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Photographer adds camera control with home-made computer accessory grip

By dpreview staff on Aug 16, 2012 at 19:43 GMT

Irish photographer David Hunt has found a great way of extending the capabilities of his camera - by attaching a single-board computer to it. Hunt has installed a Raspberry Pi, Linux-based credit-card-sized computer in an old battery grip. He's not got as far as programming the computer yet but has blogged about the possibilities (hard drive backup, control across the Internet or sophisticated interval shooting, for example). Powered by a standard Canon battery, the idea helps open-up the options for camera hacking, without having to get past the firmware encryption (as a resourceful user has done for the Sony SLT A55 recently). (via Petapixel)

Comments

Total comments: 66
linnar
By linnar (Aug 28, 2012)

There is another such a device coming to market:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DqsFOAma24

0 upvotes
Zerg2905
By Zerg2905 (Aug 17, 2012)

Future Canon BG-EX grip: AMD FX (or i7) + Radeon HD 8990 + WLAN inside. Now that's image processing power, dear. Problem is, how to cool it... Cheers! :)

0 upvotes
Paul Guba
By Paul Guba (Aug 17, 2012)

Maybe it could connect to a global wireless network so I could upload photos instantly. Oh wait I have a Iphone. To me its just a bigger smart phone. Perhaps I am missing the point.

0 upvotes
nicolas guilbert
By nicolas guilbert (Aug 17, 2012)

What we need is Canon to develop an iPhone & Android app and a connection to the phone. And please integrate wifi in future bodies. You can really fell the stupidity of all this when you have a 2K $ body and use a cheap phone to take a picture of the camera display and then send that image over wifi network to somebody else.

2 upvotes
Roger Nordin
By Roger Nordin (Aug 17, 2012)

I bet if you look enough you can find a CF to SD adapter, then put in a pre-configured Eye-Fi X2 card that does just that - provides a WiFi access point, and has iPhone (and Android too I think) software to integrate downloading into the smartphone app world...

0 upvotes
MIKE GG
By MIKE GG (Aug 19, 2012)

there are android apps w live views

0 upvotes
Phil
By Phil (Aug 22, 2012)

The CF to SD adapter for the Eye-Fi X2 turns out to be unreliable. When they fail they don't just lose com they also scramble stored files. Eye-Fi said they would replace my card but only changed it's ID, when it failed again in a couple of days file recovery software extracted images that could onlt have come from the original card. I'm looking forward to 5D MKIII long term reports on Eye-Fi.

0 upvotes
d2f
By d2f (Aug 17, 2012)

I did think of an idea for David's device:

David's device could expand a camera's high speed buffer depth, provide wireless, IR remote control, USB3 and GPS capabilities to cameras that do not currently offer those interfaces and functions.

d2f

Comment edited 6 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
d2f
By d2f (Aug 17, 2012)

IMHO:
It is one thing to hack the camera code and activate or adjust existing features in the code or at best add a custom function. It is unrealistic to expect hackers to fix bugs in that code. Installation of that patch would be like adding a OEM update to the existing firmware. Hacker firmware modifications carry risk of rendering the camera inoperative and incompatible with future OEM patches.

Likewise it is unrealistic to expect to import third party code such as LR or PS into a external low power & much slower standalone microcomputer & small memory capacity and expect a quick results. Current or future wireless or cabled interface to computer or hand held device would be more efficient and convenient to most photographers who require such functionality. The later solution allows for greater flexibility when it comes to LR and third party add on SW upgrades.

When you add it all up there is no need or purpose for the device built by David hunt.

1 upvote
digitac
By digitac (Aug 17, 2012)

Sad.
Canon is (probably) able to do it.
Why don't they offer this to everybody ?
Are they waiting 2023 ? :-)

0 upvotes
AdventureRob
By AdventureRob (Aug 17, 2012)

I think this should be standard features in 2012 rather than require a hacker to get them on. These companies are taking their sweet time in rolling out these features.

Samsung seem to be the only company getting on with it (followed slowly by Sony), this is not so surprising considering they are electronics and particularly smartphone experts.

But with applications available, my meagre iPhone camera has far greater potential of uses than my main workhorse camera. Which is a shame as the only difference is software, and one basic bit of connectivity hardware.

