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Quick weatherproof camera box.

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Offline ahull

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Re: Quick weatherproof camera box.
« Reply #40 on: 22 / August / 2013, 15:43:25 »
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Slightly off topic perhaps, but I just spotted another little item that might be worth considering if you are looking to power a camera for relatively long periods.

These little gadgets lets you use up to four 18650 LiPo batteries (so this would be perfect if you have a few recovered from old laptop packs). In this case you would get a genuine 10,000 mAh (or whatever your 18650s are rated at).

Throw in a buck regulator or do a little surgery to get 3.7V and you ready to roll for at least 10 times as long as the standard Canon battery.

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Offline bwh13

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Re: Quick weatherproof camera box.
« Reply #41 on: 23 / August / 2013, 01:36:21 »
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That obvious round silver pad between the mini USB connector and the LED looks a likely candidate.
Terrific annotations: super instructional.  Maybe obvious to you, but I just learned how to read circuit diagrams, so I'm going to take your word on it.  I bet I could glob some solder on that pad, though!

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Bear in mind that this circuit is always energised....
Certainly!  I've got a healthy dose of respect for electricity.  I've not run afoul a LiPo yet, but I did short a 160uF flash bulb capacitor on accident once: BANG!

my LDO: I will certainly post as it comes along.  I've got a package arriving tomorrow with some supplies.  Mostly 0.1" connectors/housings, but I've also got a couple of pre-made step up / step down boosters very similar to the ones you are using.  I got these from Pololu.  They are orders of magnitude more sveldt looking than my breadboard project, but if I had ordered these straightaway, I wouldn't know how to read circuit diagrams, eh?  I'll test these and report back too.

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I am going to see how long it takes to drain the battery.
I did a similar thing here, which I bet you saw.  I've got a couple of more graphs to add to this thread: I ran the tests at 1 hour intervals with a 1300mAh battery.  The long and short is that I got about a day's worth of photos with a 6 hour 'night-time' mode.  I'd be interested to see how your panel works out in your tests.

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Slightly off topic perhaps...
Not off topic for me at all!  I've been living this stuff for the past month thinking that there must be someone that has done this already.  Thanks for sharing it.

I really like the idea of a solar rig, but a really big battery might have to be the way to go.  Our initial plans were to catch a couple of critical weeks when the 'ice-off' season happens on a lake.  Maybe solar is over-engineered, when all we really need is an 18Ah battery.  Of course portable is nice, because the lakes we are interested in are 20 miles in the backcountry and everything goes in on our backs!!

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Offline ahull

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Re: Quick weatherproof camera box.
« Reply #42 on: 23 / August / 2013, 13:13:39 »
Quote from: bwh13
I really like the idea of a solar rig, but a really big battery might have to be the way to go.  Our initial plans were to catch a couple of critical weeks when the 'ice-off' season happens on a lake.  Maybe solar is over-engineered, when all we really need is an 18Ah battery.  Of course portable is nice, because the lakes we are interested in are 20 miles in the backcountry and everything goes in on our backs!!

The solar rig has a few good things going for it (assuming I can make it work). It does have its obvious limitations, for example that little solar panel will take three good days of sunshine to fully charge the battery, so our camera has to be fairly energy efficient when it does wake up, otherwise it is still going to eat juice faster then we can recharge.

For some situations, the only solution is a large battery, or perhaps even a large battery and a large solar panel. If you intend to shoot long time lapses in cold conditions, large batteries may be the only solution, for two reasons.

First if you shoot more than perhaps one frame per minute or so, then I suspect you would drain the small solar battery faster than it could charge. Even if we do switch off between shots, and use all the tricks we can to keep power usage to a minimum, the solar advantage for a single solar pack in these circumstances may be negligible. You could, of course take several and have the backup devices charging while you shoot.

I don't yet have any details of how well the unmodified solar charger performs, (last nights attempt to check this was a washout, as I managed to unplug the camera by mistake), but if we assume it is no better then the stock battery, then using waterwings figures here as a yardstick I would expect you to need two for a full 24 hours shooting. If it takes 3 days worth of daylight to fully charge them in good sunlight. I figure you would therefore need 6 more of them on charge to keep this shooting rate up. On the other hand, if the battery capacity is as stated,(2600mAh) it should last more than  ...three times... (EDIT: the NB-5L is rated at 1120 mAh, so make that twice) as long as the stock battery, so you might only need a couple more to keep things going continuously. Since they are "as cheap as chips", it would probably be worth the risk.

