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 Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer 
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Post Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
It now has a name. This is Darwin...

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And all the below is information about the Daruino (or Darwino, I haven't decided yet). :)

In an attempt to start gathering things together now I've done most of my hardware tests, I want to try to compress things down onto a single board, get rid of the Arduino board itself entirely (given that you only need a few components to run the ATMega chip on your own circuit) and get it all working happy together all at once.

I'm really hoping that the ATMega328 (which is the chip on the Arduino Uno) has the memory to store the code to do all I need it to do, as I start trying to get all my separate pieces of test code into a single unit, but we shall see.

Anyway, I'm going to try to keep everything in this one thread now, as I've got a few bits spread across a different posts at the moment - and please bear in mind, a lot of the electronics is still pretty new to me (I've only recently gotten back into it after an approximately 18 year gap - I've had nothing to do with electronics since high school), so I'm very open to suggestions, but I wanted to get all this together and try to explain my choices and how/why I've done what I've done for the benefit of others on here.

This is also to help me keep track of what I'm doing. :)

Links to datasheets at the bottom of this post.

Part 1 : The Hardware

First up here's the schematic. This contains everything that I currently have sat across the Arduino itself and 2 shield boards (one board holds the DS1307, and the other drives the two LCDs and has the output pins to go to AF/Shutter/Ground on the camera's external trigger socket). There's also a couple of other bits that I've tested but aren't currently hooked up (like the 5v buck converter and the PS2 controller socket).

Image

Schematic Last Updated June 30th, 2011
V0.01-0.06 Changes List - Last Updated June 30th, 2011
Updated some pin assignments to make it a easier to route on a single sided PCB.
Removed a couple of redundant capacitors.
Jumper JP7 is the 3.3v output.
Jumpers JP8-10 can be skipped if you're tracing a double sided board. They're there simply to complete gaps in the ground plane.
Single jumpers JP11-12 are there simply to provide holes & pads in the PCB to solder a connecting wire.
Replaced a couple of component footprints in the PCB to more accurately reflect the actual components.
Replaced the 2.1mm DC socket with a 2 pin friction connector for more power hookup options.
Reconfigured the PS2 controller pins so it can be used with the Lynxmotion PS2 breakout cable.
Fixed a connection error between ISP Pin 5 and Reset Pin
Added a couple of bypass capacitors to the ATMega328
Fixed the LM2575 Footprint (now mine finally arrived)
Changed it to a single fuse for everything (as there's no weird on-board 3.3v components)


And here's a quick single sided PCB image (yes, I know it's not really usable at this resolution, I'll upload the Eagle file and some printable PCB layouts once I've done a bit more tweaking)

Image

I've put in an LM2575 5v buck converter (a much more efficient way of converting to 5v than using something like an L7805 voltage regulator, or the one that comes built onto the Arduino board) so that you can hook up an external battery (like the 7.2v LiIon RC batteries, or one of these monsters - I'm testing with a 4800mAh version at the mo) and take it wherever. It should be able take an input anywhere from 7-40v with up to 1amp of current (but it's got an 800mA fuse in there for overall current, and separate 500mA fuses for 5v and 3v). Right now, my test prototype using the Arduino, 2 shields with 2 LCDs hooked up (but no PS2 controller) is right around 150mA. So, plenty of room to spare.

The 3.3v line isn't really needed, but some of the HD44780 LCD backlights run on 3.3v instead of 5v (be sure to read your datasheets!), and as this schematic still leaves me with 8 pins free, I might find myself adding a laser trigger or something to it, and the SparkFun lasers I have are also 3.3v. So, I included it in the schematic, but you can omit it if you want, and just use a single 800mA fuse on a 5v only output.

With regard to the Playstation 2 controller, I initially went with this because it provides 16 buttons, and 2 analogue X & Y joysticks and only uses 4 pins. I haven't got the rumblepack lines hooked up in this, but I suppose you could modify it a bit to add that if you really wanted (but it'd take some reworking of the buck converter so you can get 7-9ish volts and it can draw up to 500mA for that feature alone - so I didn't feel it worth the effort); Might be handy to have it vibrate in your hand when it's done after nodding off during a 3-4hr shooting sequence though. :)

I haven't ran a meter across it yet to see exactly how much power the PS2 controller draws, but I would imagine it's less than 50mA as that's all the Arduino pins are capable of providing, and it works just fine plugged into those.