This makes sense to retro fit to older cameras to bring them into 2012 and beyond, but connectivity of a camera to the internet should be a lot more common these days than it is. It should also be built in, not an added extra like Nikon's d3200 wifi dongle.

1 upvote
qwertyasdf
By qwertyasdf (Aug 17, 2012)

Genius!

0 upvotes
falconeyes
By falconeyes (Aug 17, 2012)

That's not the path to be followed.

Nikon already ships a miniatur Wifi dongle attached to the USB port (with the D3200) and I am sure, forthcoming dSLRs will have an embedded web server on board making the Wifi dongle obsolete. The Web server will act as a gateway to the remote tethering APIs which Canon and Nikon are already providing (the D3200 Wifi dongle already is this except that nobody yet reverse engineered its protocol).

APPs for iOS and Android will then provide access to the capabilities, incl. Liveview. Already available for the D3200 and I expect more open solutions (i.e., a documented Web API) for future SLRs.

2 upvotes
windmillgolfer
By windmillgolfer (Aug 17, 2012)

The Pi offers many opportunities for low cost applications. In the case of current dSLRs however, their interface capabilities are likely to be very limited and , as such, the Pi will be 'talking to itself'.

0 upvotes
Le Kilt
By Le Kilt (Aug 17, 2012)

Great idea, but who's going to program it?
How about squeezing a smart-phone running Android into the grip, it would have a head start...

0 upvotes
PicOne
By PicOne (Aug 17, 2012)

Sorry, I'm not understanding something. Ok, there's a computer in the grip. You could theoretically do a lot of things with a computer attached to a camera. What I'm not understanding, is how one would navigate this computer and tell it what you want to do when you basically only have a button and a wheel?

With a tethered computer, can you operate the computer and software from the camera body?

0 upvotes
Fotonaut
By Fotonaut (Aug 17, 2012)

You could, for example, SSH (secure shell) into it (over a wifi network, say) , and issue commands that way. And then there are numerous things you could program it to do automatically beforehand (like backup photos you take over a cellular data connection)

0 upvotes
NikonScavenger
By NikonScavenger (Aug 17, 2012)

We need third party manufacturers like Sigma to make generic Nikon and Canon BODIES with open source software running the firmware.

0 upvotes
aaaja
By aaaja (Aug 17, 2012)

that shows how increativ CaNon (and others ) are when it comes to additional functions as timer, water level gauge, horizont , triggering by movement , by focus ... etc..
Help lines for architetural and landscape pictures , storing and remembering focus points, DOF calculations and sisplaying ,, Infinit calc etc. etc.

1 upvote
Franz Kerschbaum
By Franz Kerschbaum (Aug 17, 2012)

I use the android app https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=eu.chainfire.dslrcontroller&hl=de a lot to control my 5DIII and 5DII. It works like a charm and critical manual focusing on my samsung galaxy note works nicely in live mode. Also timed sequences is easy. I use it mainly for astrophotography.... Have a look!

0 upvotes
RicardoPhotos
By RicardoPhotos (Aug 17, 2012)

I think it would be very awesome and spawn some ideas like it has here. But seriously, I don't know why a simple interface could be designed among many DSLRs that would allow inexpensive modules attached like WiFi or GPS? How long have we had cheap USB devices? It's not a technical big-deal. We'd have cameras like the 30D or 40D. What's up camera makers?

0 upvotes
Alizarine
By Alizarine (Aug 17, 2012)

As far as computers go into the grip I guess I'd like one to have a lighter version of Adobe Lightroom/Capture One/GIMP to contain it -

...so that I can use the grip to make edits on the go, in case I shoot RAW and client needs JPEGs before I leave.

e.g.
1. Before shooting, calibrate the camera's LCD for color... and make custom presets using the grip's installed Adobe LR-light plugin/program.

2a. During shooting, use the grip's own CPU for downloading RAW data from cam, automatically process using internal Adobe LR-light presets and save it to another memory card in the grip as JPEG.

2b. During shooting, use the grip's own CPU to download RAW data from cam and store it as backup.

3. After shooting, select images to process and use internal Adobe LR-light presets to convert and save to JPEG.

4. After processing,use Bluetooth/WiFi to transmit images directly from grip or use USB 3.0 ports in grip to transfer photos to client's computer.

