethering, the final thing to install on the netbook was a VNC server, again there are several of these for Linux, I chose Vino, this server is started from the command line, but there is a GUI for configuration, once set up there is no need to have a GUI running especially on such a lightweight machine. Now we move to the Chromebook, I installed VNC Viewer from Google Chrome store again no problems very easy to set up, once I had the IP address of the netbook it was just a matter of clicking on connect, and then allowing the connection on the netbook (the connection can be password protected if required).
So to simplify.
1. Start netbook.
2. Start Vino-server and then Entangle.
3. Connect USB cable to netbook and camera, turn on camera then click on connect button in Entangle.
4. Start VNC Viewer on Chromebook, input IP address of netbook, click on connect, allow connection on netbook, ready to start using the remote control!

Entangle allows you to see Live view in real-time, also allows you to change settings of your camera, ISO, aperture, white balance, shutter speed etc. when you are ready click on the icon for capture and a shot will be taken, now because you have the netbooks desktop showing on the Chromebook you can do all this without touching the camera or netbook, remotely in my case is within the limits of the home WiFi network, but theoretically you could do this using an ad-hoc network out in the field without a router, or even via the Internet, it is all just a matter of configuration and the tools you use. My idea at the moment is to set the camera and netbook up in our free standing conservatory, with the camera aimed at a birdfeeder in a small tree outside, then sit indoors (in the warm!) and take shots from there, the range is no problem and with live view I can actually see what I am taking a shot of and the result, should add that it is also configurable where the captures are stored, I have chosen to have them stored directly on the Netbooks hard drive.

Note! All the above could just as easily be done on Windows if you have the right software,

If you are wondering, the tripod tray is also a DIY project made of scrap material, somewhat over-engineered perhaps, therefore no description of how it was made, you will find simple DIY versions on the Internet or you can buy ready made, it is not absolutely necessary for this project but it does make the setup more portable and easy to handle and can also double as a macro stand/support/table whatever you like to call it!

Following images show the setup.

DIY tray attached to leg of Manfrotto tripod

DIY tray attached to leg of Manfrotto tripod.

Side by side to show remote viewing taking place, Netbook to the left, Chromebook on the right.

Side by side to show remote viewing taking place, Netbook to the left, Chromebook on the right.

Netbook and Canon EOS600D Liveview tethered using USB and  Entangle software.

Netbook and Canon EOS600D Liveview tethered using USB and Entangle software.