04 January 2011

What is inside a 35mm point&shoot camera

After few days in the hands of my daughter, a point and shoot 35mm camera plastic has started to break apart... time to put it aside and start opening it up.

It was a Minolta Riva Zoom Pico with a motorized 35-60mm zoom lens and autofocus. It did allow me to experiment with photography, and it took good pictures.

Anyway, I never opened up a photocamera, so I was curious to see what was inside.

I was surprised to find "enough" electronics, all mounted on a flexible PCB fit between the inner body and the outer shield. The electrolytic capacitor of the flash (220 uF, 300 V) was fit inside the film roll cylinder: a very smart arrangment. Everything was a tight fit and I bet it was hand assembled back in 1994 or so. What else can be taken off and recycled? Here's a list:
  • flash strobe with circuitry
  • small screws
  • whitworth 1/4" nut (plastic)
  • small plastic gears
  • DC stepper motor
  • lenses
  • (zoom) objective
  • photoresistor
  • IR LED
  • 200 pixel sensor from the autofocus
Out of all electronics in the list above, very little can be reused in other projects, the easiest probably being the flash strobe circuitry once the pinout is sorted out. On the PCB there are very few "useful" components.

The zoom objective has many wires making it almost impossible to control it from the outside (zoom, focus and shutter), so it is stuck in the "rest" position.

Lenses can be used to experiment with light.. maybe one of the small biconvex lenses from the autofocus could focus the Sun and set something on fire?!

Last but not least, around the camera body there are some metallic springy contacts that could become a Morse key.