In May 2004 the Mk1 PIPCAM was upgraded to SC3 specification - another Steve Chambers design in which the original colour webcam CCD is replaced with a slightly larger, significantly more sensitive and less noisy B+W version.

The photo below shows the Vesta camera PC board with the new CCD mounted in place of the old one. The circuit modifications required to support the different CCD has been blurred at Steve Chambers' request.

More information on the modification can be found on Steve Chambers' website.

The standard Vesta CCD was removed from the board with the help of "Chipquik" a low temperature solder which allowed the chip to be desoldered without applying excessive heat. A new socket to take the new larger chip was wired in its place and the new chip plugged in.

The existing lens holder was from a surplus 1004x camera which has the same size CCD so this could be used without running into vignetting problems. Spacers had to be added however to allow for the extra thickness of the chip socket.

The resulting camera is significantly more sensitive because of the absence of colour filters and the larger pixel size. The most significant difference however is the much lower noise at room temperature which means that there are far fewer hot pixels and the camera can be run with only forced air cooling at UK night temperatures.

The "Amp Off" modification remains still to be done but in practise the amp glow is easily subtracted using dark frames for exposures up to 30sec

Examples of images taken by this camera can be found in the image archive (Vesta SC3 PIPCAM)

21st Nov2004