HP E317 5MP Digital Camera For Aerial Photography

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The HP E317 is a 5MP digital camera with CCD imager.  It was only $88 on after Thanksgiving in 2005 at Wal-mart on Black Friday.  It takes very good photos, uses SD memory cards, and is small and light.  See this page for a large collection of the aerial photos I have taken with my HP E317 digital camera.  There are lots more aerial photos spread throughout the web pages on my site.

I wanted to modify the camera to electronically take photos via remote control, while mounted on a RC airplane. I installed a CamMan chip so I can take pictures via remote control.  When the lense door is open, which has to be done manually, the camera will automatically wake up when the shutter button is pressed. This eliminates the AWAKE and WAKEUP lines from the CamMan setup.  The only connections to the camera are ground and SHUTTER.

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Front of the case removed, front view.

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Bottom view.

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Back of the case removed, back view.

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Top view.

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Main board and top board removed.


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Main board by itself.


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Top board by itself.



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Top board - shutter switch.


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Top board with my shutter line connected. Sorry about the focus.

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CamMan soldered, coated in hot-melt glue, and ready to install.   Ground runs to the battery negative terminal and shutter line runs to the shutter switch as shown in the previous picture.

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CamMan tucked into camera.

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External plug glued to side of camera. This allows the camera to be used normally and via remote control.

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Cable connection plugged into external plug.

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All done.

While I had the camera apart (actually before I even installed the CamMan), I wanted to hack the analog video signal to run it to a video transmitter.  There is no external video signal plug, but I hoped there would be an internal connection that I could hijack.  The LCD display connection is all done via digital links, so you can't hack into those signals for a straight analog RS-170 signal. It has to be done at the chipset (digital to analog conversion) or as an addition to the base chipset by a special purpose converter.  I took my E317 apart and researched all the chips on the boards. This is also detailed at RCGroups in this thread: http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=476134 There are two boards, and the main one contains chips with these markings:

: This a NAND flash memoy chip.

Taiwan - G75
: SDRAM 16MX16 3.3V 7.5ns TSOP54 LT/LF PSC

Under the LCD screen on the main board is:
: I am having problems finding data on this, but from where it is, I am guessing it is the LCD screen driver.

On the smaller board are these chips:
426 H72
: This is an audio preamplifier, and that makes sense because the microphone connection runs right into the board next to this chip.

: This is a power supply chip.

: This is a "timing generator, V-driver, CDS/PGA/ADC". It peaked my interest for finding an analog video out because SHARP recommends using this with the SHARP LR38669Y, and that is a DSP with video out. After checking the board again in the E317, it looks like HP decided not to go with the LR38669Y and instead used the ATMEL DSP.

The main board also contains this ATMEL DSP (digital signal processor), the heart of the camera:

E317_ATMEL_DSP_tn.jpg (6582 bytes)


After amworks at RCGroups submitted the data he found on the A2V56S40BTP, I did more research on this ATMEL DSP. It is the main processor in the camera, and does include an video out line driver. An NDA is required for the full datasheet, so I poked around the pins on that chip to find the video out.

The specs for this chip say it has analog video out.  Usually the analog function must be turned on somehow on cameras; such as a software switch or via a plug in which grounds something out and lets the camera know to turn off the LCD screen and start the analog out. In this camera, there is no software switch in any of the menus, and I don't know which test points to ground without more specs on the ATMEL chip. I did discover that if you hold the REDEYE Flash switch down when you turn the camera on, you get to a manufacturing menu that allows you to go through the burn-in procedures that HP must use as the final step in their test process.

Well, after trying every connection I felt comfortable jumping, I could not get an analog video signal out of the E317. The ATMEL DSP is a BGA (ball grid array) chip, which means unless I want to use heat and reflow the solder to get the chip off the board, I can't get direct access to the chip. The connections are under the chip. I tried all the test points on the board and a few other points with no luck. At one point I thought I had fried the camera, but it still works.  I gave up and will use the camera without an external video monitor.