To wire up the PS2 controller, I just got a cheap PS2 extension cable off eBay, chopped off one end, and used my multimeter to figure out which wire went to which pin. Then I put a 6 pin header on one end which goes onto pins on the board. The other end has the socket into which the PS2 controller sits. I bought a cheap 3rd party PS2 controller, and reliability was inconsistent. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. With an official Sony PS2 controller, it worked every time with no problems.

I've put 2 LCDs into mine (both are 20x4) so that I can use one for debug data while I'm working on it. You may be able to get enough information displayed on only a single LCD, depending on what info you want displayed (and there are other size options). I'll probably end up keeping the second LCD on there after just to display other information about the current shooting sequence, but you could remove the JP4 jumper, the R8 potentiometer, and free up another pin on your ATMega/Arduino by removing it.

The LCDs both go through a single 74HC164 shift register (you could use a 74HC595 too with some slight rewiring), which means that you can drive a single LCD from only 3 pins on the ATMega328, or two LCDs using a total of only 4 pins (you could add as many as you like, until you run out of pins - each extra LCD only requires a single extra pin from the MCU).

There's no control over the backlights for the LCDs - but I'll add this when I figure out which switches in Eagle's libraries match the ones I have residing in a little bag on my desk. Some of the HD44780 LCDs won't work without the backlight - or, well, they do, you just can't read it - like the White on Blue LCDs. Some LCDs are readable just fine without the backlight, like Black on Green, so you can put a switch in there to turn the backlights off to save battery power (those LCD backlights use about 40-60mA each - but again, check your datasheet or run a meter across it to know for sure).

The two potentiometers for the LCDs control the contrast of the LCD. These can pretty much be set and then left alone, but as actual experience may vary from LCD to LCD, they're pots so you can adjust to suit. They have no relationship whatsoever to the brightness of the backlight. If you wanted to add a brightness control to each LCD's backlight (or one to control them both), you could put a 10K potentiometer between 5v and ground (or 3.3v and ground - read your datasheets!) and have its output going into pin 11 on the LCD (or out to both LCDs to control both with a single pot) instead of just a straight 5v signal.

The camera output goes via two 4N25 optoisolators to ensure complete circuit separation between the device and the camera. One of them completes the AF+Ground signal, the other completes Shutter+Ground. Some cameras will let you trigger both of these at the same time with no delay, but Nikons certainly do not. If you just try to tie AF+Shutter together and connect them both to ground at once, there's a bit of a delay. If you just leave AF+Ground connected all the time, and only try to trigger it with Shutter+Ground, it'll either fail miserably, your LCD will never go off, or it'll just keep your camera metering constantly and drain your batteries in rather quick time.

As mentioned, there's 8 pins free (9 if you only go with a single LCD), so you could hook a bunch of extra stuff up to it if you wanted to add laser triggers (for unattended wildlife shooting perhaps) or sound triggers (and just use the AF+Shutter part of the 3 pin camera socket to fire flashes for high speed photography), or you could add an SD or MicroSD card slot in there and have it log all your data - and just thinking to myself for a moment, outputting your circuit's timings for each shot to a CSV file could be the start of a very nice little automated system for modifying shooting data in RAW files when they're back on the PC to get smoother exposure steps between shots when you're dealing with cameras that have shutter speeds working in 120ms or 40ms steps like the D200 & D300s.

If you wanted to do standard timelapse with a consistent shutter speed set on the camera itself, and also wanted to use a wireless trigger like the RF-602/RF-603 or PocketWizards, you'd also hook it up to the Shutter+Ground output only, as you would for a flash.

There's a DS1307 realtime clock on there too (which saves the time even when the unit is powered down), which you could remove if you're not bothered about seeing the current time on your LCD, and you're not logging anything. I had the bits laying around, so I added it. :)

ISP and FTDI header pins are there to let you program the ATMega328 without having to remove it from your circuit with either an FTDI cable, FTDI breakout board & Mini USB cable, or an AVR Programmer (make sure to check if it's 6 or 10 pin before you get one or add header pins to your circuit - this schematic's setup for 6 pin). But, you could also pull the chip, put it in an Arduino, and program it that way, then take it back out and pop it into your own circuit (unless you're actually using an Arduino and just modifying the schematic to suit your own needs as a shield or whatever, in which case you can just use a regular USB cable into the Arduino).

