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Adventures in Tinkering

Lumix GF1 Power Supply

The following page is a guide on how to make your own power supply for a Panasonic Lumix GF1 micro four thirds camera. What is really convenient about micro four thirds, is that you can get a decent quality image out of a camera significantly smaller than a DSLR. However, as with any new "form factor" comes proprietary adapters and silliness, where the manufactures just try to milk their consumers of their hard earned money. By forcing consumers to buy adapters that only the manufacturer can produce, they can essentially create a monopoly for the device/peripheral. That doesn't sit too well with me, so I am going to make a power adapter for the camera as cheap as possible without having to buy any Panasonic related accessory or peripheral.

To get around paying $40 for a Panasonic certified power adapter (link here: AC_power_adapter_coupler_link) well, when I was looking for it, it was $40, but anyway.... I went ahead and purchased the cheapest battery for the Panasonic GF1 I could find. Yes, of course it wasn't no Panasonic branded battery. (link here: cheap_battery) In the end, it cost me about $10 for a battery and nothing more. Paying 1/4 of the cost of the actual product is a happy medium for me.

The one thing which is very nice about Panasonic's GF1 is the fact that the AC battery charger has the power supply for the camera built into it. What makes the Panasonic power adapter method proprietary is that there is no DC jack on the camera to allow a power adapter. Instead, it has to plug directly into the battery compartment, and take the place of the battery.

So all that $40 is paying for is a hollow dummy battery shell with 4 leads. Thats it. Nothing else. The battery charger has a standard 1/8 in DC jack on the back of it, and it outputs the lovely 8.4 volts DC the camera needs to remain functioning properly. So all you need to do is make your own dummy adapter and not spend $40 doing so.

The next step entailed finding a 1/8in power jack. I have an awful lot of DC power jacks which vary ever so slightly, so it took a while before I found the appropriate fitting male adapter.

I didn't want to just stick to the Panasonic design though. I wanted to be able to leave the battery dummy in the camera if I'm having a long exposure shoot day. So I wired up another connector on the dummy power adapter so I can easily remove the power source and pack everything away without having to reinstall the dummy adapter again. For this, I used a good ol' legacy RCA connection cable. Works like a charm.

With the DC jack wired to the RCA connection cable, I decided to focus next on the most important part of the project: the dummy battery power adapter.

Because it was absolutely killing me that i was going to destroy a perfectly working battery, I decided to charge it up and use it for one cycle to give myself some comfort. I hate tearing apart perfectly working items to use for another purpose. I'd rather just use a broken one to take apart instead. Too bad there were no dead GF1 batteries available at the time of this project...believe me, I looked around all the photo forums I could.

After draining the battery until the camera could no longer turn on, I delicately took a miniature flat head screw driver and pried my way around the battery to take it apart. It took a considerable amount of patience, but it was definitely worth it in the long run. You may say, why not heat gun the battery shell apart? Because that is a terrible idea and overheating battery cells could cause electrical failure, rupture or unwanted melting of the outer shell. Since I knew the inner battery cells worked fine, I wanted to keep them intact and undamaged, so I can install them in a dead battery when it comes time. Thus heat-gunning the battery was way of the of the question.

Once I got the lid of the battery off, I took out all of the electrical components and analyzed them. I took a picture of the leads and how the battery was assembled, and cut the wires from the battery cells. The battery leads did accidentally touch once I put it down on my wooden table, and sure enough it sparked significantly. So be very careful. A drained battery isn't really a drained battery unless you drain it yourself. I attached an LED to the leads and watched the battery lose power. I then electrical taped it up for future use.

With the battery cells out, all I had left to do now was wire the power input to the input where the cells used to be. I was considering removing the battery circuit, however It seemed impossible to solder to the physical battery leads without damaging them and making them too skewed for use. Not only that, but the battery circuit was probably necessary so the camera could "detect" that there is a battery installed and not shut off because it was not a Panasonic branded battery,

To make my life a lot easier, I just soldered to the battery PCB and hot glued in the wires so they wouldn't come out.

I wanted to make the dummy battery adapter look as professional as I could, so I took an X-ACTO knife to the side of the battery case and made an incision for the RCA power cable. I took the appropriate measurements to line up the RCA cable with the cable slot in the bottom of the GF1 in the battery compartment.

I thought that was it, and closed up the dummy battery to test it, believing it would work on first try. But guess what! It didn't. Befoogled, I pushed the battery shell in the slot some more and sure enough, the camera turned on. So Panasonic's battery design isn't very robust after all, oh well, time for a quick fix: Popsicle sticks and clothes pins! Not only are Popsicle sticks and clothespins readily available, but they cost practically nothing. You want to have an ice pop? Bam, you now can make a battery shell structurally sound with the use of an X-ACTO knife and some hot glue.

I tested out the new battery shell, because it seemed really close to being finished, but again it didn't work. I pushed it in, and again the camera turned on. Well, here's why it didn't work: cross bracing. I needed a wooden brace that wold run directly behind the pins of the battery to add extra support. once I cut a piece of Popsicle stick and hot glued it in, I retested it. sure enough, it worked!

However, I wasn't the smartest in buttoning the battery up every time I thought I had it done right, thus I had to take out a heat gun and melt off the lid from the massive amount of hot glue that was in the battery shell. unfortunately, the lid became quite deformed from heat gunning it three times, but I still managed to mold it back into shape by pressing a dowel against it on a flat surface while applying a bit of heat.

All in all, this project wasn't all that difficult. It could have been a lot easier if I hadn't thought it was going to be such a joke of a build, and carelessly button up the battery every trial test. However, I did save a bunch of money by not buying the Panasonic adapter, and essentially made a better product than that was sold on the market, for a measly $10. I hope you enjoyed this build!