AND NO, NO FACEBOOK FOR MY CAMERA PLEASE

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
hjulenissen
By hjulenissen (Aug 17, 2012)

Even if this was properly interfaced/programmed to use the internal bus/USB to give functionality comparable to what you can get with a Windows PC...

Would it be preferreable to a smartphone/tablet with USB host functionality (not too many out there) doing similar things? Then you would have a large touch-screen to control everything.

-h

0 upvotes
gl2k
By gl2k (Aug 17, 2012)

Great idea. Unfortunately considering the "Canikon" price level this grip would be somewhere around $1000+ at least if produced by "Canikon".

0 upvotes
rjx
By rjx (Aug 17, 2012)

The gang over at http://www.thisweekinphoto.com/ have been talking about for a long time how great it would be if someone created a DSLR that would allow something like an Iphone to slide into the camera (be part of the camera) and be used as the cpu / operating system that controls the camera. The iphone could snap into camera and be used as an interface, and we could download specialty apps to use in our cameras. People from all over the world could develop apps we could download from the app store and use in our cameras.

Imagine a camera with an amazing sensor, converters to use the best Canon and Nikon glass, and the interface + ability to use various apps. Sounds awesome to me!

So maybe people will take notice to what David Hunt is doing and cameras will be able to use smart phones in the future.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
tmy
By tmy (Aug 17, 2012)

congrats to David Hunt for a great innovative idea!

and I can't belive there are posters that are criticising DPR for putting up stuff like this. Of course it's news! It's even about digital photography equipment...how more relevant could it be?

there are huge possibilities here, imagine, extra processors to help buffering or AF speeds, or as he's mentioned on his own post, storage, tethering, wireless etcetc...
really good work David!

3 upvotes
Alizarine
By Alizarine (Aug 17, 2012)

indeed. an extra processor always helps...

..given they do a photographic job, not unnecessary computing... cough*socialnetworkingsites*cough

0 upvotes
Gesture
By Gesture (Aug 17, 2012)

One of first digital cameras, the Kodak DC290, could be "programmed." All these (brief) years and the full potential of camera as computer has yet to be realized. Manufacturers want the DSLR, etc. to be relevant in the age of smartphones, etc. Why not exploit these potentials?

1 upvote
Chaitanya S
By Chaitanya S (Aug 17, 2012)

great, a good job such a grip would be much more usable than the wifi accessories sold by the manufacturers at insane prices.

0 upvotes
jaykumarr
By jaykumarr (Aug 17, 2012)

Excellent David Hunt. This is admirable work and will be very useful when the manufacturers restrict consumers by limiting capabilities of the camera. GREAT.

4 upvotes
dmilligan
By dmilligan (Aug 17, 2012)

It does have potential given the grip will typically have a control path for the command wheel(s) and shutter release. With that I can imagine some nice bracketing features, intervalometer usage, not to mention remote triggering or auto triggering based on various external stimuli such as lightning, sound, etc.

0 upvotes
ProfHankD
By ProfHankD (Aug 16, 2012)

Raspberry Pi is nice, but the compute power inside most digital cameras is at least comparable, and the control and I/O then is integrated with the camera. I've been running my own code in Canon PowerShots (via CHDK) for years, and soon hope to be doing the same inside my Sony A55 and NEX 5/7 (which run a linux environment not too different from the Raspberry Pi).

Right now, this project looks like a Raspberry Pi is just "mounted" on a camera without much reason for being there. I suppose the reuse of a battery grip's shell is novel, but I'll be more impressed when this is doing something that we and others haven't been doing inside CHDK PowerShots for years. There is potential in that the I/O interfaces on Raspberry Pi are much more flexible than those integrated in cameras....

1 upvote
jpr2
By jpr2 (Aug 16, 2012)

very cool thinking, lots of gumption, and a great idea to breathe a new span of life into a xxD body (looks like 40d :) !!

0 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (Aug 16, 2012)

I would think Android could be a good platform for something like this. They already have Android capable computers the size of card readers, and Android apps for camera control.

0 upvotes
Sam_Oslo
By Sam_Oslo (Aug 16, 2012)

One can always connect the camera to a little laptop for "hard drive backup, control across the Internet or sophisticated interval shooting" and such. Why should one make own grip-top and programming it too?

Invention and creation is good, but why should anybody reinvent the wheel?

