SQ11 lens modification

The SQ11 is a low budget HD camcorder with a native resolution of 720p, but also offers upscaled 1080p recordings.

The framerate is around 15fps which can be getting used to if you are used to 60fps footage.

Generally speaking the image quality is quite bad and the files it produces are big (M-JPG). There are however two compelling reasons to buy this camera and that is its price and its weight. It is generally sold for around €10 or less and it weighs out of the box around 10 grams. It is therefore suitable to strap it onto a microquad where every gram counts. Als if you crash and break the camera you won't break the bank.

The camera is sold as being able to film in the dark and therefore it has some IR LEDS installed and it lacks an IR blocking filter. In broad daylight it means you will get lots of false colors in your footage, meaning that you will end up with lots of distorted colors. Every dark bit seems purple. Another issue is the narrow field of view of the standard lens and the relative slowness of the lens. The slowness leads to grainy images and footage. The field of view is disorienting when shooting FPV videos.

But all is not lost, we can improve the camera with a better lens...


(Final product. The new lens protrudes from the housing as it is quite a bit longer than the old one. Another mod is the removal of the IR lights saving weight and power.)

We are going to modify the camera to use a standard 808 #16 120 degree lens. You can search for M7 lens modules for the lens and housing alone which are usually cheaper than the module I used. From the module I only used the lens and the lens housing itself, not the sensor and ribbon cable.

Open the camera by removing two tiny screws. You can then slide out the battery, pcb and lens sandwich.

IMG_20171105_152315.jpg (Inside the camera: on top is the IR module which can be removed alltogether. Just desolder the two wires or cut them off. Saves about 0.6 grams in weight.)

IMG_20171105_153101.jpg (Exposed sensor module)

The standard lens has a 5.5mm thread and cannot hold the bigger wideangle M7 threaded lenses so we need to peel off the lens holder. This is a finicky job that involves scraping off the glue on the side of the housing and the carefully wiggling a sharp knife between house and flex PCB. Do not jam the knife too deep or you will destroy the sensor. The sensor is soldered onto the flex PCB.

Once the old house is removed it is time to install the new lens holder. You will note the four holes in the flex PCB at the corners. They correspond with four little notches on the lens housing.

IMG_20171105_153804 (2).jpg (New lens glued onto sensor)

Align the four notches of the lens house with the holes in the PCB and glue the lens in place with some contact cement. Be very diligent with the amount of glue and make sure no dust settles on the sensor while it is exposed. Do not use CA glue as it will emit vapours while drying that settle onto the sensor and lens leading to misty pictures.

IMG_20171105_153815.jpg (The sensor sits on top of the big IC using some two sided foam tape)

IMG_20171105_154536.jpg Carefully drill an 8mm hole into the front of the camera housing. I used a handtool with the drill. An electric drill might be too much and will ruin the plastic. I opted to glue the lens house to the front of the camera housing.

Finally it is time to focus the camera lens. The easiest way to do that is to attach the component output to a monitor or TV screen so you get a live view. You can then turn the lens until it focusses properly.

Below you will find a sample clip I shot after my lens mod. I am partially satisfied with it because the colors look ok now as does the field of view. It still needs some focal tweaking and I think there is a speck of dust here and there on the sensor or lens...


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