How To: DIY Trail Camera "Homebrew"

Discussion in 'DIY Archery & Hunting Projects' started by MGH_PA, Feb 5, 2014.

  1. MGH_PA

    MGH_PA Moderator

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    I get questions from members on here time to time about how exactly you build a homemade trail camera, or "homebrews" as they're often referred to. While I'm FAR from an expert on the subject, there really isn't much in the way of a complete documentation of a build start to finish on many of the sites dedicated to this hobby. So as such, I decided to document a recent build of mine I just completed with the hopes of showing the steps involved for those interested.

    Please note this for a relatively simple build. This is a white flash cam, with a simple trail/feed mode program. There are plenty of options for homebrews (video units, IR, Black Flash, IR night/color daytime, slave flash ((on and off camera)), etc.). I'm picking a simple one to document as this is your best bet when first starting out.

    Here are a few things you will need (aside from the parts for the build):

    Soldering Iron (micro/fine tip with adjustable range is ideal).
    Solder (1.0mm is my preference)
    Rosin Flux Paste
    Jeweler's Screw Driver Set (flat and phillips)
    Set of basic files
    Electrical Tape
    Wire Strippers/Nips
    Forstner Bit (1" Dia)
    1/8 to 3/16" Drill Bit For Pilot Holes
    Drill Press (You can get by with a hand drill, but you need to be sure to stabilize the box when drilling larger holes)
    Marine Goop
    Xacto Knife
    Spray Paint (Flat or Camo Style) in Green, Brown, Gray, and Khaki
    Various 26-30 gauge stranded wire in red, black, yellow, and blue (not necessary, but good to have in a pinch)
    This is a good place to purchase wire.
    Liquid Nails PL375

    The collection above will be all you will need to get started building. Most of it can be purchased at local hardware/auto stores (except the wire noted above, and the soldering iron which you can purchase online through Amazon).

    Now, for this particular build, I will list everything you need, and understand that it does change slightly depending on build preference, and camera type.

    You will need:

    Sony DSC-P41 Camera (Ebay is your best friend, but check the classifieds on Hagshouse as well.)
    Pelican 1040 Case (Buy Here)

    The following parts can be purchased here
    Snapshot Sniper II Control Board (Type II)
    5 Wire Servo For Power and Hack
    Sony P41 SA Ribbon
    1 1/4" Round Glass (Flash)
    1 1/4" Round AR Glass (Lens)
    Eva Foam With Adhesive Backing (1/4" and 1/2")
    Flash Gasket Foam (3/8")
    Two (2) AA Battery Holders (Each one holds 2 AA's a piece)
    Quick Pull Ratchet Strap
    1/8" Heat Shrink Tubing

    You will also need:
    6 (min) AA Batteries (DO NOT mix Lithium Ion with Alkaline...I usually just use NiMH rechargeables for both IN the camera as well as the externals)

    SanDisk Memory Stick Pro Duo With Adapter (Adapter)|(Memory Stick)


    Ok, on to the build.

    I have skipped the actual "hacking" portion of the build. I didn't think to make a thread for this until I had already finished hacking it. However, there are two GREAT videos on this build. It's a very simple hack, so watch these two videos, and you will be good to go. Also be sure to watch how to test the hack at the end of the first video to make sure it's working.

    Camera Hack Video:



    Wiring Externals (For the Extra Auxiliary Power):



    Once all of your parts are in, spread them out on a clean workbench:

    [​IMG]


    Open your case up. The first thing we need to do it remove the foam backing on the lid. I've found heating it up with a hair drier helps separate the adhesive better.

    [​IMG]

    Next, we want to remove the bulk of the rubber insert/bladder out of the case. Use your Xacto knife and slice around the perimeter of the case. You will be left with just a strip of it around the top lip of the case:

    [​IMG]


    Next, we're going to test fit the camera and, in this case, the battery holder. I like to keep the camera toward the top of the case (less chance of water settling). This build is going to sit horizontally, and have the lid able to open while still attached to the tree:

    [​IMG]


    Take a piece of your 1/2" foam, cut a strip to place between the top edge of the camera and the case edge (be sure to cut out a piece where the shutter button is. Go ahead and remove the sticky back and put it in the case:

    [​IMG]

    Once you "dry" fit the camera, print yourself a drilling template of your camera (Template Located Here). Be sure to print it at FULL size. Don't let your printer scale it. Once it's printed, I cut it out with my Xacto knife making sure it's precise.

