Picture of 360 degree analog camera hat
Forget Instagram, bring back that retro look to your pictures by using classic analog film in a fun new way. This camera hat was made using leftover single-use 35mm film cameras and several small servo motors, all powered by two AA batteries. With the camera array sitting on your head, you're able to capture a 360° panorama view of your surroundings. This project requires no special electronics knowledge and can be assembled in about an hour.

I designed this camera array off something I saw on the "Radar Detector" music video by Darwin Deez. But, after making the camera hat, everyone kept asking if it was a low-fi version of Google Street View. It's more the former than the latter, but people can draw their own interpretations. There's also Chindogu.

Of course you can always just buy (or win) a 360° panorama camera, but it's no where near as eye-catching as this one.

Enough talk, let's make a 360° panorama camera hat!

Step 1: Tools + materials

Picture of tools + materials
  • hobby knife
  • soldering iron
  • wire strippers
  • screwdrivers

  • 6-8 x single-use film cameras
  • plastic garbage can (large enough for your head)
  • cable ties (assorted)
  • 6-8 x hobby servo motors (I used 5gram servos)
  • 2 x AA batteries
  • 1 x double AA battery holder
  • Normally-open (N.O) momentary switch
  • thin-gauge braided wire
  • heat-shrink tubing

Step 2: Cut can to size

Picture of cut can to size
In order to hold the cameras and servos in place there needs to be a frame. I used an inexpensive plastic garbage bucket from the Dollar Store. Choose a bucket that can fit over your head (ignore the odd looks from other shoppers when you're trying out buckets on your head).

Next, I scored a cut line around the circumference of the bucket by elevating my hobby knife on a stable platform and rotating the bucket. Working slowly I carefully cut into the bucket until the lower bucket portion was separated from the rest.

Remove any burrs around edge, sand with a fine grit sandpaper if you like.
This bottom portion of the bucket will fit over your head and hold all the cameras, servos and battery assembly.

Step 3: Arrange camera array

Picture of arrange camera array
Next, arrange your cameras around the rim of your bucket ring. The bucket I used had a small ledge which I used to mount my cameras level. Thick cable ties were used to hold each camera firmly in place.

Tighten each cable tie partway, then make any adjustments that are necessary to ensure each camera is equally spaced around the bucket ring, then tighten each cable tie to secure the cameras. Make sure you don't cover the lens with the cable tie. 

Set aside the camera and frame assembly for now while the electronics are put together.

Step 4: Prepare servos

Picture of prepare servos
The electronics for this project are simple.
Most servos will have a 3-wire ribbon cable, this cable enables the servo to interface with a micro controller. However, we want our servos to operate without control circuitry. Luckily removing the controller from inside a servo is easy.

Start by prying open the back of the servo, the first thing you should see will be the controller. Most controllers will have a 3-wire ribbon cable attached to the controller, with wires from the controller to the motor and a potentiometer. Leave the 3-wire ribbon cable and desolder any wires connected to the controller (there should be 2 to the motor and 2 to the potentiometer). This should detach any connection between the controller and the servo, allowing the controller and 3-wire ribbon to be removed as one.

Next, solder new wires directly to the motor. Protect the wires from shorting out by sealing them in heat-shrink tubing. Tuck the soldered connection into the servo housing and snap the back of the servo back on.

Repeat with as many servos as you need for your camera array.

Step 5: Mount servos

Picture of mount servos
After each servo has been modified to direct drive they can be mounted on the camera assembly. Position the servo so that the rotating arm will fall onto the camera shutter trigger. Then using long, thin cable ties secure each servo in place, again making sure your cable ties don't block the camera lens.

Step 6: Wiring

Picture of wiring
I wired the servos in parallel. Using 2 long wires to form an electrical racetrack around the inside of the bucket ring, I cut the vinyl jacket on each wire where it met with the servos and then wired each into the racetrack. Connections were sealed with more heat-shrink tubing.

The battery holder was wired up last, along with long leads for the momentary switch (see next step).

Step 7: Wire servo trigger

Picture of wire servo trigger
To trigger the servos I used a large N.O momentary switch. To hold the switch and provide a handle I used the housing on a regular ballpoint pen. Removing the end cap and ink cartridge inside the pen I fed the wires through and connected the switch, the other end was wired to the battery and racetrack. I decided to encase my trigger cord in some scrap paracord.

