DIY binocular camera, and how I made itLast month while watching some video from SpaceX on YouTube I thought about looking up, to the stars; At the time, I really haven't got any equipment to do so efficiently, if you won't count a pair of broken binoculars (one of the mirrors is twisted). Then, it came to me: why not use those as lens for a webcam, that would be connected to a Raspberry Pi(e) with a screen.. or just really any working laptop from 2000 onwards?
Firstly, I've disassembled the camera - it was a popular PS3 Camera that can record in up to 60fps in 640x480 - even knowing that the resolution won't be very high, I still thought it was a good idea to continue. Also, this camera has a relatively big CCD sensor, which will help in dark environments (more light will be captured).
I've completely opened the camera including cheap stock lens. Then, I've placed my binoculars on a flat surface, pointing towards something that can be easily focused onto - in my case, it was a computer screen with terminal opened. I've had a hard time focusing in, and then securing the PCB to the binoculars with hot glue; This process was made much easier when I've glued two PCV pieces between the PCB and binoculars. Finally, the glue has warmed, and I was able to check on how it works.
Unfortunately, I forgot about one VERY important thing - I shouldn't be able to focus on a screen about 50cm away. After taking some blurry shots, I was back at the drawing board. I had two options - either to create a standoff from PCV big enough for me to focus at objects ~50-100m away, or re-install stock lens and glue them to the binoculars. As I knew that the first one would be a very slow and tedious process which would likely drain out my PCV stash (as I don't hack as much as I've used to, I don't have that much material). I attempted to re-assemble and then glue stock lens.
Results are.. Well, 'OK' to say the most. Images are rather fuzzy and dark (first thing is caused by low resolution, second is a cause of not-so-good software that I've used to capture images - this was solved later), and overally not too high quality. But can I watch stars with it...?
Nope, I can't. Even considering that I'm just living in the suburbs of a small city, it's still not dark enough to use my unproffesional equipment. It would work on Sahara flawlessly - or not to get too exotic, just a little bit further away from the civilisation, but not where I want to use it. But is the project really.. Useless? When I failed with stars, I tried to observe street lights obstructed by some trees, and it looked really nice. I even went as far as to try the thing out once again in the daylight, and it worked pretty nicely!
Sooooo, should You build a DIY camera telescope out of some broken binoculars and a random webcam? I wouldn't recommend it. Should You build a DIY camera with a very BIG zoom for less than a few bucks? Yep, it can be an entertaining project with some cool results.
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