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My Microsoft LifeCam Cinema HD Mod

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#1 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 01 March 2010 - 10:09 PM

When I saw Gary Honis' recent guide for modifying the Microsoft LifeCam Cinema HD for use as a planetary imaging webcam, I decided it would be nice to give it a shot again. I'd bought an earlier LifeCam last year and it didn't work well at all, although it was pretty easy to remove the lense and expose the sensor on that one. The Nosepiece there was also ideal for a 1.25" mount, but the camera sensitivity and adjustment just wasn't what was needed. Then again, I was looking for a guide scope rather than a planetary imager at the time...

At any rate, I digress! When Amazon dropped the price to $49.99 with free shipping last week, I went ahead and jumped on it. (It's back up to the $59.99 now, unfortunately.) I didn't have a bunch of spare 1.25" spacers/adapters handy, but a trip to Home Depot for a $2.11 1" copper coupler served quite well. Turns out it's exactly the length of the resulting camera body, and has a nice 1.25" OD.

After following Gary's instructions, there are a few changes I'd make if I were doing it again. Steps 1, 6, and 7 aren't really necessary (although step 1 may be useful for convenience). Removing the screws in steps 3 and 11 should allow the entire base assembly to be snapped out without taking it apart piece by piece. I left the cable connected (skipping step 8) and would have skipped step 4 had I realized it wasn't really necessary. After removing the base, button, and microphone cover, the metal sleeve slides down the cable.

I wanted to desolder the blue LED by the sensor (or it's limiting resistor on the other side) but I think they've been epoxied to the board. Either that or I was just too scared that I'd overheat it and damage the board that I didn't get the solder to flow. I ended up using several layers of whiteout as a quick and dirty cover for the LED, although I am a little worried it might flake off.

Reassembling the unit, I put the sleeve back on and snapped on the back cover. I didn't need the glue or foam as in step 24 either. A few layers of 1.5" painter's masking tape and the copper coupling slides right on with a nice snug fit. I put extra layers and then took off a bit at a time until it fit just right.

The camera worked like a charm with just this setup, although seeing wasn't ideal for imaging. However, without a flange there is the risk of letting it slip too far into the scope and damaging a diagonal or something. I debated several options, including just a large layer of tape, or more tape as a spacer to wedge on a piece of PVC pipe or a coupling. Another trip to Home Depot and a went with a piece of 1" black poly pipe ($1.80 or so) and I cut a small section and split it so that it could be spread and snapped around the copper tube to provide a safety flange.

The one limitation as Gary points out (beyond not being beautiful, although some black spraypaint could solve that) is the lack of filter threads. Not a problem for me, but something to remember if you need it. Given the range of exposure control, I'm not sure that a filter is necessary, but mileage may differ...

Hope this helps others thinking about doing the same.


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#2 chrisj49120



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Posted 01 March 2010 - 10:43 PM

Just got done modding the camera. I ordered an eyepiece extension for the housing. Black paint didnt want to stick to the LED but black RTV worked ok.

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#3 zAmbonii



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Posted 03 March 2010 - 12:10 AM

I never included a pic of my mod in my other thread, I included it below. I sacrificed an old Meade 25mm cheapo eyepiece, and it fit inside pretty snugly after I cleaned out the eyepiece. The pic has a Celestron UV/IR filter on the front of the eyepiece.

Any pics with your mods yet? I'm unhappy with the color balance without and with the celestron filter. I'm thinking of hacking apart the lens assembly and using the filter that came with the cam. Need to see how that goes.

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#4 rjsc2000


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Posted 08 August 2011 - 08:49 AM


Have you been able to remove the filter?


#5 PiotrM



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Posted 08 August 2011 - 01:40 PM

With the IR/UV cut (maybe one that cuts more red) the color balance should be natural (+/- changing balance in the camera software). My friend did this:
No filter: http://imageshack.us...1175401544.jpg/
Baader IR/UV Cut: http://imageshack.us...175244416k.jpg/

I had LifeCam HD-5000, much harder to mod, and I just stripped it of every unneded element: http://i51.tinypic.com/rli3cy.jpg and then from the electronics store I got a generic housing (bit to small than I expected) and combined everything with a nosepiece: http://i52.tinypic.com/2edqbgg.jpg (the webcam nosepieces won't screw in).

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