Wednesday, January 2, 2013

An Almost Good Idea...

Sometimes I have great ideas that work our really well - and sometimes they just don't work as expected. I have never seen underneath my Roadtrek. For a physical reason, I cannot lie on the ground or bend over without a problem. You may have noticed, if you are a regular reader, that Meryl is the one that does all of the tasks on the Roadtrek that involve bending down or getting under, etc. She is more than happy to do it - and I let her. But I have been very curious at times to see things for myself. I would like to also see into some of the lower cabinets that I have not been able to get down to see.

Several months back we were in Costco (the warehouse club store) and I saw something that I had heard about but never saw. It was an inspection camera. It is a camera used by mechanics and in construction to be able to see into remote and small places. The camera is on the end of a long tube, connected to a handle and that handle has a removable monitor that will show you what the camera sees. The monitor can be detached and work wirelessly also. Plus what you see can be captured in a still photo and on video saved on a micro SD card that can be moved to a computer and the images saved. This sounded really good to me. This little camera could go where I could not and with it I could see what I have not been able to see for myself. I was able to play with it for a few minutes in the store and it seemed to be able to do what I had in mind. I was particularly interested in seeing how it could "see" in the dark and saw that there are four little LED lights around the lens of the camera. This model included an additional six foot extension to reach even further. The black tank in the Roadtrek came to mind. A little yucky but maybe I could see if there really was anything hung up on the sensors to make them not read correctly. Another thought was that perhaps I could see into our Roadtrek air conditioner down the vent and perhaps see the fan and what is currently making a flapping noise when the air conditioner is run (...before going for service). The camera was $150. Christmas was coming soon and this would make a nice gift to me from Santa.

Christmas came and Santa read my letter and put the inspection camera under my Christmas tree (with a little help from me making the purchase before inventory ran out a couple of weeks before - plus an added rebate). I charged the monitor and added the four AA batteries into the handle that power the camera. On a clear day I went outside to explore the bottom of my Roadtrek. The result was less than I had hoped for.

One thing is that the lens and flexible arm are not designed to be oriented in any position - so unless you mark the barrel of the camera in some way to see what is the top, images that you see may be upside down or sideways. The other thing that I discovered is that without added light, the four LEDs are fine very close up but at any distance the images are extremely dark - and because they are that dark when put on a computer screen they are extremely grainy. As a semi-pro hobbyist photographer I know how to correct problem digital photos, but what were coming out were beyond that - and obviously this is designed for no more than a glimpse of what you are looking for or needing to see and not to produce photos of any quality.  Here are two shots of things I have been curious to see under my Roadtrek and these took quite a bit to get and make presentable enough to share with you.



Interesting, but not what I had hoped for. I went under the rear exploring and hoped to see the generator - which I have never seen for myself. Here is the result of that - and I apologize for the shakiness, lack of clarity, and a bit dizzying result (and this video was also processed to try to correct it as much as possible aside from the further loss that resulted in uploading it to this page).

Here is a similar video taken with a good digital camera -

I went inside the Roadtrek and tried to get the lens into the air conditioner through the left front vent which should be above the fan. The tube went in and I could see what appeared to be foam walls but it did not go all the way down - and I was not about to push my luck - and I stopped and took it out. So much for that idea. It does allow me to see into the lower cabinets but whether this is worth the cost of this gadget is to be decided. I could put lights under the Roadtrek and with the added light the quality of the photos and the video improves  - but still... Would I do just as well sending Meryl under with a video camera or still camera? Probably.

Oh well, it was a good idea. If you have a need for one of these, don't let my experience dissuade you. There are many mechanics and repair people who put these cameras to very good use. As to bringing you a still and video tour of the bottom of a Roadtrek, well, perhaps not with this camera. But I will work on a way to do that when it gets warm again. I am still deciding if I should bring this back for a refund - that is one of the great benefits of buying at Costco. You have 90 days to make up your mind with no hassle returns. It will let me see somethings that are hard to see in the Roadtrek - into the hot water tank, anything on the bottom if guided by Meryl while I hold the monitor, hmm - just don't know...

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