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Mini video cameras
for photographing scale models

These days you can buy a video camera no larger than a sugar cube for less than $ 100 - a camera that just a few years ago was something you could find only in a James Bond movie...

Here is one of the color camera models
- this one is around 40x40mm in size,
so it's still a bit large for 007...

These minicameras are available both in color and black&white versions, the latter usually a bit smaller. I bought a b&w model, 17x17x10 mm in size (measured without the lens), planning to attach it to the finder of a Bolex 16mm camera. However, the sensitivity of this particular model wasn't high enough for that purpose, so instead I adapted a diminutive wide-angle lens (from a "QuickCam") to it, to enable me to make videos of miniature models.

A wide angle is essential, in order to get close enough to the models, and also to get enough "depth of field" - the wider the lens, the better the focus is over the distance visible in the image. I also inserted an aperture stop of about 1 mm into the lens, this improved the depth of field enormously, even though it necessitated more light. Without this extra stop, the focus would have been good for only about a distance of 25 to 50 mm or so. With the stop, I can get acceptable, even if not perfect, focus between about 25mm (1") and up to 250mm (10") from the lens. With an even smaller stop (and more light) I could have got an even deeper focus...

Here is the small b&w camera between two diminutive model railway engines - the space between the tracks is about 25mm where the camera is situated:

  Note the size of the engines compared with the 35mm film!
  For more info on my model railway, go to my "Rail"-page.

I have prepared two video clips shot with this camera. They may take some time to load - they're a bit over 300 K each. Please note that the image quality is nowhere near the original - these videos are heavily compressed, in order to minimize transfer time over the net... I have also limited the frame rate to 6 frames per seconds, for the same reason. The originals are in fact just as sharp as a normal TV transmission or VHS tape.

In the first two videoclips, note how the perspective (if not the focus) looks natural - just as if you were standing between the tracks yourself. This is thanks to the fact that the camera is so small, that it can be placed inside the model railroad "world", at "eye height". With a larger camera, it would have been impossible to get this close to the "ground" in the setup, and the resulting image would have been an aerial view - like all the pictures (except the panoramics) on the "Rail"-page, and in the third video clip.