I have a specific project where I need to control a bank of cameras from a computer.

I don't know much about cameras beyond my iPhone autofocus so I will describe this as best I can, corrections welcome. I have searched around for cameras on google but don't know specific details or styles of camera to filter out the generalist camera.

The parameters I have to work in are:

  • The subject distance will be 10cm to 1m.
  • The cameras will be in a fixed position and will not move.
  • The resolution needs to be high quality and as little blur / artifacts as possible.
  • Each image size I expect to be around 50cm x 50cm (I don't know the specifics here)
  • Storage size isn't an issue the computer will be post processing the images.
  • The computer needs to have control over the camera (.NET API preferred)
    • Trigger the "auto-focus" once the object is setup.
    • Trigger the cameras to shoot.
    • Capture the resulting image and transfer to local HDD.
  • Connection technologies between PC and camera.
    • Need to have a 2.5 meter cable length.
    • WIFI is possible but needs to be reliable.
  • Price per camera needs to be < USD$120
  • Power through USB or similar preferred, battery or separate supply 2nd choice.
  • Lighting source will be fixed and consistent from behind the cameras.

So given the list what sort of camera am I looking for? Is there a site that can help me filter it?

and bonus thankyou for any other things I should know about this but don't.

  • 1
    Tentatively, I would say the only cameras that fit the bill of being that cheap and powered by USB are webcams. – ElendilTheTall Jan 31 '13 at 7:40
  • If webcams that's an awful lot of USB ports and cables..... – Peng Tuck Kwok Jan 31 '13 at 8:18
  • 1
    It seems what you need is WIFI CCTV cameras, this isn't really about photography... – Omne Jan 31 '13 at 8:35
  • 2
    I'm a bit confused here, isn't the focal length a bit high? Do you maybe mean the subject distance? As most common focal lengths are between 18-200mm – Saaru Lindestøkke Jan 31 '13 at 9:03
  • @BartArondson Yes, I mean subject distance, thanks – Robin Vessey Feb 1 '13 at 1:22

The prize that you mention here is the highest restriction. There are tons of cameras that do what you want to do, but not in the range of 120USD.

You best bet will be a camera that follows one of the common standards for webcams, which are controllable through Java. The issue here will be that most of these cameras are made for video and not photography. High resolution Video cameras that connect via USB will deliver a limited resolution.

IP/WLAN cameras are offering even less resolution, usually only 1-2MP.

So USB is the only way, but even then, for a 50cm image, you will need 15MP at least, but you will get only 200DPI prints on 50x50cm. The highest resolutions go to 15MP, but I have not seen any higher ones. You will also need a USB hub to control the whole thing. Here is a larger one.

HOWEVER: Using multiple USB webcams on one computer - at the same time - is tricky. There are some programs that allow you to do this, but it can be difficult under windows. Under Linux, you might be more lucky.

So in the end, I would consider renting cheap DSLRs and connecting them with a proper software - provided you need this only temporary.

Point and shoot options:

If you want to raise your budget, you can use point and shoot cameras. I would look first for a software that is available, for example there is are at least 2 open source solutions for canon powershot cameras. I would check their compatibility list, take one of the discontinued models and go shopping on eBay. I am sure there are similar things for Nikon and Panasonic etc. There are even hardware solutions.

If you look on Google for open source camera remote control software, and weed out the webcam software solutions, you will find other cameras that are able to do what you want.

  • thanks, that gives me a good starting point. I am intending to manufacture these things so its not a once off unfortunately (also the reason for the cost limit). I a software developer so I was hoping an API to cal; focus and shoot wasn't too much to ask. – Robin Vessey Feb 2 '13 at 4:10
  • So could you point me at a sample of cameras that are outside of my dollar limit? – Robin Vessey Feb 2 '13 at 4:14
  • Will answer above. – uncovery Feb 2 '13 at 9:41

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