Saturn Orbit Rotating Lawn Sprinkler Panorama Camera Holder

I modified some hardware to make a simple device to hold a camera and rotate it to allow one camera to take a series of pictures that can be digitally stitched later into a panoramic or wide-format view. I made it with parts from a lawn water sprinkler.

The device rotates side to side continuously, back and forth. My camera is a Canon with CHDK, and I set it to take a picture every 5 seconds, and that gives me about 40% overlap of consecutive pictures at 30% zoom. The camera is not timed to the device position, and the sprinkler keeps rotating all the time. The camera shutter speed has been high enough to avoid blurring when taking pictures during the rotation. It will be just a coincidence if the camera takes a picture at the ends of the rotation, but it always happens within 3 seconds of that.

The sprinkler's angle of rotation can be adjusted with a twist of a screw so the angle can be set between 10 degrees and 358 degrees (full circle) befoe it reverses and rotates the other way. It rotates back and forth until the battery runs out. Many of my photo subjects don't need a full circle of pictures, and often the wind won't let a picavet hang in one place to get good pictures for a perfect panoramic for a full circle, that's about a minute. I like to set the rotation at 90 degrees to capture my main subject. That lets me capture more than enough of my subject, about 5 pictures wide, and the camera gets enough pictures that about half of the series will make a good panoramic stitch. Some are spoiled by tilting if the wind upsets or swings the rig.

If my preset direction wasn't perfect, then usually the rotation is enough to include the scene that I wanted. If there is action in the scene, the back and forth action motion comes back in 10 seconds to see it again. And often, the random picture-taking just happens to capture an exact scene that makes a good picture by itself in one frame.

The Saturn Orbit 3 is a gear driven sprinkler, the motion back and forth is very smooth. (It's not the lever type that goes chucka chucka brrr.) It costs $9 US. The Orbit has tiny nylon gears that give a 140:1 reduction. I carefully made one cut in its plastic body to get the gear mechanism and pivot head. The sprinkler is water powered, and I put a 3 volt 3-pole DC toy motor in it to spin its turbine wheel. My power is 2 AAA batteries. I like the convenience of a simple device that can sit in my KAP box for months, and be put into service with a flip of a switch. It is all preset before launch. I haven't gotten into remote controls and remote viewing systems and the resulting complexity and weight.

The gear mechanism that I cut from the sprinker head has a weight of 2 ounces. Then I add the electric motor and batteries and camera holding frame and picavet cross, and that total weight becomes 8 ounces. And then I add the camera.

As a lawn sprinker, the rotating head is on top. For a panoramic device, I use it upside down, the rotating head is on the bottom, near the camera. It has a very strong pivot pin, I can't pull it apart with my 2 hands; and it can support a lot.

I will try to attach a picture for this message, but I don't know if this link will work from this message, you might have to copy and paste it into a web browser.
(If you know how to make this picture appear in this message, please reply to this topic with the correct method and html language, so it will appear in your reply. This discussion page says I can use simple html, so here is my try.)
Saturn Orbit Panoramic Camera

This is the address to my web page that I made, with 7 pictures and details.
Saturn Orbiting Panorama Camera


  • Great piece of DIY! Thanks for sharing.
  • Very clever. Any problems meshing the electric motor with the sprinkler gears?
  • My toy motor had a plastic gear pressed on its shaft. I left the sprinkler turbine wheel still pressed on its shaft by the factory. I lined up the centerline of the motor with the centerline of the turbine wheel, and I had them a 1/4 inch away from each other. To span the gap, I press fit a rubber tube over the motor gear (a heat shrink tube is enough, without needing heat to shrink it). On the other end of the tube, I cut away the rubber until there were just 2 ears or forks or projections, these engage the gaps between the spokes of the turbine wheel. Its like a poor universal coupling.
    If anyone is interested, I could make a page 2 to my web page, to show exactly where to cut the sprinkler to get the gear box part that we want. And where it is safe to drill into the swivel head for screws for a camera rig support, so you don't hit it the travel angle adjusting gear that is hidden inside. And the motor mount and shaft coupler.
  • I'm surprised the torque doesn't twist or tear the tubing, but you can't argue with success.
  • WOW,

    I have smiled... very nice trick; I have tried mechanical timers, wind propelled PAN pictures..... this is a nice idea

    SMAC from Italy
  • I see my web page with pictures has disappeared when the 1app host changed names.
    So, I just put my page on a more reliable host:
    Saturn Orbiting Panorama Camera
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