Introduction: Action Cam Hacking
First of all read this 4 points:
- Manual Focus
- Various Lenses (from 180° until 6° of FOV)
- IR Photography
- IR Vision
Have I your Attention?Good, let's go.
Welcome to my second instructable. You have 2 choice:
- Video Tutorial
- Step by Step Instructable tutorial.
Both of them :D
I will show you how :
- How to open your Action Cam
- How to replace the lenses
- How the cam can be converted to IR Vision or IR Photography...
- How to fix or improve the microphone, wires, lcd monitor...
- How to do other improvements
- Is cool.
- We can do it...why not.
- We can build a Zoomed Sniper Cam for Soft Air, Paintball or Air Rifle Hunting.
- We can take video and picture in HARD MACRO MODE.
- We can work with manual focus and zoomming.
- We can take video and picture with a thin depth of field.
- We can take video and picture in Infrared and Ultraviolet light. (another Instructable)
- We can use zoom lenses for Birdwatching, Spy, Survellaince ...
- And every thing you have on mind...
What else do you want?
Step 1: NOT MY BAD
If you broke something, is not my bad :D Before follow my instructions...study them, watch the video...
If you don't have any skill with electronics, welding and mini drill...find someone to help you!
Step 2: What You Need
We will see the main hardware and tools for this project, than a better view to the action cam and lenses:
- Action Cam ("you don't say?" :D)
- CCTV Lenses M12 thread 0,5mm pitch with the desired focal lenght.
- IR/UV Cut filter, rounded or squared, from 6mm (at least) to 9mm maximum.
- Condenser Microphone
- E-Devices Repair Tools
- Small Screwdrivers (flat and cross)
- Broken USB cable
- Tin for welding
- Mini Drill
- Diamond Bit for mini drill
- Iron or Brass brush bit for mini drill
- Large Grain sand paper bit for mini drill
- 0,8 mm drill bit
Step 3: The Action Cam
For the first experience i suggest to buy a low cost chinese action cam. In my tutorial i use a ThiEYE i60e, is really good, the audio not too much but the video is at a GoPro2-3 level. ThiEYE action cam in general, seems to be at midle level: over the low cost and just below the GoPro. The video is really good, the pictures...mhh...too much compressed, but we can do a lot of thing after our modding. This cam has WiFi connection, app control, firmware updates, good support, compatible with all the GoPro's accessories, video time lapse, picture time lapse, slow mo...
Anyway, you can buy and mod what you prefer, but keep on mind: every action cam has a little or big different way to be opened, even if the main structure and steps are really similar.
If you want, you can do this modding also to a GoPro camera. On you tube you can find some video that shows how open every GoPro model.
Step 4: CCTV Lenses M12
Tre trick is this: you have to buy CCTV's(Security Camera) Lenses on internet. Where? Aliexpress is the biggest market for this kind of products.
- Go on www.aliexpress.com
- Search Bar and type "CCTV Lens M12"
If you know what focal lenght buy just type:
"25mm M12 Lens" and is done.
The main focals are:
- 1,6mm (Fisheye 180°)
- 1,8 (170°)
- 2,8mm-12mm Manual Zoom and Focus
- 25mm (i've tried it..."impossible" use it for short distance, the lens barrel is short,if you focus near, the lens is out..FIX BELOW. Anyway is perfect for long distance)
- 45mm Pinhole (also this lens is problematic for short distance, because the barrel is short...FIX BELOW)
- 50mm (like a 350mm on a full frame dsrl)
- 70mm: video tutorial on you tube suggest is a too much low contrast and low bright lens)
- also 100mm
These focals exist with variuos aperture.
TRUST ME, don't go beyond the 50mm! All of this focals exist in normal mode and PINHOLE LENS. The difference?
FIX FOR SHORT BARREL: 25mm and 45mm gives some problem for short distance focusing (under 25m or 45m) the only solution is buy an M12 Lens Extension
M12 Extender on E-Bay.com (USA)
M12 Extender on E-Bay UK (shipment everywhere)
THE DEPTH OF FIELD. Exist a specific rule about it: the depth of field is directly proportional to the aperture and inversal proportional to the focal lenght. So...
- large aperture
- brightness lens
- small depth of field
- the virtual space where the subjects will be focused is really small, specially at big focal lenght.
- With fisheye lens the depth of field is really big but only form a specific distance, is hard take macro without move the focus.
- small aperture
- low bright
- low contrast
- big big depth of field also at high focal
- You can shoot video or photo form near to far without move the focusing.
- You can have problem of short barrel and need an M12 extension.
Step 5: IR/UV Cut Filter
Maybe you don't know it but, every single imaging device in the earth is sensible to the Infrared and Ultraviolet Light. And every camera, smartphone, DSLR, security camera...has an UV/IR Cut filter, for block this light, in order to give us a correct perception of the color.
WHERE BUY THEM?
