Introduction: The SnapPiCam | a Raspberry Pi Camera

Picture of The SnapPiCam | a Raspberry Pi Camera

Adafruit launched it's PiTFT not long ago and I bought one immediately from Pimoroni. Soon after that Adafruit published a tutorial entitled DIY WiFi Raspberry Pi Touchscreen Camera. I had a good read through it and on the final page the final paragraph was;

The package could be slimmed down considerably; there’s a huge amount of empty space between the PiTFT and Raspberry Pi (even more with a Model A board). Advanced makers could squeeze a slim LiPo battery and a 5V boost converter in there, connecting to the expansion header at the right edge of the TFT board instead of the side-protruding USB power connector. The result would be similar in size to some consumer point-and-shoot digital cameras.

Hmmm OK, Challenge Accepted!

But let's see if we can fit in a charger too, and attach some lenses while we're at it. Modern cameras feature both as standard, no reason why the SnapPiCam shouldn't......

Thanks for voting for the SnapPiCam in the Raspberry Pi Contest, we made First Prize!

Check out the latest version of this camera. It has been updated for 3D Printing!

Step 1: Parts

Picture of Parts

1 x Raspberry Pi Model A
1 x Raspberry Pi Camera
1 x Adadfruit PiTFT
1 x Adafruit LiPo Charger
1 x Adafruit 1200mAh LiPo
1 x Pololu Step-Up/Step-Down DC Converter
1 x Slide Switch
1 x Compact Micro SD Adaptor
1 x 8gb Micro SD Card

4 x M3 45mm Button Head Screws
4 x M2 8mm Screws
8 x M2 6mm Screws
2 x Nylon M2.5 6mm Screws
2 x M3 4mm Nylon Spacers

4 x M3 Microbabrs
2 x M2.5 Microbarbs
12 x M2 Microbarbs

25 x Laser-Cut Acrylic Parts

1 x Raspberry Pi Mini Sticker

1 x 8x Zoom Lens
1 x Fish-Eye Lens
1 x Telephoto Lens

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Step 2: Power

Picture of Power

The SnapPiCam uses a 1200mAh LiPo battery. I wanted to know what sort of run-time I could expect from the power pack.

Before I started with the build I hooked up the electricals to a DC Power Supply. By doing a few calculations using the data from the DC Supply we can work out an estimated run-time.

To calculate the power consumption of the electrical components in watts we multiply Volts by Amps.

V x A = W

5.2 x 0.51 = 2.652

The electricals consume power at 2.652 watts per hour. Next we calaulate the battery's capacity.

V x A = W

3.7 x 1.2 = 4.44

The battery holds 4.44 watts based on 3.7v. The Lipo will supply ~4.2v when fully charged, and it's lowest rating is 3.7v. I've gone with the lower value as not to over-estimate the run-time.

Now we know the battery's power capacity and the electricals consumption rate we can approximate the run-time with a simple division.

4.44 / 2.652 = 1.674

We can expect a run-time of 1.6 hours, or 96 minutes. An hour and a half.

Step 3: Starting Point

Picture of Starting Point

I'm going to be making the parts with my laser cutter and the plans will be drawn in Illustrator.

I began by taking measurements of the Raspberry Pi. From that I could estimate the overall width and height of the camera frame. I wanted all the ports such as HDMI, USB and the SD Card all to be accessible even with the components fully enclosed. I also left space for a screw in each corner.

The overall width of the camera worked out at 101mm and with height was 67mm. The depth of the camera depends on how many layers of 3mm acrylic it would take to enclose everything in.

Next I needed to model the LiPo Charger and the DC DC Converter as both of those would be going at the front. The PiTFT needs to face backwards so the Raspberry Pi will be in a down-position with the camera and charger in front.

Cut-outs in the acrylic layers will hold the components. I'll also use recessed Microbarb brass inserts as bolt anchor.

I want to attach some lenses to the front. I bough a few different ones off eBay. The small ones are magnetic and need a washer to attached themselves, but the 8x Zoom has a latching system. I'll have to use interchangeable lenses to handle the two types.

The battery is ~5.5mm thick. It should fit nicely between two 3mm layers. I'll make cut-outs for the battery in the layers and add thinner layer each side of those to box the battery in.

There will also need to be holes for the GPIO and channels for the wires and cables. I'll also need an On / Off switch.

