Title:
Weatherproofing Apparatus and Method for Cameras and Video Recorders
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
This application relates to the improvement to the current state-of-the-art for weatherproofing a camera or video recorder (or a cell phone having those functionalities). That allows an avid photographer to take their camera out into the rain and use all the controls through the skin, without the camera getting wet. (It is not submersion-proof, but for all practical purposes, it is waterproof) It features plug-in covers for gaps, plus any or all of the below: Double layer (with ultra thin layer on inside and/or also outside), Zip Lock features around the holes, Hot shoe drape over top of camera, or Finger Condom. Many other variations and extensions are also discussed in the specification and figures.



Inventors:
Law, David (Seattle, WA, US)
Esarey, Graeme (Seattle, WA, US)
Morgan, Ryan (Sammamish, WA, US)
Application Number:
11/772210
Publication Date:
10/09/2008
Filing Date:
06/30/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/316.2
International Classes:
B65D85/38
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHANG, FANG-CHI
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MEDLER FERRO WOODHOUSE & MILLS PLLC (McLean, VA, US)
Claims:
1. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder, wherein said skin cover comprises one or more access points and holes for one or more buttons, controls, displays, lens, tripod, battery access, media access, or knobs to control or use said camera or video recorder, wherein said skin cover comprises one or more seals or plugs, and wherein said skin cover covers said camera or video recorder.

2. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover comprises one or more localized water or rain diverters.

3. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover comprises one or more zip locks.

4. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover comprises one or more lips and grooves.

5. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover comprises one or more sliding seals.

6. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover comprises one or more thin flexible skin pieces.

7. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover comprises one or more overlapping drip guards.

8. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover comprises one or more lens shields, which are attached or screwed to said camera or video recorder, filter, or lens.

9. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover comprises one or more finger condoms or mini-gloves.

10. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 9, wherein said one or more finger condoms or mini-gloves are detachable, exchangeable, or replaceable.

11. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover comprises one or more overlapping rain covers.

12. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover comprises one or more flap covers or hinged skin pieces.

13. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover is weatherproof.

14. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover is waterproof.

15. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein the lens of said camera or video recorder is rotated by a user or a motor.

16. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover wraps around said camera or video recorder.

17. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein the flash of said camera or video recorder is pulled down or retracted.

18. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover comprises multiple layers.

19. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover is inflatable.

20. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover is made of or comprises one or more of the following materials or structures: plastic, elastic material, nylon, bubble-protection material, layered material, soft material, synthetic material, shock absorbent material, hard material, solid material, liquid-containing material, gas-containing material, pressurized-gas-containing material, balloon-type material, inflatable material, gel-type material, natural material, leather, water-proof material, oil-protected surface, paper, cardboard, stretchable material, elastic band network, net-shape material, magnetic material, metallic material, metallic chain, array of metallic rings, multi-dimensional structure, folded structure, hinges, hinged plates, hinged micro-plates, connected tiles, Lego-shaped material, brick-shaped material, ceramic tiles, stone tiles, artificial material tiles, glass tiles, transparent material, translucent material, reflective material, fluorescent material, metal-plated material, painted material, rug, woven material, bamboo, carpet material, wooden material, sticks, insulation material, water-cooling jacket, air-cooling jacket, heating-element jacket, insulation jacket, or any similar material, compound, chemical, or composite material.

21. A skin cover for a camera or video recorder as recited in claim 1, wherein said skin cover is attached to one or more of the following items: a picture frame, clock, notebook, calculator, solar cell array, battery, pen holder, pen, pencil, magnetic plate, magnetic decoration, light, LED, LCD, display, small TV, small radio, thermometer, pressure gauge, biometric sensor, thumb or fingerprint recognition module, combination lock, lock, Velcro, hook-and-loop, password entry input, small keyboard, input device, pointing device, speaker, microphone, small telephone set, keychain ring, hook, small video game, music player, downloading unit, wireless unit, communication unit, antenna, small computer, small web browser, recorder, or any electronic or mechanical device, apparatus, system, toy, decoration, or equipment.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is related to the following co-pending applications, with some common inventors, and same exact assignee: (The teaching of all the applications below are incorporated herein by reference.)