- E-Bay and Aliexpress
- Type in the search bar "IR CUT FILTER" or "IR/UV Cut Filter"
- If you wanna be more specific type also the sizes "IR cut filter 6mm*6mm"
- and the shape "ir cut filter 9mm round"
- Buy the lenses...wait them...
- Take the measures at the bottom or top of the lens...
- Decide what shape and measure buy
- If you have it you can use and UV/IR cut filter for Telescope, for astronomical imaging, to put front of the lens. There will be a little movement, but with dutch tape is fixed.
- lock screws.
- glue for glass.
- super glue.
Step 6: Open the Camera
Menawhile you are waiting the lenses and the filters, you can open the camera for unlock the stock lens: in this way you can start to play with the manual focus. Keep on mind: the stock lens is sure a wide angle lens, with a big depth of field and here the manual focus will be usefull only for macro shooting.
A- REMOVE THE "OUTFIT"
- Remove the sd card
- Remove the battery
- Talìke the small "crowbar" of the repair kit
- Remove the orange ring outside the lens: this ring has smalls rounded pins, wihout glue ...insert gently the crowbar between the ring and the case...tilt...move it around the ring.
- Removed the orange ring you have to remove the MAIN BLACK RING: it has 3 teeth, one every 120°... same strategy, move it gently, tilt the crowbar... "CLACK" and the ring is out.
B- REMOVE THE FRONT CASE PANEL:
- With a knife, "crowbar", "plectrum"...try to enlarghe the rift beetwen the frontal side of the case (polish plastic) and the mani body (matt plastic, more soft).
- When you penetrated the rift, start to tilt and move gently the tool along all the border of the case.
- Normally nothing is linked to the front panel but some model could have some wires, sensors, button...be carefull.
C- REMOVE THE INTERNAL PANEL:
- Now we need to unscrew all the screws (look picture)
- After removed them, flip GENTLY the panel, taking attention to the 2 red wires that links the Mainboard to the Power button: i warn you, you will sure broke these wires, because are chinese... for this reason we have the broken usb cable, for emergency, for fix them with the internal small wires.
D- REMOVE THE MOTHERBOARD:
- Use the "crowbar", fit it in the space between the MoBo and the Case, tilt gently, 1 time for corner.
- Use your hand, grab the Battery Case and pull.
- If is hard, enlarge a bit the "usb plug" side of the case, because the metal shield of the plug is embedded in the case.
- You will also move out the monitor, do not worry if you see it move .
E- REMOVE THE LCD MONITOR:
- The LCD screen is linked to the MoBo with a special plug with 2 brakes...unblock them.
- Pull gently the link
- Park your monitor in a safe place
- Remove the 3 screws from the back side: they fix the mobo to the battery case to the back shield.
F- REMOVE THE BATTERY CASE:
- The Battery case has 2 guides on the vertical part of the MoBo...pull it off gently.
- Flip it aside.
DONE, NOW WE HAVE THE MOBO ON OUR HAND IN ORDER TO DO A CLEAN WORK ON THE LENS HOLDER
You broken the power wires? No problem, you will fix them later...
Step 7: Unlock the Lens
The previous video explain also this part.
- Take a small, flat, screwdriver...gently start to remove the main mass of the glue that block the lens.
- If necessary use the diamond bit with the mini drill.Try to turn the lens...gently force.
- Otherwise use the brass brush at LOW SPEED (always mini drill)... less gently force...
- AT LEAST, e-welder: heat up the glu, it will melt and in that moment start to turn the lens... "use the Force my Young Padawan".
When the lens is finally out, clean the lens's thread with the brass brush.
Step 8: UV/IR Cut Filter
In the video you will see and indroduction about the filter and how mount it.
- Put 1 small drop of glue in 4-5 poin around the edge of the bottom of the lens.
- Lay the Filter on the bottom of the lens
- Be carefull to center it, specially if you buy it 11mm of diameter.
- 8mm round filter, can be placed also inside the bottom tube of the lens, if there is a small internal step/diafram
- With the 2.8mm-12mm zoom lens, the filter can be place at the bottom of the focal zoom mechanism.
- put the lens in a vise (gently)
- place the filter on the bottom edge of the lens
- center it with a caliber: set it at 12mm and be sure that the border of the lens doesn't go outside the thread.
- put the glue in the line between the filter and the lens.
- WAIT... more time than other method.
This metod is longer and not clean...but the centering is better.
Step 9: Improvements and Editing
Especially if you wanna use the 2,8mm-12mm Zoom Lens, you will need to do some editing, due to the fact that the lens is larger than stock one: at the base and the top. So you need to:
- In the battery case, engrave a small rectangular window on the "lens holder" side: is necessary for give space at the base of the Zoom lens.
- Enlarge the the lens's hole in the Internal Panel: with the large grain san paper bit, low speed.Always for the Zoom Lens.Small
- EXTRA HOLES: for the microphone and for the heat dissipation. Do them in the microphone side, at the top of the cam and the base. Use the mini drill with the smallest drill bit you have (0,8 mm is the best).
