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07/16/06
Pencams and other diversions
Filed under: general, pencams
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 8:27 am

Pencam<br />
MegaThe Pencams arrived this past week. I’d been pretty consistently impressed by JimG’s
photostream
and the writings of other folks on the iBob list about using them as a low-cost, easily toteable, won’t cry if it gets
fried/crushed/soaked solution to taking photos on rides. 

I’d been using my camera phone, which, to put it poitely, pretty much
sucked: exposures based on who-knows-what, a preset focus which worked
on virtually nothing, and an extremely easy lens to smear with grimy
paws. The photos which accompany the Ashland ride journal entry are
from the camera phone.  To be charitable, they are sort of
“painterly”.

My working plan was to use the
Mega Cam (at left) as the still camera, and mess around with using the
1.3 SD (at right) as a cheap video camera, as they claim you can shoot
about 5 or 6 fps in high rez mode, or about twice that in low rez. The
1.3 SD also has a removeable 128 mb SD card (which comes with the
camera for the $19/refurbished price). 

(I will not digress
here into my too-oft-told story of early ’80’s 10 meg vs 20 meg hard
drive discussions we all had - you’ve probably heard it before,
anyway.)  The Mega comes with a little webconferencing stand
and the SD actually has a rudimentary tripod.  Both have neck
straps so you can have them accessable during raves or
actions.  Probably won’t be using mine.

  The
cameras are roughly the same size.  The little guy - called
Mega Cam, which may have some sly Godzilla reference implicit -
measures up at just over 3″ x 1″ x 1″. SD is just under 4″, is held
horizontally (as shown in the photo) and is about an inch and a quarter
tall x 1″ deep.  Both run on AAA sized batteries, and I’m
using rechargeables, and will probably tuck a couple of alkaline
“photo” batteries in the pack for longer rides. 

 The first issue to wrangle was software. The
CD’s which come with the cameras are for Windows.  (I can’t vouch
for the implementation, but it at least loaded onto the old Toshiba
laptop that is running NT. More if I actually plug the things into that
poor, beaten up thing).

I was hoping that the Mac would just
see the camera as a drive and I could copy photos over to the
computer.  No go.  Although the USB port powers both
camera models when they are attached, they didn’t appear on the desktop
or anything sophisticated.  I poked around a bit with the
System Profiler, and could see something attached to the USB port, but
it wouldn’t open or access. With a bit of prowling, I found a mac
driver from Aiptek
(keep scrolling down), and another from
IOXperts. Neither worked on my system. The one that worked was Maccam
from Sourceforge
, which I stumbled upon here
(and I then found a few other references  to it as
well…).

So Far -
I’ve used the Mega on a couple of
rides
, and think that the scanning
anomolies
are pretty cool - it has worked well, although I’d
like to figure out how to cover the lens so it doesn’t get dusty or
scratched.

  I used the SD yesterday
and other than a little hazing/flare from sweat on the lens, it worked
well. The only problem that cropped up was the last 3 shots (#’s 24,
25, 26 on the bunch) wouldn’t transfer. When Maccam did the transfer,
it took an extra 10 minutes for the last three to come over the mojo
wire. Nothing I had would open the files, so I lost the photos of the
smiling dog and the black on black fixed gear.  I went through
a card format procedure on the SD, and then tested it up to
#30.  Everything worked fine. So, maybe it makes sense to go
through the format before trying to take photos.  The lens
moves easier than the Mega (they are both guess-ti-focus designs), but
notches into the “normal” setting and the “close” setting. 
The close setting seems to be about 12″, which introduces a fair amount
of parrallax error.

         

2 Responses to “Pencams and other diversions”

  1. jim g Says:

    RE: “guess-to-focus”
    see this on Flickr

    RE: “lens cover”
    see this on Flickr
  2. The Cyclofiend Says:

    Yo JimG -
    As usual, “Nice Hack!”
    Thanks for passing that along!
    - Jim