Step 4: Putting It Together

Picture of Putting It Together

Once the plans are finished I can hand them over to my laser cutter. I'm using 3mm clear acrylic.

I went through several versions before arriving at the final design. Before connecting all the wiring I did a test build to make sure it all fitted together.

I've used Microbarb brass inserts instead of nuts. They are a super bit of engineering. Some of the holes for the inserts have been engraved so the Microbarbs will sit flush with the acrylic so the layers will be flat togeher.

Step 5: Wiring

Picture of Wiring

Starting with the fascia face down the SnapPiCam is built up layer by layer.

I had to remove the wires from the LiPo to make it easier to assemble. The FFC for the camera needs to be bent at some nastey angles. You can really only bend the cable once, after that the tracks will probably break and then it will need replacing. You can use the standard cable that comes with the camera.

Two pins connect to the PiTFT on pin 2 (+5v) and pin 9 (GND). Before you connect them to the power check the volatages are correct. You'll find the DC DC Converter needs adjusting. I set mine at 5.2v.

Step 6: Power Up

Picture of Power Up

If you have already setup your Raspberry Pi as described in the Adafruit DIY WiFi Raspberry Pi Touchscreen Camera Tutorial then the camera should load up without any intervention.

A neat trick If you have setup a DropBox account on the camera is using your phone as a Wi-Fi hot-spot to upload your photos to DropBox even while out and about. It makes transfering images back from the camera so much easier.

The LiPo can be set for different charge rates, I left mine as is at 500mAh, most PC USB ports won't give out much more than 500mAh anyway. I didn't want to overheat the battery while it's in an enclosed space either. Charge time is about 3 hours.

Step 7: The Results

Picture of The Results

In what can be described as a typically windy British Day in Derby I ventured out to take a few test shots. The Photos are as follows;

1 | No lens

2 | Fish-Eye

3 | 2 x Telephoto

4 - 7 | 8 x Zoom Lens

8 | Fish-Eye Selfie.

All the photos are unedited.

There are several change I want to make to the design when I get the time; the process of swapping between the magnetic lenses and the 8 x zoom lens is way too complicated to do outside. I'll change the four M2 screw for a single M3 Thumb Screw and have knotches to stop it from rotating. I'll also consider using black acrylic for the lens assembly to stop any light seaping into the picture like what can be seen on the photos taken with the 8 x z00m lens. There is room to the left of the AV socket to fit in a tripod mount, I ran out of time but it will be featured in any future versions. Finally the three polycarbonate sheets, the two for the battery enclose and the back-plate, will be swapped out for 1mm acrylic.

A set of the SnapPiCam plans can be downloaded for free from The LittleBox Company


fashionneverfunction (author)2015-04-29

I actually used this ible with some mods to make my daughter a toy camera. See photos. The color wheel on the camera was used to change photos filters as well. My goal was to keep it as true to the original toy as possible.

Wow that's great. Is it fully functional and working now?

Yep. Fully functional. Has a micro screen from a pair of VR glasses I picked up on eBay. So the screen is in the viewfinder. And the lens is able to be focused as well.

fantastic. Post an instructable for it :)

CactusMonkey (author)2014-03-03

Discovered that my Pi has an antiquated an unsightly growth that your pi does not-

Any advice before I do this?:

Figured it out... need to make amendments for my Model B. Stay tuned.

SilverJimny (author)CactusMonkey2014-03-04

It might be better to just get a Model A

alexsmall (author)SilverJimny2017-06-12

Hey Jimmy.

Do you know anoyine with a Moddl A for sale?

alexsmall (author)alexsmall2017-06-17

found one on CEX

alexsmall (author)2017-06-12

Hey guys! Anyone got a Model A for sale??

Stephen LEE (author)2016-10-31

It's very nice!! I made a similar JPEG camera. I'm going to add openCV function.

TJsanzen (author)2016-08-09

Does it have to be connected to the internet to take pictures or can you take it with you on the go and take pictures anywhere like a normal camera but then just have it upload as soon as it has wifi? Very cool project. I was looking at Cannon and such cameras but they are like $400+ and this is all i would really need. Thanks

-j (author)2015-11-30

now with the Pi zero, this could be slimmed down even more!

SilverJimny (author)-j2015-11-30

I did think that but alas there is no camera socket.

mbart6178 (author)SilverJimny2016-05-23

the new version of the pi zero does

-j (author)SilverJimny2015-11-30

darn, you're right, that would have been amazing, it's quite a bit thinner too..

