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Old May 21, 2010, 4:48 PM   #1
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 52
Default How (NOT) to open the Aosta DV360 camcorder...

The Aosta DV360 is a stylish mini camcorder with 3 megapixel sensor, VGA resolution and a very futuristic case in gold metallic with rounded corners that looks like from an old space age SF movie.

Unfortunately its case is the mechanically most wicked and obfuscated construction I ever saw yet in any mini camcorders. It is more glued than screwed with plenty of hidden snap-on covers and fixtures and at least 5 times more complicated to dismantle than ones by Aiptek; the thing is assembled like a Rubik's Cube with plenty of 3 dimensionally interlocking parts, so during my successless attempt of photographing the electronics I finally ripped off both TFT screen foil cables. Arrrg!

- overview

I had bought my Aosta DV360 as defective on eBay (1EUR with accessories), but it turned out that it apparently only needed extremely high quality batteries (2x AA size, Ready2Use rechargeables) to make it start. With higher ohmed rechargeables or used alkalines it either made a black or flashing screen or only showed a "low battery" message and switched off. Unusual is that this camcorder does not power on/off by opening/closing the screen, but only by pushing the power button. Another odd behaviour is that although video recording is started by pushing in the zoom joystick, it is stopped with the photo shutter button instead. From the short time I had it working, I only can say that the lowlight behaviour was quite poor. The user interface resembled partly JayTech DC7000 and had 3 video and photo compression settings. It has 8x digital zoom, saves file dates and can zoom into stored photos like it should be. There is the usual MP3 player and voice recorder mode. The stylish case is bulkier than the similar Aiptek T300LE; it has a mechanically unique battery compartment for 2 AA cells loaded from the bottom; the contacts are gold plated and have an odd spring mech with flimsy plastic bits at the lid to prevent wrong polarity. The only 2 inch small swivel screen had an odd convergence bug; when flipped to the front (self-video mode), the blue RGB channel was shifted by some pixels sideways. 3 buttons are on the screen frame, which is only magnetic when flipped out. There are separate jacks for headphone and AV-out.

Although technically nothing spectacular, the Aosta DV360 is an awesome retro-futuristic design camcorder that looks like taken out of an old science fiction series. Unfortunately mine is dead now because I broke the foil cables (2x 17 pins on 7mm or the like) to the screen and button pad. (I hope I find another one.) But at least I can tell you now in detail how to take it apart properly, since the mechanical construction looks unfortunately also like planned by some extra-terrestrial logics. Perhaps some hackers will find out this way how to modify that thing.

- how to dismantle

Like with the infamous Apple iPhone, it is hard to estimate from outside what holds the thing together, and even when you know it, it will be still difficult to remove glued parts without leaving ugly scratches. I recommend to carefully heat glue with a hairdryer where possible. There are also plenty of different screw lengths used, so write down or snapshot which goes where.

The only from outside visible screws are under the AV/USB jacks cover. Remove them. When you flip out the screen, you see 2 little grey rubber pads on the main case surface. Peel them off with fingernails and remove the 2 screws hidden under them. This was still easy, but now it becomes nastier. Look at the silver metal cover around the screen hinge. The thin sheet metal is glued on a grey plastic plate that is pressed on. Flip out the screen. You will see the thick grey plastic plate. On the rear wall between both hinges there is a center hole under it. Carefully insert a not too sharp little hook here (nail head?) and pull up to lift off the grey plastic. You can do this without removing the glued sheet metal (which makes ugly dents), but beware that there are flimsy foil cables underneath the left hinge those may easily tear, so if you urgently want to see what you do, you may want to peel off the metal first. Underneath the plastic 2 long silver screws hold the case together; remove them. 2 short black screws hold the screen hinges. (I don't remember if they need to be removed later.) But the case still won't open. The next step is even harder. At the case front you see on the grey metallic piece with the flash a black acrylic plastic bar; it is glued on very firmly with dual sided black adhesive film. Use the hairdryer and peel with fingernails or flat plastic to remove it. (A screwdriver causes ugly scratches, so don't use it.) Remove the 2 screws you find underneath. (There are no screws under the big oval logo badge, thus do not attempt to remove it.)

