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Raspberry Pi Camera Case – from a Holga

Here’s version 1 of the Holga Raspberry Pi Camera – a hackable, programable camera with a 5 megapixel sensor and HD video capabilities, in retro camera form.

My original concept was to do something like this:

Pi Camera Module camera case sketch

Everything and the kitchen sink

And I managed to build something like this:

Pi Camera Holga Case

And here’s how it turned out..

The Holga is an ultra-cheap medium format camera – if you shop around you can get one for about £15-20 – the model I used for this was the Holga Camera 120N (120 N) (Plastic Lens / Hot Shoe) with the Raspberry Pi Model A – although with a bit of modification it would work with the larger model B. Potentially by soldering the power supply and USB directly to the Pi you could make this a slimmer fit, but I wanted something that didn’t modify the Pi in any way.

The model A Pi fits quite well – you just have to remote the 2 plastic struts inside the case, and peel off the foam that secures the film reels inside the case. I had to remove the plastic panels that enclosed what would have been the flash (my Holga came without one). I cut up a cheap USB extension cable to mount on the top of the camera – and to plug into the side of the Pi. In order to make it fit with the right angled micro USB on the other side I needed to solder and make my own USB cable (you’ll need the shortest USB plug available – I used a poundland retractable USB cable as the source for mine).

If you don’t want to bother with the soldering you could probably just drill holes in either side of the case – there is room, and the plastic is easy to cut through.  

I also added a couple of plastic struts to locate the Pi in place – it’s a snug fit so doesn’t rattle around inside the case.

With the Pi removed you can see how it sits in the camera:

Pi Camera Case without Pi (rear view)

Here it is with all the wires

The yellow wires go to the flash hotshoe – the green to the trigger button on the side of the lens housing, and the red to the power button.

Pi camera case with Pi fitted

Here it’s sitting in it’s case. Snug.

The camera module sits inside the lens with the ribbon cable carefully wrapping around the board and over to the socket – I experimented with Sugru to hold the camera board in place (which would work) but wanted it to be removable, so opted to cut up a piece of spare plastic and drill a hole for the module to peek through – it’s a fairly firm push fit which holds it in place. The lens can still be rotated a little to make it easy to level the Pi camera.

For the power switch I used the same circuit as for the Motorola Lapdock, and added it to the lens mount. I’ve also added a press button on the other side to use to take photos – this will be (eventually) wired to the GPIO.

Pi Camera Detail

Here’s a closeup

Despite it’s cheapness the case feels solid – most of the modifications could be done with a sharp craft knife, apart from a few places where the plastic was thicker or I needed to make holes and a dremel was needed. There’s a lot of empty space inside this case so plenty of room to add things later (I wanted to add a speaker and a few other outputs and inputs, so will do later..)

Overall this was a fun project – all the messy cables and glue are neatly hidden (I went a bit overboard on the glue gun when soldering my USB extension cable) and the case was fairly easy to work with.

The case also has a nice screw mount for a tripod – handy for securing the Pi with camera to things.

Making it more than ‘just a camera’

Replicating a simple Camera with the Pi and Holga (HolgaPi? Piga?) would be a bit boring so my aim with this project is to provide a nice case with the possibility of extending it beyond what I could achieve with a normal compact camera.

At the moment the GPIO isn’t connected to the shutter button or flash trigger – i’ll do this next and write up the method in another blog post.

Things to do:

  • Think of a name
  • Calibrate the viewfinder
  • Write / find some code to make the camera operate over a network. As it lacks a screen the idea of putting all the camera controls into a web app makes sense
  • Add an LED indicator to the viewfinder
  • Add a speaker and think of some sound effects for the camera to make
  • Make use of the flash hotshoe (I’m thinking of using an opto-isolator for this, as some flashes have high trigger voltages running through them)
  • Add some more inputs – this could make the basis of a camera trap. Would be fairly easy to make this rainproof. As it is it would work with a Makey Makey…
  • Write some code to make the GPIO stuff work. I’m relying on this blog post to learn how.
  • Spray it red / green to match with the Pi look, neaten up the lens mount where the glue has discoloured the plastic
  • Investigate batteries or solar power
  • See if I can add a filter mount
  • Send a detailed proposal to the Lomo people to ask them to make a modified Holga case for the Raspberry Pi

Update: check out the following posts in the series.

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14 Responses to Raspberry Pi Camera Case – from a Holga

  1. Michael Horne May 28, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    That’s a great project, Pete – I’ll be interested to see what else you manage to do with it!

  2. dan3008 May 28, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    I love this project, :D Really looking forwered to seeing what you do with it :D (and i’m going to make my own :D)
    Think of a name – PiSnap or camPi?

    Write / find some code to make the camera operate over a network. As it lacks a screen the idea of putting all the camera controls into a web app makes sense – TightVLC or similar. OR if everything can be controlled via GPIO, you could try WebIOPi, which is avalable via the pistore, and lets you control the GPIO over the web.

    Add a speaker and think of some sound effects for the camera to make – just google “Royalty free shutter sound”, there are hundreds.

    Add some more inputs – Some kind of remote or wired trigger would be cool

    Write some code to make the GPIO stuff work. I’m relying on this blog post to learn how. – Take a look in the MagPi, and ask on the forums, we are all really friendly, I’d offer to help, but i havent got a clue at the moment lol.

    Spray it red / green to match with the Pi look – Spray? Might be more controld to use moddle paint (good on plastic) and a brush, reduce the risk of messing up the lens or anything.

    See if I can add a filter mount – Get a cheep skylight filter of the size you want. Most have the thread to attach more fulters after them.

    Send a detailed proposal to the Lomo people to ask them to make a modified Holga case for the Raspberry Pi – DO IT :D I’d buy one :D

    • Pete May 29, 2013 at 10:50 am #

      Thanks for the feedback!

      someone mentioned thingiverse and 3d printing which made me wonder about having a go at designing a case inspired by the Holga – the lens effectively screws on to the case (imagine a giant bottle top with a hole in!)

      The GPIO is really interesting – this is the sort of hacking i’d never attempt with an expensive computer.

  3. dan3008 May 29, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    Much agreed pete. I really want to get into gpio hacking too, but i’d never attempt it with an exspencive computer, only one that i can replace lol

  4. Marian Paździoch October 18, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    hi, where are the sample photos?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A #RaspberryPi camera case that looks like a camera! | Raspberry PiPod - May 28, 2013

    […] Pete Taylor has done an excellent job converting a retro-looking Holga camera into a case for this Raspberry Pi and camera module. Read more and see more pics on his blog […]

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