MacGyver Time: DSLR Mod

Well, It’s been a little while since I’ve written anything, but then again the skies haven’ exactly offered me much to work with at night. Sadly I have no photos of comet PANSTARRS. I tried but due to the high escarpment and low elevation of the comet, I’ve not been able to see it.

But I have been busy, mostly with my latest little MacGyver project.

I’ve managed to turn this:

300px-Canon_EOS_1000D_IMG_2001b

Into this:

IMG_0887

Basically, I’ve decided to cool my camera down in hopes that I can eliminate most of the noise that shows up in long-exposure shots taken in warmer weather. The aim is to improve my deep-sky shots without breaking the bank. Initially I had simply removed both low-pass filters to allow the sensor to absorb the full spectrum (visible+UV+Near Infrared) available to a non-DSO imager. It was a good start and allowed me to see some emission nebula. But it wasn’t enough to aid me in capturing galaxies. That requires long exposure times, and I was experiencing far too much noise to get any good shots.

First was the cooling mechanism, a 12V powered cooler. For those of you unfamiliar with how these coolers work, they typically use a thermo electric (Peltier) device which can creat both a cooling and heating effect. In simple terms, you introduce a current into this device (layered pieces of metal) when the current flows, one junction becomes hot drawing heat from the other side of the  junction. I won’t get too involved in explaining the physics, needless to say when used properly it can cool down to about 40º below ambient temperature. Next I located a box that would house the camera and transfer heat relatively well. Removing the read display, control buttons, and flash hardware was necessary in order to fit the camera in the box. It also exposed the back of the camera’s sensor which is what I planned to cool down. After some head scratching I managed to find a way to mount the camera to the box, and have peltier cooler, case, and camera sensor all thermally connected to each other with the help of some thermal compound and heatsinks.

This is what the camera looks like as of now:

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This little guy isn’t quire done yet, I’ll have to add some insulation to prevent any condensation, and possibly some fan controllers to regulate the temperature. Still, I hope it will yield some fantastic results, and I’ll post whatever results may come from the modification.

4 thoughts on “MacGyver Time: DSLR Mod

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  1. Hi David, I’ve been wanting to cool my camera the same way, but here condensation is a major pain in the backside. Also, what did you do with the control dial of the camera, the LCD and the mirror? Did you install separate switches for the on-off button and the USB connector?
    Any help will be appreciated.
    Thanks and Regards,
    Sathya.

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    1. Hello Sathya, my apologies for the late reply.

      Condensation is quite a pain here as well, but I’ve yet to invest in a proper dew-control system (I typically use disposable hand warmers and tape).
      Because I use my DSLR in conjunction with a laptop for imaging sessions, I have no need to change the dial from the “M” or “Manual” setting.
      This allows me to change camera settings via USB through either the included canon utilities software or BackyardEOS (my preferred astrophotography capture software).

      I’ve essentially disassembled the camera to a “bare-bones” configuration. I’ve removed the LCD, the mirror remains in place (as it is essential to the operation of the camera).
      Power dial remains in the “ON” position, mode set to “Manual”, Auto-Off disabled in the camera settings. I also chose to install a power supply rather than battery.
      This allows the camera to operate as soon as power is applied (a usb extension was installed to allow for connections to the computer).

      Basically, it’s a stripped down EOS crammed into an insulated and cooled metal box haha. Ugly but it worked.

      Like

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