The second problem is that LiPo batteries are not particularly efficient in very cold conditions, so under these circumstances we either need to keep the battery warm (lots of insulation, and perhaps gentle heating if things get really cold), or we need a bigger battery.  I'm not sure if this applies where you are going, that would obviously depend on how cold things get, I presume the location is quite high up, or somewhere pretty far north, if it is just starting to defrost at this time of the year, assuming we are talking about summer in the northern hemisphere.

LiPo batteries
do give you more energy density by weight than even the best lead acid ones (by a factor of  4 or more), but they tend to be more expensive. Lead acid batteries although heavier tolerate the cold slightly better within limits. I suspect a lead acid motorcycle battery and buck regulator may be the way to go, if you are leaving things unattended for long periods.

If you are a long way off grid, recharging a lead acid battery becomes a problem. You either need to take enough battery power to last the journey, or carry a large solar panel, or use some other sort of generator.

If you look at some of the stuff Lapser has been doing, he too has shot some pretty impressive stuff in remote locations.  I think he was using a motor cycle battery and a buck regulator, send him a PM and he might be able to give some advice.

I hope you will take the time to share your results with us.  :D
« Last Edit: 26 / August / 2013, 15:54:12 by ahull »

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Offline ahull

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Re: Quick weatherproof camera box.
« Reply #43 on: 24 / August / 2013, 09:37:21 »
I completed a test of the Solar Charger and Ixus 850IS connected to the 5V output on the charger via  a buck regulator using the CHDK battery miser script.

I enabled all of the power saving options in the script, and left it to run overnight.

The result is not exactly impressive, in fact it is slightly odd as the output voltage has drifted up from its initial 3.7V,  but 8 hrs  is in the range of what I expected based on the look of the battery.

Here is the result...

shot:475 07:54 4.16V

This suggests that the buck regulator was not  the limiting factor here, as the voltage was still sitting steady at 4.16V just before we shut down. It could however be the case that the buck regulator allowed the voltage to drift too high, and thus the camera shut itself down. I may check for this by running the test again. 

Next I need to run the same test with the stock NB-5L Canon battery, and also run the test with the camera connected directly to the 3.7V of the LiPo.

I also gave some consideration to connecting up the internal 3.7V and decided to go for the kind of plugs favoured by RC enthusiasts, to this end I ordered a bunch of XT60 battery connectors. They look robust, and a convenient size to hide in the case without spoiling the look of the thing.
« Last Edit: 25 / August / 2013, 06:46:50 by ahull »


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Offline ahull

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Re: Quick weatherproof camera box.
« Reply #44 on: 25 / August / 2013, 08:44:50 »
Well that was interesting.

The stock battery (little used, so probably close to its full capacity) produced the following result.

shot:601 10:00 3.24V

Canon rates this NB-5L battery as 1120 mAh, roughly half the stated capacity of the solar charger, so either the LiPo in the solar charger is actually about 1000 mAh, or the buck regulator is having a major impact on the results.   

If I can manage 8 Hrs life from a single charge, for one of these little chargers, using all of the CHDK battery saving tricks, that is still quite impressive, but lets see if I can do better.

Given that the cheapest genuine Canon NB-5L is at least 5 times the cost of the solar charger (yes, I know you can get NB-5L clones for pennies, but they too will have a random capacity), I can't say I am that surprised by the result,  however running the camera directly from the LiPo should be interesting. My money is on the solar panel LiPo capacity being somewhat over sold.   

EDIT: I decided to run the solar charger test again (still using the  USB output through a buck regulator), in case by some chance the charger was not fully charged. I noticed that the 5V output seems to be permanently energised, and therefore the charger will presumably slowly discharge when not in use. This time I am running the test straight after fully charging the device overnight, I have also placed the charger in direct sunlight. I doubt that the results will be much better, but we shall see.

EDIT2: Looks like between 7:30 and 8 hrs is the best we can expect for the unmodified solar charger. The 2nd test run came in worse than the first...  shot:448 07:27 4.16V.. Lets hope tapping directly in to the LiPo gives slightly better results.

I will also charge up the non solar "PowerBank 5000" and test it next. Lets see if it manages a respectable showing, it theoretically should beat the stock battery by about 4 times (5000mAh vs 1120mAh), not allowing for losses in the buck regulator and so forth, that would equate to about 40 hrs of life, in this slightly unscientific test. 

EDIT: In case you were wondering how I was going to produce a suitable board to use the Mosfets I mentioned previously, well naturally I am going to cheat and use one of these.
« Last Edit: 25 / August / 2013, 18:29:20 by ahull »

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Offline bwh13

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Re: Quick weatherproof camera box.
« Reply #45 on: 26 / August / 2013, 02:02:32 »
Great testing!  The results are somewhat discouraging on a couple of levels, but it is much better to know rather than to hope that it works without conducting a fair assessment.

