Solenoid questions from Ray

spectr17

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Okay all you solenoid users, time to help out with some questions from Ray. Ray sent me this email and since I haven't used a solenoid in a few years on my cameras I figure I should have you peeps help out. Mucho thanks.

Ray email,

I just stumbled on your homebrew trail camera website, and I'm glad I did.  This is great stuff.
I wonder if I could bother you with a few questions.

I am a graduate student at North Carolina State University working on a bobcat habitat project.  We are on a fairly tight budget and your camera designs look like just the thing.    

We have a couple thousand acres to monitor.  After the first trial few cameras, we will be fielding a bunch.  I'm looking for a design that is easily replicated, cheap, and has good power economy.  From your website, it looks like a solenoid driven cheapo camera is my best bet.  I found the Vivitar BV-50 for $18.00 directly through the vivtar.com site and was wondering if you have heard any opinions about this particular camera (there's a Vivitar CV-40 shown in the gallery).  It's a non-focus, motorized, 35mm.

On the web site schematic of the solenoid set up, there are two batteries shown (solenoid and PIR).  Is the solenoid hungry, or could both be fed from one 12vdc?  What would the battery longevity be?  What is the longevity the pair of 12vdc?

You describe the Radio Shack PIR as 12x less power hungry than the Regent.  Is this an appreciable amount, or will the camera be visited for film replacement before the batteries run out no matter which PIR you use?  Do you routinely change the batteries with every visit?

I'm trying to determine the necessity of the shutter delay timer for my situation.  You mention that the cameras go into shutdown mode if the PIR is tripped for over three minutes.  Is this a problem when run off solenoid?  If I use the Regent MS20 PIR, will the "auto"setting delay be sufficient?

Thanks for your time and help,
Ray Bode
NCSU - Forestry
 



Tinhorn

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I'll take a stab at anwering some of Ray's questions.

Timer:

My 1st attemp at a Solenoid Movement Camera had no timer.  There were Numerous False Alarms from various causes so a timer was tried.  I found that a delay of only 30 seconds cut way down on false alarms and I have used a timer ever sense.  (but others on this forum don't seem to be as plagued as I was with no timer)


Two Battery's:

The Solenoid I used was from a Car Door and would work using a cheap 6v lantern battery BUT it would draw so much current, that, if a timer and PIR were connected to the same battery, it caused a chain reaction of false triggers:  when the solenoid was energized, the batt volts went near zero due to current draw...this caused the timer and PIR to shut off momentarily, releasing the solenoid, when the batt volts recovered, it triggered the PIR (& timer) and pushed the solenoid down again,  over and over and over.....   get it!

Using a separate battery system prevented this problem.  The Solenoid mentioned on Jesse's site uses about a half amp, much less than the Car Solenoid, so MAY not have the Reset Problem, but I don't know for sure.....

I also used 2 relays to drive the Solenoid, 2 are actually not required, a transistor relay driver could be used to drive a solenoid heavy duty enough to handle the Solenoid's current.

If you use the RS PIR, a 9volt battery could be used with it and a 6v Lantern batt or rechargable 12 v  used on the Solenoid Circuit (may need common grounds is all)  Battery life would be Months.....


Battery Life:

as mentioned above, the mechanism's battery life would probably be months but the problem will probably be the camera battery's.  The Cam Flash will have to be left on, putting a continuous drain on the 2-AA batt's in the camera.  My cheapo Point and Shoot cam batt's only last 2 to 3 days before going dead....

Camera Shutdown and MS20 Internal Delay:

We don't  know if the Vivatotr Camera you mentioned has the shutdown problem like the Owl PF.  If you use the MS20's internal delay, it will hold in the Solenoid the whole MS20 Delay Time, making a terrible demand on the Batt's...I'd recommend building a 2 sec timer so that, no matter how long the trigger remains, the timer will energize the solenoid only 2 seconds or so....

