DSLR Camera Trapping – Part 3 Making a Waterproof Camera Housing

In part 2, I showed you how I made my waterproof Flash housings, and to finish off in this final part I will go over how I built one for the camera.

This is what it looks like in action. The case itself is a used Pelicase 1300 (Black) which are readily available on ebay for 40-50 quid. It does not matter how beaten up it is, as they clean up well with a good wash and sanding down rough edges, and anyway, you’re going to spray it olive green! The important thing is to get one with the majority of the foam insert intact. For deployment in a public place, you can lock the case to a tree or fencepost etc using a cable lock through the handle, and a padlock through the holes for the purpose in the lid. There is a tube for the lens, made from a plastic tumble dryer vent attachment, which can be made interchangeable so you can fit different lengths for different lens lengths, and there is a 95mm UV filter on the end (cheaply available on ebay) to weatherproof the unit, as well as a hood above this made from a plastic gutter round to angular adapter section for rain protection. The housing can be mounted on your tripod quick release attachment if you buy a spare plate and bolt it to the base (I have not done this yet but will soon).

The camera housing in position. The UV filter is a 95mm one – the biggest you can get so you wont get vignetting if you want to use a wide angle lens in it. This will stop the lens from misting up early in the morning. I usually pop a handwarmer sachet in the box when I deploy it just to try to keep some warmth in the box interior to prevent misting up and also preserve camera battery life. 

The vertical orientation of the box means that you can fit a DSLR in there with room for a battery grip and the flash transmitter on the hotshoe. It is possible to fit the camera at 90 degrees to this for portrait orientation without the battery grip. The PIR sensor receiver just sits in there, secured on a piece of velcro.  

Always a thrill to find a nice image on the LCD in the morning! All the controls are reachable with the camera in position in the box. I use live view to get the AF on the spot I want, then turn off the AF either in the camera menu or by flicking the switch on the lens (that’s a bit of a fiddle because you have to slide the camera out a bit to reach it).

A pelicase 1300, the 100mm diameter air vent tube fitting and the rain hood gutter adapter

You need to decide what camera/s and lenses you are going to use. Don’t put out your best kit! If you have an old APSC camera and a kit lens, that’s perfectly adequate for camera-trapping. I’m using an old Canon 50D and a 10-18mm lens, but also I have put out my 5Dmk4 and 24-70 f4 lens in the garden where there are no security worries.

You need to carefully measure the position of the 100mm diameter hole for the lens. You only get one go at this!

Hole drawn on the inside of the box before drilling. Check and double check!
Drill the hole in the base of the box using a 100mm dia round bit. The point of no return! 

with a little sanding the 95mm filter will snugly fit on the end of the tube. You can glue the filter in position or use some pipe weld to soften the plastic before pushing the filter on. If you want the option of being able to remove the filter, then buy two filters. You can smash the glass in the first one and remove the glass, then screw the second one onto the filter thread of the first.

The tube can either be epoxied (araldite) on to the case, or if you want to make interchangeable ones of different lengths you can just bolt it on to the case with four bolts.

The rain hood now needs to be epoxied onto the outside of the case. Don’t have it too near the tube or the end of it will cause wide angle lens vignetting. You’ll need to remove some of the case plastic raised bits with a sharp chisel and sandpaper in order to get a flat surface to attach it to. Once done remove the tube and spray the case with grey acrylic primer then olive green acrylic (I used Humbrol acrylic spray cans). The tube was separately sprayed olive on the outside and matt black on the inside before attaching the filter. 

The finished housing and detachable length of gutter for rain protection 

if you use a longer lens or if you are putting your housing out in very bad weather, you can cut a length of black gutter and velcro it to the hood – vignetting will be less of an issue with a longer lens. 

keeps everything nice and dry.

That’s all there is to it! actually it isn’t difficult and I made the whole thing for about 80 quid. Another benefit of using this housing is that the foam virtually eliminates shutter noise, which I find scares animals more than the flash potentially does.

I hope this has encouraged one or two of you to have a go at making one of these yourselves. Its very rewarding particularly when you see the fruits of your labours on your camera screen. I suspect that some of you who have taken the leap into mirrorless systems might have older camera kit lying around which could be repurposed for camera-trapping so if you have, have a go! Its great fun! Best of luck and show us your results! 

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  1. You homemade kit is very ingenious Andy and simple to make. I’m waiting to hear from Camtraptions if they can cater for Olympus kit. If they can I will be making some of your kit. Many thanks for taking the time to write these three blogs.

    • Excellent Paul. As far as I know their PIR’s work with the majority of camera makes, but it is wise to check. Give us a shout if you need any help.

  2. Excellent Andy, I need to test my flashes out to see what happens from sleep mode or I try for some Nikons that do work. I like the idea of the filter for complete weatherproofing. Watch this space!!

  3. Just thinking about the infra red sensor that works on movement as well, does it trigger when a bush moves in the wind??

    • Yes it can Barry, but you can get around it by better positioning of the sensor, reducing the sensitivity of the sensor, and using built in baffles to narrow the beam – all options available on the camtraptions PIR.

  4. I have researched the sensor now and it looks like it should wake up my current canon speed lights before shooting, I see it works with Panasonic so I will be interested in Paul Bs answer for Olympus also. Piggy bank will be broken into tomorrow!

    • OK, there’s a lot more info on the Camtraptions App that you can download. Have a look at that next.

    • If you can find a reliable kingfisher perch on your river you could set it up for that too.

  5. Thanks for sharing this Andy, I have been wondering what to do with my one of my retired Peli cases ( used to house my technical investigation kit but that is long since retired)

  6. Amazing – very ingenious Mr W.

    • Cheers Andrew – I think we are all going to have to find little projects to have a go at over the coming few months eh!

    • Hi AJ, Why is my comment waiting approval. It is just below Andy’s comment about Kingfisher.

  7. You exceeded my DIY competence somewhere midway down the first blog, but it’s fascinating to see how you are putting this together. I’m really looking forward to seeing the results, and with this set-up you may well get some very early photos of cubs if there are any nearby (from around early March).

  8. Very well put together kit and blog, I’m looking forward to seeing some resulting pictures, thanks again Andy.

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