Hags House > Homemade Trail Camera Project

 

The Homemade Trail Camera Project

Common and alternate components used to build and operate a motion activated homemade trail camera.

Questions and answers are encouraged at Hag's House Forums

 

Were to start? Probably the first question you have is "how much will this cost?" The homemade trail camera is basically divided into two types. A 35mm Trail Camera or a Digital Trail Camera. The 35mm trail camera usually cost less to build then the digital trail camera. The final costs will depend on how the needed components are obtained and exactly which components are utilized.

Basic 35mm trail cameras can be built for under $100 and advanced models can cost up to $200. The basic digital trail camera can cost $200 and advance models could cost over $300.The finished price really depends on how creative and ingenious you are, what extra "bells and whistles" you add, and can vary in both extremes. The finished trail camera can be commercial quality or something only the owner loves. The pride, knowledge, and understanding of how to build, and how to repair your trail camera are priceless. SO LETS GET STARTED.

 

 

TOPIC INDEX 

CAMERAS - 35mm & Digital Cameras.

 

MOTION SENSORS - Commercial Sensors & "Complete Board" Sensors.

 

SENSOR OPTIONS - Timers, Refresh, Double Picture Mode & Options.

 

BATTERY REQUIREMENTS - Power Consumption & Power Chart.

 

ENCLOSURES - Sealed Trail Camera Enclosures.

 

FILTERS, FRESNEL LENS & GLASS - Shutter, Flash & Sensor Covers.

 

MISC. PARTS - Foam, Flash Seal, Switches & Connectors, Camera Connectors.

 

CAMOUFLAGE & DESICCANT - 3D Camo. Technique, Camo Tape & Spray Paint.

 

TREE STRAPS & SECURITY - Rope Ratchet & Trail Camera Security.

 

BELLS & WHISTLES - Slave Flash & Upgrades.

 

STEP by STEP Instructions & Pictures -"A to Z" Assembly w/ Pictures

 

CONCLUSION

 

 

 

CAMERAS

The above mentioned price differences, 35mm vs. digital, should start to direct you into which trail camera you prefer to build. Both are built relatively the same, but it is a veteran recommendation to start with a basic 35mm and achieve success before trying more advanced cameras. With this in mind, we'll do our step by step procedure for a 35mm trail camera and add notes for digital.

 

35mm Cameras?  The hands down favorite 35mm camera is the Canon Sure Shot Owl PF. Either in the date or non-date version. This camera boasts a 33' flash range compared to other 35mm cameras that average 15'. The camera is out of production as of July 2003, but an ebay search will produce this camera for quite awhile. National retail stores, Target, Sears, and Kmart have carried this camera along with many on-line camera retailers. A search will produce many sources and retail price averages $50 for the date version. Similar Canon cameras do work as well. To list models: Canon Sure Shot Owl, Canon Sure Shot BF, Canon Snappy EL, Canon AF-8, Canon BF-8, Canon Snappy LX, Canon Snappy LXII, Canon Snappy QT. Many of these are also out of production, but can be found using the same methods. Most models come in date or non-date versions. There are also different name brand 35mm cameras that will work, and asking in the forum will produce the models and the required modifications needed to use the chosen camera in a homemade trail camera.

 

Digital Cameras?  The Olympus D-370 and Olympus D-380 are the preferred digital cameras. Both models are currently out of production, but an ebay search will continue to provide cameras. The D-380 is a later model and has upgraded features over the D-370. Notable improvements are the higher ISO rating of the D-380 which translates into longer flash range for night pictures. Retail price for the D-370 is $80 to $100 and for the D-380 is $120 to $150. There are alternate name brand digital cameras that will work, and asking in the forum will produce models and the required modifications needed.  

 

New cameras are always being tested and modified by members for use within homemade trail cameras. Check out the latest cameras by visiting the Homemade Trail Camera forum.

A sample of a camera modification can be seen here. This will show you how a camera is modified for use in homemade trail camera. 