Datasheets

ATMega328P - Datasheet Summary | Full Datasheet
DS1307 RTC - Datasheet
74HC164 Shift Register - Datasheet
HD44780 LCD - Controller Datasheet | LCD Spec Sheet - There's a million different manufacturers of these, so be sure to ask for a datasheet when you purchase.
LM2575 Switching Voltage Regulator (5v version) - Datasheet

Those are the datasheets for the parts I'm using from those manufacturers. Other manufacturers make compatible parts, but there may be slight differences, so always check the datasheets for your particular components.

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Fri Jun 03, 2011 6:33 pm
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
Part 2 : The Software

Right now I'm still programming on the Arduino Uno to get the code working happily, so I'm using the Arduino software. This means that I'll still be able to reprogram the chip once it's on the board using an FTDI cable.

Arduino : http://arduino.cc/en/Main/Software

This is the library I'm using to drive the two HD44780 LCDs via a 74HC164 shift register. This library also works with a 74HC595 register with some slightly rewiring, and using a 74LS164 shift register you could even get it down to a 2 wire connection instead of 3. Haven't tested a 2 wire connection with the 74HC164 but a few people reported issues trying it.

ShiftRegLCD : http://code.google.com/p/arduinoshiftreglcd/

The Playstation controller doesn't require any extra hardware, just pins going straight into the Arduino, and power.

PS2X Library : http://www.billporter.info/playstation- ... rary-v1-0/
Troubleshooting : http://www.billporter.info/arduino-play ... ing-guide/
More reading on the PS2 interface : http://store.curiousinventor.com/guides/PS2

DS1307 Realtime clock code from Adafruit - which is a fork of JeeLab's RTCLib

Adafruit's RTC Library : https://github.com/adafruit/RTClib
More reading and example code : http://www.ladyada.net/learn/breakoutpl ... 07rtc.html

There are alternative libraries out there by various people but the ones above are the ones I'm using at the moment.

If you're going to be (or want to try) shooting with the device tethered to a laptop (should be doable with an FTDI cable or FTDI breakout while the unit's on - don't know if I'd want to try powering it from USB though depending on what hardware's ultimately on there but it's possible), and want to send serial data back to the PC over the USB, you could write an app in Processing to display this feedback information in a more useful way - you could probably even write your code to have a Processing app running on a netbook or something as an input device of sorts to configure your settings via serial data instead of the PS2 controller.

Processing : http://www.processing.org/

As I start to get the various code segments together for the Arduino into a single entity, I'll put stuff up here for download.

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Fri Jun 03, 2011 6:33 pm
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
Part 3 : Tests & Some Explanations

These are test videos shot using it with various DSLRs.

Shot with a Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 lens to eliminate aperture flicker on a D200. f/16 @ ISO100 exposures from 1-16 seconds in 1/128th stop increments. The slight juddering about halfway through is from the wife walking past the tripod several times.



The third line of the LCD btw...

#a, #b/128 (####ms)

#a == The current number of full stops above the starting point of 1 second (so 0 = 1 sec, 1 = 2 secs, 2 = 4 secs, 3 = 8 secs).
#b == The number of 1/128ths of a stop through the current stop.
####ms == The shutter speed (or at least, the speed I told the camera to be) of the current frame.

viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4629

This was shot on the Nikon D300s with the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 @ 20mm & f/6.3. It's got some serious vignetting because I had my B+W 10-Stop filter on the end of the lens, and a Cokin P holder on the end of that so I could put in another 3 stop ND filter to bring the light levels down to something that would work with a 16 second exposure (I didn't want to stop down the lens too much, so as to lessen the risk of aperture flicker screwing up the exposures).



viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4346

Explanation of Nikon's increments

Nikon seems to have differing exposure value time increments between their bodies. In the D200, my tests show 120ms increments, for the D300s 40ms increments. This basically means that even though the external intervalometer is adjusting with every single shot, the camera will seemingly round down to its nearest 120ms or 40ms (or whatever the body you happen to be using) increment.

This essentially means that, you're going to be seeing some fairly obvious transitions between sets of images at shorter shutter speed durations.

For example, on the D300s test, I was shooting at 1/96th stop increments, with the intitial shutter speed being 1000ms (1 second), and these are the shutter speed values for the first 7 shots.

