Posts Tagged ‘homebrew camera trap’

Canon 400D waiting on a tiger…!

Saturday, April 5, 2014 posted by Bruce 8:35 PM

DSLR catches sambar and elephant

After downloading the card on my Canon 400D DSLR trail cam, there was no tiger but this sambar doe and a young tusker had showed up tripping the sensor just past the log. The 50mm lens seems to be OK if a leopard or tiger were to come through…I’m still waiting patiently…! The first shot is a crop to see what is possible at this location..

sambar doe - Canon 400D

sambar doe - Canon 400D

Tusker crossing log at Canon 400D

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Nikon D700 captures two civet species

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 posted by Bruce 9:04 PM

My full frame DSLR trail cam still working well…!

Large Indian civet Nikon D700

Large Indian civet up on the log…!

Just returned from the Western Forest Complex in Thailand where I checked out my Nikon D700 on the log. It continues to capture some amazing creatures that thrive in this biosphere and the ‘log’ has proven to be a goldmine for me…!

Large Indian civet Nikon D700

Large Indian civet up-closer…!

A large Indian civet Viverra sibetha jumped up on the log and the D700 fired off two shots. This large civet is nocturnal and common in this forest. This critter came up close but then jumped off after the flashes fired again.

Masked palm civet

Masked palm civet a few days later….!

A few days later, a masked palm civet Paguma larvata also got up on the log and came right up to the cam. Largely arboreal, they also hunt on the ground.

Masked palm civet

Up-close…!

I did use some ‘coon bait’ by Marsyada’s Lures from Hazei Township, PA which worked real well to lure these carnivores. It was a nice catch and I’m sure they will return.

Masked palm civet

Up real close…!

Unfortunately, a tiger came up to the log but saw the red LEDs on a Bushnell setup across from the D700 and did not cross over but went around and so I missed the big cat but got him on video. Hopefully, it’ll pass over next time..Enjoy…!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sony A500 Trail Cam

Friday, January 3, 2014 posted by Bruce 2:09 PM

My smallest DSLR camera trap yet…!

Before my trip to the States in October 2013, I started working on a Sony DSLR trail cam using a Model A500 body with a Sony 28mm ƒ2.8 lens. I prefer prime lenses (24, 28, 35 or 50mm) over zooms for camera traps (for the most part) due to better quality images.

Sony A500 trail cam 1

Sony A500/Pelican 1120/SSII/18650 externals/YongNuo CTR-301P/S.

A Pelican 1120 case has just enough room for the A500 body without a battery pack and a SSII with a #5 chip is used for control. A generic shutter release cable was cut and hooked-up to the SSII. NOTE: Make sure your SSII is up-graded to ‘no refresh’ as this can actuate the camera every couple of hours and drain the battery…!

flash and externals-Sony A500

Close-up modified YongNuo CTR-301P/S wireless flash trigger plus two 18650 externals.

Most people are not aware that Sony bought all the copyrights from Konica-Minolta (K-M) DSLR and SLR programs on the lens mount and other equipment and hence, many lenses and accessories are interchangeable between K-M and Sony. I have a few leftover Minolta lenses from my old film days for future Sony DSLR trail cams. Minolta made some of the finest lenses on the market on par with German Zeiss and Leica. However, the first K-M (Digital Dynax D7 and D5 bodies) were power hogs and a fully charged Lithium battery lasts about two-days on stand-by…!

Sony A500 trail cam 2

Sony A500 in the case.

After Sony took over, power saving was improved and the A500 can last for several weeks. I decided to hack the A500 to take two 18650 – 4.2v Lithium batteries for 8.4v output as externals to increase battery life plus there was enough room in the case for them. However, the original Sony 7.2v battery must be in place for the cam to work with externals..!

SB-28 Flash-Sony A500

Nikon SB-28 and YongNuo CTR-301P/S flash trigger reciever in Tupperware box.

For flash, a YongNuo CTR-301P/S wireless flash trigger for Sony is used along with a Nikon SB-28. The flash trigger transmitter was modified so the body fits in the case as shown. The flash system works very well and the flash, transmitter and two extra 4-AA battery packs all fit in a Tupperware type box. The SB-28 is modified to take regular battery packs putting out 6 volts. I also made up an extra slave flash with a light sensor.