Step 10: Improve or Replace the Microphone
The first time, with the intention to improve the microphone's sensitivity, i did some little hole in the usb plug side...i was been so smart and accurate that i've hit perfectly the microphone itself...for improve it, i've broken it :°D (still working but crapping audio).
Anyway, the original microphone... sucks a lot, due to the codec but first of all due to the dimension.
The new microphone it will be bigger and you can't weld it on the original site (no space), Mobo's hole smaller the the pin, so you need to find for him a new home, like below the lens. We will use 2 small wires for make a bridge and the mic it will be "flying" inside the case.
- Use the e-welder and unmount the original mic: start heating the back side of the mobo, at the mic pins i mean.
- With a nipper pull the microphone for remove it.
- Now in the MoBo you should see the negative and positive simbol for the links.
- Measure how much distance keep from the MoBo connection to the new Mic place.
- Prepares 2 wires (taken for the USB cable) cutting and stripping them.
- Tin the heads of the wires
- Take the new Condenser Mic.
- Weld the wires to the mic. The black to the negative pin and the red to the positive pin.THE NEGATIVE PIN has a small simbol or is linked to the external armour of the mic.
- Now weld the negative wire (black) to the negative hole in the MoBo...so the positive wire (red).
Move gently the MIC under the lens...is DONE, new Mic, new home...
Do you wanna use the cam for hard action shoting? The mic could dance inside the case now,making a lot of noises, so fix it with a piece of sponge, or block it with hot glue somewhere in the MoBo...is necessary a small dot of hot glue, don't exagerate.
Step 11: Broken Wires?
I'm pretty sure that you broken the power button wires...no problem:
- Remove the glue with the welder
- remove the wires.
- Take 2 new brand wires form the old usb cable. Cut them at 1,5cm
- Strikes the wires
- Weld them on the frontal panel
- Weld them on the MoBo.
Step 12: Reassemble
Now we need only to close everything, simply repeating all the previuos step in an inverted order.
- The Power Button Wires... if you changed them, gently bend with a "C" form and push them vs the MoBo.
- Be carefull to the Vol Up-Down buttons before insert the MoBo in the Case...and don't lose them!
- BE SURE THAT THE USB-HDMI plug are inside their shapes into the case, you will ear a CLICK.
- Re insert the Battery holder (no battery)
- insert the back shield.
- Screws them.
- Plug the LCD Monitor.
- Flip the Front Panel.
- NOW FOR SECURITY: insert the battery fot test the camera....if switch on, good, remove the battery and go on...if not works the Power Wires are broken or were been weld bad.).
- Bend the WiFi wires and park the Mic (if is new and bypassed).
- Put everything into the Case.
- Screws the Frontal Internal Panel.
- Insert the Frontal Case Panel, push it strong along the border and corner.
- Insert SD Card.
- Insert Battery.
- Switch on again!
Step 13: The Case
I wanna use the case only for use the different mounts, not for water protection. So we need:
- Remove the 4 screws the fix the external frame.
- Remove the frame
- Remove the rubber ring.
- Put aside the glass, frame, rubber and screws.
- ENLARGE the hole IF you wanna use the Zoom Lens, otherwise is not necessary.
- Make a small hole where front off the USB plug: you can power the cam with a powe bank.
Step 14: General Test
Here i will show only the results of different way to work with the new Modded Action Cam. You can see the RAW VIDEO (no editing, no post, FULL HONEST VIDEO).
- 50mm cloud time lapse
- 50mm general test on tripod
- 50mm depht of filed test 1 on tripod
- 2,8-12mm Depht of Field test
- 2,8-12mm Grass Growing Time Lapse
- 25mm general test
- 45mm Pinhole lens test
- IR Night Vision.
AND SOME IR PHOTO...gave a look to my other Instructable!
Step 15: THANK YOU!
I hope that this instructable can help you for realize your personal project, inspire a new one and realize your dream!
Tank for your precious time and remember that for questions, something wrong or missing, suggestions use the comments below!
DO YOU LIKED THIS INSTRUCTABLE? VOTE ME!
Don't have enought about this project? Look at is direct son
Participated in the
Photography Contest 2017
Question 3 years ago
Hi I have a question Im a barber and i want to connect mi SQ13 direct to mi work WiFi router the way that I can see what happen from my house thanks
3 years ago
How about a firmware hack to provide a image flip/not rotate for reverse cam use?
4 years ago
Hello, i just bought similar 50mm lens and i wanted to know how do you change focus range? because it doesn't have manual focus and with my action cam (Firefly 8s) it has huuuge crop
6 years ago
I'm watching the finalist to the Photography contest and i'm really wondering what are your tastes and how REALLY works the voting system... i suspect that someone push their own projects with some SOCIAL/VOTE hack ...
6 years ago
thanks for sharing,
amazing efforts ,