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MOTION SENSORS

Motion Sensor? The motion sensor is used to trigger the camera to take a picture and can come in many different configurations. Some refer to this part of the trail camera as the PIR (pyroelectric infrared sensor). The basic choices are to purchase a commercial motion detector, designed for a light or an alarm, and modify the sensor to work as a trigger for the camera, OR to purchase a complete trail camera sensor board (aka: complete board) and avoid some of the modifications needed with the commercial sensor. The difference is in the cost and personal electronics experience. A basic commercial sensor and associated parts can cost as little as $10 and require 1 to 2 hours to modify with some basic electronics knowledge. A complete board will cost $50 to $80, but requires very little if any modification and electronics "know how". The basic driving force in building a homemade trail camera is cost, so the converted commercial motion detector will be covered first.

 

A.) Commercial Motion Sensors. Commercial motion detectors utilized in porch lights and alarms, which require heat and motion to activate, are the sensors that will work for a homemade trail camera. The appropriate sensors technical term is dual element detector which means the sensor requires both heat and motion to activate. Single activating sensors such as ultrasonic, which activate by motion only, would make poor sensors for a homemade trail camera. The appropriate sensor is purchased as a complete light or alarm and then the motion sensor parts are removed and transformed into a sensor that will trigger the camera and operate off of battery power. The top three commercial sensors used are the Regent 110 Degree Motion Light (aka: MS20), the Radio Shack Motion Alarm (aka: 49-426) and the X10 RF Motion Sensor (aka: X10). Other "shelf" sensors are in use and can work, but these three are the most commonly used and will provide the best chance for member support if problems arise.

 

The MS20 sensor is part of a motion activated flood light sold under the Cooper Lighting name and retailing for around $10 for the complete package. The flood light was stocked by Walmart nationally, and are still available in certain locations. The modified sensor alone will work for the PIR portion of a trail camera, if you wish for a basic setup in which the sensor triggers the camera directly. The MS20 can also be connected to a PIC Chip Timer which will add many useful options to a basic trail camera, and required features for a digital trail camera. (See SENSOR OPTIONS below). The negative aspects of the MS20 sensor are the over sensitive design of the circuit resulting in potential false pictures and the high battery power drain without further modifications. (See POWER CHART below). Power reduction and other MS20 modifications can be found on the Homemade Trail Camera Links page under Trail Camera Mod. Instructions.

 

The 49-426 sensor is part of a motion activated alarm stocked at most Radio Shack Stores and also available on-line through radioshack.com. The alarm retails for $25 and is on sale occasionally. The sensor is very energy efficient, so power reduction modifications are not needed. (See POWER CHART below). The modified sensor alone will work for the PIR portion of a trail camera if you wish for a basic setup in which the sensor triggers the camera directly. The 49-426 can also be connected to a PIC Chip Timer which will add many useful options to a basic trail camera, and required features for a digital trail camera. (See SENSOR OPTIONS below). The negative aspect of the 49-426 is the initial cost of the base sensor.

 

The X10 sensor is part of a motion activated transmitter used within the X10  home security system. The needed sensor components are included within three different transmitter models, the Active Eye (#MS-16A), Eagle Eye (#MS-14A) and the Hawk Eye (#MS-13A). The transmitters retail for  $20 to $25 each, and are occasionally offered at "two for one" or "three for one" specials through X10.com. Signing up for the promotional e-mail notification is the best way to find out about the X10.com specials. The transmitters are also available thru an ebay search with multiple units usually for sale with a one time freight charge. The sensors are very energy efficient, so power reduction modifications are not needed. (See POWER CHART  below).

The modified sensor alone  will not  trigger a camera directly, but requires an additional pc board with a dual optocoupler to operate the camera functions. The optocoupler (opto) receives the signal from the X10 sensor and triggers the camera accordingly. This pc board w/ opto is commonly referred to as the X10 Opto Board, and combining this board with the modified sensor and a programmed X10 PIC Chip will convert the X10 sensor into a full options 35mm or digital trail camera sensor. The X10 Kit contains all the above mentioned X10 components and the kits are available from Hag's House Stock Parts Order Page .

 

B.) Complete Trail Camera Motion Sensors. The complete trail camera controller (aka: complete board) is the motion sensor part of the homemade trail camera, and more importantly, is designed to require very little if any modification to the sensor itself. The complete board can, and usually will come loaded with other features and functions; or it may be designed as a simple trigger board for just the camera.  The complete boards are specifically designed for a trail camera application and usually perform better then the commercial sensors designed for lights and alarms. The true value of the complete board is realized by the builder who lacks any real electronics experience needed to modify commercial sensors. No need for any serious modifications will almost guarantee the success rate  to a  finished and properly functioning homemade trail camera, and should also alleviate most trouble shooting. 