With regards to the solar / buck regulator test: do you think the poorer performance was related to the battery quality or the buck regulator?  You recorded a 4.16 voltage, and that's still enough to power the camera.  What's the dropout voltage on that unit?  Was it not letting the battery get drained beyond that?

With regards to the real Canon battery:  you get what you pay for it seems.  Much better return and the battery was drained down to similar levels that I saw when I tested the Ultimate Intervalometer script a couple of weeks ago.

Couple the Canon battery with a decent solar charger and then you're cooking!  To wit:  I've finished up my version 1.0 time lapse camera rig last night.  It's out for it's first field test starting today until....  I've got solar charging a lipo and an off-the-shelf buck / boost converting mediating the power supply.  I'm waiting on some 25K trimmer potentiometers so I can finish the low dropout regulator.  I'm running the Ultimate Intervalometer v1.7 for as long as possible.  I've made it through 8 hours of bright, direct sun, which is much much longer than the rig runs without the buck/boost or an LDO.  Fingers crossed!  I've attached a couple of pics below.   The enclosure is made out of hardware store grade PVC.  It's a 4" cap, coupler and pipe, and a bunch of electronic guts that I will describe in another post.

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EDIT: In case you were wondering how I was going to produce a suitable board to use the Mosfets I mentioned previously...
Are you physically able to surface mount those MOSFETs?  You have the hands of a brain surgeon.  I spent 10 minutes undoing some lousy through-hole joints I soldered up last night.

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Offline ahull

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Re: Quick weatherproof camera box.
« Reply #46 on: 26 / August / 2013, 08:02:47 »
Great testing!  The results are somewhat discouraging on a couple of levels, but it is much better to know rather than to hope that it works without conducting a fair assessment.
I kind of expected the sort of results we are getting from the unmodified device (although perhaps slightly better performance from the battery). I pulled apart the second charger, and it is fairly obvious that the batteries they are using are reworked factory rejects, (or more probably recovered from recycling electronic scrap). This is not necessarily a bad thing, given the price and the fact that otherwise they would be landfill.



As you can see in this picture, the original battery protector strip has been removed, (that long, off white, sticky strip on the battery beneath the solder tabs looks like it once had the small circuit board with the DW01 plus and dual mosfets attached to it) and the capacity label has been defaced, either deliberately, as it said something other than 2600mAh, or it was damaged when removing it from whatever it was originally fitted to.

The LI42B 900mAh battery on the right is for size comparison. Based on size alone, I would expect much better performance from the larger battery in the solar charger. It looks about the right size for a 2600mAh battery.  It also takes about 8 Hrs to fully charge the solar charger, which, given the standard DW01 Plus based  charge circuitry employed, does suggest the battery is a bit higher capacity than the LI24B (which takes about 2 1/2 Hrs to charge).

With regards to the solar / buck regulator test: do you think the poorer performance was related to the battery quality or the buck regulator?  You recorded a 4.16 voltage, and that's still enough to power the camera.  What's the dropout voltage on that unit?  Was it not letting the battery get drained beyond that?

I have yet to determine that, but I suspect it is down to the battery. So far as I understand its operating characteristics, the buck regulator will try to maintain its output until the input dies. It may not be particularly efficient however as the input voltage is pretty close to the output voltage, and this is not the most efficient way to run a buck regulator. Lets see if we get better results with wires straight from the 3.7V internal connections. Bear in mind we have two regulator stages here, we convert 3.7V to 5V then back to 3.7V and this is bound to use a fair amount of power.

With regards to the real Canon battery:  you get what you pay for it seems.  Much better return and the battery was drained down to similar levels that I saw when I tested the Ultimate Intervalometer script a couple of weeks ago.

Couple the Canon battery with a decent solar charger and then you're cooking!  To wit:  I've finished up my version 1.0 time lapse camera rig last night.  It's out for it's first field test starting today until....  I've got solar charging a lipo and an off-the-shelf buck / boost converting mediating the power supply.  I'm waiting on some 25K trimmer potentiometers so I can finish the low dropout regulator.  I'm running the Ultimate Intervalometer v1.7 for as long as possible.  I've made it through 8 hours of bright, direct sun, which is much much longer than the rig runs without the buck/boost or an LDO.  Fingers crossed!  I've attached a couple of pics below.   The enclosure is made out of hardware store grade PVC.  It's a 4" cap, coupler and pipe, and a bunch of electronic guts that I will describe in another post.

I look forward to seeing the results.

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EDIT: In case you were wondering how I was going to produce a suitable board to use the Mosfets I mentioned previously...
Are you physically able to surface mount those MOSFETs?  You have the hands of a brain surgeon.  I spent 10 minutes undoing some lousy through-hole joints I soldered up last night.

