Electronic Viewfinder for Compact Digital Cameras





Introduction: Electronic Viewfinder for Compact Digital Cameras

This Instructable is specific to making an electronic viewfinder for the Canon S95, but assuming your digital camera has video-out capability, and you can find the correct connector and pin-out, you can adapt for your specific needs.  This viewfinder is USB has rechargeable batteries and can be recharged via a microUSB connection.

This is the Mark 1 version, with a Black & White LCD video module scavenged from a Wild Planet Video Spy Car.  This viewfinder is larger than I wanted it to be, and is not color.  The next version will use parts scavenged from a Vuzix/Icuiti Video Eyewear/Glasses unit.

The other components are avialble online and make this project fairly easy with only minor soldering required.

Why would you want a viewfinder for a digital camera when you have that nice LCD display on the back?  It might be easier to shoot in the sun for one reason, but who really cares why...  if you want one, here is a way to make one.

Step 1: Get Some Parts

I bought the following from sparkfun.com:

1 - Lithium Polymer Charger
2 - 3.7V 110mAH Lithium Polymer Batteries

I scavenged a small switch from a previous project to have a power off/on for the viewfinder.

I had a small plastic box from some old Polaroid Kids Instamatic camera film that fit almost perfectly.

I also ordered a mini HDMI adapter to hack and use to physically stabilize the attachement to the camera.  The Canon S95 has a mini HDMI port just above the Extended USB port.  I used this mini HDMI port to give the viewfinder a more solid physical connection to the camera.  There are no electrical connections to the mini HDMI connector you see in this Instructable.

Step 2: Find a Small LCD Video Module With Lens

I bought a Wild Planet Spy Video Car replacement Headset on ebay.  This was the easiest to hack in my opinion, but is Black & White.  Another option that I will be using for the next version which will be both smaller and color, is components from the cheapest version of the Vuzix/Icuiti video glasses I found on ebay.

Step 3: Cut the Cord

Take your cameras AV cable and snip it!  Try to keep track of which one of the wires is for video, but usually the internal wires are color coded in case you mix it up.  The video cable should be yellow.  This is the one you will connect to the LCD video module.

Step 4: Convert to NTSC If PAL Is Not Required

The video standard most used in the USA is NTSC, and my camera was NTSC.  If you bought your camera in another country, check the manual to see if yours outputs PAL or NTSC video.  This step is purely for the Wild Planet Spy Video Car Headset.  Note the exploded view in red for the resistor locations.  Move the resitor to the empty pads for NTSC.  In this picture you can also see where I glued the mini HDMI connector to the circuit board to strengthen the physical attachment to the camera.  The picture quality is poor and I apologize, but I could not retake it, since by the time I decided to do the Instructable, I had already glued the connectors to the circuit board and now the components are hidden.  Since the box I put it in later worked nicely, I should have waited and glued the connectors to the box instead, but I was also testing the assembly outside of the box.

Step 5: Solder Video Cable to LCD Video Module

Solder the video cable you snipped to the LCD Video Module. The center of the video cable is the positive (+) signal connection, "VIDEO-IN" on the circuit board.  The other wire is the ground (-) connection, "VSS" on the circuit board.

Step 6: Solder the Lithium Polymer Battery Charger to the LCD Video Module

I trimmed the Lithium Polymer Battery charger board by breaking off the end that has the battery connector on it.  This was to allow me to fit it into the space I needed.  I soldered the charger to the LCD video module with a switch in between to allow me to turn off the power when not in use and when charging.  VCC is positive.  VSS is negative.  The picture here is before I removed the connector and added a switch, but you can see where I attach the power supply to the main board.  Also shown is the video connection in a wider view than the previous step.

Step 7: Solder the Batteries to the Charger

Snip the leads to the batteries to the appropriate length for your project and solder the red leads to the (+) terminal on the charger and the black leads to the (-) terminal on the charger.  Currently I have 2 batteries, but may add more depending on how much usage they give me.  Since I made the device USB charge-able, the unit can also be recharged with most of the USB Cell Phone Boosters and other power modules that use a microUSB connector.

Step 8: Arrange, Glue, and Tape!

Arrange the components for your container and get it prepared to stuff into a container of some sort.  For my version, I had to rotate the LCD Video Module's Eyepiece/LCD 90 degrees.  This was so the LCD Module Board could be mounted vertically.  Since the white LED the module used for a backlight for the LCD was centered on the back of the board, it worked out well.  I just made sure the connecting tape cable reached the connector when it was rotated, then glued it to the board in the position I liked.

Step 9: Put It in the Box

Cut the necessary holes in the container of your choice and put the components inside.

Step 10: Make Sure Video-out Is Enabled, and Use It!

Whether I use it much or not, I made this for fun and to see if it could be done cheaply.  The cheapest I could do it is around $50.  If you have to buy the whole Spy Video Car kit or the Vuzix/Icuiti goggles are too much, then your cost will be higher.

This version works, but the low resolution, black & white, and size of the module make it less than perfect, even for a DIY project.  My next version will be less than 1/3rd the size using the components from the Vuzix glasses.

I was still fun and cool to make :-)



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    I tried this for my Fuji Ax200. I used small digital photo viewer, which had 1.0 inch full color LCD (like in a photo). Resolution is 96x64 pixels only, but works great.


    is there any detail for the job?

    I have been searching for an evf solution similar to this for months!!! This is nearly what I'm trying to recreate for my BMPCC. However, it is a video camera and video is output only through a micro HDMI. Other evf solutions are too bulky and defeat the purpose of a pocket sized camera. I have no clue how to accomplish this, but it would be awesome if you could create instructions for this same project with a micro HDMI connection instead. I would mount mine to a shoe mount and use a color lcd, but otherwise, instructions just like this one would completely be generous of you.

    Great hack!
    Have you sussed how to communicate with the Vuzix/Icuiti glasses yet? I have a pair that were supposed to plug into old iPods. They aren't compatible with newer iDevices as they use composite video. Great I thought, easy hack with TVout from arduino... but there are a bewilderingly large number of connections.

    I can't make head nor tail of it and cant seem to find a pinout anywhere. Everyone seems to focus on how to connect to the iPod rather than to a composite accessory. Im guessing one of the lines needs an "activate" signal or resistance pull, but it might be talking serial. I'm totally lost anyway so let me know if you fair better:)

    Very nice instructable, thanks.
    I have to try building something like this for my DSLR.

    Good work!

    What would be the point in that LOL, ROFL, LMAO, ROFLMAO ect... Cough Cough! (LIke a Boss)

    Main reason is that when filming with the DSLR one can't use the optical viewfinder, only the LCD and in sun-/daylight it is quite unusable. Therefore an eyepiece would be nice so that one actually can see what one's filming. :-)

    Ok. So you want to use this for video. I see what you did there. :—— )
    Big nose (Like a Boss)

    Nice project ( Like a Boss), but what kind of battery life do you get out of this?

    I am using 2 of this battery from SparkFun: Polymer Lithium Ion Battery - 110mAh
    sku: PRT-00731. I put my camera on Slideshow so that the LCD was constantly showing something. The backlight is a simple white LED for this LCD Video Module. I thought the battery life would not be very good, but that it would not matter too much, as I could switch off the EVF when not in use. I also thought I could add a light-touch on/off button that would be placed nicely so that instead of the switch, the button would just be pressed whenever I held the camera/viewfinder for shooting. In any case, with the 2 110mAh batteries fully charged, and my camera on slide-show playing something constantly, the viewfinder was displaying for over 3 hours continuously before I forgot about checking it. I was surprised and will do another test trying not to forget about it this time. That seems like it would cover a lot of casual shooting!