Mission SammyOne

The Photo Camera



It was time to start thinking about the photo camera I would send up. The camera must be light, have a long lasting battery, produce high quality images and must have an interval mode so it can automatically fire a shot every xx seconds.

I considered buying a cheap second hand Nikon DSLR and lens and use that one. I do have experience with photography in very cold situations and from that experience I knew that those camera's hold up really well in those situations. Anyway, it would be far too heavy so I abandoned the idea and started looking at high quality point and shoots.

There are lots of high quality point and shoots but most are heavy and expensive and do not have an interval mode. Then I found out that some people created a hacked firmware version for Canon cameras called CHDK. That firmware works on a lot of Canon point and shoot cameras and would allow me to program the camera just the way I wanted. Setting ISO, shutter speed and all other stuff and best of all, create a script that fires the camera every 15 seconds. Great! It's also very well documented. Just what I needed.

After extensive research and reading lots of reviews I decided on the Canon IXUS 100is. A very small and light (132gr), sturdy camera with a 12 megapixel sensor and an optical stabilizer (not bad when riding in a tumbling balloon). It produces very acceptable pictures and is compatible with the CHDK.

It took me only seconds to track down a CHDK script which can program the camera for interval mode. I modified it slightly to fire the cam every 15 seconds and to turn off the LCD display after three shots, to spare batteries.

I was most worried about battery life. The IXUS 100is has a dedicated accu so I could not replace the accu with Lithium batteries to extend battery life without doing some serious soldering or using a modified AC adaptor. The CHDK allowed me to program the camera to not use the LCD screen, so I did that thinking it would probably double the battery life.

Then it was up to the test bench.

I mounted the little IXUS on a tripod and set the camera to take a picture every 15 seconds with the display and flash set to off. It went on shooting for more than 6 hours continuously, producing more than 1400 pictures before the battery finally died. Well done little IXUS! I now have good hope that the battery will survive the flight (which normally would last no more than 2.5 hours).

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The Photo Camera

See the time lapse video I created to test the Canon IXUS 100is with the intervalometer script. 1000 pictures in 3 minutes!