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Defeating the Door: Aiptek Video Camera

A couple of years back, I attached a small Aiptek video camera to my small aircraft and shot in-flight video.

(see In-Flight Fly Baby Videos)

It was fun, but the camera was too low of resolution and the frame rate was too low. I got another Aiptek camera for Christmas, which should fix both problems.

Unfortunately, I need the camera to run with the door closed because of the wind blast. The old Aiptek had a mechanical pin-switch in the door that was easy to defeat, but the new one doesn't. I've partially disassembled the camera, but haven't seen any mechanical switches. I've played a strong magnet around the case, on the assumption that it might be a reed switch, but no luck. The manual doesn't have any info, there's no menu option, and turning off the "auto shut down" function doesn't help, either. The camera shuts down when the door is about 1/4" from being completely closed

Anyone have an idea on how to defeat this?

The camera model is the Aiptek DZO-V3T (Called the IS-DV2 on the packaging).

Ron

Ron W.
Fri, 29 Dec 2006 20:24:35 -0800

Never mind! Figured it out. Turns out it *does* have a magnetic switch, but it's set up differently than I expected. There's a pretty hefty magnet in the camera body, and the switch is in the door. The switch is of the "normally closed" variety...the camera turns on if there's no magnet around. Camera has to come completely apart to remove the magnet...the side the magnet's in is the side the circuit board screws into.

Thanks anyway!

Ron W
Sat, 30 Dec 2006 18:25:57 -0800

Thanks for the update, Ron. I'd never thought they'd put a big magnet into a video camera. I'd have thought the switch is in the hinges. I guess the sensor and the circuit board are immune to magnetic field.

Chieh Cheng
Sat, 30 Dec 2006 20:02:45 -0800

OK, got the hack done. The camera now stays powered-on when the door is closed. You use the backup power switch that 's on the camera body, inside the door.

For naming convention, all directions are relative to BEHIND the camera. The "left body half," for instance, is the one with the door.

Camera body is held together by the two silver end plates (lens side, controls side) and three screws between the body halves. Here are the details:

You'll need a teeny-tiny phillips screwdriver (all the screws are apparently the same size). The end caps are held on by a screw top and bottom that fits into overlapping plates from the camera sides. Remove the front cap first. When you remove the rear cap, keep in mind that the "Video" button is going to come off with the door...it's pinned between the cap and the switch. The "Video" button also has a spring behind it, so when the button comes out the spring *might* come free (mine stuck to the video button, but not very strongly).

With the end caps off, remove the three screws that hold the main camera body together. There's one below the battery compartment and two underneath the door. The door ones have little rubber bumpers atop them; you need to pry off these bumpers first.

Once the body screws are out, you can separate the camera body. The circuit board and nearly everything else stays on the left case side. The right half is connected to the board by two wires going to the battery connectors and by the speaker wires. The speaker, with a slight amount of encouragement, comes free of the right half and can be set aside. You can then "hinge" the two halves of the case apart at the rear end, where the battery wires are. The big thing to watch is those battery wires...they're VERY thin. I ended up breaking both, and had to solder in new ones. Before you go any further, look carefully at where these wires attach to the circuit board...you might have to replace them yourself.

With the back cap off, you can look at the inside of the body just above the door, on the rear (the side closest to you) and you'll see the silver-colored magnet. It's seven mm long, four wide, and three high. There are plastic extrusions from the case around it, but it is apparently held in place by some MONDO glue.

If it wasn't for this glue, modifying the camera would be a snap. You wouldn't even have to remove the front cap or separate the halves...with just the back cap off, one can actually touch the magnet with a screwdriver. I tried, and tried, to lever it out from the back opening, with no luck.

The only way to get better access is to separate the circuit board from the case. The board is held by three screws, one at the top, one at the bottom, and one midway right back by the rear edge. With the screws out, the board can be maneuvered out of its mounting on the left side of the case, but it's still attached via a flat cable to the video display mounted in the door. But you can get the board far enough away that you have decent access to the magnet. Thirty seconds of digging with a knife blade, and mine was out.

Then, start reassembling stuff. The camera itself mounts on the main circuit board by a socket; make sure it's in place as you put the board back. The camera goes into little slots in the case halves.

When you put the rear cap back on, make sure the Video button is in place, and pull the rubber cover for the SD socket all the way out so its tail doesn't get caught.

When you put the front cap back on, move the camera lever to the "close-up" position, and set the cap's switch to the same position.

If I were to do it again, I'm not sure if I'd do it the same way. The power wires, as I mentioned, are very delicate and I'm not sure if it would even be possible to open the camera all the way like I did without breaking one. Instead, remove the rear cap and see if you have any luck digging the magnet out without opening the case. It *really* looks like it should be possible.

Otherwise, you could use a Dremel with a cutting wheel and just cut the portion of the body out where the magnet is at...pretty easy when you use a screwdriver tip or a paper clip to get a good location for the magnet. Not a good solution in my case, as it'll be exposed to a 100 MPH slipstream.

Anyway, looks like it should work. Have to buy an SD card to try it out (it's limited to only a few seconds of video without one...).

Ron

Ron
Sun, 31 Dec 2006 17:30:32 -0800

Invaluable instructions to improving this camera. I bought one at Target not 6 hours ago and was disappointed that I couldn't close the screen without turning off the camera, as I wanted to attach this inexpensive camera to my helmet for skateboarding. Thanks to your warning, I was able to keep from breaking the battery connection wire. With your instructions, the modification was quick and painless, and my camera is much better for it.

Scott
Tue, 09 Jan 2007 21:04:58 -0800

Thanks for the mod instructions! I'm taping the camera to the EazyStar ARF electric glider, plus i'm going to be putting the DV2 inside IMCA modified race cars this season. Great instructions and the camera is now actually useful.

Justin
Thu, 25 Jan 2007 21:05:41 -0800

Glad to be of help. Just wanted to share a bit of video I took with this camera:

http://www.bowersflybaby.com/pix/Pipper_burns.wmv

This is a WMV file at half resolution (e.g., 320 pixels). The camera is mounted backwards on the aircraft's axle with duct tape holding the door shut.

Ron W.
Sun, 18 Feb 2007 19:38:12 -0800

Thanks! I actually hacked my camera without reading this tutorial first, I just disassembled the whole thing and figured it out. tricky little bugger, the most valuable part of this tutorial I found was the alternate power button on the inside of the door, I didnt realize this was there and couldn't figure out how to turn the thing on without waving a magnet in front of the screen. thanks :-D

I'll be using this for skydiving. I also found that the camera still operates if you disable the LCD screen (by removing the ribbon cable leading into the LCD unit), in my case I did this to save batteries as I leave the camera on for 10+ minutes at a time and do multiple jumps in a day, so battery life is key.

to disable the LCD screen, open the door, and carefully slide a thin screwdriver under the shiny black screen cover. carefully go around the perimeter of the screen and you'll feel it start to pry up (its lightly glued in place). once the screen is removed, carefully use the thin screwdriver to pry out the board that drives the LCD and flip it over, on the back, you'll see a ribbon cable lead around the board to the LCD, remove that , and neatly and carefully put everything back in place. make sure to enable sound so that when you power up, you'll be able to hear the thing turn on.

~Adam

Vegan Skydiver
Tue, 12 Jun 2007 17:52:05 -0700

I have this same camera and it works fine with a 2GB SD card. That should give you plenty of video time.

Fred begale
Mon, 31 Mar 2008 03:44:17 +0000

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