Wanted : Digital camera with automatic saving of image to hard drive.

Looking for a digital camera with some specific requirements.

We have a warehouse which accepts tyres (thousands of tyres a week). These are all old tyres that have been on lorries and are being retreaded/regrooved/recycled/scrapped.

The inspector will have a digital camera and will take a photo of the damage on the tyre for processing.

The application handling the camera has to be truly dumb. Ideally, the inspector points and clicks and a file is instantly saved with NO USER INTERACTION!!!!! This is very important as the pc which the camera is connected to will not have any keyboard.

The inspector will have "prepared" the system by having our application set to a state which is watching for a photograph in a particular folder (any folder on the local pc is fine). Once the image is present the inspector will be able to view and accept the image and the image is moved from the folder to the server along with DB updates.

I am not looking for a complete system, just a camera whose software can simply save the file and do nothing else. No user interaction (once the software has been installed and configured and is running).

Alternatively, are there cameras which can be talked to externally using standard protocols? Thinking out loud, a camera with an internal memory card can quite often have the memory card acting as a drive. Speed is probably not great though.

Suggestions, ideas, etc.


Richard Quadling.
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Richard QuadlingSenior Software DeveloperAsked:
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There are camera's with BlueTooth, such as the Kodak V610, so that you can send the pictures directly to a nearby computer where I presume they will appear in a folder, however the operator must push a couple buttons to initiate the transfer.  They must flip to review mode and press the "send" button.

>>Alternatively, are there cameras which can be talked to externally using standard protocols?

Some Bluetooth cameras, I believe, do have two-way communication so it might be possible to have the computer request photos from the camera.

Of course almost all cameras have the ability for the memory card to act as a flash drive with a USB cable (which is the common way to transfer photos to computers), but again I suspect you have to flip the camera into review mode for the drive to appear on your computer.  This would work with minimal user intervention, however.  The operator changes to take a picture mode, takes the picture, and flips the camera to review mode.  You build custom software to watch for the drive to appear, and start copying any new files off it.

I'd start by emailing some camera manufacturers support departments and see if they can support your need, though often the support departments are very good at coming up with innovative solutions to problems they have not encountered.

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Most higher-end SLR cameras allow using the camera in "tethered" mode, where the camera is attached to the computer and the image is dumped to the computer HD and previewed on screen. Here's a general overview of tethered shooting: http://photoshopnews.com/2006/12/06/tethered-shooting-in-lightroom/. I would take a look at Capture One Pro (http://www.phaseone.com/) as one example of such software. Nikon dSLRs also come with their own software, you might look at that.

As JohnBPrice indicated, there are wireless solutions so you don't necessarily have to have an actual cable to shoot in tethered mode.

Richard QuadlingSenior Software DeveloperAuthor Commented:
In addition to this facility, can cameras be made "rugged" - able to withstand pretty poor usage within a factory with a concrete floor?

One of the ideas we had was to have the cameras on a sort of "pulley" from the ceiling so they grab the camera from the air, take the picture and then let go. It would work, but you'll always get some idiot treating them like conkers!

Your best bet in that respect, for a camera which will allow use in tethered mode, might be an underwater housing for the camera you select. This will protect it from the environment, and provide a fair amount of scratch and dent resistance. It will not provide much protection from falls/dropping. But, they aren't made to use with attached cables or wireless transmitter, so some modifications might be needed.

A couple of other ideas, not fully fleshed out... 1) Use one of these digital downloaders where you plug the camera in and it sucks all the images out. You'd keep it connected to the computer all the time as an external HD, and then just plug the camera in. Some of them are made to just plug in and they automatically transfer images from camera to device. 2) Use a camera in twain mode, where it's not really a camera per se, but a external device on the computer - something like what they use for photo ID cards or quality control images.

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