1000ms (starting point)
1007ms
1015ms
1022ms
1029ms
1037ms (this and the 5 preceding images are identical in exposure)
1044ms (1/16th of a stop later - this is when it finally increments exposure)

Each of the first 6 images are all 1000ms exposures. The 7th shot is a 1040ms exposure, then there's a few more at 1040ms, then some at 1080ms, then some at 1120ms, and so on. Once you get past about the 3-4 second mark, the 1/96th stop exposures start to reach and exceed 40ms per frame, so it eventually becomes a different exposure on every frame.

Some deflicker software can get around this very well, depending on the sequence in question. I tested the beta of the new GBDeflicker app with great success, but my trial ran out before I could do some really extensive testing.

Depending on how much memory's left on the little ATMega after I've got it doing everything I want it to do, my long term plan is to add an SD or MicroSD slot on there so it can log each shot it takes in a sequence, and have an accompanying application (language & platform(s) to be determined) to read in that data, and create XMP files for all the RAWs to automatically set exposure compensation on each frame to account for the differences between desired shutter speed and actual shutter speed due to rounding off - which should eliminate the visible stepping. (See the post below this for a link to Cronix's thread where he tested this technique)

This post was last edited on 8th September, 2011

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Fri Jun 03, 2011 6:34 pm
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
Part 4 : Other Stuff

In this post, I'm going to pop up a few links to useful threads here on the Timescapes forum relating to Nikon bulb ramping (or other DIY intervalometers).

Great thread from cronix using the Arduino with a D2x and D700 for bulb ramping.
He also proved my theory about having the Arduino generate XMP files and using them in Lightroom/ACR to eliminate the obvious shutter speed stepping.

Project Chronos
Jack Ripper's timelapse slider/dolly and intervalometer project. Some neat stuff here, and he shoots Nikon ;)

This post was last edited on 8th September, 2011

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Sat Jun 18, 2011 5:27 am
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
Dang you have been BUSY!!!

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Sun Jun 19, 2011 8:31 pm
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
Aye, a little bit, but have made a couple of nooby mistakes I discovered after chatting to some of the guys on the Arduino forums. So I have a few adjustments to make once I hear back on a couple of questions.

I ordered a bunch more bits last night, and got half a dozen shipping notices today, so within a couple of days I should have everything I need to build up 5 or 6 complete prototype units (and variations of it) and various other sections of it for testing.

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Mon Jun 20, 2011 10:45 am
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
Im prototyping an ardunio controlled astro tracker, im working on the plans and should get it back from the machinist and running in probably a few weeks. I plan to produce and sell them as a lower cost alternative to the other solutions on the market, my goal is to target a star at 800mm for over a minute with no evidence of trailing.

When i get all my bugs worked out and start manufacturing and you get yours, maybe we can make a trade. ;)

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Mon Jun 20, 2011 11:19 am
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
Jack Ripper wrote:
When i get all my bugs worked out and start manufacturing and you get yours, maybe we can make a trade. ;)

Sounds like a plan. :D

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Mon Jun 20, 2011 11:37 am
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
It now has a name!

Named after our beloved Darwin.

Image

Haven't decided 100% whether to settle on "Daruino" (like the Arduino) or "Darwino" (like Darwin), but for now it's Daruino.

I've been able to update the LM2575 footprint now mine have arrived. All that came with Eagle were the staggered footprints, but I don't seem to be able to find those anywhere, all of the ones I can get hold of (and I've tried several different suppliers) just have all the pins inline, so I've changed that.

As it ended up not having any 3.3v devices on there (but check your datasheets for those LCDs, you may have to modify the schematic!) I reduced it down to a single 800mA fuse for everything. Eventually if I expand this to include external triggers and whatnot, I might add a 3.3v fuse back in just to ensure there's enough power left for the main guts of the thing.

My tinning solution got here too (with this much exposed copper, I didn't fancy trying to tin it manually with a soldering iron, and I didn't want to leave it all bare, so this should make things nice and pretty).

I need to whip the PCB layout out of Eagle and into Photoshop for some tidying up, but then I'll be printing it off and etching my own PCB.

I'm planning on putting up a video tutorial on how I etch my own PCBs too at some point, to help out those who've never done it before. I only made my first PCB a few weeks ago. It seemed a little daunting at first (especially when you look at the price of some of the equipment you'd led to believe is required), but once you've done it a time or two, it's a doddle. :)

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Thu Jun 30, 2011 5:33 am
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
I hope you're keeping him/her warm in chilly Lancaster!
We see a lot of Darwins round here in Exmouth, often have to stop the car to let one cross the road.

