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A new KAP rig

Cris

I have been flying a Canon Rebel dSLR as my principal (and darn near exclusive) kite aerial photography (KAP) rig since July 2007. At last count I had a little over 250 KAP sessions with this rig (sound of Benton knocking on wood). I really like working with the smaller Canon dSLR cameras. They are tough. The larger APS-C sensor is relatively smooth and the higher ISO settings are more useable. On the other hand, my dSLR KAP rig is relatively heavy at 3 lb. 8-1/2 oz. (1.6 Kg) and it is a fairly expensive setup for my frequent work over water (salt ponds and wetlands) should replacement become necessary.

A few of my previous camera cradles

A few of my previous KAP rigs. My recent workhorse – the Canon Rebel cradle – in bottom row, center.

A couple of years ago I developed a KAP cradle for the diminutive Sony NEX-5. The camera offered an APS-C sensor in a relatively small package thus promising image quality similar to my dSLR rig at substantially less weight. For reasons I cannot fully explain I just never warmed up to the NEX-5. The images were fine but the interface seemed clumsy and I always seemed to find an excuse not to fly it. After it sit around for months I ended up giving it to one of my sons.

A new KAP rig based on the Canon EOS M with 11-22mm wide angle lens.

I am now trying an alternative. A while back Canon issued their own version of a mirrorless APS-C camera – the EOS M. When issued the camera seemed overly expensive for what it delivered but this last summer the prices dropped dramatically to about 300 USD. I ended up buying one with its 22-mm prime kit lens and then splurged by ordering an EF-M 11-22mm wide angle zoom from Canada (they are not sold in the US).

I like the EOS-M and the images it produces. Over the last few days I set about adapting a HoVer KAP cradle originally built for the Canon Elph series and then modified carry the NEX-5. The conversion is finished and I waiting for the weather to clear for the first flight.

I just put my gear on a scale:

Cradle empty ………………………………….…. 12-1/2 oz. (345 g)?
Picavet and kite line attachments…………..….… 3-1/2 oz. (99 g)?
Camera body with 11-22mm lens………….. 1 lb. 2-3/4 oz. (531 g)

So, my all up weight with 16-mm lens is 2 lb. 2-3/4 oz. (0.985 Kg). This is about 60% of the weight (and expense) of my current Canon dSLR rig.

More views of the rig are available in this set:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/kap_cris/sets/72157640904744214/

This rig uses a radio transmitter to rotate and tilt the camera. The radio can also switch the camera between portrait and landscape format (HoVer) as well as fire the shutter. For a description of the transmitter see:
http://arch.ced.berkeley.edu/kap/wind/?p=35

I am activating the EOS M shutter owing one of James Gentles’ GentLED-Shutter devices. This converts an RC signal into an IR remote command recognized by the camera:
http://www.gentles.ltd.uk/gentled/shutter-zoom.htm

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