My homebuilt Scope Camera

A digital camera for taking waveform pictures from the scope screen

Last update: 11-09-2010 

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The project:

What follows is a description of how I approached the building of my scope camera and the results.  It doesn't try to be a step by step guide for replicating it, since the main parts like the hood and the camera itself depends of what you have and what you can find, but it is explanained the reasoning that I followed, some of the difficulties found and why I did the things in such a way and not in another.  I hope that it can be of some help and motivation for anybody who wants to do a proyect like this.

I always wanted to have a way to keep pictures of my scope screen for documenting my projects.  Not having a digital scope, the classical way was to use a Polaroid scope camera (I made a lot of pictures that way some 25 years ago) but this is now out of question, even the cheap surplus ones can not be used because of lack of film.


A Tektronix C50 scope camera            

Tektronix marked a new way when they introduced the C1001 scope camera.  It was an analog video camera intended to be conected to a video digitizer which allowed, among other things, to store digital pictures of the screen waveforms.


    A Tektronix C1001 scope video camera

So now the way was to use a digital camera, a second hand old model could be right, since I didn't need a large resolution and I could  keep the camera dedicated to this function and modify it if needed. 

The support frame

The first problem was how to mount the camera, some kind of hood is needed to avoid the ambient light which causes reflections in the screen, and soon your conclusion is that you need something like what Tek made for their film cameras.

I tried to buy a surplus Tek scope camera, prefereably one in bad condition, since my intention was to use just the carcass,  and a non functional camera could be bought very cheap.  Well, this can be true if you live in the USA, but I am in Europe and the shipping costs are quite high.  Also a lot of surplus cameras have problems like  missing scope adapters or broken frames.  The solution was to find something that could be adapted without extensive work, probably less than adapt a real scope camera.


My first candidate

My first candidate was a spent container of swimming pool winterizer.  Even it was close to  Tek Blue !!!.  Unfortunately it was too big and interfered with the scope controls.

After considering starting from scratch (somebody that I don't remember now made one using printed circuit board material), finally I found a flowerpot with almost the exact dimensions for the 7000 series scopes.  In fact, when I started this project my target scope was a 465, but now that I have a pair of 7000 series, the on-screen readout is something invaluable for a picture and since the bezel dimensions are not compatible, I choose to make the camera for them. 

The flower shop had no any "Tek blue" pot remaining, so I bought a violet pair ($2 ea.) and when everything is finished maybe I will paint it in the matching color.


The choosen shroud: a cute flowerpot

The size is almost perfect, 14 cm square but since the scope bezel is not square and it is almost touching with the plug-in bays, it is neccesary to attach the shroud flush with the lower side, leaving all the clearance at the top.  To close this space to block the light and to double it as a mounting rail, I glued a black plastic piece of about 15 mm wide to the inside of the top, recessed about 5 mm.  It has a L form and was made in two pieces  cut from an old audio cassette box.  This rail provides a solid hold to the scope and since the camera is very light I don't care about a safe latch in the low side.


Detail of the attaching rail

The camera

Then came his turn to the camera.  Before buying one I did many tests with several current models, but I found that most of them have no video output beeing this an important thing, because you want to see what is happening on the screen and the best way is to use your computer monitor, the usual  camera screen is quite small for this. In the models that do have this output, the video was analog, as is was intended to show your pictures and videos on the TV, so you need to digitize it, a step back to the times of the C1001.  Also when taking pictures you have to push the trigger button, normally there is not a remoting facility (I'm talking about the common compact cameras, not the expensive reflex ones).  Soon I realized that I wanted a kind of digital video camera that could be connected to the computer and controlled from there: a webcam.

I recovered an old (5 years?) combination of USB memory stick, video and still pictures camera and even a voice recorder.  It was made by Verbatim , the model is "5-in-1 store'n'go" and I got it as a merchadising gift.  The maximum resolution is 640 x 480, but it has its advantages, I don't need to resample the images later to decrease its size. 

5 in 1

My webcam

The camera is supported by the Windows XP Webcam utility once you install its drivers.  This utility allows you to see the video image and take snapshots just by clicking a soft key.  The pictures are consecutively stored in a folder and can be retrieved using the same utility.  Usually when you buy a webcam it also includes a program for doing these and  even more functions, and most of them are able to work with any Windows supported camera, not only the models from its maker.  This is interesting because if you try some of them  you can find the one that best suit your  needs.  Some of them offer capabilities not found in others, like camera adjustments, image mirroring and so on. 