    [​IMG]

    Tape this on the lid in the right direction (remember we're drilling through the lid, but camera is sitting in the base). Mark and drill the pilot hols for the flash and lens holes.

    [​IMG]

    You can see I cut the rectangular opening for the flash in the template with my knife as well.

    Once you have the pilot holes drilled, load up a 1" Forstner Bit, and drill your flash and lens holes. A drill press works wonders here because you can clamp and drill straight easily. I have done this with a hand drill and blocking as well. Just be careful.

    [​IMG]

    Holes drilled (the ridges you see will be addressed later):

    [​IMG]

    Another shot:

    [​IMG]


    Next, we're going to mark a location for the fresnel/control board. The SSII is awesome in that it ships with the wide angle fresnel (this is the motion sensor), and standoffs built into it that connect to the control board. This means you really don't need to be super precise marking this location. I picked a spot in the lower left of the lid.

    Shot of the fresnel with the standoffs installed:

    [​IMG]

    Control board screws to the standoffs through these two holes in the battery holder:

    [​IMG]

    Drill out your fresnel with the 1" Forstner bit:

    [​IMG]

    All done drilling:

    [​IMG]

    Now, we need to file down ALL ridges that are meeting our holes. These ridges will cause our fresnel and glass to sit crooked, so they need filed flush with the surface of the case.

    I mount the case in a vise:

    [​IMG]


    This is what we want when we're done:

    [​IMG]

    Next, we're going to install our glass and fresnel. Take your goop, and find an applicator (I used a thin strip of wood):

    [​IMG]

    Spread the goop around the perimeter of your flash and lens holes on the TOP of the case.IMPORTANT!!DO NOT LET THE GOOP TOUCH FROM THE FLASH HOLE TO THE LENS. This will result in flash bleed and can cause issues with your pictures.

    [​IMG]

    Install the regular glass over the flash hole, and the AR (Anti-Reflective over the lens):

    [​IMG]

    Test fit the fresnel and make sure it's sitting flush with the lid:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  2. MGH_PA

    MGH_PA Moderator

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    Apply goop around the hole and seat it.

    [​IMG]

    Apply extra goop around the base of the fresnel after installing. This will insure no water penetrates the case:

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
    Now, the gasket that's remaining around the edge of the case from when you cut out the bladder with the Xactio knife needs gooped back in place. I put some in each corner and in the middle, and re-seat the seal:

    [​IMG]


    Seal in place:

    [​IMG]


    At this point, give the goop ~24hrs to set up.

    Next, we're going to mark and cut our flash gasket. This gets stuck to the lid on on the backside of the holes we drilled. It's going to sandwich our camera against the lid nice and tight when we close the camera.

    [​IMG]

    You will need to measure how far over you need to drill for the lens and flash holes. Just take a tape and measure from the hinges and mark on the gasket:

    [​IMG]

    Drill these holes out with the 1" Forstner bit:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Peel off the backing and stick it over the holes on the lid.

    Next, I'll show you how to setup your external power. Be sure to watch the videos at the beginning of the thread to see how to tap into the power in the camera. When you're done, you'll have a red and black wire coming out of the camera (along with the other hack wires) that you will solder to your battery holders. This will add mAh's to your camera and improve battery life. Since we're going to be adding 4 AA's to the 2 AA's already in the camera, we have to make sure we don't exceed 3V's, otherwise there will be smoke. Since each battery is ~1.5V, we need to wire the two holders in parallel (black to black and red to red):

    I use some good to stick their backs together:

    [​IMG]

    Twist the reds together. Twist the blacks together. Then solder the twisted reds to red lead coming out of the camera. Solder the twisted blacks to the black coming out of the camera. I also slip a section of heat shrink tubing around each lead and heat it afterwards.

    Here are the leads after soldering:

    [​IMG]

    All finished with the heat shrink in place (Notice I also slid a section of heat shrink over the main wires coming out of the camera as well):

    [​IMG]


    Now, on to the camo for the case. You can buy dipped cases here, or you can make your own. I like the 3D type camo, so that's what I did. Liquid Nails (PL375) works very well. Basically what you want to do is tape off the glass and fresnel (I used an Xacto knife to trim around the edges carefully):

    [​IMG]

    Then apply a generous amount of the the LN to the front of the case.

    [​IMG]

    Next, use a nail, screw, or better yet, a good sized lag screw. You want to work the goop around. Push it around, and just make it "textury." There isn't any science to this. Just play with it. I will work it a little, then walk away. Come back 10 minutes later, work it again. Keep doing this for an hour or two. If you work it once, and walk away, it will flatten on itself. Eventually it will start to set, and then you can stop working it. I will let it cure for 48 hours, then apply a second coat on top in some spots and repeat. The second coat helps build bigger ridges which helps enhance the 3D effect.

