Stumbled on information about a single-use digital camera being sold by Ritz Camera and Wolf Camera for $10.99. The idea is that you snap 25 photos, take it back to them and pay some more for processing. It is a digital camera though, and that means that there must be a way of getting the images out of the camera and onto a computer…
Some hunting on the web lead to a number of sites dedicated to hacking this cheap little camera:
- John Maushammer’s Dakota Camera page
- T. R. Gipson’s cexx.org
- Geekteria’s Dakota Camera page
- Apache XMD’s Dakota Camera info
So, armed with all that information, I bought 6 of these cameras from the Ritz store at 2016 Market Street, San Francisco. Then I went to the Robert Austin Computer Show this weekend at the Oakland Convention Center to get the cables. I ended up getting four USB PDA charger cables for the Palm III (all he had). The connector for the Palm III is almost the same as the Dakota camera’s data port. Also picked up a $3 USB cable for the first cable (the charger cables only have two-core cable in them unfortunately).
Once home, there were two tasks that needed to be done to get the hardware working:
- Make up the cable by carefully removing the connector from the charger cable, and soldering in the real USB cable in its place
- Enlarging the opening a little, and removing the little plastic ribs from the camera’s data port
The first was easy following the instructions on the websites listed above. The second took a little more time as I carefully shaved down the plastic of the case using a small knife (the plastic is relatively soft and shaves off easily). The ribs I cut out using a small pair of wire cutters, and the smoothed down with a knife. Continue until the connector fits in the space tightly. Notice that the grey plastic in the port has the fittings for the little metal spring clips that hold the connector in place (so the connector they use in the stores must be very similar to this).
For the last two cameras in my set I might try to fit an alternative connector into the space (perhaps a mini-USB device connector so that a standard cable can be used with the camera).
Here are some photos of the cables I took – as always click the thumbnail for a popup larger image. I don’t have any close-up photos of the modification to the camera (will add some later), nor any shots taken with the camera. Look for those coming soon.
The software was easy too – I started with the Windows version downloaded from here. Make sure you download and install the LibUSB-win32 software before plugging in the camera. If you don’t, then you’ll need to deal with removing the entries from the Windows registry that mark the device’s USB ID as unknown (preventing you from ever being able to install a real driver for the device).