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Old Aug 3, 2008, 3:08 AM   #1
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I've learned a lot from online communities like this one and I'm trying to contribute back to them in the event that I can answer some questions or help get the wheels spinning for someone else's ideas. This is my first post here so please pardon any mistakes I may make in posting this.
I purchased an Aiptek A-HD+ after reading a little about it here. Actually, it was the Action HD but I returned shortly after because although the images were great the hunting and seeking of the auto focus really bugged me. So I downgraded to the A-HD+...everything I wanted in the Action HD minus the auto focus. I got the camera fairly cheap at Best Buy and after two or three days I took it apart to try to improve the limitations of the lens. I have a lot of cameras and this one was so affordable I was prepared to experiment with it even if I ended up destroying it. Cutting to the chase....

I've included pics of the disassembly. I know that there are other pics like this in the forums but I included these because I stripped it down to the CMOS chip.

BTW, for anyone who cares, I think this is the chip in this camera:
http://www.aptina.com/products/image...2stc/#overview

With an Xacto knife I CAREFULLY broke the epoxy bond on the lens to unscrew it from the PCB board mount lens holder. This is a custom lens holder specifically for this application. There are spring retaining clips that allow the lens to rotate in a kind of turret to achieve macro focusing. Very carefully, I took all of this apart to take measurements and to determine the distance of the focal plane from the back of the lens to the CMOS chip (3mm for those who care.) The pinhole lens in this camera is the typical M12 variety that you find in most board camera applications. I had an adapter fabricated that would step up from M12 to C-mount (NOT CS- mount) because I envisioned using lenses from my Bolex H16 film camera and also because I had an adapter for my film camera that allowed me to use Minolta lenses. C-mount adapters are plentiful and affordable. I know I've seen adapters on Ebay that allowed you to step up to Canon or Nikon lenses as well.
It took a couple of weeks for the adapter to be completed. It was machined out of aluminum and was made to sit precisely 17.52 mm from the CMOS chip when screwed into the Aiptek lens holder on the board. 17.52 is the standard focal plane distance for C-mount lenses.

To fit the adapter which was 30.00mm in diameter I had to remove the chrome plastic lens barrel and the glass. With a dremel tool I cut away the front portion of the black lens assembly that resided inside of the chrome barrel. I cut this part as I could without disturbing what was necessary for the macro switch (Incidentally, this switch is useless after this mod because the macro options you gain exceed the capabilities of the switch.) It looks better to keep it rather than having a hole and it's easier to keep the whole lens holder turret from rotating when you screw and unscrew lenses into the adapter. The blue trim is also removed. In the pics you can see how cleanly things fit. The pictures show the adapter before I spray painted the inside of it matte black to cut down on reflection within the adapter and thus increasing contrast in the recorded images.
I set a C-mount lens to infinity and to the largest aperture and then slowly screwed it onto the adapter. I had the camera plugged into my TV so that I could adjust the back focus of the lens. Note, that the PCB lens holder is plastic and certainly wasn't made to support the weight of a film camera lens. Take extra care to support the lens while doing this. Although you could, I chose not to epoxy the adapter into the camera because I actually intend to use the original lens for super macro shots. I'm sorry I forgot to include some examples here but I will in the future. The original Aiptek lens has 7.00 mm of thread and if you adjust it further out you can achieve microscope-like effects. Even if you decide not to convert you camera as I have it is a lot more fun without all that plastic around the lens. Like my father use to tell me though, "...Don't squander what you're not prepared to lose." So unless you don't mind taking a risk with your camera you shouldn't attempt this.
Because I opted not to bond the adapter into the lens mount I use a piece of gaffers tape between the top of the camera and the adapter to keep the adapter from rotating as I screw and unscrew lenses.
One thing I almost forgot to mention, when the Aiptek pinhole lens is removed...you also remove the IR cut off filter and thus the CMOS chip will pick up Infra Red light as well as visible light. I ended up buying an IR cut off filter on Ebay to put in front of my lenses. The improvement was great but I think I may get another one to stack on top of the one I already purchased because the images still look a little too warm to me. The control I have over optical zoom and focusing take this little camera to another level.
I've taken some video samples that I put into a zip folder. I think they are way too large to post here because they are straight from the camera. If you have the bandwidth feel free to download them and check them out. No fancy camera work or tripod I'm afraid. The footage is really jerky in some parts because I was supporting the camera by the lens and trying to focus to several depths of field. The footage was just for me to review as I mentioned I think the flare can be solved with another IR filter.
www.d2m.us/webvids.zip
I am currently designing a bracket that will connect to the camera's tripod mount and support the heavier lenses. I will likely intergrate a pistol grip handle of some kind to take stress off the camera body and add some strength to the assembly.
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Old Aug 3, 2008, 5:15 PM   #2
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Very interesting! I downloaded the videos and was impressed with the quality. Since an Aiptek has now been used on a commercial I'm waiting for the DVD movie commentary where some director talks about using a very inexpensive HD camera to get certain action shots difficult with anything much larger than the Aiptek. Or a featurette with the DC showing how they used the camera. With a lens fitting like this the DC's might be looking a lot more seriously at the Aiptek as a another tool in their arsenal.