The only real downfall of the complete board is the initial cost. The boards will retail for $50 a piece on a quantity buy, and up to $80 each for an individual board. The boards are usually created and tested by the electronically gifted members of the forum, and all developers provide outstanding tech. support. The following are probably the most widely used complete boards.

 

Brian's Complete Board - Brian's complete board is available from Brian Gennings (member name: Brian) with board information and/or purchasing done by contacting him via email. The board is completely assembled and comes with instructions and optional features. All available options and tech. support are provided through Brian and/or asking members in the forum.   

 

Fieldpix Kit & Complete Boards - Fieldpix complete and/or kit boards are available at fieldpix.com (member name: Hamiltoe) with board information and/or purchasing done through the website. The boards are available as kits to be assembled and/or completely assembled units ready to install. Both kit and complete boards come with instructions. Features vary between the different boards and options are available. All available options and tech. support are provided by fieldpix.com and/or asking members in the forum.

 

HH1 Complete Board - The Hag's House version of a complete board is the HH1 Complete Board and is available thru the Stock Parts Order Page at Hag's House. (member name: hags) The boards are completely assembled and come with instructions and optional features. All available options and tech. support are provided by hagshouse.com and/or asking members in the forum.

 

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SENSOR OPTIONS

PIC Chip Timer? The PIC Chip Timer is an upgrade component for a basic motion sensor which will add user preferred functionality to a finished trail camera. The timer features a custom programmed microcontroller chip, or PIC chip, that takes the trigger signal from the sensor and activates the camera according to the program on the chip itself. The programmed PIC chip controls all features of the trail camera and can include basic items such as multiple delays, multiple refreshes, sensor test mode, and advanced items such as double picture mode, day / night / both select ability, and  automatic return to normal mode from test mode. The PIC Chip Timer is used mostly with the RS-426 and MS20 sensors and converts these sensors to a full feature trail camera controller. PIC Chip Timers for the RS-426 and the MS20 are available from Brian Gennings (member name: Brian) with board information and/or purchasing done by contacting him via email. All available options and tech. support are provided through Brian and/or asking members in the forum.   

 

An understanding of common terms used in association with trail camera sensors will aid you in determining which options and features are important for "your" sensor. Some features are required for the finished trail camera to work properly, and others are "bells and whistles" added to enhance the performance of the trail camera sensor. Common terms used within the  forum will begin to make sense if a basic understanding of "trail camera lingo" is interpreted.

 

Homemade Trail Camera 'Lingo' - What does that word mean??

 

Camera Related Terms:

Firmware?  This refers to the camera's programming options and possible settings. Selecting the correct camera settings to correspond to  the trail camera's motion sensor can be critical and some PIC chips may require certain camera settings to achieve the best performance possible.

Shutter or Camera Sequencing?  This refers to the actual sequence the chosen camera goes thru after a signal has been received to take a picture.  This timing sequence for a chosen camera is needed when programming the PIC chips to the correct settings so the camera operates properly. Sequencing items can include: shutter’s hold timing, on-off timing, record timing (digital cameras), refresh timing, etc.

Shutter Assembly?  This refers to a pcb board and ribbon cable assembly created for the Sony digital cameras that’s inserted next to the control ribbon cable of the camera.  Using the shutter assembly aids and eases the conversion of the Sony cameras into a usable digital trail camera.

Flash Bleed?  The washed out effect of pictures overexposed to the flash of the camera when the flash is redirected in front of the shutter during a picture. Flash bleed often occurs if a common medium (single piece of glass) is placed over the flash and shutter holes of the trail camera enclosure. The flash will use the medium to redirect the light in front of the shutter during a picture. Flash bleed can also occur from the light trapped within the trail camera enclosure and an insufficient seal between the flash and shutter openings of the camera.

Always On?  This refers to the state of the camera itself while operating as a trail camera. The camera itself is always on and controlled by the programming of the PIC chip.

