Hydrolapse

The Hydrolapse is a complete system for documenting long term, shallow underwater environments. The system may be used in fresh or salt water, at depths of 100 ft (30 meters). All of the described sub-assemblies are included. Each system is configured and tested at our factory.

The system includes a high capacity battery pack, watertight housing, and submersible photographic strobe, allowing unattended time-lapse of marine processes for up to six months at a time.

Items included:

System Components

Canon 1100D (Rebel T3)

The Hydrolapse currently includes the Canon 1100D, which use a 12 MPixel, APS-C sized sensor, with the standard 'kit' lens from Canon, providing a good range of usable zoom. The lens has a focal length of 18-55mm, which is equivalent to 27-82mm in the old 35mm reference format.

We install a 16 GB memory card in the camera. This is large enough to hold about 2000 images, when taking lowest compression highest resolution JPEGs. The camera can accept up to 128GB cards. A single large battery pack powers everything in the system, including the camera. If the Hydrolapse power is turned off for a long period of time, the clock and other settings in the Canon camera may be cleared, and need resetting before use.

Enclosure

The Hydrolapse is a custom designed acrylic enclosure, whose crush depth is calculated to be about 300 ft of sea water. They are individually leak tested to a 30 ft equivalent depth [submerged to 1 ft depth, and an internal vacuum applied], and should operate without worry at 100 ft depth.

The cast acrylic tube is bonded to the front acrylic plate, which acts as the window for the system. Stainless steel threaded rods are attached to the front plate, and provide a solid attachment for the removable rear plate, to which the interior components are mounted. The rods extend past the front plate, allowing the system to be rested on the face without scratching the window.

External Mounts

Thick 6061 alloy aluminum plates are attached to the acrylic housing to provide attachment points to a mounting structure. This alloy has good resistance to corrosion and the mounting plates should last for years even in sea water. When attaching to other metal devices and structures, please consider the potential for galvanic corrosion issues caused by dissimilar metals. We use stainless steel screws to attach the aluminum plates to the housing, which have a fairly low galvanic potential difference.

The mounting plates on the top and bottom of the housing provide both 1/4"-20 and 3/8"-16 mounting threads. Please bolt the camera housing to a solid mounting structure, using more than one screw. Please note that the mounting plates are possibly stronger than the bond between the mounting spacers and the housing. If your application is in heavy current, you may want to consider attaching a security cable through the spare holes of the end plates.

The strobe is attached to the top mounting plate, using an industry standard arm using ball-head clamps. The clamps need to be securely hand tightened when installed! If your site has strong currents, we would caution you to use something more solid than the ball-head arms.... they work fine in many environments, but may move in strong currents. You may need to design your structure to include a direct strobe attachment point. Please refer to the drawing at the end of this document for dimensions, to help with your design.

Internal Plate

An aluminum plate attached to the removable acrylic end plate provides attachment for all of the internal components, such as camera and battery pack, and all of the power and control circuitry on the bottom.

This plate is securely, but loosely attached to the acrylic end plate. The other end of the plate has slots to engage with screws on an acrylic block, which comprise a floating alignment. There is no need to further tighten any of these mounting screws.

Camera Mount

You may loosen the camera mounting screw from underneath to slide the camera forward and back as needed. Having the lens close to the inner wall of the acrylic plate will reduce issue of dust on the inner surface, as well as any light reflections inside the housing, but you may want to keep a small gap to accommodate some bending of the front plate at depth.

Battery Pack

The Hydrolapse includes a very high capacity Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery pack, having a nominal voltage of 14.8V, and 42AH capacity. This is equivalent in capacity to an average car battery! A 'universal AC' battery charger is included with each order, to charge the battery pack before deployment. Like all rechargeable batteries, the effective capacity will gradually decline over time and use. We anticipate that the battery should give good service for about 3-5 years of constant use (charge/discharge).

This compact system can operate unattended for perhaps 5-6 months when taking about a dozen pictures per day.

The battery pack is attached using an industrial 'velcro' material, but given it's weight, it's possible that it may move during shipping. You can remove the battery pack from the housing and mounting plate for recharging via the included AC charger.

Circuitry

All of the electronics and wiring are attached to the internal aluminum mounting plate. The cables that connect the components have unique connectors, so you won't have to worry about identifying cables if any component needs to be replaced.

Time-Lapse Controller

The 'brains' of the time-lapse system is the venerable DigiSnap 2000 series controller, specifically the DigiSnap 2700. This device, designed and produced at Harbortronics, is a digital camera controller, developed to work with a variety of digital camera models. The DigiSnap can be configured to take pictures at any interval desired, or to operate on a daily schedule.

The DigiSnap series of controllers have been in continuous production since 1999, and many thousands of units are in use around the world.

The DigiSnap 2700 is attached using a 'velcro' like material. The settings will be retained with or without power. Please refer to the DigiSnap 2700 user guide (pdf) for more detail.

Battery Converter

While the battery pack provides 13.2 - 16.8 volts depending on the charge state, the DigiSnap controllers operate at 5 volts, and the camera requires a different voltage (generally 8V, but model dependent). Harbortronics designed and produces a device to efficiently convert the higher battery voltage to those required by the DigiSnap and digital cameras. If a different model camera is going to be installed, we can adjust the voltage accordingly.

A second Battery Converter is used to power the strobe and interface circuitry. It has been adjusted to output 6V for the strobe.

The Battery Converter circuits are attached to the back of the mounting plate. There is a fuse in each circuit which protects the circuits in case battery power is applied backwards. The connectors are clearly keyed, but that doesn't seem to stop some installers! A couple spare fuses are taped next to the circuits, or are included with the other system accessories. The fuses stand up from the circuit board, and may be dislocated when touching the lip of the housing, when installed by an inexperienced operator.

Strobe Interface (Hot-shoe to Fiber Optic circuit)

When the camera fires the shutter, the trigger signal from the camera is converted to a bright red optical signal and transmitted via a low cost plastic fiber optic cable to the strobe. This circuit was developed at Harbortronics. The fiber optic cable is inserted into the blue transmitter device, routed through the removable end cap via a compression seal, and then through the water to the strobe. The ends of the fiber must be cleanly cut and inserted fully into the transmitter, and the strobe, in order to properly trigger the strobe. Here is a picture of the simplified application. The Hot-Shoe Fiber Optic circuit receives 5V power from a Battery Converter on the bottom of the mounting plate. The single screw serves to make contact with the strobe output of the camera hotshoe, as well as retain the circuit board.

Tools and Accessories

A desiccant pack is included for use in the housing to minimize internal moisture. This can prevent condensation for forming on the inside of the housing. If the crystals eventually turn pink, bake the pack in an oven at about 100C/200F for an hour or more, until they turn blue again. Be careful not to melt the bag!

A universal-AC battery charger is provided with each order, allowing you to charge the battery pack. There are lights on the charger to indicate when charging or finished. It can take about 7 hours to recharge an empty battery pack.

A few spare parts have been provided as well. Extra o-rings, fiber optic cable, wing nuts, and a packet of petroleum jelly are included.

Specifications

Standard Package [Includes all items described above]
Dry Weight 20.5bs
Weight in water Approximately neutral in fresh water
Shipping Weight 23 lbs
Overall Dimensions 7.7" wide, 8.5" tall, 15" Long (excluding strobe & arm, connectors)
Shipping Box Dimensions 18" x 15" x 13"

The Hydrolapse is very much a niche product, and is hand made in the USA to order. Please allow 3-4 weeks to build your order.