Guy from south africa (author)-j2016-01-10

pitty you can't connect a camera :(

wheeljam (author)2015-06-22

Can this setup record video?? Record from multiple cameras?? This looks like something I could build and mount to my motorcycle.

doobsgoobs8 (author)2015-03-26

would it be ok if I use the model B+?

(sorry i'm a noob!).

SilverJimny (author)doobsgoobs82015-03-31

if you want, but it won't fit in the SnapPiCam as it is designed for the Model A

cherzog2 (author)2015-01-21

it would be cool if you could manufacture that case.

andrea biffi (author)2014-02-04

the SnapPiCam has an impressive dynamic range, see how I edited your first picture

Just think of the B&W images using a Pi Noir with a 700nm pass filter.

SilverJimny (author)andrea biffi2014-02-04

ooo, nice. What did you do to get it like that?

andrea biffi (author)SilverJimny2014-02-04

Just some level adjusting and a mask for the sky. Actually the essential feature to identify a good digital camera is not the image resolution, but the dynamic range. Not for nothing Canon reduced resolution in his last G model to improve the image quality. So I believe 5 megapixel is good for almost everyhting (except of course high-res images). Always try to not overexpose the sky to make nice pictures.

SilverJimny (author)andrea biffi2014-02-04

Thanks for the tip :)

MoTinkerGNome (author)2014-09-25

Great project SilverJimmy, I picked up a 3.5 PiTFT to use for a portable emulator and I am going to change it to a 5 inch HDMI, I guess I am going to have to pick up another PI for the TFT and a camera board....

Buying a incorrect part does not a problem make, it presents us with an opportunity to build something else.

kenyer (author)2014-08-16

Cool Kickstarter! I hope you do well.

yichone (author)2014-06-20

i have bought a night vision raspberry pi camera at, but can i do it?

5t0rm (author)2014-04-16

How did you set up the touch screen from adafruit

nerd7473 (author)2014-03-12

you should make your own app/distro that changes to a camera as soon as teh pi boots... that would be very cool

SilverJimny (author)nerd74732014-03-12

It does do that :)

nerd7473 (author)SilverJimny2014-03-12

what program did you end up using and how does one such as yourself go about doing that?

esperling (author)2014-03-03

I just need to build a simple camera where I can use lipo power, hit a button, record to sd. film from an rc car and then grab the video. could you point me to something like that? sorry if that's a remedial question. I'm a noob

esperling (author)SilverJimny2014-03-04

Haha i am aware of the gopro and appreciate the response, however, in this build im looking to mount 3-4 cameras to record a 360 degree field of view and i need the whole setup to be as compact as possible

SilverJimny (author)esperling2014-03-05

I suggest using cheap digital cameras, eBay would be a good point to start your research from.

CactusMonkey (author)2014-02-22

Hey SilverJimny-

Hopefully, you don't mind me asking- how did you deal with the slant due to the pi cam pins?

As you can see, assembly is still in progress...

SilverJimny (author)CactusMonkey2014-02-23

3mm Sticky foam pad behind the camera stuck to the acrylic. The screws tighten the camera down onto the foam keeping it level.

CactusMonkey (author)2014-02-18

Laser cutting gave me one extra piece than what is shown here. I'll try to figure it out in the next few days (still waiting on microbarbs to arrive).

SilverJimny (author)CactusMonkey2014-02-19


CactusMonkey (author)2014-02-18

Did some laser cutting today... and so it begins

fotosyn (author)2014-02-11

Totally blown away by this. Everything is so well crafted - great idea with the layering of cut plastic slices.

SilverJimny (author)fotosyn2014-02-11

Thanks :)

slimbore (author)2014-02-08

I do understand , any image interface require lens / at least pin hole , what I need to know can I replace existing lens with a camera lense wich can be adjust focuse. , so that I can replace 35mm film with image interface?

SilverJimny (author)slimbore2014-02-09

If you are asking if you can fit a standard Canon or similar lens onto the SnapPiCam then the answer is no, not without modification to the design.

arquimana (author)2014-02-08

Very nice project! Congrats!
Are there laser plans for download?
Can't wait for build one.


SilverJimny (author)arquimana2014-02-08


The plans are attached to the last step.

About This Instructable




Bio: A passionate make of things. I spend my time developing new ideas and looking for ways to improve old ones! Check out my thingiverse models ... More »
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