1 upvote
farcanal
By farcanal (Aug 16, 2012)

I like the idea of sitting at the back of the church waiting for the bride to arrive, playing solitaire on the lcd of a canon 5d mk iii :)

0 upvotes
Alizarine
By Alizarine (Aug 17, 2012)

If it's games, even the Nokia 3310 has some - lighter too. I wouldn't dare hold a 2-kilo camera+lens combo for a long time just to play Solitaire while waiting.... my wrists will be tired before the shoot starts and would just suck..

0 upvotes
Mr Fartleberry
By Mr Fartleberry (Aug 16, 2012)

A lot can be done with putting electronics in the grip. It's just the camera companies just aren't innovative and can still sell any black plastic DLSR they can come up with no matter what. You would think by now they could integrate GPS into a body.

1 upvote
Lan
By Lan (Aug 16, 2012)

Far cooler, at least with Canon cameras, are CHDK and/or Magic Lantern:
http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK_in_Brief

Comment edited 17 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
massimogori
By massimogori (Aug 16, 2012)

"He's not got as far as programming the computer yet but has blogged about the possibilities"

Is that a news? Is it worth publishing it?

Shame on you, DPREVIEW!

3 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (Aug 16, 2012)

You may not think it's interesting, but people clearly do. At which point I'm not ashamed to have told people about it. If it gets people thinking, or programmers involved, then it's worth drawing attention to.

We can't win - if it's a commercial product, people accuse us of just pandering to PR, if it's something interesting an individual does, you tell us it's not news.

22 upvotes
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (Aug 16, 2012)

Yes it's news. Someone has actually made an accessory, instead of waiting till it became readily available in some shop. In the days long gone, many of us used to make some helpful thing which enable us to follow a line in photographic intention. Now it's quite common to think like if it isn't on the shelf then it's not possible.
I'll congratulate anyone who brings a vision in this field, however small or insignificant it seemed. From imagination all advancement begins.
And in the same time I don't regard separate program modes for cats and dogs in Pets photography as an advancement! I wouldn't even if they added a third one for parrots... but I do wonder why some of the excellent ideas the hackers had made for Canon cameras (such as automatic lightning shots) aren't becoming standard software... this is surely a more advanced piece of thinking than Face recognition with show-teeth-to-click "option".

Comment edited 9 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
kelpdiver
By kelpdiver (Aug 17, 2012)

yes, it is news. It doesn't make sense to program before you even know if you can make the attachment work. Announcing it is really a call to other interested parties to collaborate on what to do next. And yes, it may well be that the pi isn't the most suitable processor to use, but you got to start with something.

1 upvote
SimonTay
By SimonTay (Aug 16, 2012)

Sounds great, but I seriously worry how long the batteries will last. Raspberry Pi isn't exactly low power. Been working myself with a Bluetooth LE device that runs code and will run for over a year on a coin cell!

Comment edited 48 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
jtan163
By jtan163 (Aug 16, 2012)

Should make Thom Hogan happy.
Something like this has a decent potential for automating workflow after you've pressed the button.

0 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Aug 16, 2012)

Its kind of cool actually. Lets see what happens.

The info in this article i somewhat limited though. I dont really get exactly what he have done, except putting a computer in a grip, which dont per se give you any interesting functionalities.

He has downloaded images from the camera and distributed them with WiFi though. So - I assume the USB port on the computer is connected to the USB contact at the camera.

So ... some programming must have been done. Its probably not only cool and advanced things that not have been programmed yet.

I dont know much about Nikon tethering. But as far as I think I have heard - it is quite extensive. Or?

1 upvote
Mike Wee
By Mike Wee (Aug 16, 2012)

How exactly does attaching a piece of electronics to the bottom of the camera get around the need for hacking the firmware?

People resort to firmware hacks because manufacturers do not provide API's to the firmware, not because they don't have a Rasp. Pi in the grip.

1 upvote
tkbslc
By tkbslc (Aug 16, 2012)

Most interchangeable lens cameras have the capability to be tethered to and controlled by a computer. He's just putting the computer in the battery grip so he can (theoretically) perform advanced functions without bringing along the laptop.

0 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Aug 16, 2012)

Yepp ... you could instead use the laptop as a backtop in your backpack and have a long USB cable over your shoulder. Same functionality ... but somewhat cumbersome.