********************************************

Recommendations:

1.  Test the Camera's Battery Life with Flash left on
    (I seen a $10 cam at Wal-Mart that might work)

2.  Modify an MS20 and use the internal delay (Auto Mode) but build a 2 sec solenoid delay timer

**************************************

Tinhorn
 

Ray

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Thanks a bunch.  You wouldn't happen to recall the name of the $10 job at Wal-mart, would you?

I seem to recall reading that a bunch of batteries wired parallel gives bigger pool of energy/longer life.  If you do that with the AA's, do you not get longer duration of your camera?  What would it take to get a week out of the camera?

I read a posting from Rflesh where he mentioned prodding around inside a strange camera with a piece of wire trying to find the shutter release.  What do you look for to identify this circuitry?

Thanks,
Ray Bode
 

Tinhorn

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Ray

When you parallel battery's, the weakest battery will drain the other battery's down to it's level but there will be greater battery Ampacity as long as no real weak battery was used.  A better plan would be to bring out the cam's power leads and use 2 D size batterys.

I don't know the brand of the cams I saw for $10 but they had a motorized advance and flash capabilities (fixed focus)  I am only guessing they would work, some more expensive but Cheapo Cams have a "Shutdown" feature to save battery's and other electronic features, like red eye reduction which would be hard on battery's.  I dought a $10 cam would have these advance features and would also be more likely to not run battery's down so fast....

An ideal situation is a cam that has a "Switch" for a push button (like the Owl PF) and what Rfresh was probably looking at or far.  That way, relay contacts could be paralleled with the Push Button Switch.  (no Solenoid needed then, and one battery to do it all (except inside the cam))   Most Cheapo's have a combination Switch (for flash) and Mechanical Shutter Release, hense the need of the Solenoid.

I wish (and hope) someone will find a readily available cheap cam which has a switch for the Push button.  Then we'd be back to a more energy efficient unit without the soloenoid's problems, etc. This is why the Owl PF is so great for our needs, it's AA batt's last weeks, even tho the flash is in service, and the Push Button is actually a switch, easily by passed with a relay or solid state device.

Tinhorn
 

Ray

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So, if I'm counting on my fingers correctly, the truly economical set up is the direct wired Owl PF - unless I can find a $10 one, without doodads and auto shut-down, that I can rig with a solenoid.  In which case I'll probably need a timer.

Great, I'll give it a shot.  Thanks,
Ray


Thanks, I'll try it out.
 

BowDoc

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Hey Ray. I presently have a cam that I just built for 60 bucks. It was built using a wal mart camera. I mailed vivitar and fuji. Vivitar camera such as the cv40 stay on all the time  so you can fire them with a solenoid. Battery life would be the question. Fuji camera go to sleep and with one press of the solenoid will wake the camera up and take a picture so battery life is not a issue. I modified a 14 dollar easy shot camera. The AA batteries only lasted 3 to 4 days when i turn the camera on and just left it on. I wired to d batteries in parallel so I am hoping to get 10 to 12 days. I will let you know. The solenoid  I use draws 3.4 watts and it rated at 12 volts but it did not have enough strike force to trip the camera the is why i modified the camera. I drive the solenoid  with 4 D batteries wired in series. I do not know how long they will last I will let you know at the end of the week when I check the camera. It is on it first test run as we speak
This is the first cam I have ever built so i do not know what to expect. I think I am going to use a fuji camera next time or the easy shot date and time model. From what I have read the 9 volt in the PIR will last over a month. I am hoping that the 2 Ds that power the camera are the I only battery that I will have to change every 2 weeks. This is all just speculation. I cam worked fine sitting in the house. The field is where it counts. You know I a way we can help each other out by trial and error
 

Ray

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$60?  Excellent!  
Who makes the easy shot that you're using?  If you have a parts list written up, would you mind posting it?  This will be my first stab at this stuff, too.  Please do let me know how its maiden voyage goes.
 