On-Off?  This refers to the state of the camera itself while operating as a trail camera. The camera is off and controlled by the programming of the PIC chip. When the sensor is triggered the PIC chip turns the camera on and shutters a picture. The camera remains on for a specified time interval to record the picture and then is powered off by the PIC chip.

Slave Flash?  This refers to an additional flash unit added to a homemade trail camera to aid in nighttime photo quality.

Power Slave Controller?  This refers to a slave flash controller produced by Jon5ja that connects to the slave flash and integrates with the flash of the camera to fire the slave flash at the correct time. The power slave controller also meters the daylight and dark to disable or enable the slave flash when needed.

PIC Chip Related Terms:

PIC Chip?  Programmable Integrated Circuit Chip (the IC Chip itself) used to control the functions of the camera along with various features listed below.

Initial Delay?  This is the time interval at startup from when the power is initially turned on to the sensor, until the PIC chip automatically switches to standby mode or normal operating mode. The sensor itself is inactive during initial delay. The initial delay allows the sensor to stabilize and prevents false triggers at startup.

Standby Mode?  This is the time interval after initial delay in which only the push button switches are active, Once a push button is pressed, the standby mode is cancelled and the PIC chip is in either walk test mode or normal operating mode depending on which push button was selected. This time interval will time out and the PIC chip returns the sensor to normal operating mode. Standby mode is only accessible by going thru initial delay.

Walk Test Mode?  This is when the PIC chip signals all the sensor’s activity by lighting an LED. The walk test mode will time out after a set time of inactivity and the PIC chip returns the sensor back to normal operating mode. Walk test mode in only accessible after initial delay times out.

Delay Mode?  This is the time delay configured by changing the delay settings of the PIC chip itself. It is the time measured from when the relay for taking a picture turns off to when you can take another picture. Delay mode is only accessible after initial delay times out.

Double Picture Mode?  This is the timed, automatic signal from the PIC Chip to take a second picture after an initial sensor triggered picture was taken.

Adjustable Refresh Mode?  This is a 500millisecond pulse generated at a set time by the PIC chip to help the camera remain in a “ready” mode.  In appropriate digital cameras the refresh keeps the digital camera awake, and does not allow auto shut down to occur. The digitals are able to reach the camera’s sleep mode setting with the 2.5-hour refresh, which in turn uses less power and still refreshes soon enough so the digital does not automatically shut off. The digitals do not reach sleep mode with the 2.5-minute refresh, which in turn uses more power, but faster shutter speeds are realized to capture faster moving animals. Adjustable refresh mode is only accessible after initial delay times out.

Normal Operating Mode?  This is when nothing is happening except the refresh countdown of the set refresh time.  The PIC chip is ready to be triggered by the sensor so it can take a picture.  It is also ready to receive any commands from the test button or the delay button. Normal operating mode is only accessible after initial delay times out and time expires in either standby mode or walk test mode. Normal operating mode is the default mode of the PIC chip and the chip will return to normal operating mode when all time outs expire. Normal operating mode is only accessible after initial delay times out.

Sleep Mode?  This is when the PIC chip is shutdown except for a low power internal oscillator, which keeps up with the timing or interrupts generated for the PIC chip.  By shutting down the main oscillator the PIC chip draws less current. (4 to 5uA in sleep mode.)  Sleep mode is inaccessible and automatically switched to by the PIC chip itself. 

Motion Sensor, Complete Board or Controller Board Related Terms:

IR Sensor?  The actual infrared sensor component located on the motion sensor or controller pcb board used within the homemade trail camera. The actual sensor is the ¼” round component with the rectangle glass window.  The complete board is often referred to as the IR sensor or the PIR. Both terms refer back to the actual sensor itself.

Fresnel Lens?  The IR transmittable poly plastic material with a stamped fresnel lens pattern designed to be installed at a set focal distance and center point from the IR sensor. The fresnel lens focuses the IR signal to the IR sensor itself.   

PIR Sequencing?  The approximate time delay after a sensor is triggered and before it can be triggered again. This delay is the time needed for the sensor to reset itself and may vary slightly.

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BATTERY REQUIREMENTS

Batteries?  The next component that will require room within the trail camera enclosure is the battery (or batteries) and holder. The chosen battery configurations will operate the motion sensor and/or camera for an acceptable period of time before replacement is required. The basic understanding of how the sensor and camera operate during idle and during a "trigger"  will help in selecting battery requirements. Let's start with the sensors and then the cameras.

