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Here goes my Lifecam Venture

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#1 jarhead

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:25 PM

Well, today I bought a Lifecam Cinema for $19.95 from my local H H Gregg store. They are cleaning out stock for the new "Studio" version from Microsoft. Great buy for a first camera. Now I will do the Gary Honis mod and put it in my own container made from materials from local Home Depots and Lowes stores. I got the measurements for an eyepiece barrel and went to the stores with my calipers in hand. The eyepiece barrels runout between 1.245 and 1.247 inches. Well, I found enough to get my brain in gear and go to work. I will take some pictures and post them. I am sure I'm not the only person looking to save some money to adapt a webcam to a telescope. I think it will look pretty good when I finish. I finished my drawings of it today. TTY all soon, with some pics too! I will be looking forward to comments and help in getting this working to take some real pictures, I hope, with my old Criterion RV-6 Dynamax. Stay tuned for more. Thanks to all of you knowledgable people. Semper Fi.

#2 ben2112

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 04:49 AM

That sounds really cool. I have read about the Gary Honis mod. I might swing by my HH Greg after work today and see if they have a Cinema for the same price. If they do, I'll pick one up and give it a try. Please post pics of what materials you use. Since I don't have any empty film canisters or know where I can get some, alternate materials will have to be used.

#3 jarhead

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 09:10 AM

I made a living for 20 years and 2 companies in the irrigation world. So, needless to say, the first things I looked for were PVC fittings. The little drain pipes under your sink in the bath are usually 1.25 inch material. Anyow, this is what my first container will be made with. The one from Lowes is just slightly smaller O.D. and is smoother going into the focuser. I will be ptting pictures out here. I'm looking forward to the little project. Thanks for replying.

#4 CounterWeight

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 11:56 AM

Would be great to see your process and what imagry you can get with it, look forward to your posts. I've seen some impressive results planetary imaging with modified webcams. Is your first deployment into imaging country? ;)

#5 jarhead

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 03:14 PM

Never took a picture. Don't know how well my old RV-6 will do, but I should be able to experiment enought to learn -- focus, software, stacking etc. I know the UK package for the camera is nice (About $25 us dollars), but I love puzzles. And I like making things with my hands and brain. Like puzzle solving. I will be posting a few beginning pics for the container and then move on from there. I'm kinda excited for an old retired fella. Having fun too -- both here on the forum and putting this puzzle together. Thanks for the encouragement.

#6 GpB311

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 08:19 PM

The lifecam cinema works quite well, but Ive only used it for Lunar and planetary viewing so far, and I dont think Ive played with it enough to really bring out its true capability. I look forward to seeing what you get out of it!

#7 jarhead

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 09:47 PM

GpB311 - I'm sure I will have to play with it a lot before I get the hang of it. Right now, my big desire is to get my grandkids a little more excited about astronomy. We had a nice night a few weeks ago and the moon and Jupiter looked really nice. BTW I like your avatar. Pretty good animation.

#8 jarhead

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 03:15 PM

Well folks, I just finished the Honis mods on the Lifecam. I will say this, you will find out just how UNSTEADY you are and how BAD your EYES are. I mean at 66, I'm not bad, but when it gets down to screws the size of an eyelash, well, try to pluck just one eyelash out. I did step 6 after step 8. With the wires out of the way, you can see into the body better in order to get the phillips screwdriver lined up better. PUSH hard, that one was stubborn. The tiny phillips receiver of that type of screw is easy to roll out. So PUSH FIRMLY on that one. I DID NOT do step 7. Everything else went pretty much per Honis layout. PAY attention to where the MICROSCOPIC LED is. When you pull the front lens off, look at the BOTTOM of the IR lense and notice where the little long piece of opaque piece of plastic goes into body and sits on top of the LED and PROJECTS it out to the front as an indicator. YOU MUST PAINT IT. DON'T FORGET IT, or you'll be pulling it out later and doing it. I DE-SOLDERED my IR unit with a torch and a TINY screwdriver. Heated the screwdriver tip, pried up under small copper strips at solder area and lifted right off. Heated up screwdriver for each de-solder. I put my CCD unit unit back into the main body tube because of the way I'm building my container for the focuser. I need the extra diameter to get a snug fit. Will try to start taking a few pictures so you can see what I'm doing. Thanks for your attention.

#9 jarhead

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 03:39 PM

Just plugged it into the computer for a dry run. Found I needed more paint on LED. So, I take back what I said. You can paint it after you have it converted once you have cabled it and put it in the first shell (body). At least, I know it works. All the sites WARN you ---- DO NOT TOUCH THE CCD!! So, I didn't. I guess it will smudge easily and ruin the picture quality. I can tell it will image now. All I have to do is get my container ready and find a full moon to start with. More later.

#10 Driven1

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 06:14 PM

You're better off just breaking the LED out of it. You can just "chipp" it off the board with a small flathead. It won't change a thing with the Lifecam. And yes, touching the sensor is bad. Very bad. Here's a couple of shots of mine in its completed state...

#11 Driven1

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 06:27 PM

Side...

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#12 Driven1

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 06:27 PM

Front...

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#13 Driven1

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 06:38 PM

And one of the results through my little iOptron Newt. This is actually a combination of two shots. One for Jupiter and one for the Moons. Not sure why I got diffraction spikes on the Moons though. But still, it gives you an idea of the camera's capabilities under the right conditions.