BowDoc

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Easy Shot is a camera sold by walmart. They have one that cost 14 and the date and time cost 24 will a roll of film. I used the basic set up use on the radio shack pir shown on this board. Like i told you this is my first cam. I do not know if this thing will work. I ran is for two days in the house with no film but this is its first live run. Give me a few days and i will let you know if it worked or if it is a 60 dollar paper weight. Read my post called Solenoid. It will tell you about a few problems i had so you do not make the same mistakes I made
 

Archilochus

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Hi Ray,
You've come to the right place to learn about home-brew trail-cams!  Tinhorn's "been there - done that" with just about every trail-cam related question you'll come up with.
>>>>>>
Several years back I was involved with a study similar to yours.  The first year I worked as a field assistant helping place the cams and retrieve film etc.  During that year we used cams made by a friend of one of the researchers.  They used a solenoid and a super-cheapo cam (~12 US$).  In the second and third years of the study I made the cams (to replace the solenoid/cheapo cams) using an Infinity Jr cam (~60.00 US$) that was wired into with the shutter tripped with a relay (or, sometimes, just a simple switch)

Having used many of both types of cameras, I can conclude without any doubts that you'll spend less money over-all and get more results with the relay driven cameras.  When "life-of-camera" costs of batteries alone are calculated in, you'll see that the solenoid/cheapo camera just can't compete.  If you consider the value of your time, the costs associated with the solenoid cam go through the roof!  There are also the extra added initial costs of a solenoid cam - the solenoid itself, external battery holder and extra batteries to power the cheapo cam, extra lantern type battery to drive the solenoid, and a larger housing to enclose all those extra parts (let's not forget the misery of lugging the extra weight through dense woodlands with temps in the 90's ;)

If I was doing the study again now, I'd probably use the Canon Owl BF (similar to the PF - so you can still get help with it on this forum) and the RS 49-425 sensor or even a simple switch for a combination of good power consumption, small size, and fair price - remember that you can get a 20% discount at RS on security-related items if you buy in quantity.  The cheaper MS-20 sensor would also be a good choice, but it uses a bit more power.  From what I've read the MS-20 works better than the RS 49-425.

Good Luck!,
Archilochus
 

Ray

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Thanks to all for the good tips.  We're looking to put equipment in the field mid-fall, so I have a little time to tinker (which is good since I don't know what I'm dong).

Happy hunting,
Ray
 

Ray

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Archilochus,
What is your opinion of delay timers for this application?
 

BowDoc

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Archilochus
you may be correct about the cost in the long run. When I built min i was concerned about it being stolen. I can live with 60 buck walking off. But when you start to get over 100 or 200 to 400 for a store bought cam well I can’t put that in the woods. My friends and I are not concerned with the quality of the pics. We just want to be able to see the size of the deer and the time they show up. We wanted to do this as cheap as possible. At 60 bucks my whole set up cost less then an owl and that was the goal. If it works that is hehehe.
I do see your point about the long run Archilochus
 

Archilochus

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Hi Ray, BowDoc,

BowDoc... Theft is a big issue with these cams, and I can see why you don't want to go giving the things away to anyone walking by!  But it sounds like Ray might need to be possibly identifying small animals in his pics - so a fairly good pic might be needed.  Also, when you're trying to cover 1000's of acres you're going to need many cams and battery life becomes a *big* concern - bad enough dragging around a back-pack full of film, throw in carrying new batts for all your cams and it's enough to break your back! (not to mention the cost)

Ray.....
Welllll.... that depends on how you plan to use the cams.  Many hunters use the cams over established bait stations where a delay timer is almost a requirement to avoid entire rolls of film being spent on one individual animal.  From a research perspective, you might find it desirable to get 2 or 3 shots in a row of the same animal to aid in species or even individual identification.  By the time 2 or 3 pics have been taken, your subject will have most likely left the area anyway.  When I was working on the project we had delay timers on only a few of the cams, and rarely did we get more than 3 or 4 pics of the same animal even on the cams with no timers.
But consider not only how you will be using the cams this year, but what they might be used for in the future.  Installing a simple timer such as Tinhorns "two-stage" TLC555 timer or my "basic" 4538B timer could make the cameras much more useful for future applications.  The timer parts only cost ~ 2US$ - less if you buy in quantity.

