Yet another Polaroid-like camera. Now with flavor! RapsberryPi Zero, Python, Memory-LCD, less wiring. It's all about monochrome.

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This is the second iteration of an Instant-Printing-Point-and-Shoot camera. No more thermal printer hack, and just Python.
It is base on a Raspberry-pi Zero, a Sharp memory LCD for 'live-view' and review and the Nano thermal printer from Adafruit.

First project :

As I gave to someone the first version of the PolaPi, I had to rebuild it. This time I tried to simplify a bit the process, the printer hack is not needed anymore. ( Please find below some explanations about some hardware choices and the software.


First of all, the pinter. The Adafruit nano printer, despite it's smaller than the regular one, it has a serial CTS pin. This means we can prevent the internal buffer overrun. However I still used the small windows program to increase the serial speed from 9600 bauds to 115200.

The little Sharp memory-LCD is perfectly visible on sunlight, and as the printer do, displays only black or white pixel. It needs a small SMD FFC-10P 0.5mm adapter and connector. It uses SPI but with an inverted logic for the chip select, that's why another GPIO is used.

I oversized the powering I suppose, but the printer can take quite a lot of current. Mainly because I recycled the parts, I used a 3A 5V regulator and a 2S lipo battery. For the moment I use a separate specialized balance charger.

The switch I had to turn it on and off has a little led inside. I reused it in place of the activity led of the raspberry pi zero. The on board led is de-soldered and rewired to the swith one.


This project is a good excuse to start learning Python (finally). It is more popular than Java and a lot of work is already done. The code I made so far, not really the most elegant and explain a bit later, is available on this Github. ( is the main for the moment) If you manage to re-build the same hardware, I've put a 2GB SDcard image for the raspberry-pi zero on dropbox here.

For the LCD, I'm not enough experienced in C/linux drivers to write a FBTFT module. Then I used the work done by wrobell and his Python library dedicated to the LS027B7DH01. That's why for the moment the screen refresh rate is limited to 8fps. The library allows to set directly a PIL image on the display. I was a bit puzzled about how to build the lib. autotools/autoconf is used and gave some errors at first.

For the printer, Adafruit made a nice library which can handle directly images. In my case I just had to adjust it a bit to let the hardware manage the CTS line and then remove the delays anticipating the buffer filling.

The raspberry pi serial has to be setup as well to manage the CTS line. Here mholling explained everything on his github repository. However the command lines have to be launched reach boot, then added to rc.local

The raspberry pi camera has its nice python library, which is really fast and expose a lot of settings. To avoid as much as possible the latency between the button press and the picture recording, I used two threads each using a splitter port.

The case

This time I tried to get something a bit better for the case. I spent a bit of time on the autodesk 123D design software and used the services. I'm quite happy with the result, and the hub was very fast.
The 123d file is on github as well: polapizero013.123dx

[to be continued]

  • Slit-scan Mode

    Muth02/13/2017 at 17:38 0 comments

    finally made some test about a slit-scan mode. If you don't know yet, it is worth to google-it. It is on version 0.8 and in the last SDcard image.

    For now I implemented 2 types scan. One where each vertical lines are recorded at around 20 per second:

    The pictures above are taken with this first mode, and the camera standing vertically. It's a king of very slow 'roling shutter' effect.

    Imagine the funny result you can achieve scanning a face slowly rotating ;)

    In the second scan mode, only the central vertical line is recorded and stacked to a image which can be the width you want. Be creative :)

    To launch these modes, while in 'liveview', use the button 'next' for the first mode and 'previous' for the second. Each mode can be interrupted with the trigger button.

  • Around 20 fps

    Muth02/13/2017 at 17:01 0 comments

    I figure out how to reach a better frame-rate on the LCD screen. On possibility I didn't tested is to grab the video frames frome the picamera library. I had doubt the RPi zero can transform fast enough the image but it's doing well at 20 fps. There some drops, but very acceptable, and the CPU is at about 40% and 0.7 Load av'.

    The code start video recoding :

        liveview = LiveView()
        camera.start_recording(liveview, format='yuv', resize=SCREEN_SIZE)
    and the class LiveView must implements write(self, string) :
    class LiveView(object):
        def __init__(self):
        def write(self, s):
            global lcd
            image = Image.frombuffer('L', (416, 240), s, "raw", 'L', 0, 1)
            image = image.crop((8, 0, SCREEN_WIDTH+8, SCREEN_HEIGHT))
            image = ImageOps.invert(image)
            image = image.convert('1')
        def flush(self):
            print('Stop LiveView') 

    The thing about the 416 pixel width instead of the 400 of our screen (and the needed crop) is due to the fact that the camera return a modulo 32 pixels dimension video frames.

    Sees v0.6 on github.

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  • 1

    Raspberry Pi Zero Setup

    At first, setup the Zero might be tedious. There is only one usb port. Google 'raspberry pi zero setup without monitor' and you'll find very nice tutorials.

    However if you want to just duplicate the polapi-zero, in order to setup the SD card, download the image from the project dropbox, and write it according the raspberry pi instructions:

    If you plan to access the raspberry pi with wifi and plugged an usb wifi adapter, once the image is written, you can access a FAT32 partition on the SDcard named /boot. On this partition you can add a file named wpa_supplicant.conf and put the network information inside:

    This file will be automatically copied in /etc/wpa_supplicant/ at boot time. If you download the polapi-zero image, you should find a file wpa_supplicant.conf.bak that you can duplicate.

    The image is just the official Raspian image, with a samba server running, SPI LCD driver setup, Serial CTS enable, etc... Login and password are the default one.

  • 2


    Probably the most delicate time is the beginning is to connect the Sharp LCD screen. I have found on ebay some adapter board for the small 10 pin ribbon cable, but I finally solder it myself. This kind of adapter board with this king of connector helps a lot.

    The printer receives data on a serial port, and by default the speed is slow. And there is a software way to change from 19200 bauds to 115200 thanks to this program: Link. As it is a windows program, and we need a USB to 5v TTL serial converter, such as this one. Power the printer, connect the gnd-Tx-Rx, and on the printer program set the right port, the previous speed (19200 in my case), the new speed (115200), code page US (it's the character-set ) and press SET.

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Enjoy this project?



racer993 wrote 02/10/2017 at 13:46 point

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Thomas Kremser wrote 02/09/2017 at 18:29 point

is it possible to use your with a RPI3 and a normal GPIO Display (Adafruit eg.)

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Muth wrote 02/10/2017 at 11:16 point


I tried first with a RPI3, but I didn't manage to make the hardware CTS working. I though I can then use a standard GPIO, and pause the serial data flux when the printer CTS rise. Unfortunately, the raspberry pi and/or the serial python lib have an output buffer as well. So when you stop transmitting in the python program, it actually continue to send few bytes, which overrun the printer buffer.

So as it is, the program wont work on RPI3. It is however possible to make one for RPI3, and use intact the adafruit thermal printer lib. Unfortunately, the printer will make some pauses, resulting in white verticale lines on the print.

Using a GPIO display is a well possible. You have then to remove the SPI LCD code part as the camera preview will be visible, and use a different strategy to show the images files. I'm not yet familiar with python libraries but you may be need the server X to show an image ?

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Simon Fitton Davies wrote 02/09/2017 at 10:00 point

Great project.

Can I ask what lens is shown in the pictures? It is not listed in the components.


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Muth wrote 02/10/2017 at 10:57 point

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