Machine Design

Inventor's Corner: Rig positions cameras for spectacular shots

The Longshot Camera System from Jim Polster of Longshot LLC, Cleveland, Ohio, holds any compact, pocket, or point-and-shoot camera and puts it up to 21 ft away in any direction. The photographer then gently pulls on the accompanying retractable-reel line, triggering the camera to take a picture. The basic model, called the Pole-ster, features a telescoping pole, mount, angle adapter, cord reel, and trigger.

According to Polster, both amateur and professional photographers can use the device to take aerials, nature shots, and “amazing-event” scenes that cannot be easily obtained any other way. For example, structural engineers can use the rig to inspect bridges, culverts, and buildings, as well as for failure-analysis documentation. Governmental agencies already employ the Pole-ster to check bridges, waterworks, and sewer-treatment infrastructures, as well as in law-enforcement forensics. Roofing and gutter-leaf-protection contractors find the Pole-ster useful in boosting sales and reducing errors with real-world images. The device lets home inspectors document crawl space, attic, and roof areas that are difficult or dangerous to access. The Pole-ster also eliminates many of the problems associated with inspecting small or confined spaces or climbing onto tall ladders. (Ladder accidents injure more than 220,000 people annually in the U. S. alone, says Polster.)

The heart of the device is the patented spring-loaded trigger (U. S. patent # 8,002480) which can be configured to fit any camera due to its X, Y, Z-axis adjustment. Today’s digital cameras almost universally have an auto-focus feature that works with a “half-press” of the shutter button. The Pole-ster trigger provides enough tactile feel to let photographers use the auto focus.

In addition, the Longshot Camera System includes an angle adapter to change the orientation of the camera in relation to the pole, and there are a variety of adjustable-length poles. The device can also be purchased without a pole. Instead, photographers can use a universal mount in the kit that adapts to almost any painter or extension pole’s Acme thread to a ¼-20 male thread — the size of the female tripod mounting hole on the bottom of all cameras. An optional laser guide helps orient and aim the camera, and an optional set of wheels helps control stability when the pole is used horizontally.

According to Polster, other pole-camera systems are available, but they are clunky, difficult-to-operate, and cost thousands of dollars. In contrast, the Longshot systems are priced at $149 to $249, depending on the pole.

Polster made a working model and proof-of-concept out of an erector set and a roof rake. After trying it out, he discovered various problems with using a camera at the end of a long pole. Lacking funds to have molds made and committed to keeping manufacturing costs low, he adapted or designed the parts of each component to use readily available or easily fabricated domestically machined or formed pieces. Polster used hand and basic shop tools including drill presses and sanders to make several prototypes. This was a process of trial, error, and refinement until all components performed well together.

Reach Jim Polster at (800) 546-8930 or visit

© 2011 Penton Media, Inc.

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