LBK ele' boxes-Sony A500

LBK elephant proof boxes for Sony A500 and Nikon SB-28/YongNuo CTR-301P/S.

The cam and flashes of course have my ‘elephant proof’ aluminum boxes to protect them from the marauding giants and possible theft. I hope to set this cam soon and any photos will be forthcoming…Also, a Sony A700 and a A55 trail cams are one the way…!

Hope this helps anyone with a Sony or Minolta digital camera. A Minolta D7 or D5 would probably need a fairly large SLA battery. However, both make neat trail cams….!!

 

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A Jumping Tiger: Nikon D300s DSLR catches a big cat

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 posted by Bruce 8:31 PM

The speed and reaction time of an Indochinese tiger is measured in milliseconds….!

http://youtu.be/O2vV31ND_T0

The video is a bit raunchy and music is strong but I wanted something else for a change…! This is the most amazing behavior of a tiger I have ever seen.

I set my Nikon D300s DSLR trail cam deep in the forest at a mineral spring where all of Thailand’s large wild mammals like elephant, gaur, banteng, tapir and sambar plus others come for ‘life-giving’ minerals and a drink, and where tigers coming looking for prey.

This cam (set to manual 1/125 – ƒ8 – ISO 400) with a 35mm lens with a Snapshot Sniper SSII sensor fires-off salvos of 8 frames a second every time it records motion. The Nikon D300s was perfect for this location

I was hoping to catch a tiger and thought I might get lucky…but after going through the files, I found 13 photos of a tiger jumping  away from the cam. This action footage is my best so far of the tiger in Thailand. The cat is not exceptionally sharp but movement never is and it does not have to be…..!

Amazingly, this male tiger heard the first shutter and reacted in less than three frames and started moving away in what I would like to say, blinding speed…! He looks to be mature judging from his scrotum. This place is truly the last great tiger haven in Thailand and worthy of it’s ‘World Heritage Site’ status…!

All I can say, it’s going to be tough to top this sequence….!

Enjoy…!

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Nikon D90 DSLR trail cam catches a ‘Large Indian Civet’

Friday, September 13, 2013 posted by Bruce 10:35 PM

The ‘Big Cat Trailhead’ has proven to be a real wildlife haven with loads of cats plus other carnivores walking past on almost a daily/nightly basis. Because of so much interaction, I decided to set-up my Nikon D90/SB400/Yeti/Plano 1460 case facing the other way opposite my Canon 400D.

Large Indian civet Nikon D90

The Yeti board was very old and not working too well. I tried to adjust distance and sensitivity but it still would only trip the cam from about a meter away. However, the cam did get one shot of a ‘Large Indian Civet’ shown here. The markings on this medium sized carnivore are unique and these creatures are very common in this forest.

I have since brought the cam home and replaced the board with a Snapshotsniper SSII #5 board and it is now ‘rocking and rolling’. Look forward to checking both cams in a couple of weeks and I’m confident there will be some interesting creatures walking past…! Enjoy.

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Canon 400D DSLR catches a ‘black leopard’

Friday, September 6, 2013 posted by Bruce 9:33 PM

Once again, the ‘Big Cat Trailhead’ situated deep in the Western Forest Complex continues to be a real hotspot for the big cats. Both black and yellow phase leopards were captured on digital stills and video at this location.

Black leopard Canon 400D

In July at the beginning of the rainy season, I set my Canon 400D down low (about two feet off the ground) on a tree at the trailhead wanting a real low-down set-up. When I returned, the lens was completely covered by sand and mud from extremely heavy rain and splatter…and no photos were on the card: a disappointment…! I then moved the cam way up about five foot and angled down about 45 degrees.

After some three weeks, I was back and a black leopard had passed the cam at night. Only one flash went off (a Nikon SB-28) and just one good shot was acquired. A bunch more were captured of the cat but it was standing half-out of the frame. The Canon flashes (270EX) have proven to not be very reliable and I will probably just drop them out eventually. The Nikon flashes (especially the SB-28s) are better and last longer on stand-by.

