3D-Printed Weatherproof Camera Box
With the desire to point our cameras generally upwards to capture activity in the sky, we needed something with a pitched top and front glass window that would not fall victim to condensation and precipitation. We also needed something designed to protect against Alaska's extreme weather conditions.
Our team could not find any available camera boxes meeting these requirements, so we worked wtih Bradley Pizzimenti at Gennaker Systems to turn our concept into a reality. This perfect weatherproof camera box was 3D-printed in Anchorage.
- Sealed completely to prevent rain and melting snow from leaking into the interior - protecting all the electronics
- Crystal clear front glass window preventing direct contact of precipitation on the electronics
- Dimensions of box to provide only enough space for 1 Sony Alpha mirrorless camera and 1 Raspberry Pi device in order to minimize heating requirements
- Screw fixed to the floor to secure the camera, inset 0.25"
- Heat pad installed on the side wall to keep electronics warm
- Ability to open the box to conduct maintenance on equipment
- Walls of box are printed with honeycomb pattern and then spray foamed to provide maximum insulation
There are traditional webcams designed for outdoor applications like Nest Outdoor camera and aUniFi Video cameras. These traditional outdoor webcams even support low light, but they do so by increasing the ISO and other night vision tactics. These traditional webcams do not have the capability to adjust the shutter speed to capture the stars vividly on a clear night or the aurora dancing across the sky. While the shutter speed is increased, the ISO should be as low as possible for ultimate clarity.
There are also video cameras that could be implemented to record the sky all night long. Video cameras are not designed for long exposures frames since they generally capture a specific number of frames per second. They would work when the aurora is extremely bright and highly active, but they would not be able to capture stars via longer exposures. And capturing multiple frames per second over the course of hours and days creates lots of wasteful data when the objects are not moving at a rate that requires multiple frames per second.
Sony A6300 mirrorless camera
The Sony A6300 is a mirrorless camera. Building on the success of the Sony A6000, this premium cousin sports the same 24-megapixel resolution, but with a new sensor that offers improved photo quality in low light. Since it is built for amateurs with pro-level ambitions, the camera provides great quality while limiting the risk of the camera being damaged by extreme weather.
- Advanced 24.2 MP Exmore CMOS sensor expands sensitivity, including low light sensitivity, and minimizes noise
- 4K & HD recording for when the programmatic photography scripts determine that the aurora is so epic that it should video record it instead of photograph it
- Fast, continuous shooting, with good motion tracking
Sony Alpha Remote Camera API
The Sony Camera Remote API enables apps to be developed to remotely control Sony cameras, wirelessly from another device. Accordingly, the programmatic photography script written in Python uses the Sony Camera Remote API beta.
The unfortunate news is that Sony will no longer be providing updates and active support for the Sony Alpha Remote Camera API. Thus, this programmatic photography script will only work with Sony A7, Sony A7 II, Sony A6300 and Sony A6000 mirrorless cameras.
While the programmatic photography script was written for this now-deprecated Sony camera API, it was architected to support expansion to other future camera APIs.
Sigma 16mm f/1.4 Contemporary DC DN Lens
The durable lens sucks in a lot of light, making it very easy to shoot stars at lower ISO levels and faster shutter speeds, which means a cleaner result and also less risk of movement in the stars. With the balance of low light quality and price, it is perfect to risk in the extreme weather of Alaska.
- High performance prime lens with a large aperture of F1.4, providing great performance in low light
- Fast Hybrid AF to capture the active aurora
- While not extreme-weatherproof, its dust and splash-proof design provide enough durability since it will be in a enclosed camera box
- Designed to minimize flare and ghosting
The Raspberry Pi is a series of small single-board computers developed in the United Kingdom by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to promote the teaching of basic computer science in schools.
- Small and affordable computer running Linux NOOBS
- Model 3B+ released on Pi Day 2018 with a faster 1.4 GHz processor and a three times faster network based on gigabit Ethernet (300 Mbit/sec)
- CanaKit 2.5A USB Power Supply. USB power also used to power Sony Alpha camera limiting need for multiple 120v power sources.
- File storage of 32 GB micro SD card. Large micro SD cards can be used, but since photographs are transferred to AWS S3 cloud storage, a larger card is not needed.
Interested in a Deployment?
If you are interested in a deployment of our service to one or more of your locations, the Aurora.cam team will seamlessly build the camera system and deploy it connected.