Modifying an Olympus Stylus Epic
One of the most common questions regarding rocket photography is, "how do I modify a camera for external shutter control and how difficult is it?" This article, while not complete should provide some guidance. You can judge for your self if it is something you want to try. You may also find that the information here is helpful for modifying other camera besides the Stylus Epic. I chose this camera because it is one of the best for use in camera rockets.
The goal here is to add two leads to the camera that when connected trip the shutter. These can then be connected to a controller.
Please note that if you attempt to modify your camera you will most likely void any warranty and may damage the camera. There is also the risk of electric shock from touching the flash capacitor. Proceed at your own risk...
Disassembling The Camera
Remove the battery from the camera. Work on a large clean surface so when small parts go flying they will be easier to find.
You will most likely want to remove the lens cover. It makes the camera a little sleeker and it will conform to the inside of the airframe better. The lens cover rides in a track along the top and bottom of the camera so you can simply pry it out of the tracks on one side and it will pop off. A small ball bearing will fall out. Don't worry. It just helped the cover slide better. You won't need it.
There is a small power lever near the lens. It used to be triggered by sliding the lens cover open and will now serve as the camera's power switch.
Camera with lens cover removed. The power switch is circled.
To get the cover open you will need to remove 4 small screws located on the rear of the camera inside the film compartment. If you don't have a set of small philips-head screw drivers do yourself a favor and get some (Radio Shack carries them) These screws are fragile and you don't want to strip them by using a poorly matched screwdriver. The screws are different lengths so make a note of where they came from.
Note the four screw locations in the film compartment
Perhaps the most difficult part of the procdure is "cracking" the case. Use a knife edge to get the process started on one edge and carefully pry around the case. If you have removed the four screws on the back the case will open but it can be a struggle. Work slowly and take note of how things fit together. You will need to get this back together when you are done. There is a rubber seal between the two body halves. Be careful not to damage it. You are trying to get the camera open far enough to get access to the shutter button. You don't need to take the back completely off and you actually can't as it is connected to the innards via a ribbon cable.
Note the location of the shutter contacts. Picture taken with the shutter button "clicker" removed.
Soldering the Shutter Leads
Once you have exposed the shutter button notice there is a metal "clicker" covering the terminals. This is hotglued in place and should come off easily. There are several easily solderable pads under the clicker. The two in roughly east and west are common. The north and south are focus lock and the center is shutter. You need to solder one wire to either common terminal and another wire to one of the focus lock terminals and the shutter terminal. The focus lock and shutter are connected together so they are tripped simultaneously when connected to the common.
Route the leads out a small hole drilled in the camera body near the shutter button. You should tie a not in the leads or provide some other form of strain relief for the leads.
Wires routed through hole in body. Note the solder connections.
You should probably test the solder connections before closing up the camera. Place a battery in the camera and confirm that the camera snaps a picture with the two shutter leads are connected.
Reassemble the camera carefully. If the case won't close cleanly then something is likely out of place. Check that the shutter leads and the rubber seal aren't being pinched. Put the screws back in making sure the right ones are used in the right places.