Brain surgeon, I don't think so, don't ask me to open up your skull, your next of kin would be disappointed by the results. There is a trick to this (and I bought a bunch of mosfets for a reason).

Drag soldering.

The trick... use quality flux, drag soldering and a large magnifier, (and probably several crude Anglo Saxon phrases), followed by isopropanol and an old toothbrush to remove the excess flux. I expect at least one failure on the way.

Reworking the Solar charger may actually be trickier than soldering the mosfets, as there is not a lot of room there, but the technique is the same, flux (and lots of it), a magnifier, and most important of all, a freshly cleaned tip on your soldering iron, use a dollop of squeezed wet tissue paper, quickly wipe the tip on the damp tissue and, no you wont electrocute yourself with the wet tissue paper.

Most soldering stations have a special small sponge for keeping the tip clean. Don't use plastic sponge, it will melt and make a terrible smell.   

Keep everything taped down to the workbench to stop it moving around, since your shaking hands will be doing enough moving of their own  :D.

Youtube has lots of good videos about soldering technique, the most important trick is to keep the soldering iron tip clean. Keep cleaning it obsessively with damp paper (and when it gets very grubby, a little flux, but this tends to eat away the tip) as you go along.

EDIT: Here are the test results for the "5000mAh" battery pack.

shot:767 12:46 4.26V

So it is better than the 1120 mAh Canon LiPo, but not the "four times as good" I might have hoped for. I forgot to bring home the Gold solar charger with the scruffy battery, pictured above, so you will need to wait till probably tomorrow night before I put that on test. Meanwhile the black solar charger is back on the test rig so we can average the three results.

EDIT: Original solar charger, third run shot:480 07:59 4.17V - Gold coloured charger has just gone on test. I should have the first result in the morning (around 08:00 GMT)
« Last Edit: 27 / August / 2013, 15:32:53 by ahull »

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Offline ahull

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Re: Quick weatherproof camera box.
« Reply #47 on: 27 / August / 2013, 18:14:57 »
I did a quick estimate of the capacity and current consumption of the camera and batteries based on the capacity of the NB-5L

Bear in mind what we are looking at are, if you like, equivalent capacities, based on usage via the buck regulator, and not accurate measurements of the real capacity of the battery. They relate to an Ixus 850 which is a bit of a power hog, this is presumably why it uses an NB-5L 1120mAh battery rather than an NB-4L 800mAh one, this is why I chose it for the experiment, rather than perhaps an Ixus 60. I also used a buck regulator and the solar charger shooting every 60 seconds using the battery miser script. The results should give us a realistic "order of magnitude" estimate for similar hardware.



Any solar charger would have to provide enough charge to run the camera and charge sufficient battery capacity to last through the hours of darkness.

NOTE: From the above, you can see that if the solar charger battery performed as per a 2600mAh battery, we should get in excess of 24hrs shooting from it before it needed to be swapped for a fresh unit, assuming that the solar panel was able to top the battery up by 688mAh worth of charge during daylight hours, a not unreasonable idea since the panel would need to supply <100mA.

A quick back of the envelope calculation suggests that the (unverified) 4.5V 0.4W solar panel should supply 0.0888A (88mA) and if we can keep this up for 8 hours we get about 0.711 Ah  (or 711mAh) worth of charging from it (assuming 100% efficiency). We obviously would need to improve our power saving somewhat (by a factor of at least 4) to have the camera constantly powered by this little solar panel. If however we paralleled up 5 or more (probably more like 8, to allow for variation in efficiency, and usable light) of these devices with shottky diodes, we just might have a workable 24hr/day solution.

First figures for the Gold solar charger however, are not good shot:126 02:05 4.12V I'll recharge it and try again. You do indeed get what you pay for.. ::)
« Last Edit: 28 / August / 2013, 09:49:29 by ahull »


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Offline ahull

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Re: Quick weatherproof camera box.
« Reply #48 on: 28 / August / 2013, 09:52:29 »
Of course all of the above changes if we only switch on the camera when we need it. :D One device may well be good enough for our needs, assuming about a 10:1 Off:On duty cycle.... Now why have those mosfets not arrived yet...
« Last Edit: 28 / August / 2013, 09:58:12 by ahull »

Re: Quick weatherproof camera box.
« Reply #49 on: 28 / August / 2013, 10:31:13 »
I suspect I am going to have more chance with the small tortoise shell butterflies (aglais urticae)

Still masses of Tortoiseshell and Large white, not so many Comma, Red Admiral or Painted Lady, some Common blue and small colony of Silver studded blue (Great Orme, Llandudno).

David

 

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