Most of the sensors listed have a metered value which represents the idle current draw of the sensor; after the sensor is modified for a trail camera. It's basically the battery power consumed when the sensor is active, stable and idle. The metered values may vary from sensor to sensor and will also vary if additional components are added to the sensor (ie: PIC Chip Timer, etc.).

Some of the sensors listed will also have a metered value which represents the "trigger" current draw of the sensor. This is the battery power consumed when the sensor is active and triggered. It is also accepted that the trigger value is basically a capture reading of a short duration and may vary between sensors in value and duration.

The "field value" most accepted for comparison is the idle current draw value metered from the sensor when active, stable and idle. Using this value for the particular sensor of choice will aid in selecting an appropriate battery size to operate the sensor for an estimated time period. The estimated time period of the batteries life truly depends on many factors; number and frequency of triggers, ambient temperature, and initial freshness of the batteries are just a few factors that can greatly affect the actual operating life of the batteries, compared to estimated operating life. To set a benchmark reference it's accepted that calculated values of battery life using the metered idle current draw of the sensor is realistically twice to three times greater then actual "field results". To give an example lets look at the X10 sensor.

The modified X10 sensor connected to the X10 opto board meters an idle current reading of 60uA. Using basic "fresh" alkaline batteries for this example the "common" mAh rating for batteries can be easily obtained from manufacturer's websites.

Since the recommended power source for the X10 is 6V to 9V, either a single 9V battery or a combination of (4) 1.5V batteries in series will be needed. The "common" mAh ratings for the alkaline batteries are as follows:

 

    (1) 9 Volt Alkaline Battery = 565mAh

    (4) AAA 1.5V Alkaline Batteries = 1,190mAh

    (4) AA 1.5V Alkaline Batteries = 2,707mAh

    (4) C 1.5V Alkaline Batteries = 7,935mAh

    (4) D 1.5V Alkaline Batteries = 17,100mAh

 

The formula is Battery Life = Battery Ampacity (mA) / Current Draw (mA)

With the conversion of the idle current reading to mA (60uA = .06mA) we yield the following results:

   

    (1) 9 Volt battery (565mAh / .06mA = 9,416 hours or 392 days)

    (4) AAA batteries (1190mAh / .06mA = 19,833 hours or 826 days)

    (4) AA batteries (2707mAh / .06mA = 45,116 hours or 1,879 days)

    (4) C batteries (7935mAh / .06mA = 132,250 hours or 5,510 days)

    (4) D batteries (17,100mAh / .06mA = 285,000 hours or 11,875 days)

 

These values represent the theoretical battery life for the X10 sensor and X10 opto board using the different battery combinations. Using the knowledge that "field results" are 1/2 to 1/3 that of the calculated value for battery life. We can now estimate the battery life for the X10 sensor w/opto board at:

 

    (1) 9 Volt battery (392 days / 2 or 3) = (196 days to 130 days)

    (4) AAA batteries (826 days / 2 or 3) = (413 days to 275 days)

    (4) AA batteries (1,879 days / 2 or 3) = (935 days to 626 days)

    (4) C batteries (5,510 days / 2 or 3) = (2,755 days to 1,836 days)

    (4) D batteries (11,875 days / 2 or 3) = (5,937 days to 3,958 days)

 

Looking at the 9 V battery calculations we can now estimate that a new 9V battery will power the X10 sensor and X10 opto board for a period of 130 days (4.2 months) to 196 days (6.3 months). Looking at the other results for the X10 makes it obvious that larger battery configurations will result in much longer battery life for the sensor.....but is this true?

The last factor to consider when choosing batteries is the internal drain of power all batteries experience over time. Fresh batteries are all labeled with "use by" dates to let the consumer know if the batteries are actually fresh. The need for the dated package should inform you that even in non use a battery's power drains, and this is referred to as internal drain. The older the battery grows the faster the internal drain "leaks" the power from the battery.