So... If you want the cam to be as cheap as possible and easy to build for use in situations where the animal *will not*  be lingering around for more than a few minutes, don't bother with a timer.  But if you have established bait stations where your subjects might linger for a while, go with the timer.
>>>>>>
Some other thoughts on timers:  When the cams flash is enabled (most of the time)  this sort of gives you an automatic ~15 second pic delay timer while the flash recharges.
If you use the RS 49-425 sensor, you have the choice of "chime mode" - which gives no delay, or you can use "alarm mode" - which will give you a 30 second picture delay.
If you use the MS-20 sensor, a few modifications can be made to have an adjustable time delay (there are some problems with this approach though)

What I'd suggest is to make one or two test cams now without timers and use them for a month or two in situations similar to your planned research.  You may find that they suit your needs without the timer.  If you find a timer is needed, it can always be added in later.
Good Luck!
Archilochus

PS:  A link to Tinhorns timer can be found on Jesses home-brew camera page.
http://www.jesseshuntingpage.com/cams.html
 

Ray

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I thought about the theft issue - good point.  I'm including a u-bolt/padlock/chain and I'll use an ammo can for the housing.  Hope nobody comes along with bolt cutters.

As far as placement goes, we're fishing for bobcats so we'll be baiting with cat urine (thought about using a meat bait, but I don't want to deal with that in NC 90+ temps).  Probably not going to get that much traffic.  Does the camera's flash pic delay work to prevent the shut down problem or is that a separate issue?
 

BowDoc

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First roll of film is done. A modification I made to the camera broke so i brought it home to fix. Will put it back out tomarrow and leave it for a wekk
 

Archilochus

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Hi Ray,
The picture delay caused while the flash is recharging has no effect on the shut-down problem.  From what I've read, the Owl cameras shut-down when the PIR sensor keeps the shutter contacts closed for several minutes at a time.  I think this is only a problem when the MS-20 sensor is used.
Archilochus
 

Tinhorn

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To pin down the MS20 and Owl PF shutdown problem a little bit:

If the Owl PF's "Push Button" is pressed and Held down for 3 min's or so, the cam sometimes shutsdown and has to be turned off then back on to reset it (Lens Cover)

The MS20 has 2 modes of operation, controlled by a switch.  If the Switch is set to "Test" mode, the cam button is "Pressed" only 4 seconds and therefore NO shutdown problems.  The cam is ready for another pix after the 4 sec's expires and the flash charges back up,  etc....

But, if the MS20's Light Sensor is removed and the switch set to "Auto" mode then the internal timer will trigger the camera, then delay for 1.5 mins (or so) and reset, and be ready for another pix,  

that is, it resets as long as the animal left the area.  If more movement occurs before the 1.5 min delay has expired, then the internal timer is reset for another 1.5 mins, etc. and no more pix's will occur....
(there has to be no movement detected for 1.5 min's in order for another pix to be taken)  

but

this "Resetting" of the MS20's interanal timer could conceivably hold down the Cam button 3 min's, shutting down the Owl PF.....

You could take your chances that this wouldn't happen (if not baited)

or

A cure would be to add a delay circuit to the MS20 so that the push button is only held down 2 sec's between PIR triggers;  no matter how long the PIR trigger stays low, the cam button is only pressed 2 secs....

*******************************
I hope I made it clear for you, I wish I had Welby's Journalistic ability, he's gifted....
*******************************

Pay close attention to what Archy says about your project,  he's done almost exactly the same thing you want to do, for years
   and years      and years....  

Tinhorn

(Edited by Tinhorn at 10:21 pm on July 5, 2001)
 

Ray

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I can't thank you folks enough for all the help.  

You can bet I'm paying very close attention to what everybody says - I'd like to get it as right as possible the first time out.

See you in the woods,
Ray
 

BowDoc

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The first roll was a total wash. The pics that did come out are not clear. It has something to do with the camera housing. The camera takes pefect picture outside the houseing. I think I am going to have to open up a flash hole and sheild the camera lens. Will let you know
 


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