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Old Aug 4, 2008, 7:30 PM   #3
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WOW! Can you upload some sample videos to Vimeo? I'm interested in macro mode performance.
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Old Aug 5, 2008, 2:02 PM   #4
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OMG i love your footage! It looks very professional. can you please make a detailed tutorial for beginners like me to make a lens conversion too. =)
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Old Aug 5, 2008, 4:29 PM   #5
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I took the liberty to upload the samples to Vimeo, for the lulz.

http://vimeo.com/1473528
http://vimeo.com/1473602
http://vimeo.com/1473618
http://vimeo.com/1473665
http://vimeo.com/1473728
http://vimeo.com/1473769

:|
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Old Aug 6, 2008, 4:59 PM   #6
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Niiiiiice hack!

I've been tempted to hack together the aiptek with an old filmo, but that would be violating your dad's rule of squandering....

Cool hack though. You obviously know what you are doing. I wonder just how good a 10mm switar would look with the aiptek sensor. I bet nice!

-J
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Old Aug 6, 2008, 7:34 PM   #7
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It looks like it wouldn't take much for Aiptek to make a model with the lens mount and external audio jack and call it the A-HD Pro. Might be a big hit with those who want more.

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Old Aug 7, 2008, 3:13 AM   #8
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Thanks for all of your responses....

hdguy,
I agree with you that Aiptek could step it up a notch. An A-HD Pro would be sweet. I wonder though if manufacturers such as Aiptek purposely preserve the division between Pro and consumer cameras by omitting features that would enable flexibility.

D1PHAM,
I did some macro test for you which I edited together. My intent was to upload the video to Vimeo (BTW, Thanks for telling me about that.) Unfortunately, my video ended up too large because I tried to preserve the quality by using minimal compression. So here's a link. I warn you, it might be an "overnighter" download.

www.d2m.us/A-HD_macro_full.mov.zip <<<<Note: This link will no longer work by 12 a.m. 08/09/2008 because it has been moved to the following link.>>>>

http://www.vimeo.com/1492337

Next time I will be sure to make smaller clips.

pncutep,
Glad you liked the footage although I think it's far from professional. Until I make the support bracket I mentioned above, It's still too fragile to risk mounting it on a tripod with a larger lens attached. I've included a pic so that you can see one of the lenses I used for my latest video. As far as a detailed tutorial goes...once you have an adapter machined that will accept a C-Mount lens and then step down to M12 there's not much to it but opening your camera removing the chrome lens barrel and blue trim, removing an trimming down the black plastic piece that sits on top of the pinhole lens down to the point where the macro switch starts and then cutting away the glue that holds the pinhole lens in the lens holder as I've mentioned above. Once youve opened up your camera and looked inside all this information will make complete sense. Remember to keep things organized as you take them apart. I drew an illustration of the camera, scotch-taped the screws to the drawing and drew arrows to where I had removed them. I realize that the toughest part besides getting up the nerve to do it, is finding a machine shop that can lathe an adapter as small as the specs I've mentioned above. I tried to get in touch with the engineer who helped me with mine to see if I could get a quantity of maybe 10 or 15 at a discount in which case I would just put them up on Ebay for who ever is interested. My adapter was about $150.00 for as small as it is but was totally worth it. So far I haven't heard back from the engineer but I will let all of you know when I do.
I would like to demystify this hack as much as possible so that whomever is interested can take advantage of it. I will do my bet to "bring it to the people."
Now, I wish I had taken more pictures of my process but I guess I was really just kind of wingin' it up until I first attached the adapter for the first time.

subc,
Thank you so much for taking the time to post those videos. I've been reading up on Vimeo. Now that I know I have a 500mb limit I start trying to watch my file sizes.

cinejay,
I think those 16 mm switar lenses work out because the CMOS size is not too far off from a 16 mm movie frame cell. The only thing with my lenses were that they were so old that the focus action had stiffen up on them which made it quite difficult to focus smoothly. Using the Minolta photo lenses was much easier. They were smoother and the larger size makes them easy to manipulate quickly.

Well, as I look at this page again it seems that I could have replied to each one of you individually. As I said before, I'm new to this and now I'm too tired to go back and break this all apart so I guess I'll get it next time around.
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Old Aug 7, 2008, 3:52 PM   #9
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Hi

So yeah it's very amazing and thank for sharing. About your adapter.. i seesome who look like yours like over :

http://www.edmundoptics.com/onlineca...productid=2196

and it's more to adapt to C and seem they need different part also over the pcb. But the one you made in alu is it a : M12 to C-mount ?


Like i mean... maybe it's more easy to just grab an another socket mount who will fit directly on the pcb ? , like the picture on the link.. ?
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Old Aug 8, 2008, 1:04 PM   #10
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I re-rendered the macro test footage and posted it here:

http://www.vimeo.com/1492337

Yea, Vimeo will definitely make this easier for folks.


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