    • Also: CIP of the following case: U.S. application Ser. No. 11/695,625, filed Apr. 3, 2007.
    • U.S. application Ser. No. 11/696,740, filed Apr. 5, 2007.
    • U.S. application Ser. No. 11/695,624, filed Apr. 3, 2007.

BACKGROUND

The cameras or video recorders, especially expensive cameras, need protection against impact, heat, sun, dirt, moisture, and water. Thus, weatherproofing is very important feature on the cameras or video recorders. Some of the related prior art are listed here:

    • Sicher teaches an underwater video camera, U.S. Pat. No. 6,724,986: A submersible underwater housing for a waterproof video camera is adapted to hold the camera in either a vertical or a horizontal viewing position. The housing has a rudder to guide the camera when the camera is disposed in a moving body of water.
    • Shimamura, et al., U.S. Pat. No. 6,571,056, teaches a waterproof case for containing a camera includes a case body configured such that the camera is freely inserted therein and removed therefrom, and an optical system arranged as a part of the case body where a photographic lens of the camera faces. The optical system serves as a conversion lens for the photographic lens.
    • Uchiyama, U.S. Pat. No. 6,516,145, teaches a waterproof camera including a camera body having an actuation member that actuates an internal mechanism when pressed. A waterproof case is arranged to contain the camera body in a watertight fashion, with an opening arranged to face the actuation member and a stepped portion around the opening on an inside wall of the waterproof case. A resilient operation member having a button portion exposed to the outside through the opening has a mounting portion which fits on the stepped portion around the opening. The operation member can be resiliently deformed to press the actuation member when the button portion is depressed. A supporting member pushes the mounting portion against the stepped portion from inside the waterproof case, so as to secure the operation member. In one embodiment, the supporting member is fixed on the camera body.

However, none of the above teaches the features of the current application and invention, as described below.

SUMMARY

This invention relates to weatherproofing Camera Armor concept, our own product. This is an improvement to the current state-of-the-art. That allows an avid photographer to take their camera out into the rain and use all the controls through the skin, without the camera getting wet. (To the extent that it keeps the water away, it can be called waterproof, but it is not submerged-proof, for underwater operations.)

It features plug-in covers for gaps, plus any or all of the below:

    • a. Double layer (with ultra thin layer on inside and/ or also outside),
    • b. Zip Lock features around the holes,
    • c. Hot shoe drape over top of camera,
    • d. Finger Condom or finger cot.

To customize for one model, all of the access points and holes/plugs are predetermined. However, in another embodiment, to apply to 2 or more models, the access points and holes/plugs are usually more than needed, to get all the models covered. In addition, there are extra plugs or covers, to hide and cover the unused access points. To compensate for the different sizes, one uses an elastic material or stretchable material, or alternatively, uses the folded skin, or a skin sewed/stapled/attached to the elastic band.

As another embodiment, we are introducing an elastomeric skin, which covers the camera and provides protection against dirt and general wear-and-tear on the camera. The skin covers many, most, or all surfaces and replicates the existing camera buttons with elastomeric/rubber buttons, which the user can press on, to activate all the existing functions of the camera, without exposing the buttons to any dirt or moisture. The skin has both open and “open-able” areas, to allow the user access to functional areas on the camera or video recorder (in this example), e.g. to replace the battery or memory card.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows the basic cover which features accessible media holes and etc. It adds secondary plugs and covers for weatherproofing. There is a localized diverter, as shown in the Fig.

FIG. 2 shows the structure for the lens, so that the lens can be rotated. In one example, we have a rotating seal between lens and the body.

FIG. 3 shows, in one embodiment, separate rotating cover, with stationary camera cover underneath, along with a camera dial. It has a secondary piece, which can rotate with respect to the camera case, which allows the dial to be turned.

