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Raspberry Pi All-sky Camera?

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#1 Midnight Dan

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 10:10 AM

I was thinking about making an all-sky camera using a Raspberry Pi board and Fish-eye 5MP camera. It looks pretty cheap, maybe < $100, and probably not that difficult. But, rather than re-invent the wheel, I thought I'd check to see if anyone has already tried or done this.

Here's the parts I found that seems like should do the trick:

5 MP Camera - $25
Camera Mount & Fisheye Lens - $31
Raspberry Pi board - $35
Security Camera Dome - $9

Probably need a few other odds and ends like a power supply and maybe a resistive heater. More likely to end up around $125 or so.

Thoughts? Any experience with something like this?
-Dan

#2 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 11:31 PM

Hi Dan,

Sounds like a neat idea, but I'll give you the benefit of my several attempts to build a digital all-sky camera before giving up and going with my analog version. The first thing I'll tell you is that I have one of those little stick-on wide angle lenses and never got anywhere near a 180 degree FOV on any combination of cameras and other lenses I tried. The other thing to realize is that with a 1/4" sensor, it's a lot harder to get the round vignetted field of view that we'd all like to see. Even the more expensive lens I'm using on my camera doesn't give a full FOV on the 3/8" sensor of my camera, although the vendor claims it will on a 1/2" sensor.

On the dome, I'd looked at that one but was concerned about the clip hole you can see in the foreground. I used this one instead. It adapted nicely to a 2" PVC pipe coupling.

So the real question will be what, if anything, you can do with the camera settings to get integrating or long exposure behavior. It says there are a lot of "auto" settings, but if you can control them from your microcontroller then maybe you have something there. I know I tried a number of webcams, including one that was popular for making a planetary camera after some major hardware hacking at the chip level, but never had anything that worked worth a darn for night vision. However, don't let that discourage you! If you can make this work I might have to try one myself as well. BTW, you may want the Pi Noir version of that camera that has the IR filter removed.

The only other thing to consider is how you plan to transfer/stream the video, etc. I haven't worked with the Raspberry Pi yet myself, although I've been working on a lot of different automation tasks for the observatory using an Arduino Nano for the platform. I'll share details on those at some point! At any rate, you may have some work to do to get the images where you want them. With my analog camera, I can log in and view the streaming video or anything that the motion detector catches on my security DVR (typically birds and bugs) but I don't yet have a way to automatically log snapshots for uploading to my website.

Beo

#3 Midnight Dan

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 06:10 AM

Hi Beo:

Thanks for the info! If I try this, I'll definitely go with your suggested dome.

>> what, if anything, you can do with the camera settings to get integrating or long exposure behavior. It says there are a lot of "auto" settings ...

I noticed that it didn't mention any direct information about exposure length. I did see a comment from a reviewer on one sight that said something about the ability to control exposure. But I'd want to get a more definitive answer on that before purchasing.

>> you may want the Pi Noir version of that camera that has the IR filter removed ...

Yes, I saw that model as well. I think the main reason for removing the IR filter is to allow the use of IR illuminators for night vision - which of course I don't intend to do. Not sure if there's any other advantage to that.

>> The only other thing to consider is how you plan to transfer/stream the video, etc. ...

Yup. That's where I was hoping maybe someone had some experience to share. :grin: Guess not. But, if the camera is up to the task, programming the computer should be a fun challenge. Ethernet is built in, and I'd probably look around to see if there's some available software for a web server so I could just use a browser to view the latest image. Or, failing that, maybe send the image to an ftp site.

My main initial purpose for the camera is just to check out the cloud conditions on those iffy nights. If it works well, I may try to go the next step and record time lapse videos of the night sky like most all-sky cams do. Motion detection to only save unusual events could also be added.

This will probably end up being a project for this winter, but just wanted to see if anyone had experience with using the Raspberry Pi in a project like this.
-Dan

#4 Midnight Dan

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 07:58 AM

Actually, I just watched the Intro video for Debian Linux (Raspberry Pi operating system) here:
http://www.mcmelectr...roduct/83-14421

When loading the OS for the first time, it shows a list of optional components to install, one of which is a web server. So it looks like that functionality is built in. That should at least make it easy to use the camera to view the current image to check out the cloud cover.

-Dan

#5 Midnight Dan

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 02:29 PM

Did some more digging into the camera specs. Hard to come by!

But, turns out that the camera has a maximum of exposure of 1 second, and max ISO of 800. Not sure how that compares to other all sky cameras, or what is needed with a fisheye lens feeding it. But it seems a bit shy. I was thinking I'd probably need maybe 5-10 seconds of integration to get a decent image.

Anyone know? Experience from other all-sky cameras?

-Dan

#6 lambermo

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 02:46 PM

The SX Oculus all-sky camera is high on my wish-list :) It uses a very sensitive CCD camera and is typically set up to take 30 seconds exposures.

SuperStar CCD
Oculus

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#7 JJK

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 03:51 PM

The SX Oculus all-sky camera is high on my wish-list :) It uses a very sensitive CCD camera and is typically set up to take 30 seconds exposures.

SuperStar CCD
Oculus

-- Hans


I bought one. The SX software leaves a bit to be desired, but a fellow in the UK is writing a nicer version. Also, IIRC, the camera doesn't work well during the daytime. I haven't tried that, but if it's true, then it won't work as a weather cam by day.

