A Nikon D90 camtrap build

Camera trap build description resulting trap photos.
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FarmerDan
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Location: Central Oregon

A Nikon D90 camtrap build

Post by FarmerDan »

My first build, made possible by many posts on Camtrapper that showed the way.

A Nikon D90 with Nikon 35 mm lens, a Pelican 1150 case, an 8 volt SLA battery, SCII board with program 6, and a Pololu Adjustable 4-12V Step-Up/Step-Down Voltage Regulator (S18V20ALV). The battery was one I had for a security system, but wasn't being used. I wanted to keep the camera off the bottom of the case in case of leaks. I plan to replace the battery with a bank of AA's.
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The snorkel was made from a piece of 3-inch ABS pipe and a coupler for the pipe.
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Each end of the coupler was longer than the snorkel so I cemented them together, then trimmed the end to match the pipe, and cut down the “lens hood” end to the same length as a regular hood for a 82 mm lens filter. This arrangement also makes a much wider base to with to screw the snorkel.
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The midline of the coupler has a flat ridge to fit against the pipe. This makes a perfect place to glue in the filter (Marine Goop). The snorkel was cemented to the case with plastic epoxy. The surfaces of the snorkel were roughed with sand paper so glue and paint would adhere better. Also, the raised lettering on the ridge surface was ground off so the filter fit flat.
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I cut a 1-inch hole for the “Lens” of the SSII board, a 3-inch hole for the snorkel, and a rectangular cut-out for the flash. I glued a flash diffuser over the cut-out.

The snorkel was cemented to the case with plastic epoxy and secured with screws through the case into the snorkel base. Every glued piece was later sealed around the edges with marine goop. The IR lens was too low, so I moved it up and over as far it and the SCII board would fit. Plastic epoxy was used to fill in the first hole. I also glued (with plastic epoxy) a piece of pliable plastic about 3/16-inch thick around the bottom half of the snorkel, to give it a shape similar to a branch stump. “Liquid nails” glue created a 3-D pattern somewhat like that of Juniper bark, which is the commonest place to secure a cam trap here.
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Here is the inside of the finished unit. The white foam material is just the right thickness to hold the camera and battery in place, and is very tough, but soft and resilient enough to compress under pressure. You can see the outline of the camera pressed into the foam (clearer in the next pic). The white patch partly under the SCII board is where the original hole for the lens was patched. The voltage regulator is set to 7.4 v, same as the D90's battery. I started out cementing foam on the insides of the case, but because the camera is irregularly shaped, I ended up removing much of it so things are not pretty inside.
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The SCII board is connected to the camera with a remote shutter cord via the GPS port on the camera The cord had a straight plug instead of the L-shaped one I ordered, so I have another on order now. In the mean-time, I cut off most of the material on the cord end of the plug bent the wires 90 degrees and applied marine goop liberally. Unfortunately, one wire broke (they are smaller than 22 guage), and after tinkering with it I decided it was better to start with a new cord (<$4)

I found that for the remote shutter system (3 stacked plates) from which the cord was cut, the yellow wire went to Power on the board. The white wire went to Power Common, and the red wire to Shutter. These were wired in the shutter release mechanism (3 plates): top plate, yellow, middle plate White, bottom plate Red. Other remote shutter systems may use different colors or ways of tripping the shutter.
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I attached a Ram mount system to the back of the case, and glued it with plastic epoxy. The mounting material was some plastic composite trim (Timber-Tech) decking material. The finished unit weighs 8 pounds. Replacing the SLA battery with AA's, equaling about the same amps may reduce the weight some. The arm of the ram mount is too long to properly support the trail cam in some positions. I will replace it with a short arm, but the unit is functional as is.
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With some tweeking, program 5 is probably a better fit for the Nikon D90, because the camera is always on. The kit for programming the Picaxe 8 chip has been assembled and I'm experimenting with various settings. I am working on an external flash setup. The built in flash is a little under-powered for anything over about 12-15 ft, but the camera has been out only one night, and coverage can be improved some by flash compensation. Check out my post on Camtrapper.com, to see an example of the first pics with this setup (also some from a Reconyx cam). http://www.camtrapper.com/viewtopic.php ... 140#p71709

Thank you all for leading the way.

