Slimline point-and-shoot camera from Ben Heck

Ben Heck, King of the Makers, has made the prettiest point-and-shoot camera build we’ve seen done with a Raspberry Pi. The secret to it is a bit of desoldering and depopulating the Pi he uses, to slim down the profile of the board – he’s yanked nearly everything except the SoC – the processor and memory package in the middle of the Pi. (If we were you, Ben, we’d have used a Model B+ so you didn’t have that SD card sticking out.)

Our own Ben Nuttall, who affects to be totally unimpressed by everything, was overheard saying: “That’s a very cool camera.” There is no higher praise.

There’s no writeup, but the video is very thorough and walks you through everything you need to know, including a parts list (that nice little TFT touchscreen, which is the thing I anticipate most of you being interested in, is from Adafruit). Let us know what you’d do differently, and if you plan on making something similar yourself, in the comments!

16 comments

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That’s some impressive hacking. I briefly considered unsoldering some of the parts on my Raspberry Pi for a camera project but I chickened out.

I ended up with a 33mm thick chassis and about 7mm of projection out front- but the space in front is for carousel to switch infrared stop and pass filters so my infrared camera can shoot in different spectra.

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Ben Heck walked past where I was giving a talk at Maker Faire in San Mateo this year, and I’m such a fan girl I almost stopped mid sentence to run after him for a photo. Instead I continued like a pro Education Pioneer in the hope I’d spot him again later, but alas, no sign of him. There was no fan photo with Philbin :(

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Behold: DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE of Uptons and a Heck at MF San Mateo a couple of years ago. (We are all having a very serious conversation about panel discussions, which is why we all look dour and miserable. We perked right up when the hot dogs arrived.)

Liz, Eben, Ben Heck

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As a former contracted repairer of PCBs using PTH boards with through-hole components, I reject the determination of Mr. Ben Heck’s appraisal of the squeaky noise made when levering components out as “the sound of victory”.

In my case, it was most often a cause for several hours reconnecting the top and bottom layers with microfine copper wire after the component came out with the via plating still attached.

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I’d definitely be using a de-soldering pump to get that composite socket off!

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Brilliant project!

I wonder if it would be viable to do a smallish production run (maybe 10,000 units) without connectors? And would there be enough demand to cover additional tooling/testing costs?

I’ve removed the video connector and replaced the USB with vertical sockets a couple of times to reduce the foot-print (http://captainbodgit.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/birdboxpicam2014-lighting-packaging.html).

Anybody else interested in a connector-less or depopulated Pi?

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I guess another option would have been to use the Model A, to give you longer battery life, and save unsoldering the Ethernet jack.
Very neat project though. I wonder how small a compute-module based Pi camera system could be made? ;)

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Yeah, impressive though soldering up all the wires of a ribbon cable is, soldering wires direct to a compute module would be even more impressive ;p (Or am I being DIMM?)

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So DIMM.

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In an old digital picture frame, I replaced the board that reads pictures from a memory card with a Raspi model A. I used a hot air rework station to remove the USB, composite, and audio connectors to make the model A thin enough. The project now serves as an internet-enabled clock at my local hackerspace, HacDC.

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Wait…

I thought ben replaced the sd card with a micro Sd card anyway.

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After watching this video. How about taking seriously something Ben said and offering a model B-? It would be a B+ with all the parts that stick up removed (or rather just not installed) and in a plastic bag. Then hackers could save time unsoldering them and only add the ones they need. Maybe with some spacers of various depths. Oh, I see that SteveDee, above suggested the same thing.

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It’s been discussed a million times before: sorry, not happening. We’d need to introduce major changes in the manufacturing line, test and packing setup for what’s actually a very minority group; that’d cost a lot, and raise the price of the Pi for everybody.

If your needs are really limited by the form factor of the Raspberry Pi, then you should be looking at the compute module as an alternative.

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Compute Module? …too expensive.

Has your marketing department estimated the size of this minority group?

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No, we just guess. (Eyes rolling wildly in head.)

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Oh…I think I can help!

We know the subject has been discussed a million times. So let’s take the pessimistic view that 10,000 people have raised the issue 100 times each.

10,000 just happens to be the size of the batch that the foundation were prepared to make on the basis of $35/unit retail.

However, the data may be skewed, as I’ve got 7, which my wife thinks is “..not natural for a grown man”.

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