Darin E. Fields' Astrophotography Pages

Quickcam Modifications and Construction Details

Why Bother?

It's a good question.  Certainly for a few hundred bucks one can build a Cookbook CCD that will meet and exceed many commerically available CCD units, and I certainly expect that a Cookbook CCD, or a comercial unit, is in my future.  But for now, tinkering with this low-cost alternative has allowed me to learn about CCD imaging in a hands-on fashion.  Further, there's a kind of satisfaction in seeing how far the technology of these little cameras can be pushed.
What's needed?

Not much. Apart from your optics, you need a Quickcam, some basic hardware and electronic store supplies, and a willingess to break it and toss it in the trash can. You probably won't have to--these are amazingly durable devices. The popular favorite is the black and white Connectix (now Logitech) Quickcam (PC version), the older the better. However, if you read up on the QCUIAG website (QCUIAG stands for Quick Cam and Unconventional Imaging Astronomy Group) you will see that people are hacking apart everything from Quickcams to security cameras to regular video cameras, writing software to capture images, and devising clever ways to mount said devices to their optics. You should visit the site, see the images people are capturing, read the FAQ, and check out the free software. Go there now! About the only other thing that helps is a bit of savvy with computers and computer programs like Photoshop or Picture Window. Oh yeah, a LOT of patience and perseverance is a must.

MAC Quickcam Phase 1:

My initial experiments with converting a Macintosh Quickcam for astrophotgraphy involved a simple butchering of the "golfball." After disassembling the unit and removing the electronics, I cut off the front end of the golfball and inserted a black Kodak-style film canister (which conveniently fits a 1.25" focuser perfectly) with the end cut off.   This proved very servicable on the telescope but wouldn't allow me to use the CCD on a camera lens.  More modifications were needed.

MAC Quickcam Phase 2:

My second major adaptation to the quickcam  involved making a new  housing entirely from PVC fittings.  This setup included mounting the board in such a way that it can easily be used in two different housings (one for the telescope and one for camera lenses).

MAC Quickcam Phase 3:

A third major adaptation to the CCD unit was completed recently.  This adaptation involved adding some basic cooling in the form of a CPU fan mounted to the back of the unit.

For all purposes the MAC camera is no longer in use. Dave Allmon's QCV2 software allowing long exposures on the PC camera effectively placed the MAC cam on the shelf. I might try some video capture for planetary imaging at some point, but for now it rests quitely in a camera bag.

Quickcam Model II PC version:

I recently completed a second Quickcam camera from a PC grayscale Quickcam.  My primary intention is to take advantage of the QCV2 software written by Dave Allmon (For information go to the QCUIAG website).

Since these contruction modifications were posted, I have built yet another casing for the camera that is a little more compact and allows me to attach my old Konica camera lenses (of which I have several) via a bayonet ring. If I ever get around to taking pictures of it, I will post them.