    Here's the finished product:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  3. MGH_PA

    MGH_PA Moderator

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    After letting it cure for 48 hours, it's time for paint.

    I like to do a solid base coat (green works best, but I didn't have any, so I used brown):

    [​IMG]

    After that, we're going to dab on other colors to add some shading/highlights. Again, play with your paint. Add some, take a step back, add some more, etc., I will even mix the colors before applying. I spray the paint onto a piece of cardboard, and take a paper towel and swirl it on the paint. Then I dab around on the case.

    [​IMG]

    All done:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Now, it's time to wire up the control board. Refer to the control board documentation here to see where the leads need to be placed into the green connector.

    [​IMG]

    Control board mounted to the fresnel:

    [​IMG]

    All finished. I added a desiccant for moisture control.

    [​IMG]

    That's it! You now have a true home built trail camera that will last you years and years. Plus when you show your friends the pictures, you can tell them you built the camera yourself. Homebrewing isn't for everyone. It takes some time, but the picture quality, reliability, and sense of satisfaction knowing you did it yourself is very rewarding. I hope you all found this helpful, and if you have questions, feel free to post them up!
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2014
  4. MGH_PA

    MGH_PA Moderator

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    One of my cameras on the tree:

    [​IMG]

    Some pictures from my homebrews:

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    [​IMG]
     
  5. tfarah22

    tfarah22 Weekend Warrior

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    How much does one cost you? For just the supplies no tools?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  6. MGH_PA

    MGH_PA Moderator

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    Usually around $120 +/- $10. Really depends on what you get the camera for since that's your biggest expense.
     
  7. tfarah22

    tfarah22 Weekend Warrior

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    Wow that is really cool. Really like the quality of the pictures to. I agree it is nice to build something yourself
     
  8. iHunt

    iHunt Grizzled Veteran

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    Nice write up! I learned a ton from that, thanks!
     
  9. Matt

    Matt Grizzled Veteran

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    Great write up! Pretty sure that's something I'll never be able to do...cool as crap none the less though!
     
  10. donut757

    donut757 Weekend Warrior

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    Thats awesome... If i knew i had it in me to start and finish the task it would be very fun to try out... Bu ti have a problem with finishing products from time to time.
     
  11. Just Passin thru

    Just Passin thru Grizzled Veteran

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    I hope this gets stickied, very helpful thread. Might have to try this sometime, looks like a lot of work but I could use a good project in the summer :D

    Thanks for the write up!
     
  12. MGH_PA

    MGH_PA Moderator

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    No problem!

    It actually isn't too bad. I just documented every step to make sure nothing was missed. I can sticky it, though. Not a bad idea.

    Sent from Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
     
  13. pastorjim08

    pastorjim08 Grizzled Veteran

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    I know this may look intimidating to some but this camera is really very easy. If you have an interest in homebrews, this is a great first build. Thanks Matt for taking the time to do this.

    Blessings..........Pastorjim
     
  14. GABowhunter

    GABowhunter Moderator

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    Awesome Matt! :tu:
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2014
  15. MGH_PA

    MGH_PA Moderator

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    Thanks, Jim!

    Yep, it is pretty simple. I think my post may have made it look more difficult than it is :D The hack for this camera was the easiest one I've done yet. Although I have to admit I'm having an issue with the SSII board, but Gary is sending out a replacement.

    Sent from Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
     
  16. greatwhitehunter3

    greatwhitehunter3 Grizzled Veteran

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    Thanks for taking the time to write this up!
     
  17. Turro

    Turro Die Hard Bowhunter

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    Thanks for the thread and explaining. I'm looking forward to trying some after having issues with most store bought ones.
    What kinds of variations of these have any of you guys made? Like video options, timer settings, any other kinds of addons? I'm gonna do some searches to see too, just thought I'd post to see


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  18. jake_

    jake_ Die Hard Bowhunter

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    Very cool. I am into tinkering with stuff and always heard about homebrews and now I finally got a complete understanding of what goes into the whole set up. Thanks.
     
  19. Fitz

    Fitz Legendary Woodsman

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    Great work Matt! I may have to give one a go so time.
     
  20. SPOTnSTALK

    SPOTnSTALK Grizzled Veteran

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    Really Cool, Good Job.
     
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