Even though the composition is not the greatest, it’s still a good record shot…I have since moved the cam back down to about three feet hopefully to catch a full-frame head-on shot of this melinestic creature. I have now caught this cat 5-6 times including a beautiful daytime video as the black cat passes by and another IR video showing its spots…I will be posting these vids soon.. Enjoy..!

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Nikon D300s trail cam: A multi-purpose DSLR

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 posted by Bruce 10:35 AM

A camera trap with two sensors and two flash systems

A Nikon D300s trail cam in a Pelican 1150.

My latest cam is probably the most versatile DSLR trail cam I have built so far specifically put together for the varied conditions and camera trap setups found in Thai forests. With fantastic opportunities for the big cats, wild cattle and other amazing creatures, I decided to build this unit for several reasons.

My choice of a Nikon D300s was three-fold: I found one in used condition at a fair price. I already had a Nikon ML-3 ‘Modulite Remote Control’ trigger that works with the Nikon D200 up to the D800 plus the pro-size Nikon bodies with the 10-pin plug. The D300s is a medium sized camera that just fits in a Pelican 1150 case that I also had. I prefer this size for most of my DSLR trail cams.

The Pelican 1150 opened showing internal components.

Another motive for the D300s was its ability to produce very little noise at high ISO settings. The cam has a Nikon ‘DX’ fixed 35mm ƒ1.8 lens and uses a MB-D10 battery grip with two EN-EL3e batteries. I will be starting out with ISO 400 and if I get too many dark daytime images, will go up a notch or two and probably stay at 800.

This unit has two sensors: the active infrared ML-3 and a passive infrared Snapshot Sniper SSII board that can be easily switched from one to the other. A special aluminum holder was made-up for the ML-3 receiver attached to the case with three 8/32” button head machine screws at the top on the right. The SSII was placed on the left over the flash.

The top end showing three screws holding the ML-3 receiver.

The ML-3 transmitter is housed in an ‘elephant proof’ aluminum box and has 10mm pivot bolts and L-plates. A laser pointer fits in the tube at the top to help in alignment and the box is adjustable for all angles. A 10mm ‘Python’ locking cable 10mm runs through a pipe welded to the faceplate.

ML-3 transmitter with the ‘laser pointer’ in an ‘elephant proof’ aluminum box.

There are two flash systems: a Nikon SB-400 with two AA externals and SC-17 sync cable (shortened) to fit upside-down next to the cam on the left, and to fire off on every shot tripping a Nikon SB-80 with two 4-pack AA externals (either new Eneloop or AA Lithium) with the flash set to remote. An ‘elephant proof’ box houses the SB-80 and battery packs with stainless steel 10mm pivot bolts, nuts, lock washers and L-plates and is adjustable for most angles. Another ‘Python’ cable secures the flash.

Slave flashes to be used with the D300s; Nikon SB-80 (right)

and National’ generic slave flash (left).

The other system is a PT-04NE FM Radio Speedlite trigger (transmitter and a couple receivers) mounted to an SB-80 and a SB-28 as slaves. I will explain my reason below for the ‘two in one’ system on both the sensors and flash. Another slave flash was built using a ‘National’ generic flash with two 2-pack AA externals for a total of eight AA batteries. A ‘Nissin’ flash trigger I had for more than a decade and recently found along with a ‘National’ sync cable to control the flash, works very well. This all fits nicely in a clear Pelican 1030 and I built my ‘elephant proof’ box as shown that is also adjustable.

Unfortunately, the Nikon ‘wireless flash system’ using the pop-up flash is not viable because the cam will only fire once (even in continuous mode) and then wait a second or two before tripping again. I need multiple shots in continuous mode (5-6 shots) to catch quick stepping animals more than once. The Nikon SB-600, 700, 800 or 900 can be tripped with the pop-up flash (line-of-sight) but it’s just too slow for this cam.

The reason I’m using a SB-400 is simple; it will fire on the first trigger and follow-up shots specially with AA Lithium batteries. It also has loads of power (better than the flip-up) to fill the frame and is TTL. A few remote slaves strategically placed will reduce ‘eye-shine’. I have made up a simple mirror system to direct light straight into the flash sensor as an experiment.

