Using the Sony Mavica CD500 Camera with Linux

The Sony Mavica CD500 Camera appealed to me because it stores its pictures on a mini-CD rather than on a memory card. I was very concerned that memory card protocols tended to be proprietary and cards suitable for a given camera may not be available after a few years. Normal-sized CDs are written in the ISO-9660 format which is universally accepted. Furthermore, normal-size CDs will certainly be available for many years into the future.

The situation with mini-CDs is not so clear, but since all CD readers can read mini-CDs, it looked much more promising than the memory card approach. As it turns out, the mini-CDs seem to be widely used in other electronic devices and should be available for quite a few years to come. The format used by Sony in the Mavica, however, is seems to be somewhat non-standard. Linux can read the CDs written by the camera, but reports errors on some of the files. The copies files seem to have perfectly good pictures that I look exactly like the ones transmitted down via the USB bus, but have some defect in format that the Linux driver feels compelled to report.

Transmission via the USB bus appears to proceed without any difficulty. I use the Linux GTKam program for the USB transfers, but I imagine any of the programs available in Linux would also work perfectly well.

When I bought the camera in May, 2004, movie images (MOVxxxxx.JPG) would not copy properly although they could be transferred over the USB connection. A few months later, however, that problem was solved. I can copy off the mounted CD and view them using the kaffeine player.

Remote Operation of the Mavica CD500 using the Sony RM-VD1 Remote Unit

The Sony RM-VD1 remote unit plugs into the ACC connector on the camera and allows remote control over on/off, zoom, and shutter release. It uses a 2.5 mm 3 conductor connector, but can be extended with adapters and 3.5 mm cables available from Radio Shack. I have extended it to 85 feet with no loss of control. This is useful for pictures of shy critters when you know where they will appear.

Remote Operation of the Mavica CD500 under Computer Control

Sony does not support computer-controlled remote operation of the CD500, but it is possible to examine the protocol used between the camera and the RM-VD1 unit and simulate that with suitable electronics and computer programming. I am now doing this using the DLP-2232PB-G USB protoboard that allows USB commands to upload and direct a program in a PIC16F877A microprocessor. I first programmed the microprocessor to monitor the communication between the CD500 and RM-VD1 and then programmed it to replace the RM-VD1. That way, the computer can automatically monitor a motion detector and respond by taking pictures.

A C program, mavica.c is used to drive the DLP-2232PB-G. It can not only take pictures, but also monitor the communication between the camera and another remote control device. If a 2.7 k-Ohm pull-up resistor is placed between the signal lead and the 5 V USB supply, remote operation is reliable even when there are 130 feet of line (1/8" stereo audio cable) between the computer and the camera.

The Mavica CD500 ACC Port Communications Protocol

Last updated: June 10, 2007

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