Now you can lift off the front cover (grey metallic part with the flash glass) and left cover (the one without screen). The case is now open, but this still won't make us reach the other side with the CPU. Through the silver button cover goes another screw; remove it.

DANGER: To the right of the battery compartment you will see a really big black electrolytic capacitor (330V, 120uF) that contains about 300V for the flash and may give you a really painful electric shock (almost like sh...ocket current) when touched at its contacts. This is the biggest flash cap I ever saw in mini camcorders; it would be sufficient to stabilize the high voltage for a small stereo or guitar tube amplifier, thus before you handle it, discharge it with a big resistor of some kOhm (You may use the mains plug of a non-electronic soldering iron or a big lightbulb for this) across its 2 wires. To avoid damage, do not short it directly (through screwdriver etc.)

CAUTION: After discharging, bend the flash capacitor carefully upward. Underneath you see the 2 foil cables from the TFT screen and keypad. Before any attempts of taking off the right cover you MUST remove these cables, else they will tear off! To do this, carefully lift the tiny black flap of the connector (with fingernail or piece of plastic) and pull the cable out. Now comes the really malicious part; one of these cables is sandwiched between 2 black ferrite ceramic squares (either as EMC shielding or to prevent hackers from taking it apart?) those stick like hell. To prevent tearing, you MUST remove these from the cable; use fingernails or plastic (NOT any sharp metal parts) to separate them; heating with hairdryer may help. This is a delicate step but unavoidable. (I found this out the hard way only after I had snapped the cable off. These 17 pin cables are special parts and impossible to replace with anything else. )

The PCB is clamped between both side walls of the right cover. You have to carefully bend the plastic walls apart to take the PCB out. Watch out that the foil cables at the screen are short and must be carefully pulled out through its holes to avoid damage. Also the speaker and magnet sensor cables from that cover are quite short.

On the back of the PCB the CPU and RAM are covered by a shielding copper foil sticker that is soldered to GND at its corners. Desolder it to reach the ICs underneath.

Another obfuscated thing is how to reach the lens mech and image sensor. To access it, carefully turn the silver lens ring to the left until it comes loose. It has a bajonet fixture with flimsy plastic hooks underneath, thus do not pull, else they will crack off (I did, superglued them back on and didn't let it dry well, so wet glue messed up the front pane). Underneath you can now take out the front pane (e.g. to clean it). 2 black screws hold a plastic part; to the right it contains the microphone squeezed into a piece of rubber hose. After removal it will be very hard to stuff it back because the cable seems to be too short, however it is only glued to the case side and can be carefully pulled loose to handle it better. Under the black plastic part is the optic mech with the mechanical focus switch. However I found no way to remove the metal tube around the lens unit. It is firmly glued on a grey inner plastic tube that despite it has 2 screws at the front and 1 at the rear end can not be moved with screws removed. Possibly the grey tube is held by further screws thos are hidden under the glued outer metal tube. But at least you can access the lens mech from outside.

Put it back together the same way in reverse order.

- hardware

There are 2 stacked PCBs inside; the smaller one around the battery compartment is marked "DV3040 POWER, 9UU37-0800-00 REV: D, SU: BP" (?, with some black felt pen written over). The mainboard is based on ZORAN Coach-7 and includes (of all on that hard to reach right side) a small soldered button cell (lithium primary?, or rechargeable??) for system clock, that may make the camcorder fail when empty. On the mainboard are empty solder joints for an 6 pin test connector where apparently an 8 pin jack can be soldered in (foil cable connector?, facing at the case front).
  • CPU = "ZORAN ZR36451BGCF, B4-U5AM0518EG, COACH-7M"
  • RAM = "hynix KOR, HY27US08561M, TCB 440B, 29RB08222" (48 pin SMD)
  • Flash-ROM = "ELPIDA singapore, DD2516AKTA-6B-E, 05050E024000" (66 pin SMD)
I have not examined it further. Other components seem to be on the back of the mainboard, which looked like when it can not be reached without desoldering parts.
MAY THE SOFTWARE BE WITH YOU! *============================================================================* I CYBERYOGI Christian Oliver(=CO=) Windler I I (teachmaster of LOGOLOGIE - the first cyberage-religion!) I I ! I *=============================ABANDON=THE=BRUTALITY==========================* {http://weltenschule.de/e_index.html}
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