These programs can be freely downloaded from the Web sites of most camera manufacturers.   In my case they are at and their control program, named DirectCap, have good camera adjustments.  Microsoft includes an equivalent program named AMCAP in Windows XP. 

This peculiar camera lacked a proper mount, the package included a kind of gooseneck semi flexible USB cable, intended to both hold the camera and provide its connection and was totally unsuitable for fixing it to the hood, so I had to find a way to attach the camera that provides some degree of adjustment.

Other problem is the focus, this camera was of the fixed type with bad focus at close distance, but in the inners the lens have a focus adjustment with enough range to the distance needed.  The problem was that it was glued in the standard position and it was very difficult to free it.

This is my prototype, a kind of test bench where I can adjust the camera position and attitude,  and  verify if the camera was able to take good scope pictures.  Once verified and found the right position, it will use a more definitive fixture.

Test bed

The first prototype

The prototype consist in the flowerpot hood with a oversized view hole and a piece of  plastic for attaching the camera.  This piece has a hole on its center where the camera lens is press fit (really with the help of some paper shim) so it can be rotated around its axis, and the piece is taped to the hood after finding the right position.

And this is the first ficture after finding the right aligment.  The scope is a Tek 7623A bought "as is" that I just restored.

 Scope image

My Scopecamera "First light"


Using the camera control programs above mentioned you can watch on real time the scope screen in the computer and, when the signal is fairly repetitive, take as many snapshots as you want .  For low rep rate or one shot events take a video clip (the CRT and camera persistence helps a lot) and select the frames that you like with a video editor, instead of trying to synchronize the scope and the camera, which is very difficult.   If your scope has storage you can use this feature and you don't need the video.

                    aplicación de captura

The capture program in operation

The "Definitive" fixture:

In fact I won't need to take many scope pictures, and the prototype is good enough for ocasional use, but it is delicate and prone to misaligment.  Now that I have it working I want to finish it in such way that it will work ok at the first try when I need it, so I have to build something that is solid enough and with some adjustment range.  It has to hold the camera in a solid and repetable way and be able to withstand the cable plug and unplug without disturbing the aligment too much.  And hopefully it must have a good look. 

My first idea was to trim the plastic support to an adequate size, glue the camera to it and fix the support to the hood with 4 screws or even glue it.  Simple, isn't it?

Well, the screws must permit some tilt adjustment, because these cameras are far from being a precission thing, and the optical axis is not perpendicular to the case, because the lens holder is just glued to the sensor and it has some tilt.

Since the camera housing is totally curved without flat surfaces, I think that one solution is to glue to it 3 or 4 plastic tabs and attach them with long screws to a plate and later screw this plate to the hood.  A spring surrounding each long screw can provide a good means of tilt adjustment and the plate and hood can have slotted holes to provide lateral play.  I have to elaborate it more, and probably I'll try the simple glue method and see if it is solid enough, I will have to care the aligment using shims or wedges during the glue setting.

A suitable cover will provide the "good look".

I will update this page as works progress.  And if anybody want any aditional info, just email me. 


Some advice:

While the project is not finished yet, I can give some advice to the prospective builders.

- The body:  I think that the flower pot that I used is the ideal thing, because the dimensions are right and  it is made from high quality material.  It should be not very difficult to find something alike and of course the dimensions should be the adecuate for the scope you plan to use.  For a series 7000 the side should be 14 cm (5 1/2") and for a series 400, 12 cm (4 3/4").  While the flower pots are square this is not a problem, as shown.  The mounting rail also serves for filling the vertical clearance and shields the light.  A very narrow rail should be made from metal.

- The camera: If you have to buy one, be sure about 2 things, the mount and the focus adjustment.   Check that there is something to fix it (a thread, etc.) and that there is a base which allows for aligment,.  The aligment should be made quite permanent.  This will ease the fixing to the body  without having to make yourself the aligment system.

 About the focus, if the camera has an adjustable one it saves you a lot of headaches, because you need to adjust it to near distance, and if the camera is of the fixed focus type you will need to open it and who knows what you will find there. 

In the other hand, if you want to recycle your old webcam be ready to work harder, as I did.


I tried just to glue everything and I'm satisfied with the results.  I used a hot glue gun so I could make some adjustments while the glue was setting.  The final result could be more fancy but it is enough for me, The only remaining thing that maybe I'll do is some painting.


Mi camera in the last version

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