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Camera Selection Question from Home Inspector Wanting to do Roof Inspections

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I am a local home inspector in Arizona wanting to do roof inspections using a quad copter carrying a Canon point and shoot.  I purchased an AR drone in Dec. as a trial platform and to see what the issues are.  It's obvious I will need a remote control tilt-able gimbal mounted camera and would need to be able to remote zoom.  I am aware of the FAA issues with using a drone for commercial purposes.

All of my research over the last several weeks has lead me to CHDK and this forum.  I currently use an A2300, tried to load CHDK, maybe an issue with using an 8G SD card, but in any case the A2300 won't work due to the bug in CHDK relative to not being able to auto focus when zooming.

I do NOT need high resolution as I typically shoot at the lowest resolution of the camera.  I take a perspective shot from a distance, circle it and label it in my inspection software, and then take a close up of the actual defect, which gets inserted into a PDF report.  That said, this platform may open up other opportunities so being able to shoot HD videos would also be desirable.

My idea would be to use a quad copter with FPV (First Person View) to transmit the camera image (camera on all the time) to a ground station, 7" RC monitor on a tripod, and control the camera shutter and zoom from the ground station transmitter via a USB connection to the camera.  As it turns out the A2300 has an 11-pin USB connector which allows me to breakout the video separately and transmit video from the quad to the ground station.

So my question is: Which Canon point and shoot would you recommend based on the following criteria.

1. Would need to be compatible with CHDK and as light as possible.  An older Canon would be fine as I do not use high resolution photos.  That said it seems the newer camera's are the lightest (smallest) but would need to have CHDK.

2. Would need to have a good zoom lens, say 5X and to auto focus using CHDK, realizing that higher zoom lens weighs more.

3. I noticed many camera's have a "Print" button but my A2300 does not, looks like convention for entering CHDK on a newer camera is hitting the "Play" button, is that correct?

4. Would need to have an 11-pin USB port, I think, in order to breakout the video from the camera.

So I did see where many others have asked for camera recommendations but the technology is moving so fast, I have some unique requirements, and CHDK is not supported on all Canon cameras, so I thought I would ask the experts here who would know the Canon product lines and the status of the CHDK implementations especially the issue of an auto focus zoom.

Your consideration is greatly appreciated!!

I currently use an A2300, tried to load CHDK, maybe an issue with using an 8G SD card,
Did you get it to load?  Did you read through this : http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/Prepare_your_SD_card

The STICK utility listed at the top is particularly recommended.

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but in any case the A2300 won't work due to the bug in CHDK relative to not being able to auto focus when zooming.
Can you tell us a little more about how you know this? Zoom is a Canon function - I'm not sure how CHDK would disable auto focus.  Is this something you read somewhere?  (link please?)\

Edit :  on reflection,  I think I get it now - IIRC some camera have an issue with the set_zoom() script command if one or more of the auto focus modes is enabled.   Unfortunately,  there is no master list of which cameras are affected - best thing you can probably do is read the porting thread for any camera you might be interested in.  And maybe try asking a question there.

Also,  the depth of field on these little cameras is amazing.  Unless you plan to fly your UAV within a foot of what you are watching,  setting the lens at infinity ( or even 10') will likely give you pretty good images regardless.

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1. Would need to be compatible with CHDK and as light as possible.  An older Canon would be fine as I do not use high resolution photos.  That said it seems the newer camera's are the lightest (smallest) but would need to have CHDK.
List of all CHDK enabled camera is here : http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK on the right hand side

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3. I noticed many camera's have a "Print" button but my A2300 does not, looks like convention for entering CHDK on a newer camera is hitting the "Play" button, is that correct?
Yes - and most CHDK ports allow that button to be reassigned from the CHDK menu.

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4. Would need to have an 11-pin USB port, I think, in order to breakout the video from the camera.
Many Canon P&S cameras have seperate USB & composite video outputs.
« Last Edit: 09 / March / 2014, 12:55:20 by waterwingz »
Ported : A1200  SD940  G10  Powershot N  G16*

I did use STICK and it appeared the SD card loaded properly.  I could see all the new files on the card.  I dropped a picture from my camera onto STICK, it properly identified, loaded the card with files, etc.  I locked the card, loaded it into my camera and hit play, not ON, and nothing happened, camera just locked up.  I had to reset the battery to get camera function back.

As I said it was an 8G card formatted FAT32 but it appears the A2300 is a newer camera and STICK did not have a problem with it formatted at FAT32 for this model camera.

The issue of the zoom not auto focusing as a known bug is on this site for the A2300 implementation of CHDK.

I realize all the supported cameras are listed on this site, I was hoping someone could be a little more specific based on my criteria and their knowledge of the Canon product lines.  I had seen where others on the forum had received specific recommendations.

Forgive me for my newbie questions.

I did use STICK and it appeared the SD card loaded properly.  I could see all the new files on the card.  I dropped a picture from my camera onto STICK, it properly identified, loaded the card with files, etc.  I locked the card, loaded it into my camera and hit play, not ON, and nothing happened, camera just locked up.  I had to reset the battery to get camera function back.
That's not good.  Once you have the card setup for autobooting (SD card lock) (which STICK does for you) you can also use the On/Off button to start the camera and CHDK will load automatically.  Did you try that?

Otherwise,  it's trying to load the wrong firmware version or the downloaded file got corrupted somehow maybe?

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As I said it was an 8G card formatted FAT32 but it appears the A2300 is a newer camera and STICK did not have a problem with it formatted at FAT32 for this model camera.
Sound about right to me.

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The issue of the zoom not auto focusing as a known bug is on this site for the A2300 implementation of CHDK.
Thanks.

