A printing GIF camera? Is that even a thing?

Abhishek Singh’s printing GIF camera uses two Raspberry Pis, the Model 3 and the Zero W, to take animated images and display them on an ejectable secondary screen.

Instagif – A DIY Camera that prints GIFs instantly

I built a camera that snaps a GIF and ejects a little cartridge so you can hold a moving photo in your hand! I’m calling it the “Instagif NextStep”.

The humble GIF

Created in 1987, Graphics Interchange Format files, better known as GIFs, have somewhat taken over the internet. And whether you pronounce it G-IF or J-IF, you’ve probably used at least one to express an emotion, animate images on your screen, or create small, movie-like memories of events.

In 2004, all patents on the humble GIF expired, which added to the increased usage of the file format. And by the early 2010s, sites such as giphy.com and phone-based GIF keyboards were introduced into our day-to-day lives.

A GIF from a scene in The Great Gatsby - Raspberry Pi GIF Camera

Welcome to the age of the GIF

Polaroid cameras

Polaroid cameras have a somewhat older history. While the first documented instant camera came into existence in 1923, commercial iterations made their way to market in the 1940s, with Polaroid’s model 95 Land Camera.

In recent years, the instant camera has come back into fashion, with camera stores and high street fashion retailers alike stocking their shelves with pastel-coloured, affordable models. But nothing beats the iconic look of the Polaroid Spirit series, and the rainbow colour stripe that separates it from its competitors.

Polaroid Spirit Camera - Raspberry Pi GIF Camera

Shake it like a Polaroid picture…

And if you’re one of our younger readers and find yourself wondering where else you’ve seen those stripes, you’re probably more familiar with previous versions of the Instagram logo, because, well…

Instagram Logo - Raspberry Pi GIF Camera

I’m sorry for the comment on the previous image. It was just too easy.

Abhishek Singh’s printing GIF camera

Abhishek labels his creation the Instagif NextStep, and cites his inspiration for the project as simply wanting to give it a go, and to see if he could hold a ‘moving photo’.

“What I love about these kinds of projects is that they involve a bunch of different skill sets and disciplines”, he explains at the start of his lengthy, highly GIFed and wonderfully detailed imgur tutorial. “Hardware, software, 3D modeling, 3D printing, circuit design, mechanical/electrical engineering, design, fabrication etc. that need to be integrated for it to work seamlessly. Ironically, this is also what I hate about these kinds of projects”

Care to see how the whole thing comes together? Well, in the true spirit of the project, Abhishek created this handy step-by-step GIF.

Piecing it together

I thought I’ll start off with the entire assembly and then break down the different elements. As you can see, everything is assembled from the base up in layers helping in easy assembly and quick disassembly for troubleshooting

The build comes in two parts – the main camera housing a Raspberry Pi 3 and Camera Module V2, and the ejectable cartridge fitted with Raspberry Pi Zero W and Adafruit PiTFT screen.

When the capture button is pressed, the camera takes 3 seconds’ worth of images and converts them into .gif format via a Python script. Once compressed and complete, the Pi 3 sends the file to the Zero W via a network connection. When it is satisfied that the Zero W has the image, the Pi 3 automatically ejects the ‘printed GIF’ cartridge, and the image is displayed.

A demonstration of how the GIF is displayed on the Raspberry Pi GIF Camera

For a full breakdown of code, 3D-printable files, and images, check out the full imgur post. You can see more of Abhishek’s work at his website here.

Create GIFs with a Raspberry Pi

Want to create GIFs with your Raspberry Pi? Of course you do. Who wouldn’t? So check out our free time-lapse animations resource. As with all our learning resources, the project is free for you to use at home and in your clubs or classrooms. And once you’ve mastered the art of Pi-based GIF creation, why not incorporate it into another project? Say, a motion-detecting security camera or an on-the-go tweeting GIF camera – the possibilities are endless.

And make sure you check out Abhishek’s other Raspberry Pi GIF project, Peeqo, who we covered previously in the blog. So cute. SO CUTE.