In our application for the X10 sensor, the larger battery packs would be impractical because internal drain would exceed the idle current draw of the sensor over time. It's recommended to find a happy medium that is acceptable for your sensor. With the X10, a single 9 volt battery would be the best power source. 4 to 6 months of battery life would utilize the battery's power for an acceptable time period, before internal drain becomes sufficient . Larger battery packs for the X10 sensor, that would last over a year, would waste battery power as the internal drain increases over time. A chart with the idle current values and features of common sensors is available here. POWER CHART

 

Batteries for the cameras are handled a little differently then figuring out the expected time they will last. The two trail camera types; 35mm vs. digital, utilize batteries in different ways.

The 35mm camera is turned on when the trail camera is activated and the camera is allowed to stay on. The batteries function is to power the camera through a picture, charge the flash capacitor (if needed), and advance the film after the picture is taken. During idle, the camera batteries are still in use but at a low power drain; so in most cases the original battery configuration supplied with the camera will suffice. Practical expectations vary from 10 to 15 rolls of film during the warmer months and 8 to 12 rolls of film during the cooler months, per battery pack. Extreme cold or heat may affect the total rolls that can be processed per battery pack. Since the 35mm camera can only shoot as many pictures as there is film, the opportunity to change the camera's batteries is available with trips to change the film. A recommendation is to also keep track of how long the batteries are in use along with the total rolls processed by the battery pack.....the camera's batteries are affected by internal drain, as explained above, and a set of batteries a year old may only last 4 or 5 rolls of film.

The digital camera is also turned on when the trail camera is activated and the camera is allowed to stay on. The batteries function is to power the camera through a picture, charge the flash capacitor (if needed), and record the picture to the digital camera's storage medium. The recording of the picture to the storage medium is when the digital camera uses a lot of battery power for an extended period, and thus they are know to be inefficient. This inefficiency of power along with the cameras ability to hold a greater number of pictures with a larger storage medium, makes the camera's original battery configuration the limiting factor to the interval between battery changes. The best "battery logic" to use for a digital trail camera is to ask yourself how often will you be able to check the trail camera after it's been deployed? If the digital trail camera is visited weekly or every other week, the camera's original battery configuration should provide enough power to last the duration. If the digital trail camera is intended for a long duration of deployment, then auxiliary power is recommended with the appropriate voltage outlined by the manufacturer. Through testing of the camera's original battery configuration, an estimate of time can be achieved by comparing the mAh of other size batteries used as auxiliary power. For example, if the digital camera last one week on (4) AA alkaline batteries (2,707mAh) then (4) C alkaline batteries (7,935mAh) should last close to 4 weeks before a change is required. The calculated time interval between visits will help you decide if auxiliary power is needed for your digital trail camera, and if additional space within the enclosure is required.

The batteries are the "fuel" that feed the trail camera and a large portion of the cost to run the homemade trail cameras after they are assembled. A good understanding of the expected results warrants the lengthy explanation and examples.  

Additional reference material on battery life and applications can be found here and here. 

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ENCLOSURES

Enclosure? The next consideration in building the homemade trail camera is the actual enclosure or case that the camera, motion detector (or complete board) and battery packs will be contained in.

The enclosure should be weather tight to protect the electronics and camera from the elements. It should be durable and strong enough to support the components, but not so "heavy duty" that it ends up cumbersome to carry. A side note to this is a warning to trail cam users in "bear country". Bears are extremely curious animals, therefore  trail cameras in bear country need to be protected with stronger enclosures that are able to take a beating or biting. Metal or heavy plastic enclosures are recommended if a visit from "Yogi" is at all possible. The film in 35mm trail cameras smells like food to a bear, and he enjoys the challenge of opening the "little box that contains his diner".  It's also good to use the smallest possible enclosure that will hold all the components without a lot of wasted space. Smaller enclosures are easier to disguise and camouflage from potential theft, but keep in mind that a very small enclosure usually requires a fair amount of planning to find adequate space for all the items. Many of the internal components of the finished trail camera need to be accessible, and a tight fit within the enclosure will lead to broken parts and poor access to the components.  

Common enclosures include ammo storage boxes (usually found at surplus stores), empty metal first aid kits, hard plastic or Lexan camping boxes and commercially made dry boxes. (usually sold for precision equipment protection.)

Members of the forum can answer your questions pertaining to the different enclosures and recommend  which one is best  for a given combination of components. A list of online stores that carry enclosures is also available on the Homemade Trail Camera Links page under enclosures.

