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DSLR Power off the Versa-Plate
Richard S. Wright Jr.'s Blog

My earliest attempts at imaging were with a Canon SLR and plain black and white film developed at WalMart (just the Moon mind you). That soon graduated to a Canon Digital Rebel, and well, it's all downhill from there. I saw the best meme on line recently, "Get your kids into Astrophotography and they'll never have money for drugs and alcohol". Yep, pretty much.

I'm very fortunate now that (due to my job here) I have access to at least one nice CCD Camera from nearly every major manufacturer. The DSLR however still has a lot of merit, and in some situations one shot color is still a more convenient choice than mono with filters. I've had two modified Canon DSLR's and I sometimes still even shoot with an unmodified Canon 5D Mark III.

One of the advantages of the DSLR is it's low power requirements compared to a CCD, and on some camping or imaging trips that can be a big deal. With some help from Tom Bisque and a friend of his, I cobbled together a way to power my Canon DSLR's off the 12V power supply on the Versa Plate of any Paramount. This allows me to have one battery that powers the mount and by proxy, the camera. Yes, I could put a normal battery in the DSLR, but discharging batteries generate heat and I've seen distinct thermal signal on some DSLR's caused by having a battery discharging inside the camera. Using an AC adapter, or an external DC supply helps the camera run cooler, which greatly helps with a DSLR. The 12v and 5v supplies on the Versa Plate are rated at 1 amp total, but fortunately a DSLR does not draw that much current and I've never had trouble powering one off the Versa Plate power supply. Naturally you could use your own 12v supply elsewhere, and there's even some off the shelf solutions that might work well for you, such as this one here:

What I did was purchase an off market Canon AC adapter from China. This was much cheaper than the Canon solution, and for a bit I'd boast that even if it didn't last I could buy three of them for the price of the genuine Canon part. I only mention this because it was a huge mistake. Not only did it not "last", but the cables were brittle and broke up very quickly and could easily have shorted out. After opening up the box and fixing it twice, and applying copious amounts of electrical tape, I realized how foolish I was. I was risking damaging a $3,000 camera (that I had paid for myself) over about a $50 savings on powering it. "What are you stupid?" I asked myself...

So, buy a real Canon AC adapter, and cut the wire that leads to the battery shaped box that goes into the camera. The figure below shows my configuration. "Snip Snip" is where I cut the wire from the DC output to the battery shaped adapter. I put in a set of male/female plugs here with female on the receiving end, and male on the DC supply end. Make sure you do not accidentally reverse the polarity of the DC supply in the process... a warranty voiding repair may be in order (unless you just WANT an excuse to buy a new camera). This alone allowed me to use the AC adapter along with our External Power Cable Set. Nice by itself as it reduces cable clutter and drag.

Now where Tom and his electronics friend came in is the box that converts 12v DC to 8.2v DC. Inside the box is a potentiometer and I can actually change the voltage to other values depending on the camera (I used this with a T1i originally). The 8.2V worked on two 5D models, and the 60Da as well. In fact, this was the configuration when I did my first tests with a prototype MYT in the Tetons camping with my sons. As I mentioned before, there are many other alternatives to getting 12V to whatever your camera requires, just make sure your not drawing more than 1A of current if it's coming off the versa plate!

I shoot with this configuration regularly, but bear in mind your milage may vary. This is a project for dedicated tinkerers... If you're afraid you might damage your camera, it's because you can. If you do this kind of thing all the time, have at it!

In closing I want to say a few things about our DSLR support in TheSkyX with Camera Add On. If you haven't checked the plug-in out lately, it's come a long way since version 1.0. The released version now reports chip temperature, and allows you to save the RAW files on the memory card in the camera. I have one more update planned very soon to save the raw files on the local hard drive using the same naming conventions we use for FITS files, and thanks to Evan and Matt, there is now a way for me to put the ISO setting right on the camera dialog so you don't have to go fishing around for it. Once this is out, it will be quiet for a while... until version 2.0 of the plug-in comes out later this year. To say it will be a substantial update would be an understatement. The DSLR market is a growth market right now, and the MYT is reaching a lot of DSLR imagers. We know this, and by the end of the year I think we are going to have the best DSLR imaging solution available for any price.

Stay tuned!


Posted 01-26-2015 12:17 PM by Richard Wright


Carlos wrote re: DSLR Power off the Versa-Plate
on 01-29-2015 8:41 AM

Interesting....I'm not completely clear on all that you did but looks very promising.

What would you recommend is needed to run a  Canon T3i off of the versa plate using AC power make that clearer...

I have powerstrip that I plug into an outlet on my house.  I use this power strip to power everything.  My Laptop, my mount, and the canon camera via its AC Adapter.  It would be nice to eliminate some of the cable clutter and plug the camera into the versa plate.



Richard Wright wrote re: DSLR Power off the Versa-Plate
on 01-29-2015 9:10 AM

I'd get the AC adapter from Canon, and then use one of these (or similar) to run it through the mount:


Carlos wrote re: DSLR Power off the Versa-Plate
on 01-29-2015 9:49 AM

Great! Thanks Richard


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