Experimental mirror to be angled directing light into the flash sensor

and attached to the tree above the flash unit.

The camera was a tight fit actually expanding the case a bit but after some serious sanding with a drum sander on both the case and cam, it now slips down nicely to the bottom and it closes easily. The sides of the case are slightly thinner but will not be a problem. However, a notch had to be cut for the shutter cable but that’s all.

The snorkel is thin aluminum tubing with a 77mm UV filter. The flash hole is covered with a shortened Nikon diffuser and the ‘ML-3 receiver’ is covered by a 40.5mm UV filter on the right, and the SSII and HPWA are fitted on the left. Marine ‘Goop’ is used on all ports.

D300s trail cam in an ‘elephant proof’ aluminum box.

As usual, an elephant proof box was made up for the cam to just fit and is installed on a tree using four 3” x 3/8” stainless lag bolts from inside the box. Four 12mm socket and two 10mm ‘power torque’ machines screws attach the faceplate and two 10mm (3/8”) ‘Python locking cables’ slip through pipes welded to the front for extra security. Camouflage paint in my usual ‘no two alike’ pattern. I will also be using dried moss glued on to the faceplate and sides of the box. Plastic leaves are wrapped around the box and locking cables to conceal everything.

The reason for the ‘two in one’ system: When there is heavy insect activity during the rainy season (now), large beetles, butterflies and moths will trip an active infrared sensor shooting an empty forest. I would use the passive infrared during this time. But during the dry season and for exact tripping, the ML-3 active infrared is more precise.

On the flash: some setups that can use light sensitive slave flashes, the SB-400 would be activated. Others sites that would require radio transmitted flash control due to tree or root placement, the radio trigger would be used. I can be selective on both systems and everything stays in the 1150.

I really look forward to setting this cam and will post the first set-up when done. Hope this helps those with ‘DSLR’ madness (like me). Just kidding…! Enjoy.

 

 

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Nikon D700 trail cam set

Monday, July 29, 2013 posted by Bruce 5:25 PM

Creatures on the log: A giant rodent, a pitta and an eagle

Not much passed over the dead tree last month but I did get a few interesting creatures that stopped by. The Nikon D700/35mm lens/ML-3/Pelican 1150 with three Nikon SB-28s worked very well. An Asiatic porcupine crossed over, and a blue-winged pitta and then a changeable hawk-eagle with prey landed on the log. Due to the 35mm lens, it seems a bit wide with the full-frame sensor and had to crop these images. I will be putting a 50mm when I get back to the unit next month…in the meantime, the cam is working very well and looking forward to those big cats with stripes and spots….!

Porcupine

Blue-winged pitta

Changeable hawk-eagle with prey (feathers already plucked)

Changeable hawk-eagle’s departure

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A Sony S600 on/off button fix

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 posted by Bruce 4:37 PM

The single most aggravating thing about Sony S600s is the on-off button. These cams are really one of the best for homebrew trail camera traps and I really enjoy using them. For some reason the switch tends to bottom out and the cam cannot be turned on. I have seen so many where someone previously used their fingernail to turn it on and off, and after awhile it just collapses and will not work.

Sony S600 on-off switch repair

I like to turn my S600s on before deploying in the forest to check the time, date and other things like mode, ISO, flash on, etc, and trying to turn it on with the sensor can be iffy. There is not enough time to check anything before the sensor tells the cam to shut down…!

Solder points for switch repair

All the Sony P and W-series cams usually do not have this problem and even the S40 button is good. As most of my 600s had this problem, I came up with a simple trick to fix this. A small push-button switch and short wire is soldered onto the pad as shown in the photos. Run the wire through the buttonhole and ‘Goop’ in place. I have now fixed all my S600s like this and they are working very well.

Hope this helps those on the forum with this S600 affliction.

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A Canon 400D trail cam

Saturday, July 13, 2013 posted by Bruce 2:26 PM

A new/old Canon 400D:  An easy DSLR in cost and production

Canon 400D with battery grip/Pelican 1150/Snapshot Sniper SSII board/Yongnuo wireless flash trigger plus two ‘D’ cell externals.

