Tiny Slide Shows! (by Hacking Toy Cameras)




Introduction: Tiny Slide Shows! (by Hacking Toy Cameras)

About: The Oakland Toy Lab is a community-based wonder lab for students to build, tinker, explore, make, break, and learn! We are writing up engaging science experiences so that educators, parents, youth, and famil...

If a picture is worth a thousand words, than these tiny slide shows are worth 800,000 but in a very very small font. Welcome to the smallest show on Earth with an audience of one: you!

This is a neat way to check out an elegant simple mechanism and make your own photo albums at the same time. Take it around in your pocket, or give it away as a gift. And at only $0.60 a pop, you won't break your micro bank. I used this project with my students to mix photography, engineering, and hacking all in one.

  • What: Tiny Slide Shows!
  • Why: because the only thing that makes pictures of tiny corgis better is to make the pictures tiny, too.
  • Concepts: engineering, machines, photography, hacking
  • Cost: ~$0.60 for each
  • Materials:
    • Toy Click Cameras (I found mine at Party City for cheap)
    • Transparencies (printable, can be found at any office supply store)
    • Super glue
  • Tools:
    • Computer with photo editing software (GIMP is free, Photoshop trial is free)
    • Printer (with resolution of 720 dpi or higher

Time to crank out some adorable up in here!

Step 1: Open Up Your Toy!

It's like a present inside a present!

Pop off the back of one of the toy viewers and open 'er up! You can do this with your hands. You may break a connecting pin or two, but don't worry. We'll glue it together at the end.

You can see the elegance of the mechanism when you push the button down. It advances photos to be in front of the eye-piece one by one, and doesn't go backwards. All with just a couple parts! Try it out, and then take it apart carefully. You'll need the pieces when you put it back together.

Check out the photos on the wheel with a magnifying glass. Mine's batman!

Step 2: Design Your New Photo Wheel

Time to pick some pics!

This step requires a wee bit of photoshop (free trial) or some GIMP (free software). I included my template uploaded here, so you can just slide your photos in.

Here's what I did to design it.I measured the diameter of the original wheel (with Batman), and made a similar sized circle in Photoshop. I overlay a photo of the wheel so I'd know the positioning of all the pictures. I made sure to turn up the resolution to 750 dpi so that it'll look good even though it's so tiny. I took out the photos of Batman, and made a template to slide my photos in the back of our science classroom. Huzzah!

A couple notes:

  • Check your printer maximum DPI (dots per inch), and set your resolution to that. You need it high-def!
  • You have room for eight photos. Just take the template and create new layers underneath it. Size and angle your photos, and you're set!
  • Printing is in the next step. Let's go!

Step 3: Printing, Cutting, and Poking Your Wheel

Let's make an album!

I used some laser jet transparency film to print on. My first print was low resolution (which you'll see in some photos), and so I upped it so the photos would look snazzy. When you make yours with a group or with students, you can pile all the wheels on a single page which is pretty durn cost-efficient.

Cut out the wheel with scissors or an X-acto blade, and then poke out the central holes on the wheel, so that it can be placed on the spindle.

Step 4: Put It All Back Together

Place your new album back on the spindle, and put together the catch and push button. The hardest part is getting the rubber band back on, but with some time and a lot of good-natured PG cursing, most students and adults alike can do it.

Add a super glue and clamp that toy back up!

Step 5: Look at Your TINY SLIDE SHOW!


You've done it! And have made an amazing micro photo album that you can keep or gift to people. Look through the tiny magnifying viewer to see your great work! Make an album of your class, of your family, of a variety of poodles you once saw, anything! Once you get the hang of it, they're pretty amazing to make and make great gifts.

(Also, if anyone is interested in making a simple web app for people to upload photos and have it automatically put them in the template, say hello!)

Have fun, keep exploring, and I'm excited to see what you come up with!



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    25 Discussions

    I have tried making this but dont know why i am not able to. is there someone who can help me with this. international shipping is not the problem. its my wife birthday and i want this for her. it will be very helpfull if someone cane make this for me. thank you.

    I'm trying to make these for my daughter's graduation, but I am not getting good result. If I use laser transparencies, the ink runs together. If I use inkjet transparencies, it comes our "dotty" even on high resolution.

    At first i thought it was because i used MS Publisher to create a full sheet, and it lowered the resolution, but I tried single printing directly from PhotoShop and it was the same.

    My photo wheel is set at 2000 dpi and i'm using a Canon iP4300.

    I tried the laser printer at work, but it was only 600 dpi.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.


    wow I can wait to do this. what.do you teach? lastly can you do this for the old viewfinders

    5 replies

    I've done it several years ago with the old view finder for a birthday card for my now wife. Few things to remember:

    -Each picture you see is made up of two pictures on the wheel (a left eye image and a right eye image). They are directly across from each other. Shift individual items in the image left and right depending on which eye it is for and you will get the same 3D depth effect.

    -The click jumps ahead two pictures on the physical wheel. Look at an original to see what I mean. Basically the story line advances two slots of each click until you make it around.

    -Using an original disk is easier than making a new one. It's extremely touchy with how thick the disk can be and it work right. Split and original, take out the photos then glue in your photos printed in a ring on transparency film (they do make it for inkjet printers, too). Then glue the other side of the original on to sandwich your picture layer. Rolling it flat with a rolling pin helped get mine perfectly flat again.

    wow that was awesome thanks.

    Hi Alywolf! You could do this for old viewfinders indeed, and if I can get my hands on one I'll write an 'ible about it! They're a bit funkier with the photo disks being part paper and part plastic, but definitely possible!

    Oh, and I teach science. But I mix it with art and everything else. :)

    I kinda thought so, I am a science teacher too. (currently between schools ) message me an address, I am pretty sure I have viewfinder and cartridge I would be willing to send you so that you could work out the details. I havent been able to get my hands on one of the ones your using yet so I doubt it will happen by Xmas. But I plan to do them

    oops I can't wait. I hate the auto correct on my phone...

    Does anyone have a link to buy this from like aliexpress or dhgate? Amazing project!!!

    I was so impressed I had to share with my uncle who is very creative like me but is CFO of SVA I was like does he work there? lol obv I voted for you even over what I was going to submit, I'm honest. I'm new to layers in photoshop or gimp so I'm struggling with adding more than one photo any suggestions on a tutorial I can read fast to learn quick, I want to make it for a gift for my brother for his wedding anniversary.

    If anyone is interested yes party city also has a bag for $3 instead of .60 cents for one. I also got one of the bigger ones at a dollar store where you can pop in or out the disc I thought to practice I may start there since it's larger and all I plan to do is scan the disc so I have a template and follow the rest of the instructions and see if it works. I thought it would be a good first anniversary gift for my brother to put their wedding pics on it and they can put it on their coffee table if someone is visiting and wants to see some wedding pics and not a whole album.

    This is an incredible idea my jaw dropped I think it's hard to impress me and it's a great anniversary gift or bridal shower or for someone who had a new baby, I'm going to be addicted if my printer and I can cooperate and get this right with the template. You made my day with little money I'm always looking for creative things to give as gifts that mean something and this is perfect for my brothers 1st anniversary and my best friends baby. THANK YOU!!

    2 replies

    Oh this is an awesome comment. Thanks, DShill! Good luck with the gifts, and send photos if you make them. I want to see!

    I am in the process of buying supplies just realized you said laser printer can u print on inkjet to transparencies

    I guess that the camera could also be 3D printed.

    1 reply

    I thought about doing this with one of those stereo viewers, must try it...

    1 reply

    Cool idea too if u sell art work or something you don't want to carry and you never know who you run into! You can give it out and put your business info on it!