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I realize all the supported cameras are listed on this site, I was hoping someone could be a little more specific based on my criteria and their knowledge of the Canon product lines.  I had seen where others on the forum had received specific recommendations.
Usually what happens is nobody says anything until somebody jumps in and makes a recommendation.  Then they all dogpile on :)   Do you have a specific weight limit in mind?    I have an IXUS120_SD940 and it (and its sister SD780) is a pretty nice size for aerial use and fully CHDK supported.   However,  using set_zoom() reliably has been a problem for that camera too.

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Forgive me for my newbie questions.
Not at all.   That's what we are here for.
Ported : A1200  SD940  G10  Powershot N  G16*


Not sure what happened with STICK and my A2300, like I said the auto focus issue was kind of a show stopper.  I did try the On button initially but the camera did not respond.  I read on the forum that you should not hit the On button 1st, but instead the Play button and I thought maybe that was it.  Did not make a difference.

I went ahead and took off the card lock and reformatted the card in the camera to wipe it clean and then did another full STICK install, maybe I missed something during the install process but everything seemed to go fine, same problem the camera would not come on and I had to reset the battery.  I'm assuming I could find eventually what the issue is, but again with the auto focus issue there is no sense in trying.

Relative to the camera:
Well I did not have a specific weight limit in mind, I'm thinking my A2300 was like 125 grams, not sure if that includes the battery?  Most of the gimbals for quadcopters run GoPros like the 3+ and it weighs 135 grams so anything around 135 grams would be good but would like 5X or more zoom and of course not an issue with CHDK and the auto zoom focus!

Within some limits you can support a heavier load on the quadcopter, purchase better blades as an example.  The one I'm looking at in particular is the DJI Phantom 2 which you can get with a 2 axis tiltable gimbal, but for the GoPro 3+.  It can probably be modified to carry a Canon but there are other aftermarket gimbal providers that offer point and shoot mounts.


The other thing is that most quads, like the Phantom 2 can fly with heavier loads, but battery life is limited.  The stock Phantom 2 now has a significant flight time of maybe 20 mins. with a gimbal and camera so for me I think I will only need maybe 10 mins. to do a typical residential roof so a little heavier camera would probably not be a problem.  You can also get bigger batteries but at some point its the law of diminishing returns as they also weigh more.

Relative to STICK and the A2300 - I recently returned the camera to Canon under a warranty repair as the lens was no always retracting properly and they ended up "replacing" it under warranty, like two months ago, so it probably has the latest, maybe newer firmware.  I was assuming STICK would find this out and let me know if there were any issues?

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Offline lyzby

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Relating to remote shooting, you might check this wiki article: http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/Chdkptp_in_headless_linux_Dockstar_-_remote_control

I've used an A590 (4x zoom), and SX120IS (10x) and an SX40HS (35x, but heavy).

How are you streaming from your quadcopter?

Relative to STICK and the A2300 - I recently returned the camera to Canon under a warranty repair as the lens was no always retracting properly and they ended up "replacing" it under warranty, like two months ago, so it probably has the latest, maybe newer firmware.  I was assuming STICK would find this out and let me know if there were any issues?
That explains it.  STICK gets the firmware version for the camera from the image you "drop" onto it (or select via menu).   If you dropped an image from your older camera with a different firmware version,  it would quite happily load the firmware version for the older camera onto the card.  And then you would see exactly what you did - the camera crashes on startup.

So retry the process with an image from your new camera and it should all work properly.

I read on the forum that you should not hit the On button 1st, but instead the Play button and I thought maybe that was it. 
You only have to use the play button to start the camera when you are trying to use the "Firmware Update" method of booting.
Ported : A1200  SD940  G10  Powershot N  G16*


Relating to remote shooting, you might check this wiki article: http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/Chdkptp_in_headless_linux_Dockstar_-_remote_control

I've used an A590 (4x zoom), and SX120IS (10x) and an SX40HS (35x, but heavy).

How are you streaming from your quadcopter?

Thanks for the link and camera referrals, I'll take a look.

I am not currently streaming, nor do I have the ideal platform as of yet, still doing research.   I have an AR Drone for my initial trial and it streams to my iPad via WiFi.  I am assuming I can use anyone of a variety of FPV transmitters to get the stream back to a ground station.  Based on other video flyers recommendations they are suggesting a 7" RC display mounted to a tripod ($150).  The idea would be to fly the quad out over the roof visually and then look at the monitor to see the detail, zoom, etc. and then visual flight rules to bring it back home.

Typical FPV setups use 5.8Mhz for the transmit/receive.  The higher the frequency the more susceptible the signal is to fading when the quad say, goes behind a wall or some other line of sight obstruction.  Your flight telemetry is at 2.4Mhz so your running at two different frequencies, again I'm still doing research.  It could be that I would have no problem with say, video dropouts at 5.8Mhz doing a roof inspection, say dropping behind a parapet on a two-story roof, because we are not talking great distances.  I just have no experience at this point.

Relative to STICK and the A2300 - I recently returned the camera to Canon under a warranty repair as the lens was no always retracting properly and they ended up "replacing" it under warranty, like two months ago, so it probably has the latest, maybe newer firmware.  I was assuming STICK would find this out and let me know if there were any issues?
That explains it.  STICK gets the firmware version for the camera from the image you "drop" onto it (or select via menu).   If you dropped an image from your older camera with a different firmware version,  it would quite happily load the firmware version for the older camera onto the card.  And then you would see exactly what you did - the camera crashes on startup.

So retry the process with an image from your new camera and it should all work properly.

I read on the forum that you should not hit the On button 1st, but instead the Play button and I thought maybe that was it. 
You only have to use the play button to start the camera when you are trying to use the "Firmware Update" method of booting.

Your right I did drop a picture into STICK from the old camera, I'll have to try that again!!!

 

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