#8 Midnight Dan

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 05:03 PM

The SX Oculus all-sky camera is high on my wish-list :) It uses a very sensitive CCD camera and is typically set up to take 30 seconds exposures.


Kinda what I figured. Guess I'll pass on the Raspberry Pi unit. I don't really need an all-sky camera ... just thought it would be a fun project if I could do it on the cheap. Oh well.

-Dan

#9 Raginar

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 09:07 PM

Dan,

SDC435 in a security camera case works pretty well. You can wire it up so you can control the settings from a computer too.

Up to 8 seconds integration.

#10 gonzothegreat

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Posted 04 August 2014 - 02:46 PM

Just finished my Raspberry pi-sky box.

 
IMG_0892_640.JPG
POE injectors ~ IP66 box ~ perplex dome 100mm ~ RPI
 
IMG_0894_640.JPG
This is a model A, in the final setup there's a model B+. This was just a test as my model A was just there close by.
 
IMG_0896_640.JPG
NoIR camera ~ M12 lens adaptor ~ M12 Lens aperture F/1.6 | focal length 2.9mm | 
 
IMG_0900_640.JPG
All sealed....
 
IMG_0901_640.JPG
nearly finished product (need to adjust the focus for the stars then seal the dome and fix it with a set of small bolts/nuts.)
and add the Arduino weather station within the box.
From the indi-duino code at http://indiduino.wor...2/meteostation/
 
 
 
 
I've been testing it the other night, with the tool raspistill, 10sec pictures and you can clearly see the night sky.
Quite impressed with it to be honest.
 
The box will also host the weather station (awaiting delivery of my second arduino, the first one didn't survive my mistake.... oops,,,, smokeyyyyy)


Here's a test video of it:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CivHbzwxRI
(best watched in full screen hd)
I live south London (UK), heavily light polluted.... but it does work quite nicely.
When I took the timelapse, I was playing with the settings, this video is not yet the best it can do.
I did managed to do a nicer the other night.

more to follow, still have to finish the weather station (95% complete) which will be integrated to this box.

Edited by gonzothegreat, 04 August 2014 - 02:49 PM.


#11 mclewis1

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Posted 04 August 2014 - 04:34 PM

Very nice clean little project ... it'll be great to see the weather station part too.

 

Q - How are you going to deal with any condensation forming on the inside of the dome?

 

Love one of the new CN 3.0 features ... the embedded video.



#12 gonzothegreat

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 01:15 AM

Very nice clean little project ... it'll be great to see the weather station part too.

 

Q - How are you going to deal with any condensation forming on the inside of the dome?

 

 

The weather station is almost complete, just need to take a few pictures of it (arduino stuff etc....)

as for the condensation inside, it will be sealed and I might add a dew heater thing.



#13 Midnight Dan

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 08:41 AM

Hi gonzo:

 

Nice project!  I'm not seeing much of the night sky though.  I can definitely see the clouds when they pass by.  Other than that, I only see a single star moving off the top of the image in the first half of the video.

 

You say they are "10 sec pictures".  Do you mean 10 second long exposures, or 10 seconds between exposures?  The documentation I could dig up said that the maximum exposure length for the camera was 1 second, which is why I decided not to go with it.  Did you actually get exposures 10 seconds long somehow?  Can you go longer?

 

-Dan



#14 gonzothegreat

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 08:48 AM

Hi Dan,

 

That's correct, 1 star in that video :(. That's what you could see that night I'm afraid.  Living in London is a pain in the back side, way too much light pollution.

But that's ok, I'm building a remote observatory which will be moved somewhere in Germany with a perfect dark sky, no light pollution at all.

I will open up a different thread, but if you're interested head over to http://stargazerslou...co-observatory/

 

and it's a picture every 10 sec.



#15 Starhawk

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 09:21 AM

Ok, I have just lost my response to this post twice and got directed to ads I know I didn't click on.  Oh good,we got Hoop.la back.

 

Let's hope three is the charm:

 

The video wouldn't show the clouds without light pollution.  It would have been mostly black unless the plane flew by.  You need either a lower f/# or longer exposures. 

 

I was was wondering about getting an older DSLR as a camera and using its longer exposure, superior sensor and superior lenses.   It would need to be able to send an image out without recording it.  This could also be a path for a low overhead automated DSLR controller for a modern camera. 

 

No redirect yet...

 

-Rich



#16 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 10:33 AM

I was was wondering about getting an older DSLR as a camera and using its longer exposure, superior sensor and superior lenses.   It would need to be able to send an image out without recording it.  This could also be a path for a low overhead automated DSLR controller for a modern camera. 

 

 

I'd thought about that too.  I see two limiting factors that increase the cost.  First is the need for an uber wide angle lens, which were never cheap to begin with and aren't likely to be cheap used.  Second is that you can't get too old (about a 450D on the Canon line) and still be able to remotely control and download photos automatically with something like BackyardEOS.  A big enough dome is also going to cost a lot more.  

 

Beo



#17 Midnight Dan

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 09:33 AM

Another issue with DSLRs is shutter life.  The lower end units like the 450D have lifetimes in the range of 10K to 50K actuations.  Running it all night, every night, you'll chew through that pretty quickly.

 

-Dan








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