Figure 0 - This external controller allows any device to control the shutter release
This external controller allows any device to control the shutter release

There are times when you need to acquire a very high resolution image, triggered by some external event such as movement, time, or computer control. Video security cameras are very limited in resolution, often to less than 640 x 480 pixels, which in digital camera terms is less than half of one megapixel.

Nowadays, a small digital camera that can take an image with a resolution of 4000 x 3000 pixels can be purchased for mere pocket change, so even if your subject is a long distance from the camera, the details will still be present in the image when zoomed on a computer screen. This simple project demonstrates how to hack into the camera’s shutter release button to add some kind of external control to allow automated picture taking.

Because this project is a hardware hack, you should not try this with a good camera, or one that you are worried about breaking. There is always a possibility of destruction when cracking the case open on such a small electronic device that is jammed full of tiny components. Of course, if you are good with small tools and a soldering iron, then this hack is fairly easy to do as long as you can find away to open the cover on your donor camera.

Once completed, the resulting relay controller will allow any external electronic device to focus and then take a photo, essentially duplicating the operation of the two position shutter release trigger on your camera. Also, note that your camera will not be usable for regular photography after this hack as the original shutter release switch will be removed.

Figure 1 - This camera will be converted for external shutter control
Figure 1 – This camera will be converted for external shutter control

The sacrificial camera shown in Figure 1 is an HP Photosmart M547 digital camera with an 8 megapixel imaging system. This camera has been around the world and dropped in an ocean, but despite some dents and scratches it still functions perfectly, so it will begin a new life as a covert spy gadget. To open one of these small digital cameras, you will need a set of tiny screwdrivers, a small knife and a whole lot of patience. Since the goal of manufacturing is to keep costs to a minimum, the cases on these cameras are often snapped together, which will require some careful prying to open them up.
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