Taking Photos on the Canon EOS with an Arduino

For my Spangaly Stick project, more of which later, I have been wanting to add a remote control function for the camera for a while now and with the extended winter I found I had the time. I am using an Arduino micro-controller fitted with an XBee wireless shield to respond to a keyword sent by another Arduino with a similar setup, or from a computer with an XBee on a USB port.

take a picture - board

This board had been built to work with the Canon EOS DSLR range of cameras, but should work with other makes of camera fitted with an electronic remote socket. For basic use the camera should be set in Aperture Priority (Av) mode with the lens set to manual focus and if your using a tripod switch off any image stabilization.

For this project you will need:

  • A Windows (XP and above) Computer
  • An Arduino Uno R3
  • Two XBee’s
  • An XBee USB adapter
  • An XBee Shield for the Arduino
  • A battery to power the Arduino, I use a 12v 1.3Ah Sealed Lead Acid.
  • A remote lead for your camera
  • Ability to solder, read circuit diagrams, etc..

For this remote to work, you will need to configure two XBees to talk to each other. The easy way to do this is using the X-CTU tool (unfortunately it is Windows only) and a XBee USB Adapter. The XBees come in two main types, the Series One (S1) and Series Two (S2) they will need to be of both the same series to talk to each other, I have used Series One bees here, but not the ones without the sticking out antenna as I suspect they may be a bit delicate.

While the XbeeSheid configuration is documented on the arduino site, I shall summarise here. With the XBee plugged into the USB adapter and the adapter plugged into the computer wait for it to be detected by Windows then you can configure it. In X-CTU, on the PC Settings Tab, select the USB Serial Port. By default the XBee is set to baud: 9600, flow: None, data: 8, parity: None, stop: 1. Click the Test/Query button you should see some basic XBee settings, if it says it cannot communicate, try a different baud rate. Higher baud rates are available, but whats the rush?

Now click the Modem Configuration tab, under Modem Parameter and Firmware, click Read, after a pause at the top of the list The modem indicated will be whatever model you have, in my case XB24, select the function set we will be using: XBEE 802.5.4 RS485 ADAPTER and the firmware version: 13E8. You will need to set the Networking & Security Channel (CH) and the PAN ID (ID) to the same on both, as well as check the Serial Interfacing are set correctly, Interface Data Rate (BD): 3 – 9600, Parity (NB): 0 – NONE. Click Write to save the settings to the XBee.

For testing the XBee’s, I had one plugged into the USB adapter and the other placed into the the XBee Shield, an LED fitted across Digital Output 12 and Ground, and sent the following program to the Arduino, remembering to flick the little switch on the shield to USB for programming, and Micro for XBee emissions.

The circuit I made for taking photos includes the focus, this is optional but I have included it so the camera can be woken up before the picture is taken. An ILD74 opto-isolater is used to electrically separate the camera from the Arduino, it also simplified the circuit not having to use transistors. The LED’s are useful additions but are optional.

The diagram also shows the Canon Remote connections. Most use a 2.5mm stereo jack plug, but the more expensive cameras have a proprietary Canon N3 connector, to get the lead you will need to sacrifice a wired remote, one of these can be gotten of ebay very cheaply, about £3.00. The colours for the wires can be anything, so you will need check with a continuity tester.

The program on the Arduino listens for a keyword, in this case ‘PHOTO’ which then triggers the picture taking sequence first by setting the focus to wake the camera up then taking the picture. The Indicator LED is used to show activity on the serial port.

3 thoughts on “Taking Photos on the Canon EOS with an Arduino”

  1. If I wanted to trigger the camera directly by the 2.5 stereo cable, what kind of code am I looking at?

    I’m trying to build a IR gate to trigger the camera, as an object passes through and breaks the beam, the camera takes a picture.

    I’m also using an EOS, a 550D. Any thoughts? Would a modified version of your code do the trick?

    1. Hello Aneurin,
      In my code, you should look at the takePhoto() function for taking the photo, your gate needs to trigger that function. From my circuit, you can ignore the transistors and LED’s they are only there to show things happening. I would use the opto-isolator however, it protects the camera and works really well.

      I think for your gate you would need a proximity sensor, a masked photodiode surrounded by a cluster of IR LED’s to receive the reflected Infra-Red should work quite well. A quick Google found this: http://www.instructables.com/id/Simple-IR-proximity-sensor-with-Arduino/ combining that with mine should work.

      The Arduino Forum is a really good place to ask questions. http://forum.arduino.cc/

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