Preparing Philips SPC2050NC webcam for Astrophotography

This blog post is about dismantling a Philips SPC2050NC webcam for use as an Astrophotography camera. The finished, modified camera can be attached to a telescope and the pictures fed directly into a laptop or computer.

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What you will need :

  • Small screwdrivers
  • Tweezers
  • Hacksaw
  • Stanley Knife
  • Super Glue

Suggested extras :

What you will need if you don’t have the “suggested extras” :

  • Camera film case (0.25 inches in diameter)

The issue we have with webcams (and any camera for that matter) is that it already contains a lens separating the camera’s light sensor from the source that we’re looking at. We want to use a telescope as our lens, enabling as much light to enter the sensor as possible, so we’re going to need to remove the lens from the webcam.

Step 1 – Removing the front cover

The sensor we’re looking for is tightly protected inside the webcam body, so we’re going to have to dig a bit to get to it.

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Using a small screw driver prise the front cover off. It shouldn’t take too much persuasion and it’s pretty hardy so it won’t break.

Step 2 : Gaining access to the lens

Now that the front cover has been removed, we can see the lens that needs to be taken out. In order to do this we first need to take off the black casing which is surrounding the lens.

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It’s made of a very thin metal so can easily be bent and pulled out using some tweezers.

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Step 3 – Removing the lens

Using a pair of tweezers, twist the lens until it comes out. Again, it doesn’t give up much of a fight.

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Step 4 – Attaching the M12 thread to the webcam.

If you don’t have a telescope adapter (which I highly recommend you get) you can skip the rest of this tutorial and replace the front panel of the webcam, then attach a camera film case to the front of webcam. Here’s an example (https://danthaiwang.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/timelapse-of-the-jupiter/).

Now that the lens has been removed we can see the light sensor sitting at the bottom of this square housing.

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As you can see it already has a thread which looks perfect for our telescope adapter, but unfortunately it’s too small for what we need so we’re going to have to glue a larger thread onto the webcam, in front of the lens. This square casing and the internal thread is going to have to be ripped out. A small screw driver (for leverage) and the tweezers should do the trick.

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Now that we have this removed we’re ready to attach our M12 Thread to the camera. Apply glue to both the M12 thread and the plastic surrounding the sensor but do not get glue on the sensor!. If glue gets onto the sensor, it’s game over.

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Step 5 – Getting the front panel to fit back on.

With the new thread attached all that’s left is to put the front panel back onto the webcam to protect the internal electronics from the elements. This simple step actually has some rather irritating problems that we’ll have to overcome.

The first problem is that with our M12 thread sitting on top of the sensor the front panel won’t fit on. So to start with push the plastic panel out of the front using your thumb, it should pop straight off.

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This is great but the telescope adapter still won’t fit through that hole. This chrome effect barrel will need to be removed before the front cover is good to go back on. Fortunately it comes off pretty easily with just a little bit of force. Wedge a screw driver under the rim and give it a bit of a push, crowbar style.

You’ll notice that the chrome case was just decoration for the rigid plastic barrel that sitting underneath it and so we still have the same problem, the telescope adapter still won’t fit through the barrel. As it’s a solid chunk of plastic I used a hacksaw to cut through it.

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Sand it down with a nail file or some fine grain sandpaper and make sure there’s no lose pieces of plastic that could fall down into the lens area. Before we destroyed this webcam the sensor was very well protected so we have to take great care not to damage it during our modifications.

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Step 6 – Attach the telescope adapter and we’re done!

Snap the front cover back onto the main body and then screw the telescope adapter into the M12 thread. Make the glue has dried before you try this though.

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Now we can attach this webcam directly to the telescope and allow the light from the night sky to penetrate straight through to our webcam lens. Job Done!

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And here’s what the finished product can see through the telescope :

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