FIG. 4 shows the lens shield can attach to the filter screen threads on the front of the lens. In one embodiment, it has an extended rain-shield.

FIG. 5 shows finger condoms or mini-gloves, so that one can push the buttons or rotate the knob. In one embodiment, the mini-glove is a part of the whole skin, integrated.

FIG. 6 shows separate body water shield extends over body and out over lens. In one embodiment, the water shield covers the lens from rain.

FIG. 7 shows wrapping the camera in a waterproof layer. In one embodiment, opening on the sides, can be managed using rubber, string, band, or clamp, to shrink the opening, or close completely.

FIG. 8 shows a case where skin covering flash could expand to allow the flash be inverted. In one embodiment, it uses a thin flexible material covering pop-up flash.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 shows the basic cover which features accessible media holes and etc. It adds secondary plugs and covers for weatherproofing. There is a localized diverter, as shown in the Fig., that diverts the rain away from camera. There are plug seals that close off the openings against the water, scratch, and nature, in general. There are specific holes for specific functions and buttons, such as for flash, LCD, display, or knob. The zip-lock feature seals very well against moisture and water. One can use rubber (or in general term, elastomeric material) or hard plastic for the plugs.

For thumbwheel or dials, very soft material is used, that has more area than needed, to be able to rotate the knob underneath. However, as an option, the inside layer of skin has a material that sticks to other material very well, for a better grip and better rotational ability. Another option is the magnetic coupling, with one magnet inside, confined, secured, in-between, between layers, or attached to the skin, with the second magnet or coupled element inside/attached to the knob or camera.

The upgrade kit, optional, has a set of plugs for different sizes of plugs. It can be for media opening, battery opening, or general purpose.

FIG. 2 shows the structure for the lens, so that the lens can be rotated. In one example, we have a rotating seal between lens and the body. In one embodiment, we make the rotating seal close to lens body at the junction of body and lens. In one embodiment, there is a separate lens covering, using plastic, rubber, or fabric, for example. In one embodiment, it has a face seal. In one embodiment, it has a radial seal. In one embodiment, it has two lips, in a groove, with a small friction in the groove. In one embodiment, the sliding seal rotates at body to lens junction. In one embodiment, the whole cover is made of 2 or more parts, one or more move with respect to the rest, using the groove concept, mentioned above, as one mechanism, for example. In one embodiment, one part has a loose section/material, to be able to rotate within a large constraint, such as plus-minus-45 degrees rotation on each side. In one embodiment, one part has a rigid section/parts, such as pin in a groove or rail, to be able to rotate within a large constraint, such as plus-minus-45 degrees rotation on each side.

FIG. 3 shows, in one embodiment, separate rotating cover, with stationary camera cover underneath, along with a camera dial. It has a secondary piece, which can rotate with respect to the camera case, which allows the dial to be turned. In one embodiment, it has a local flex joint which allows the dial to be rotated, e.g. using elastomeric skin. In one embodiment, one uses stretchable, deformable (in general), or movable part, member, skin, or joint, so that it has a good grip and the knob can be turned, and it goes back to the original form, once it is released. In one embodiment, two magnets are coupled, or based on electromagnetic properties, using electricity/a switch to activate, and can have rigid surface/interface.

In one embodiment, it has a super-thin flexible skin. In one embodiment, it has different thicknesses on other parts. In one embodiment, it is 1 layer. In one embodiment, it has 2 layers or more. In one embodiment, it has 2 pieces or more. In one embodiment, it has only one piece. The wall thickness is designed for better grip or grab. In one embodiment, it is rotated, and then, goes back to its original shape.

