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Onboard Stills Cameras

Stills cameras produce far and away the best quality images from onboard rockets, compared with video cameras. Although there is a commercially available model rocket with an onboard camera available (the Estes Astrocam, for about 20 to 30 pounds), the quality is not great (it uses 110 size film), and it only returns one shot per flight. The obvious progression here, is to move to 35mm film cameras whilst keeping the size of the camera down, and to try and take multiple shots during flight. This has previously been achieved by numerous members of the UK rocketry community, possibly most successfully by Arthur Harrington, a Yorkshire based rocketeer.

As mentioned above, there are 3 technical goals for rocketry photography:

  • The camera should use APS or 35mm film
  • The camera should be small
    - This almost certainly dictates that the camera should be a compact camera as opposed to an SLR, since the size constraints of most small rockets is such that anything larger cannot be accomodated.
  • The camera should be able to take multiple shots during flight
    - This is enabled by either using a camera with an electronic shutter, or by mechanical servo actuation.

More information is available here on how to construct your own APS camera payload.

Copyright 1996-1999 Richard Osborne, All Rights Reserved.