After all the wiring is complete tuck any slack wires behind the battery holder, then cable tie the battery holder in place. Then, test out your circuit by depressing the momentary switch, all the servo should activate at once.

Step 8: Take some panorama pictures

Picture of take some panorama pictures
Time to wind up each camera and take your cameras out for a spin! I found that these single-use film camera work best outdoors, if you shoot indoors you'll need to have the flash on and take your pictures in an open area.

Depress trigger, wind each camera, move locations, repeat.

You're going to get a lot of stares.

Step 9: Print your panoramas (optional)

Picture of print your panoramas (optional)
After exposing all the cameras completely I printed out a few of the pictures to make a full panorama.

I lined up the pictures and used clear tape on the backside of each photo, then joined the two ends together forming a loop of pictures with the images on the inside. After, I put my head inside the ring of pictures to fully experience a 360° view of that location*.

*Looks of amazement when head is immersed in panorama may vary.

Step 10: Results and final thoughts

Here's a few of my shots compiled together digitally:
scroll to see entire image ------>

Of the 36 exposures for each camera in the array only about 10 "sets" came out with all six camera exposures in usable form. Of those 10 only the ones shown above were worth sharing, the remainder were either too dark, blown out, or incomprehensible to anyone who wasn't there when I took the shot. 

Some notes to consider for others (and myself for next time):
  • Ensure your camera array (head) is parallel to the ground before shooting
  • Verify all cameras are operable/wound/aligned before shooting
  • Do not rely on camera flash to compensate for terrible indoor lighting 
I hope this inspires you to try and make your own, good luck!

I want to see your creations!  Did you make your own version of this project? Share a picture of your own camera hat and you'll get a digital patch and a 3-month Pro Membership to Instructables!
ychen92 years ago
thanks for sharing.
I made this camera hat preference by your blog.
and it's success!!!! thank you.
I changed the electrode design for the switch that can mack servos turn back by itslef :)

i'm from Taiwan , Taipei
mikeasaurus (author)  ychen92 years ago
That's really great!
For sharing your version I've awarded you a 3-month Pro Membership to Instructables.com and given you a digital patch.
Canoeman2 years ago
Would you please photograph yourself trying to get by the TSA, getting on a plane? :-) I'll pay to watch.

what ever you do, stay out of sight, of the NYPD.

cool idea.
Misac-kun2 years ago
what about a pedestal for proper alignment? it should help a lot!
hertzgamma2 years ago
That is cool!
KGuy3 years ago
I had this idea once when I was young, I just never came around to doing it and knowing what to do........

.......saying that, you did a great job! 5*
zootboy3 years ago
You should give the software Hugin a try. It lets you stitch panoramic photos together graphically, and has all sorts of algorithms built in to compensate for differences in exposure, white balance, lens distortion, etc.

mikeasaurus (author)  zootboy3 years ago
Thanks for the link, I deliberately left these shots unaltered to show the edge definition and what you can expect from a typical 6 camera setup.
gempje3 years ago
haha this is fun!
great results
depotdevoid3 years ago
Cool idea! I love the panoramas!
awi3 years ago
Wow Great effort and great results!!

I photograph panoramas with a fancy roundshot camera, but this surely gives nice results. Maybe your next project will involve a battery of digital cameras.

MoritzB3 years ago
Wouldn´t it be easier to set all the contacts of the camera´s push buttons in parallel, instead of wasting 6 servos?

But nevertheless, great project :-)
I don't see that you could do that with these single-use 35mm film cameras, the buttons are mechanical.
Or if you wanna wire directly you can use these el-cheapo digital cameras instead:


By the way I don't know if there's such a thing as a photo shield for arduino
Those would probably work out cheaper than the processing on the 35mm film.
Providing there is enough overlap in the images you can use panorama software to stitch them together.

Finished panoramas can be uploaded to http://youvr.com/ for sharing.

Here is one that I did (you will need Quicktime to view it):


kbhasi3 years ago
Go put it in the analog camera challenge
this is great ive been trying to figure out a cheaper way to do this instead of buying a panoramic camera
ChrysN3 years ago
That's really cool, great idea!
derte843 years ago
Great hack!
iceng3 years ago
I agree this is a super hat very imaginative !!!
Gave you five.

Have look here for a panorama of a desert event :-)