Messing About with the @Raspberry_Pi HQ Camera

I’ve had the Raspberry Pi HQ camera for a couple of weeks now – I confess I ordered one the minute I saw the announcement! While I waited for the parcel to arrive I busied myself making a home for it, in an old Merlin handheld game.

The 1979 Merlin Pi

The idea was that the case would be all finished by the time the new camera arrived, ready to just slot it in and start experimenting, without having too many cables getting in the way.

Showing off the lens and tripod mount

This turned out to be a pretty good strategy – especially including a touchscreen display. I picked up the Hyperpixel 4″ screen during last year’s #YarrBooty shenanegans, and it’s so useful in this build.

It didn’t take long to set up the camera – I went with the 6mm lens and spent a while trying very hard to focus it with the adaptor in place (you don’t need the adaptor with this one, rtm). After that though we were in business on the workbench! First pic below.

First picture taken with the HQ camera

The touchscreen soon proved very useful – you can’t wildly point & shoot with the HQ camera and expect great results, you need to take the time to focus the lens properly, and having an on-board screen made this much easier. An alternative would be to use a connected HDMI monitor or use Real VNC (enable “Direct Capture” in settings) to have a remote view.

GuiZero works well for selecting camera modes

Once I’d got a feel for the camera I set up a little touch user interface using GuiZero , so that I could select either video or still capture while out & about (well, in the garden at least). I also added in a “focus” option, which just displays the camera preview for 15 seconds, without saving. I found this really useful for getting the focus just right before recording/capturing. I also found that putting a piece of Lego in the frame helped me get the focus sharp when looking through the small screen in bright sunlight.

I’ve included a couple of my favourite images so far below – it’s a very different mindset for me, to spend time thinking about focus & exposure rather than just blazing away (I’ve never used a “proper” camera), but I enjoy the process and it’s satisfying when a nice pic comes out. I’ve also tried some “camera-trap” style nature videos but the shiny red Merlin case and leggy tripod are pretty conspicuous and seem to have frightened off the wildlife so far.

This frog stayed still just long enough for me to focus properly
Lockdown cake delivery from the local cafe
Prowling the garden

There’s certainly a lot still to learn, which I love, and I’m looking forward to a rummage around the camera stalls at the car boot some day to see if I can find different lenses to try. The HQ camera is undoubtedly a huge step up in quality, but is so different in its application that it’s definitely a welcome addition to, rather than a total replacement for, the V2 camera.

I’m continuing to tweak the Merlin Pi and there’ll be a full write-up and video released in the next week or two.

Rotary Tuning with the Pi #TVHAT

The Raspberry Pi TV HAT arrived a week or so ago and we’ve had great fun setting it up and using it. It does a great job of streaming a digital TV signal around the house, and I use it daily.

For me though the critical thing was being able to easily stream TV to other Raspberry Pis – I have several converted vintage TVs (Like the Hitachi Pi and Casio Pi) and really wanted them to be able to display actual live TV broadcasts.

With a bit of Python I now have the 1982 TV Experience live on the Hitachi Pi! It uses a script to step through four separate VLC playlists (to match the four channels we had in 1982) using the TV’s original rotary tuning dial. The script is on GitHub and is really simple – you could also just use a push button.

I’ve covered my experiences (with some assistance from the cats) in the “New Spec Review” video below, and the write-up is live on Hackster and Instructables.

The next project is definitely going to be finding and adapting a nice vintage case for the TV server Pi – stay tuned for updates!

 

 

 

 

The #TVHAT Has Landed!

So excited to receive my Raspberry Pi TV HAT in the post this week! I’ve converted several old TVs using the Pi recently, like the Casio Pi and the Hitachi Pi┬ábut there’s always been something missing – an actual digital TV signal.

With the launch of the TV HAT so many possibilities have opened up, from adding a TV tuner to an OSMC Kodi build to streaming digital TV across the home network to other devices.

I’ll be releasing a “New Spec Review” video once I’ve fully got to grips with it (Mostly done, I’m half-watching a live stream of Carry on Cabby on the other monitor as I type), and I’ll also be testing it with my existing TV conversions – and maybe even making a nice retro case to hold the TV Server Pi in style. Stay tuned for updates!

 

Black Hot Glue?

I’m just going to say this – black hot glue sticks are a thing, who knew?

I was browsing the RS Components website for Sugru last week and found this instead, I can’t believe I’ve lived without it for so long.

Normally I don’t use hot glue much as it’s a bit unsightly, but the black sticks work really well, are extra-long and leave a nice glossy finish (as long as you don’t mess with it while it’s cooling).

I’ve already used it several times in the workshop, to tidily fix the cracked plastic case of an old TV and to secure the LCD Shutters to the shades for The Game. And obviously to fix beer mats to the ceiling above the Progress Bar.

The Game: LCD Shutters

I picked up these LCD shutters a while back from Pimoroni, essentially because they were a new product and I was sure I could use them in a future project.

As they say on the Pimoroni product description:

Essentially single pixel LCD displays, these panels polarise and go black (completely opaque) when you pass 3V through them, and then de-polarise (become transparent) when pulled low or shorted. Easy!

You can treat the LCD shutter like a low value capacitor. Once energised, they will hold their polarised/opaque state, but slowly leak charge over time and become de-polarised/transparent again

The shutters were really well packaged (as you’d hope for something so fragile) and had a clear plastic protector on both sides, which is handy as you’ll handle them a lot.

As you can see in the GIF they go completely opaque when you attach 3v, then slowly become clear again (unless you pull down or short the connections). They don’t seem too fussy about polarity.

This week I finally nailed the concept for using them in a new Raspberry Pi project, which I’m calling “The Game” for now – a long way to go but there’ll be regular updates here and a YouTube video of the whole build when it’s finished.