Tomasz Judkowiak Photography

Modify Sony NEX-7 with remote shutter hardware.

While shooting panoramas over last few years, I've always been complaining about the size and weight of my good old Canon 50D and decided to buy something smaller, that I could carry around everywhere without feeling like someone threw few rocks into my backpack. My interest brought mirror-less dSLR cameras: small, compact, lightweight, interchangeable lenses, and performing almost as well as dSLRs.


The decision wasn't easy as I was having trouble to choose between Samsung NX-200 and Sony NEX-7 - each of these cameras had some features that the other was lacking, but in the end I chose NEX-7 for its high frame rate video, flip screen, 24Mp sensor and few others.

One most serious feature that NEX-7 is lacking, is the hardware for external shutter release. Sure you can use IR remote, but if your camera is suspended on 6-meter long pole over 70 meter cliff, the IR remote doesn't do very good job if any.
Also, the IR remote doesn't work in HDR mode, and it doesn't look like Sony is planning to change that, so it was a big no-no for me.

I spent hours and hours searching the internet for any clues whether the USB port can be hacked, or if there's anything similar to CHDK designed for Canon cameras that works over factory firmware, but all hope was lost.
It was time to roll the sleeves and get hands dirty, or should I say: "wash my hands and put white gloves on" and add the one and most important feature that for some odd reason Sony decided not to include (silly buggers!).

Okay, lets leave the boring part behind and get to the point. There's a great tutorial made by this guy, which I used as a guide, but I didn't really like the final look with the jack sticking out of the body of the camera, so I decided to take my NEX-7 apart and see what else can be done.

I must admit, everything is tightly packed inside that little body, and there's almost no empty space where you could put the connector. ALMOST ! :-))

I found a little cavity between the viewfinder and the hot shoe - just enough to fit the 2.5mm connector.

So... to get access to the guts of the camera, you will only need to undo some of the screws shown in the tutorial mentioned previously: these three, these three, and this one. There's no need to remove the bottom two screws since we are not going to be removing the back of the camera (only the top).

Gently lift the top cover up. Be careful not to rip off all the cables underneath.
Disconnect the leads for the flash and the fpc connector.

Solder the wires in the same way like in the previous tutorial:

For the wires I used old earphones - the wires inside the cable were thin and elastic - perfect for the delicate job like this.

Be very careful with soldering so you don't short the terminals of the switches with their casing and don't use too much of solder - I only dipped the end of the wire in the hot solder and that was enough for the bond. Once you dipped the tips of the wires in solder, put a little bit of soldering gel on the tip. Clean the iron from any solder, put the wire against the terminal of the switch and briefly touch it with the tip of the iron. For me it was enough to create strong bond.
I set the temperature to about 380*C to get the tip quite hot, but then allowed the tip to contact the wire for only fraction of a second. I also used very fine tip hence the higher temperature setting.

Red Cable -  Focus
Green Cable - Shutter release
Brown/Grey Cable - Ground

Now route the cables neatly towards the hot shoe and slide them underneath it:

Now to the difficult part - drilling the hole for the socket.

Measure the diameter of the "collar" of the socket. It needs to sit fairly tightly in the hole that you're about to drill as shown above. Mine was 5mm.

At the top of this cover, right next to the hot shoe, there's a mark indicating the position of the sensor.
You need to drill in the middle of it and slightly towards the back of the camera.

I started with 1mm drill bit for more accurate position of the hole and gradually increased the size until reaching 5mm. The casing is made of magnesium which is very soft and fragile, so take your time while drilling, use new and sharp drill bits and don't push them in too hard to avoid cracking.

Okay, the worst bit is done, so you can have a drink now to relief the stress ;)

Cut the excess length of the wires and solder them to the connector. Use the multimeter to determine which terminals go to which sections of the 2.5mm jack. It should go like this:

Green (Shutter) to the tip of the jack
Red (Focus) to the middle section
Brown/Grey (ground) to the bottom section



Make sure to isolate the terminals to avoid accidental shorting. I used a little piece of double sided tape on a foam (similar to those used for wall hooks) and then wrap it around with clear sticky tape (electrical tape was too thick for my jack to fit in the cavity).

Apply little bit of Super Glue to the inside of the hole drilled in the casing, push the connector through and let the glue set. When applying the glue make sure to use only a little so it doesn't spill all over the surface.

Attach the casing, apply all screws (if you're left with spare ones you'll know you've missed something;)

DONE! You can finish you beer now.

 

Looks almost like stock! 

I know it sits a bit close to the hot shoe, but hey - you can't have everything! 

Hope you found this tutorial helpful - enjoy your new feature and spread the word!

All links to photos form original tutorial - credit of Trunk(?)