After months of planning, design and prototyping – I’m proud to announce my first Kickstarter campaign – The ProtoCam: A Camera Module Prototyping Board for the Raspberry Pi!
*** UPDATE 02/01/15: Now available from ModMyPi ***
I’ve kept this a bit of a secret for the last couple of months, which has been difficult as I’ve been to a few events where it has been tempting to spill the beans, but today the final finishing touches were completed and it’s now live on Kickstarter!
The ProtoCam is a new prototyping board for the Raspberry Pi that holds the Camera Module board within a large prototyping area, opening a whole new world of prototyping projects for your Pi.
It has easy to use lanes of prototyping space around the camera lens, allowing you to get creative with LEDs, displays, sensors, buttons and so much more!
Read on to hear more about the ProtoCam!
What is the ProtoCam?
The ProtoCam is a prototyping board for the Raspberry Pi micro-computer, that mounts the Camera Module within a large area of prototyping space.
This design opens up a whole new world of prototyping projects for your Raspberry Pi, allowing you to add whatever components you like around the Camera Module.
Here’s a video showing how it works and some example uses:
The ProtoCam simply connects to your Raspberry Pi using the 26-pin GPIO connector, with your Camera Module secured with 4 small nylon screws. The supplied shorter camera cable then gently folds underneath out of the way. A nylon support screw can be used in any of the 3 provided mounting holes to add extra support if needed.
The main feature of the board is the way it mounts your Raspberry Pi Camera Module within the prototyping board, in a compact and tidy way. This opens up a whole new world of prototyping opportunities with the Camera Module.
Other features include:
- The GPIO connector is a ‘stacking header’ – meaning you still have the normal GPIO pins to use with jumper wires if required (or snip them off).
- The GPIO header is broken out to an identical set of pads for use with your prototyping projects.
- A shorter and firmer camera cable is provided, ensuring a solid fit and less cable mess under the board. Your original camera cable remains safely out of the way.
- A set of 4 longer lanes of pads next to the GPIO has been included for creating additional power connections.
- The large area of prototyping space is the canvas for your projects. Add to it whatever you want, and make your perfect camera module project. The ProtoCam has a black PCB with immersion nickel gold plating – real sexy! Mr T would be jealous.
- 3 mount holes are provided to use with the supplied nylon screw. Choose the best location for your project, wherever support is needed most.
- The PCB is MADE IN THE UK! I’m really happy this was possible. After considering the different options for PCB manufacture, I decided it was possible to use a UK manufacturer and still keep the cost of the ProtoCam under £10.
Where Did The Idea Come From?
There are a lot of prototyping boards on the market that are great for making electronics projects, but every time I tried to add my Camera Module into the mix, things just got messy and clunky. With only ‘average’ DIY/Maker skills at my disposal, making any kind of custom mount for both my Camera Module and components was a bit of a nightmare.
That’s when I realised that, with the right height headers, it could be possible to mount the Camera Module on to a push-on style prototyping board. I got to work straight away and the project was born!
What Can I Make With It?
The ProtoCam is like a canvas for your imagination and creativity. With the camera module mounted, it’s over to you to think up fun new projects to make with your Pi.
The obvious one for me is a custom camera flash using ultra-bright LEDs.
This can be done many ways, but I find using the 5V power connection is the best way as you have less in the way of limits. Of course you could add an external power source or a port expander for a really serious flash!
It hasn’t got to be a white light either – perhaps you want green, red, yellow…the choice is all yours.
How about adding some segment displays to your camera project? Seven segment displays are easy to work with and there are a lot of project examples all over the internet.
These could be used for many purposes, such as a countdown for your camera shot, or maybe even a count of the number of pictures taken? There are lots of possibilities with these…
To compliment those LEDs and segment displays, why not add some buttons to trigger your project?
Buttons are a great way to tell your Pi to run a certain part of a script, such as taking a picture with LEDs lit, triggering a countdown on a segment, shooting a video, changing settings and much more.
One of the things I love about the Pi is being able to use actions in the ‘real world’ as triggers in my projects. With the ProtoCam offering the Camera Module alongside prototyping area, you could add sensors to the board to trigger the pictures or video recording!
There are lots of ways to use this – security cams, baby monitors, pet monitors, auto-tweeting pictures, IFTTT integration – loads!
With the ability to take both time-lapse and slow motion photography with the Raspberry Pi Camera Module, a tripod can be a really handy tool.
As the ProtoCam mounts the Camera on a tidy Pi-sized board directly on top of the Pi, using a tripod with your Camera Module is easier and more compact than ever before!
Believe it or not, you can even add mini LCD displays to your ProtoCam – that on its own has so many possible uses! Mini 8×2 displays can be added to the ProtoCam easily, as the pin layout works perfectly with the lanes on the ProtoCam’s board.
You could add one of these along with switches to select image type/quality and display any information you want scrolling across the screen.
…And Loads More!
These are just some examples I have thought of, but there will be truck loads of other ways to use the ProtoCam that I haven’t even thought of yet!
Where Can I Get One?
To buy your very own ProtoCam, check out ModMyPi.