Dan
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ghosthunters
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Re: A Nikon D90 camtrap build

Post by ghosthunters »

Wow .. To me looks impressive .. Thanks for the process pics, I am sure it will help others ... Please show some results via pics it takes once you get some...
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Predator 1
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Re: A Nikon D90 camtrap build

Post by Predator 1 »

Great looking set up!


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johnnydeerhunter
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Re: A Nikon D90 camtrap build

Post by johnnydeerhunter »

Nice job on the build!
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tiger hunter
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Re: A Nikon D90 camtrap build

Post by tiger hunter »

That's a great D90 DSLR build and should do well...keep us updated when you get some shots...I like my D90 and got a clouded leopard that I posted last month...it's a good camera and takes nice pics...however, with the single flip-up flash, you'll get 'eye-shine' from creatures at night.. a slave would do away with that...!
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Gartooth
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Re: A Nikon D90 camtrap build

Post by Gartooth »

That is seriously cool. Nice work. Love to see builds. Hope you get some great shots with it.

Maybe I missed it- what size filter glass did you use on the snorkel?
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FarmerDan
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Location: Central Oregon

Re: A Nikon D90 camtrap build

Post by FarmerDan »

Gartooth wrote:That is seriously cool. Nice work. Love to see builds. Hope you get some great shots with it.

Maybe I missed it- what size filter glass did you use on the snorkel?

Thank you. The filter was 82 mm. It didn't fit tightly. I would go for a cheaper, more robustly framed filter because it will fit better and save a little $.
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FarmerDan
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Location: Central Oregon

Re: A Nikon D90 camtrap build

Post by FarmerDan »

Thank you all for your comments: I have a few more photos posted on Picasa: https://picasaweb.google.com/dfwilliams ... erVsMarmot . The first several are with a Reconyx cam showing a badger capturing a marmot. The last few are of the same badger the next night with the D90 system. I'm waiting for a new shutter cord to arrive before I can set it again.

I agree that red-eye is a problem with the built-in flash. I have a Nikon SB-800 and two SB-R200's speedlights that I'm constructing enclosures for. I will tether the SB-800 to the camera via a cable, and operate it in commander mode, controlling the two wireless SB-R200 slaves. I can also operate the SB-800 as a wireless slave using the camera flash as the commander, but that does not solve the red-eye problem.

I have to have the commander unit on all the time, and cannot set the camera to not use flash when it isn't needed, when the speedlight is attached or the built-in flash is raised. With TTL metering it isn't much of a problem and can even help filling in shadows during daylight. I just ordered a Pixcontroller flash slave board because it was cheap ($15.00), but know little about slave boards at this point. I expect I will learn what I need from members posts on this board. A fantastic resource!!!

Dan
JonnyA
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Re: A Nikon D90 camtrap build

Post by JonnyA »

Very Nice! Does that size of RAM ball hold 8lbs. OK?
Using the onboard flash will drain some power, but if you're doing shorter sets and keep false triggers under control, I bet you could get by with just the camera battery OK and save a bunch of weight. I ran my camera off a 12V SLA with a converter when I first started but now I only use external power when the temps get below 10F or so. I don't know what the D90 power consumption is like though.

Does the Nikon ttl and commander system work with camera trapping? That could be a real interesting setup, but can you wake up the R200 from standby with the Nikon wireless communication (infrared)? I didn't think you could but if it's possible I am intrigued. The intermittent snow cover at this time of year would make ttl very useful for me.
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Willy
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Re: A Nikon D90 camtrap build

Post by Willy »

Great job!
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