Help me with a high-res webcam
April 2, 2007 2:28 PM   Subscribe

I want to set up a high-resolution web cam. This appears to be a harder problem to solve than I'd anticipated.

I don't need online swivel control.
I don't need live video.
I don't need the camera to plug directly into the Internet.

All I want is a high-resolution (1152x768 minimum) camera that I can download images from on a regular basis. My idea was to run a standard digital camera (my old 4MP PowerShot, perhaps) to a Mac mini via USB, then download the pictures live right from there. I figured a script could then be automated to take a photo, download it from USB, compress it, and upload it to my webserver.

The problem, it seems, is that [most? all?] cameras don't seem to support that kind of computer-controlled operation. From what I can find, I either have to buy a very expensive dedicated network camera, or stick to some lower-res standard cheap webcam.

Any thoughts on how to make this happen?
posted by symphonik to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Using libgphoto2 I was able to snap pictures from my Nikon camera at the command prompt in Linux. I would give it a shot for your camera and see what happens. A decent amount of custom coding would be required to automate snapping pictures on demand, downloading them, uploading them to a web-accessible location, all on demand from a web site.
posted by knave at 2:42 PM on April 2, 2007

Perhaps the PhotoPC project would be of some use to you. The list of compatible cameras seems to include a number of relatively cheap options.
posted by Partial Law at 2:42 PM on April 2, 2007

Would PS Remote work for your model? Here's a compatibility list.

I've never used it myself, but it came up in a google search.
posted by backwards guitar at 2:44 PM on April 2, 2007

Actually, at least with a PC, Canon offers an SDK that allows exactly that kind of control with that camera. I have used software called "AHDRIA" with a Powershot S70 to do similar work.

There is also a control program for Canon cameras called PSremote, which will do what you want.
posted by fake at 2:45 PM on April 2, 2007

You guys are great as usual! I'll look into these, and try them on my camera when I get home tonight. Thanks.
posted by symphonik at 3:03 PM on April 2, 2007

use apple's Image Capture to take a photo via a standard digital camera with USB. it has an option to run a script after taking the picture.
posted by Infernarl at 5:57 PM on April 2, 2007

via -- If you have a Cannon digital camera and XP... GBTimelapse has a 15 day trial ~$45 USD
posted by acro at 7:32 PM on April 2, 2007

EvoCam oughta do that. it'll just see the camera as an input device. I've used it for many years and used it with several different types of video devices.

Cool software, and it's pretty cheap.
posted by drstein at 10:14 PM on April 2, 2007

Follow up: well, this was a great help! libgphoto2 works quite well, but I found it was slow and sort of flaky when it came to operating with my camera. For example, after it took the first photo, every following photo would be corrupted.

Many, many people have used it libgphoto2/gphoto2 without problem, so I'm sure it had to do with my particular setup, but it wasn't going to be sustainable for what will eventually be an automated setup.

That being said, I investigated Apple's Image Capture app. It also didn't do what I needed, BUT, the Google searches therein came across Apple's ImageCapture SDK. This looked promising, and a few hours later, not without some tremendously annoying debugging, I developed a pretty solid Objective-C framework to do what I needed. It doesn't have the flakiness associated with libgphoto and it's really quite fast.

The API is needlessly complex and troublingly hard to find—I spend most of my workdays deep in Apple's developer documentation, and I had never even heard of this before. But armed with the bundled doc and the sample code included in the SDK, it all panned out. I'll be happy to give out my code if anyone happens to find this thread, just toss me an e-mail. I may clean it up and release it to the wild eventually, if just to prevent folks from having to go through the ImageCapture SDK crap.

Thanks again, MeFi!
posted by symphonik at 2:27 PM on April 4, 2007

Great to hear it. Thanks for the follow up!
posted by knave at 10:53 PM on April 4, 2007

By the way, what are you doing about the camera's battery? Are you running it on AC power? I assume a normal camera's battery wouldn't be up to the task of running all day.
posted by knave at 10:54 PM on April 4, 2007

By the way, what are you doing about the camera's battery? Are you running it on AC power? I assume a normal camera's battery wouldn't be up to the task of running all day.

Exactly. AC Adapter by necessity, since this will eventually be painful to access.
posted by symphonik at 11:53 AM on April 5, 2007

I just built a system that does exactly what you want to do. I used an old Olympus D-460Z and a PIII running Photopc on CentOs. Works great! I have it set to update every 30 mins, but I had it updating every 15 mins for a couple of weeks with not problems. I have the camera just pointing out my window for now. Plans are to set the system up at my ranch and capture wildlife pics that will then be uploaded once or twice a day via dial up modem (no hi-speed out in the woods). You can check it out at my website and click on the picture of the house. The little pic is a live shot that is sent to my site every 30 mins via ftp. It's a pretty slick system and it cost me nothing!
posted by pmoore4321 at 7:49 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

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