0 upvotes
Joesiv
By Joesiv (Aug 16, 2012)

Having a full fledged computer attached to the bottom of the camera is essentially the "gateway" into unlimited possiblities that often firmware hacking tries to do.

For example, typically you attach a "computer" to a camera and can remote control it using tethering software. But now that the computer is attached, you can have all that tethered functionality, built onto the camera.

Once that is done you could automate commands, for interval shooting, obviously back up images on the computers disk, but more interestingly, using any other type of communication protocol available (wifi, ethernet, heck RS-232), you can remotely control all these features as well.

I could imaging having this as a remote camera would be fantastic, as you could change settings, and even remote in/file share to see how the results are going on your local PC.

As for "programming". I haven't checked Canon's remote software available on linux, but it's possible that there is already much available

0 upvotes
Dave Peters
By Dave Peters (Aug 16, 2012)

There is no Canon software for Linux but he is using GPhoto which is a hack of the USB protocol. The advantage of using Linux is that you have low cost and lower power. The disadvantage is that you have to use the hack which doesn't have full functionality and may not work immediately with new cameras.

If you use Windows then you have higher power, needing special consideration for heat and much higher cost. However you can use the standard Canon toolkit which is normally available with new cameras and has a lot of functionality.

0 upvotes
Mike Wee
By Mike Wee (Aug 16, 2012)

Thanks, that actually makes sense guys, given that this is a Canon. What threw me was the reference to the Sony A55 hacking, for which I guess you could have a Cray built in the grip you still couldn't get away without hacking the firmware :-(

0 upvotes
Alizarine
By Alizarine (Aug 17, 2012)

having a computer with no screen in the grip for tethering is somewhat almost the same as shooting without the grip isn't it? all you do is store.. you'd still use the camera's LCD.

0 upvotes
kgwhite
By kgwhite (Aug 16, 2012)

I'm assuming he has decoded the the internal connector and created some sort of interface board to allow the single board computer to talk to the camera via the standard grip connector. He must also have create some sort of UI to allow his new functionality to be selected and an interface for loading programming. It's a great idea but there are lots of details. This sounds like a excellent community project.

0 upvotes
dougydoug
By dougydoug (Aug 16, 2012)

I built one of these, but mine runs OS 10.6 on 8MB RAM, and 1TB HD. It does get a little warm sometimes, and the battery only lasts about 4 minutes.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
JackM
By JackM (Aug 16, 2012)

I attached a small computer to my lawnmower but I haven't gotten around to programming it yet.

5 upvotes
W5JCK
By W5JCK (Aug 16, 2012)

LMAO!!! I'm thinking about going to Mars as soon as I figure out how to program my car's computer to drive there. :)

DPReview is beginning to be a joke with these stupid articles that have little or no value.

Comment edited 30 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
LWW
By LWW (Aug 17, 2012)

Quick! Someone please help him out. Maybe he'll take the rest of the naysayers with him!

1 upvote
Alizarine
By Alizarine (Aug 17, 2012)

I'll try attaching a small computer to my coffee mug and program it to make coffee on its own. :)

0 upvotes
LWW
By LWW (Aug 17, 2012)

Good idea Ali, make a few more for you and yer mates on the way to Mars!

0 upvotes
gsum
By gsum (Aug 17, 2012)

Just think how much more useful your lawnmower will be when you've programmed it. You could add gps and get it to do patterns or sound an alarm when it's low on petrol. The possibilities are endless. If you add an adaptive router, you have an unmanned ground lawnmower. In fact it would no longer be a lawnmower - it would be the ultimate man's toy. Who needs to cut grass anyway?

0 upvotes
LWW
By LWW (Aug 18, 2012)

Waste of time - no grass on Mars. Saw it TV just the other day!

0 upvotes
David Hart
By David Hart (Aug 16, 2012)

It's interesting that he has been able to incorporate a main board into a Camera grip, but IMHO it won't be cool until it can actually do something. The hard part is programming.

0 upvotes
gsum
By gsum (Aug 17, 2012)

He could just not bother and take photographs instead.

2 upvotes
SemperAugustus
By SemperAugustus (Aug 16, 2012)

About time!!! this may help Canon to get ideas...

1 upvote
Scrozzy
By Scrozzy (Aug 16, 2012)

Ah, cool! <3

0 upvotes
Total comments: 66