Looking for digital camera recommendations for kite camera work
June 19, 2005 5:58 PM   Subscribe

I've been playing with kites lately and I want to try my hand at kite photography soon, but I'd rather not use disposable film cameras -- I'd like to rig up a digital camera. I'm looking for a small, light camera that can shoot automatically.

First consideration is weight. Most small digital cameras are lighter the smaller they are, so the smaller the better I would think.

The next most important thing to me is the ability to shoot automatically, over set intervals. I once had an olympus camera that you could set to shoot every 30 seconds until the memory card filled up or the battery died. I think that'd be a good mode to shoot in if I got a kite up, strung up my camera rig, then let out more string to get some height for photos. I could leave it aloft for a few minutes and bring it down to find a handful of usable images among the beginning and end images.

In terms of megapixels, I think 3 to 5 would be fine.

Price, I would say cheaper the better, but I'd say $300 max (buying used is a consideration).

Anyone know of small cameras with those kinds of shooting modes?
posted by mathowie to Technology (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but when a friend of mine was interested in doing glider photography [he had these model airplanes he'd fly over places] he wound up going with a wireless X-10 camera and a VCR recorder module. With good light he could take little movies and I have a great flyover of my house that is really sort of neat, and recorded straight to VHS at the time. It's not a high-resolution solution by any stretch, and I'm not sure what an x-10 can do in terms of still shots, but I was amazed that a wireless camera could work from 100-200 feet in the air that usefully. I'm sure I don't have to give you a URL, they're pretty ubiquitous.
posted by jessamyn at 6:34 PM on June 19, 2005

A few years ago, I took an autoadvance 35mm camera and put an RC servo on it to operate the shutter and hooked it up to an RC transmitter. The heaviest part was the battery and it had a range of at least a hundred yards. With advanced in batteries in the past 10 years, you should be good to go with that approach.
To make the servo operate the camera, I bought a disk attachment for the servo and ground it into a cam with a dremel tool, then mounted it on the camera to swing down onto the shutter. Got everything I needed from a hobby shop.
posted by plinth at 7:05 PM on June 19, 2005

The second issue of MAKE has fairly simple plans to build a timer circuit which you can easily wire into the disposable digital cameras currently available at your local drug store for about 10 bucks.

The instructions are quite clear and step by step. I've been thinking of undertaking this very project, actually.
posted by glenwood at 7:12 PM on June 19, 2005

How does one actually mount the camera? Is there some kind of frame/harness one constructs?
posted by weston at 8:44 PM on June 19, 2005

You may be interested in this thread.
posted by Mitheral at 9:49 PM on June 19, 2005

Bizarre, I never thought I'd be helping mathowie with something. One place to look would be the aerial photography forum of the RCGroups site... this is somewhat tangential to kite photography but there's a ton of info in there. I think the best route is to go with a Canon Optio S5i... someone on the forum makes a $25 IR shutter trip that you just stick on the front of the camera; it can be triggered by a $40 transmitter-receiver combo. That's the route I plan to go when I loft a camera on my R/C plane. And for kite flying here is another forum.
posted by rolypolyman at 10:04 PM on June 19, 2005

we attempted to make a kitecam for our recent trip to death valley. it was not as easy as it seemed. i'm happy to give you whatever advice i can - ping me sometime.
posted by judith at 10:43 PM on June 19, 2005

Glad the info helped you -- btw, my bad, that was a Pentax Optio S5i, not a Canon.
posted by rolypolyman at 11:08 PM on June 19, 2005

Oh, judith, I saw those shots on flickr. I wondered what happened.

I have one all done up for disposable cameras, I'm looking to swap that out for digital.

rolypolyman, those IR-to-servo hacks look perfect for what I'm after. I'll scour ebay for a cheaper Optio s5i in the coming weeks.
posted by mathowie at 11:52 PM on June 19, 2005

the KAP tag at Flickr is worth checking out - there are a couple of photos of peoples' rigs too.
posted by soplerfo at 9:33 AM on June 20, 2005

the newest make magazine has a nice writeup on how to do just what your asking
posted by Mach5 at 11:39 AM on June 20, 2005

er, what glenwood said
posted by Mach5 at 11:40 AM on June 20, 2005

As the proud owner of a Pentax Optio S4, I can tell you that another useful feature (also on the s5i) that sounds right up your alley is the ability to have the camera do time lapse stop action stills, with a user defined interval between shots, up to one frame per 6 or so seconds.
posted by birdsquared at 4:24 PM on June 20, 2005

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