Good luck with the project.

Kit


Sun Jul 03, 2011 4:30 pm
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
This is thoroughly impressive stuff everyone.

Good luck with the rest of the project! :D


Tue Aug 23, 2011 3:18 pm
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
Thanks Kitwin and Arri...

Things have been going slow on this for a while now. Too many other real life priorities keep popping up, and the wife keeps bugging me to finish the renovations on the house.

Will post an update soon as I have time to work on it. :)

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Tue Aug 23, 2011 3:24 pm
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
Kaouthia wrote:
Part 3 : Tests & Some Explanations
Explanation of Nikon's increments

Nikon seems to have differing exposure value time increments between their bodies. In the D200, my tests show 120ms increments, for the D300s 40ms increments. This basically means that even though the external intervalometer is adjusting with every single shot, the camera will seemingly round down to its nearest 120ms or 40ms (or whatever the body you happen to be using) increment.

This essentially means that, you're going to be seeing some fairly obvious transitions between sets of images at shorter shutter speed durations.

For example, on the D300s test, I was shooting at 1/96th stop increments, with the intitial shutter speed being 1000ms (1 second), and these are the shutter speed values for the first 7 shots.

1000ms (starting point)
1007ms
1015ms
1022ms
1029ms
1037ms (this and the 5 preceding images are identical in exposure)
1044ms (1/16th of a stop later - this is when it finally increments exposure)



Would you mind sharing how you calculate these exposure times based on n number of stop increments? I have tried, but my methematical knowledge is letting my down on this one.

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Tue Sep 06, 2011 6:12 am
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
It was a pain to figure out, and I couldn't actually find a reference on the web, but had a moment of inspiration and a hunch and it seemed to prove itself to be correct.

Basically (numbers rounded to 2dp for simplicity's sake)...

X = (2^Y)^(1/n)

Where X is your resultant shutter speed in seconds, Y is the number of nth stops above 1 second (your starting speed), and n is the number of stop divisions.

So, if you're working in 1/3 stop increments...

1/3rd stop increase (with a starting shutter speed of 1 second)...

X = (2^1)^(1/3)
X = 1.26 seconds (nearest setting in camera = 1.3 seconds)

2/3rd stop increase

X = (2^2)^(1/3)
X = 1.59 seconds (nearest setting in camera = 1.6 seconds)

And for 3/3 stop increase (a full stop)...

X = (2^3)^(1/3)
X = 2 Seconds (double the shutter speed)

Then...

4/3 stop (1 & 1/3 stop) = 2.52 seconds
5/3 stop (1 & 2/3 stop) = 3.17 seconds
6/3 stop (2 stops) = 4 seconds
7/3 stop (2 & 1/3 stop) = 5.04 seconds
8/3 stop (2 & 2/3 stop) = 6.35 seconds
9/3 stop (3 stops) = 8 seconds

Same formula works for any number of stop increments in shutter speed (but the Arduino's simply incapable of calculating more than 128th stop increments as it falls over after 2^128 - you'd probably be able to do even smaller increments on some of the 32Bit boards like the Leaflabs Maple).

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Tue Sep 06, 2011 6:44 am
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
Great! Thanks a lot!

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Tue Sep 06, 2011 6:56 am
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
"Daruino - Nikon Bulb Ramping - Coming... at some point :) "

Hi Kaouthia, get that Nikon bulb ramping up and running!.. :P Very much eager to see one in action..
You and Jack are doing such a great fine job!..

All the Best!

Charlie.

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Wed Sep 07, 2011 8:35 am
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
Haven't been able to work on it much for the last couple of months. Really wish I did have more time, but have to pay the bills first.

Hopefully, as the weather starts getting slightly more awful than the summer was, I'll be able to get more done soon, and can post an updates.

In the meantime, cronix is doing some great stuff over on another thread. :)

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Wed Sep 07, 2011 3:47 pm
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
So - What does the future have installed for Nikon shooters wanting to do Bulb Ramping?

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Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:21 am
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Post Re: Arduino/ATMega Intervalometer
At the moment, not much more, from me anyway. I've had to put this project on hold for a while due to other commitments. :(

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