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FILTERS, FRESNEL LENS & GLASS

Filter? The selected enclosure will be modified with a series of holes that align to the shutter and flash of the camera, and  the IR element of the chosen sensor. These holes need to be covered to keep the trail camera enclosure weather tight. The shutter hole for the camera is usually covered with standard 1/16" plate glass or a photographic filter designed for lens protection. The filter may produce better quality pictures by the fact that the glass within the filter is designed for photographic use, but many homemade trail cam builders are more then satisfied with the quality of pictures taken thru regular plate glass. It is recommended to at least use new glass for the shutter hole, which shouldn't contain scratches, instead of glass from an old picture frame or window. The end product of the homemade trail camera is the pictures, so a good quality glass covering for the shutter hole is a must.

 

Glass? The flash hole for the camera can also be covered with standard 1/16" plate glass or even plexiglass. The photographic quality is not as important for the flash hole covering, but excessive scratches may hinder the range or effect of the flash. The glass for the flash hole needs to be separate from the glass used for the shutter hole. The possible effects of "flash bleed" will be evident on pictures in which one piece of glass is used to cover both the shutter and flash holes within the trail cam enclosure. It's better to eliminate the potential flash bleed problem by using separate glass for the shutter and flash openings.

 

Flash Enhancer? Another option for "weak flash" film or digital cameras is to use a "flash enhancer" for the flash hole covering. The flash enhancer is a fresnel lens pattern stamped into a clear polycarbonate film. The fresnel pattern is designed to focus or enhance the flash by affecting the way the light travels thru the lens. The resulting flash may seem more like a spot light then a flash field, but the flash distance is usually increased and center focused pictures include sufficient light.  

   

Fresnel Lens? The same, or a different fresnel pattern is also used on the fresnel lens that covers the IR sensor hole. The pattern is stamped into an IR transmissible material and, when properly aligned, will focus the detection field directly onto the IR element of the chosen sensor. Any motion within the detection field will trigger the sensor and thus the camera connected to the sensor. Proper focal distance and centering of the fresnel lens to the IR element of the sensor is a must, for any PIR sensor to operate correctly. There are fresnel patterns designed to adjust the size or shape of the detection field that is focused onto the IR element of the sensor, therefore actual fresnel lenses may come in many shapes and sizes. The most important aspects of any fresnel lens is the focal distance and focal length of the lens itself. Online information on alternate fresnel patterns can be found at Fresnel Technologies , along with other PIR products listed on the  Homemade Trail Camera Links page of Hags House. Filters, glass circles, flash enhancers and fresnel lenses are all available on the Stock Parts Order Page at Hag's House.

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MISC. PARTS

Foam?  Closed cell foam is used for many applications within the trail camera enclosure. A foam block matching the size and depth of the enclosure and cut to the outline of the camera can be used to hold the camera in place and aligned the camera to the 'window' openings of the enclosure. The foam can also be used as a flash seal between the flash and shutter within the enclosure. A certain amount of flash will be trapped within the enclosure and a barrier is needed between the flash and the shutter of the camera so the trapped flash does't wash out the picture.  

Flash Seal? Another innovative way to seal the space between the flash and shutter within the trail camera enclosure is with a formed flash seal. Currently a formed flash seal is available for the D370 or D380 digital cameras thru Arkansaselkhunter. You can contact him via his website or thru email.

Switches & Cover? The finished trail camera may require an exterior switch to allow the user to activate and deactivate the camera or sensor from outside the enclosure. This is more common with film trail cameras then digital trail cameras, but it can be used for both. The switch can complete  the camera connection to the chosen sensor and/or switch the sensor to normal operating mode from test mode. The switch  is used when the  trail camera enclosure is closed and it's located were the sensor will not be triggered when changing the switch setting.  Deactivating the camera connection or switching the sensor out of normal operating mode will  avoid wasting valuable film when checking the trail camera . The common switch used is a mini toggle switch with a weather protective rubber cover to seal the switch from the elements. The use of exterior switches can be eliminated by using certain complete boards listed above. Some boards can be programmed with preset settings or PIC chips that return the camera to normal mode and would not require the use of a exterior switch on the trail camera enclosure.