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#14 jarhead

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 07:26 PM

DRIVEN 1
I am not sure if I could have left the microphone off. Maybe the programs throw errors when the mic is not hooked up. I may test that theory once I make sure everything works like it is. Did you just put yours back into the original barrel and put it in your scope? I like the way you routed the wire through the original mount socket. It's clean and compact. Really nice. How did you attach the eyepiece barrel? Yours looks neat and simple. I will have to wait a bit to post pictures. Not sure how to do it yet here. I assume if I put them on Dropbox and stick the URL in here, they will be viewable. Just not sure how this forum works yet. Never posted a picture here.

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#15 jarhead

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 08:00 PM

I designed my container to allow me to insert a filter in the tube. My old Criterion eyepieces don't have a thread on the bottom for filters. Otherwise I would have just taken the longest barrel I had and used it for a focuser adapter. At least I know the camera works. Hoping for some clear weather and a borrowed laptop to try it out. I will get the other pictures posted with a link for this forum. If anyone has advice on posting them directly here without doing 1 for each reply, let me know.

#16 jarhead

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 08:05 PM

BTW, I found an article about getting 30fps on a software called "Debut" with the lifecam. I have read Gary Honis's article talking about the 15fps limit with certain drivers in Windows. He has apparently done a lot of astrophoto work and hacks. I now he told how he first got 30fps out of it, but didn't make note of the dates. Things change fast in the computer world.

#17 Driven1

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 08:26 PM

Yup, you can disconnect the microphone. Also has no effect on how the camera works. Mine IS very simple. Pretty much the same thing that you've done as far as pulling the lens assembly, except that I broke out the LED (seemed like no amount of paint would totally kill it) and disconnected the mic. To mount the camera like a lens I kept the camera mounted in the stock plastic barrel, then I used a spare threaded tube from an old lens I wasn't using. I wrapped the front portion of the camera with enough electrical tape to make it a snug fit to the old lens tube and then screwed the old lens tube over it. Doing it this way took the possible alignment problems out of the way. The camera is perpendicular to the focal point and I can screw filters on the bottom if I like.

It looks like what you have done should work equally as well just as long as everything's aligned well.

#18 jarhead

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 08:43 PM

I hope it will. It is a nice snug fit both in the home made barrel and the focuser receiver. I will probably do a tiny bit of tape to take up what little (.02) difference there is for the camera and the inside wall of the pvc tube. Again I want to compiment you on the rerouting of the wire. That was shear genius. Well, I may be prying some info out of you if I run into technical difficulties. BTW, are you getting 30fps on a lot of your pics? P.S. I'm taking the MICROPHONE out tomorrow. Thanks.

#19 Driven1

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 08:57 PM

On the 30fps thing, I use SharpCap for capturing the images. I can get 30fps up to a point with it. There's info here about that http://www.sharpcap.co.uk/stacking I still use Registax occasionally too.

The info on that page isn't specific to SharpCap. It's more of a windows thing. And as Gary Honis mentioned, DO NOT USE the drivers that came with the camera. Using the stock windows drivers will deliver the 30fps whereas the Lifecaam drivers simply will not. No matter what you try. 30 fps is not essential though.

These cameras are fairly good at bright objects and planetary stuff. Not so good for DSO or dim star (like clusters)work. DSLR's or dedicated CCD's are the way to go for that stuff but then you're getting into some serious money and a serious learning curve. Even with the lowly webcam there's quite a learning curve and A LOT of trial and error. BUT, it's a great way to get your feet wet in AP and you can get some surprising results.

#20 jarhead

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 09:12 PM

I forgot to give you all this link. I have used it for years to see what kind of atmosphere I will be up against. I think you might find it useful. http://www.ssec.wisc...annel=wv&amp...
There are several options on the left of the page. Browse around and see if it will help any of you.

#21 jarhead

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 09:19 PM

How do you get rid of the Windows drivers for the lifecam? What do you replace them with? Told you I'd be picking your brain. Thanks for letting me. I am OK, even sometimes great with computer, but not a Windows fan. Use mostly Ubuntu ( a form of Linux). Some things are only available in Windows. Thanks again. My Mothers (deceased) side of the family is form the Philadelphia area. TTYS

#22 Driven1

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 09:25 PM

I forgot, can't remember if Gary did it or not, but I got rid of the "Call Button" too. Can be a PITA. I can consistently get 30fps out of mine using SharpCap with the mjpg codec on bright objects at full resolution. When I have to bump up the exposure setting past -6 for dimmer objects it starts dropping frames, throwing the 30fps out the window. Here's the thing though, 10fps is fine in most cases, especially using a guided scope. If you're doing it with an unguided scope, that's where the 30fps comes in handy.

#23 jarhead

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 09:45 PM

Well, needless to say, my old Dynamax has ONE motor and no controls. I am trying to get a Dynamax frequency controller. It will atl least let me vary the speed of the one motor to change it for Lunar, and Solar. Just missed one here on classifieds for $80. Oh well. Thanks again for all the help.

#24 Driven1

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 09:50 PM

Well, just as long as I have brains left to pick, you're welcome to 'em. ;) To change the drivers, with the camera connected, you need to go to control panel > device manager > Imaging Devices. Right click on the lifecam and select update driver software. A new window will come up. Select "Browse my Computer for Driver Software." On the next screen select "Let me pick from a list..." In the next screen select USB Video Device. That should do it. Windows will update the driver to that one (which is the standard windows driver) and you should get the 30 fps after that just as long as you're using the right codec in your capture software.

#25 jarhead

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 10:19 PM

Wow!! That's simple enough. Thanks for the huss. I will give it a go and see what happens. I will probably do an in house test tomorrow. Gotta borrow a laptop. Still shopping for one. I may get a chance next week. Our weather has been *BLEEP* here. I know you all have had some bad stuff in Penn lately too. Tennessee is always dreary during the winter. Thanks again and good night.






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