Back in march 2012, I built and posted my first DSLR trail cam around a Canon 400D with 18-55mm kit-lens and a Yeticam board (EOS chip) in an old recycled aluminum box I had made up for Minolta 800 si SLR film camera years ago.

I was using Yongnuo wireless flash triggers tripping three Canon 270EX flashes and it was working OK when I left it. Elephants bashed the thin-tube aluminum snorkel breaking the front glass, and then it rained. And that was that…!

Canon 400D in the box.

I then picked up a Canon 350D with the 18-55 kit-lens and got another Yeti board rebuilding the cam. The snorkel was busted again by the forest giants but it did not rain this time and I was able to get it going again with a new replacement glass (77mm UV filter) and an ‘elephant proof’ snorkel protector. This cam is presently working very close to where I camera trapped and was charged by a bull guar.

The 400D in an ‘elephant proof’ box.

I decided to buy a second-hand Canon 400D (Rebel XT-i) body only but this time went with a fixed Canon 50mm ƒ1.8 lens. I picked up a Pelican 1150 box and one of Snapshot Sniper SSII #5 boards and hooked it up with a Canon shutter release (button removed and it has a good 90-degree plug). A 77mm aluminum tube and filter is glued to the case with Goop. A Snapshot Sniper HPWA with a black Fresnel is used with the sniper board.

Canon 400D ready for the field.

The shutter release shielded wire is ground and white is shutter and red is power. The camera is set to ‘Continuous’ and the board to trail mode. I’m getting 5-6 frames per trip and can trip as many as four-five flashes at once.  I have several different locations planned for this cam. With a Yongnuo 603C wireless flash trigger with two ‘D’ cell externals and everything fits nicely in the 1150.

Flashes to be used with the Canon 400D.

I have two recycled flashes (a Canon 270EX and a Nikon SB-28) that will make up the group. Another two Nikon SB-26s on ‘stand-by’ mode will also be put into service (one with four ‘C’ cells and one with four ‘D’ cells) to see how long the respective batteries will last. A special modification is made to the SB-26s to allow regular 6-volt 4-cell packs to be used. Another mod is to unhook the ribbon to the monitor after the flash has been set-up (mostly half-power). This will reduce power consumption on the SB-26s.

Nikon SB-26s: one with four ‘C’ cells and one with four ‘D’ cells.

The Canon 400D (300, 350 or 450Ds) are not that big or expensive. There is plenty of room for a pipe through and Python locking cable. It will shoot in ‘Raw’ mode that will allow some latitude in post-processing.

As usual, I have made up an elephant proof aluminum box that will be bolted to a tree with three 3”x 3/8” stainless lag bolts from inside the box plus two 10mm Python cables. The front cover is bolted to the box using six 10mm power-torque machine screws. The flashes are in aluminum boxes with 8mm power-torque machine screws bolted to trees with the same lag bolts and Python locking cables for security.

A Canon 400D with an adapter for Nikon 50mm ƒ1.4 lens.

I have another 400D that will be getting the same treatment except I have an adapter to use an old Nikon 50 ƒ1.4 manual lens. We will see what the difference is in using a plastic lens versus a glass lens. I’ll put my money on the glass out-preforming the plastic…!!

Cost of materials – cost can vary:

Canon 400D………………………………………………….. about $150 (used)

Battery pack grip……………………………………………… about $32 (new)

Canon fixed lens 50ƒ1.8 ……………………………… about $80-90 (used)

Canon Shutter release……………………………………………….. $13 (used)

Pelican 1150 case……………..……………………………………….. $30 (new)

Yonguo 603c flash triggers (a pair)……………………………… $33 (new)

Snapshot Sniper SSII board (#5 chip) & HPWA Fresnel.. $50 (new)

Total cost: about $398 plus labor and essentials (Goop, extra cam battery, drill bits, soldering tools, etc).

Hope this will give some of you camera trappers out there an incentive to build a DSLR…! The cost for some cams is not that expensive and the Canon 400D is a good choice for a first cam.

 

 

 

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