Camera Connectors? The connector used between the camera and motion sensor can vary greatly. Most camera modifications require either a two wire of three wire connector to operate the camera functions. The chosen camera's modification and wiring will lead you to how many wires and which type of connector to choose. Some cameras have ample room for wires and/or jacks and others are very tight and require special connectors to wire within the camera. An assortment of connector ideas can be found in the forum by noting the different methods members have used to connect their cameras to their sensors.   Common connectors are the 3 wire servo connector, 2.5mm stereo or 3.5mm mono plug and jack, and a common phone plug and jack. The connector between the camera and sensor is used repetitively when operating the trail camera, so choose a quality connector that will last.

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CAMOUFLAGE & DESICCANT

Camouflage? Hiding the finished trail camera in the field is aided by using some type of camouflage on the outside surface of the trail camera enclosure. Camouflage spray paint, camouflage tape or even 3D camouflage texturing have been used to help the enclosure blend in with mother nature. The ability to hide the trail camera and conceal the enclosure will help to prevent possible theft and loss. Keeping a tight lip as to the location of the trail camera is also essential. Many different camouflage applications can be noted by looking at the member's finished trail cameras within the forum

Desiccant? Keeping the electronics and camera protected from moisture damage is done by using some type of desiccant pack within the trail camera enclosure. Desiccant absorbs moisture from the air and a certain amount of desiccant is needed per the volume of air contained within the enclosure. Just because the enclosure is watertight does not mean moisture is not present within the trapped air of the enclosure. Outdoor temperature fluctuations will cause the trapped moisture to condensate on the interior glass surfaces and electronics and over time, lead to camera or sensor failure. Prevention of moisture by using desiccant is strongly recommended. A common desiccant pack are the rechargeable ones used to protect electronic instruments within their carrying cases.

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TREE STRAPS & SECURITY

Tree Straps?  Attaching the trail camera to the tree is aided by a rope ratchet and rope or assortment of other attachment systems. The trail camera's weight needs to be supported and held to the tree in a fixed position and stable. Bungee cords with U bolts or eyelets are common, but can be restrictive when the bungee won't reach around a big tree. E-Z web anchors are also common with a length of rubber robe to hold the camera in place. Multiple systems to attach the finish trail camera to  a tree can be seen  in the pictures posted in the forum.

Security?  Adding some type of security system to your homemade trail camera can be accomplished by assorted methods. Some enclosures come with padlock holes to lock the enclosure and chain the trail camera to a tree, or a cabinet lock can be installed to lock just the enclosure. A cable lock passing  thru an eyebolt or U bolt can be used to secure the trail camera to the tree also. Master Lock's new Python Lock, designed as a bicycle lock, can be used to attach the trail camera to the tree as well as provide cable lock security.  Breakable plastic cases can be outfitted with a custom made cage to slip the enclosure into, and designed with a cable lock or chain to secure the cage to the tree. A warning label on the outside of the enclosure may aid in deterring an average passerby, but locking the trail camera in some fashion is best. More security ideas can be found within the forum.

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 BELLS & WHISTLES

Slave Flash? Adding a slave flash to your homemade trail camera can improve night time  pictures from weak flash film or digital cameras. A popular combination is combining a Slave Flash Controller board, designed by member Jon5ja, with a Vivitar 2000 or Kalimar 175A slave flash. Instructions and information on the Slave Flash Controller can be found here along with contacting Jon via email.

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CONCLUSION

The finished homemade trail camera can assume many different looks and contain many different components. Starting with the basic knowledge and info. available thru the website and forum will aid you in choosing the ideal setup for your homemade trail camera. We invite you to ask questions, read the comments, and view the pictures posted by the 'veteran' members of the forum. Use their 'school of hard knocks' education to lower the learning curve needed to achieve success. Plan your layout according to the camera, sensor, battery requirements and misc. parts needed for your particular trail camera, and then choose the enclosure to house the components properly. An organized layout will produce a quality trail camera with years of dependable service and great pictures to boot. Join in the fun and register at the forum.....we'd like to hear your ideas. Then setup your workbench and jump in....it's easier then it looks.

 I'd like to thank the many innovators and experimenters who graced us with their knowledge and allowed us all to enjoy the great outdoors thru homemade trail cameras......hags

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Revised 2/28/08