My silly PondCam – Part 1

I had to create a new category on this blog called “piddling” because, this may be too stupid to post because I don’t know if it will work or not.

I have a 3/4 acre pond on my property. It is a great pond with a little beach. The only problem with it is that I can’t see what is going on underwater. I could buy an expensive underwater camera and stick it in the pond and take a look. But that would be boring. Instead I am going to build a “pondcam”.

To make this project more challenging, I am going to use as many parts that I have left over from broken or retired projects/equipment that I already have.

1) First, I do have a camera. It is a “TRENDnet IP551W”. I got this camera from a project for a relative who had a weirdo tenant that lived in one of the rooms in her house. She wanted me to place it in the kitchen so she could make sure she didn’t have anything going on in her house when she wasn’t home. The guy really freaked her out. Before I could install it, he left. Good for her… Good for me too, because now I have a camera that I would have never bought on my own, but didn’t return because it is too much of a pain. Here is a picture of it.


Now if I were to stick this camera in my pond it would immediately die. It isn’t water proof, which I will get to later. For now I want to worry about two things. The first thing is connectivity, the second thing is power.

2) For connectivity I have some interesting options. It has both Ethernet and Wireless. Now I thought about running both power and Ethernet to my pond (My gosh what IT guy that doesn’t have a pond not thought about that), but it would be a big pain because the pond is across my driveway and to do it right, I would have to get a backhoe in there to cut into my driveway and put all sorts of “out of code” connections on the other side. In addition, I have two little kids that love to play by the pond and it does flood in the spring, so extending house power out there is not an option. And I certainly don’t want to get a back hoe and make all sorts of connections for just Ethernet, it would cost around 1000.00… what a waste that would be for only one camera. So it looks like it is going to have to be wireless.

If you look at the inside of the camera you will see its antenna. It is really little. Like and inch and a half. I know that won’t do. Here is a picture of the antenna if you are interested.


I know the gimpy antenna won’t work, but what do I replace it with? Well, I am an IT guy and I have been in business for over 20 years. I have all sorts of IT stuff in my basement. Many of which are wireless antennas. I want to get as much range as possible, so let’s choose the biggest one I have. Here is a picture of it next to the camera.


This brings me to a new problem. The camera has an MC female connector and the antenna has a male connector. Here are a couple of pictures to give you an idea of the issue.

This is the MC connection on the camera.


This is the N connector on the antenna.


I have to go into my wireless bin and see what I have…. Well… I do have one of these.


Now what do I do? I don’t want to use the actual wire from the antenna that came with the device. I may want to put it back together and use it for something else. So I still need to get an “MC” style connector from something. Oh… That is right. My parents neighbor had a fire earlier this year and I had to get their data off of the hard drive. I will open the soot infected notebook up and see what it has for wireless connectors.


A little solder and some tape and now I have this!


We have to see if this works or not. There are important things to note here when dealing with wireless. For every clean coupled connection you have a certain amount of signal loss (I heard 1db loss per connection years ago). Then for every inch of that very tiny cable you lose more. And also I can’t imagine how much signal loss there is from stripping those wires and soldering them in.

I tested this camera earlier before I started doing any sort of work. I took it to the farthest point of my house from the wireless access point. My house is pretty big. 4000 square feet. The wileless access point can’t be in a worse place. It is on the opposite side of the house against the wall. The furthest point in the house is a window near in the kitchen, which is also in the direction of the pond.

I took the camera and plugged it into the wall with the “gimpy antenna” still attached and I couldn’t get a picture. Here is what the apparatus looks like now next to the same window.


Time to fire up the camera software and see if it works. It is a little unclear what is going on and I hope that it is easier to figure out what fish are doing if it makes it into the pond, but in this picture there are a bunch of hungry dragons about to eat a penguin with a Santa Claus hat. I will call this good enough.


That is all for now. I still have some challenges. The biggest problem on the table right now is power. What in the world to do about power? Batteries? I so don’t want to do batteries and will avoid that if I can.

Go to Part 2 – Click Here

8 Thoughts on “My silly PondCam – Part 1

  1. Christopher on July 10, 2013 at 7:17 am said:

    Go get ’em Joe! I am curious to see how you are going to waterproof this thing. I have heard about “waterproof” coatings you could put on electronics, but I dont know how reliable that kind of thing is. Also, send my regards to that penguin’s family, I am sorry for their loss.

    • Tessa on July 15, 2013 at 8:02 am said:

      I’m glad you’re blogging about this… it’s very interesting that you still do what you always like to do since you were a kid! I’ll never forget the time I played with your soldering iron and I somehow got it stuck in my hair! haha! And the time you made the remote control for the TV (although it was a wired-remote) but still unheard of at the time!

      • That is funny that you remember the burnt hair thing. Whenever I smell burnt hair I remember that. You must have been like 5 years old when that happened.

  2. It looks like so much fun. I wish I had a pond.

  3. Kristin (Mom) on July 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm said:

    Joe, you’re just having too much fun 🙂 🙂 🙂

  4. Renata P Heinz on July 15, 2013 at 4:02 pm said:

    Neat! Glad to see you blogging!

  5. Lena on July 15, 2013 at 6:50 pm said:

    fascinating. I have the utmost confidence in your ability to get it to work.


  6. Neat project. Getting the camera to work is a challenge for sure, but I’m sure your conquer that soon enough. I’m curious as to what you’re going to do about light. Unless your pond well aerated, I wouldn’t think you’d see anything even at a few inches depth. Once the camera is done, you can build a subsurface light source to increase frame depth and a paddlewheel aerator to help clear up the water. You homebrew this setup and you’ll have universities and camera crews out there. lol

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