FIG. 4 shows the lens shield can attach to the filter screen threads on the front of the lens. In one embodiment, it has an extended rain-shield. In one embodiment, it attaches to the filter. In one embodiment, it wraps around the lens. In one embodiment, it is not pre-formed. In one embodiment, it has an elastomeric or hard rain shield. In one embodiment, using elstomeric, the user can squeeze down to move the lens. In one embodiment, there are two parts: one stationary, and one moving with the lens. In one embodiment, the camera has a standard lens mount for each body.

In one embodiment, it has an overlapping drip guard, to stop the water. It is not a seal, but it can overlap and guard efficiently, against the water.

FIG. 5 shows finger condoms or mini-gloves, so that one can push the buttons or rotate the knob. In one embodiment, the mini-glove is a part of the whole skin, integrated. In one embodiment, it is attached, so in the case of a tear, it can be replaced and re-attached.

In one embodiment, the water flaps cover openings. In one embodiment, the flaps could be removed or pulled away or out. In one embodiment, the rest of the cover is permanent. In one embodiment, the skin looks like a shingles on the roof, or fish's scales, in which one layer partially covering previous layer, but the whole arrangement can be loose, or attached/rigid. In one embodiment, one uses flexible membrane for the finger condom.

In one embodiment, one uses a rain cover overlapping main cover. The corners can be protected against pressure or force, by bubble, foam, soft material, air pocket, liquid pocket, or pressurized air pocket.

The advantages are: less expensive, accessible controls, lighter, less bulky, easier to carry, more often to carry, protected, more application/usage per camera, or minimal interference.

FIG. 6 shows separate body water shield extends over body and out over lens. In one embodiment, the water shield covers the lens from rain. The water is guided out, away from the gap, in the direction that funnels out, to the ground, away from camera. In one embodiment, the lens and/or the shield can rotate. In one embodiment, it can be positioned on hot shoe, for the flash assembly, on top of the camera, for example, for SLR cameras. In one embodiment, the overlapping covers guide the moisture away from the camera. In one embodiment, the elastomeric band stretches over a range of lens sizes. In one embodiment, the cover is oily or water resistant.

In general, whatever we mentioned above, or below, can be applied to the video cameras, as well.

FIG. 7 shows wrapping the camera in a waterproof layer. In one embodiment, opening on the sides, can be managed using rubber, string, band, or clamp, to shrink the opening, or close completely. In one embodiment, as long as the sides are extended long enough, one size will fit all, and it has good protection against water. In one embodiment, the wrapping around is done once or one turn. In one embodiment, it is done more than 1 turn. In one embodiment, it is done a fraction of a turn, locating on the top of the camera, only.

In one embodiment, it uses a rubber sheet. (In general, one can use elastomeric material, for any mention of rubber, anywhere in this disclosure, to make it more general.) In one embodiment, it attaches or anchors/hooks on a tripod mount on camera bottom. In one embodiment, the wrap leaves the access room/space from the sides. In one embodiment, it leaves a hole for the lens. In one embodiment, the sides can be pinned, zipped, or clamped, if needed.

FIG. 8 shows a case where skin covering flash could expand to allow the flash to be deployed. In one embodiment, it uses a thin flexible material covering pop-up flash. In one embodiment, two thicknesses of skin are used to allow knob rotation. In one embodiment, the retracted flash occupies less space, and the expandable skin adjusts for that. In one embodiment, the flap is covering like an umbrella, and then it can be opened upward, on a hinge/rotational motion, around a connection point to the skin. In one embodiment, the skin is so smooth that water beads off of it, and moves away from the camera.

In one embodiment, one can add a belt clip to the camera skin, so that it could be worn on the belt. Also, the skin itself (without any additional parts) can be wrapped over a belt, so that it can be worn by a user on his belt. Also, the skin can be attached to the belt, pants, skirt, shirt, or purse, with a string, tether, band, belt, or chain, through the skin, on the skin, in-between the skin (e.g. a pocket), or inside the skin.

In one embodiment, one can add different designs, text, and patterns inside or outside of the skin, for decoration, advertisement, instructions, or convenience of the user.

In one embodiment, the skin for SLR cameras is secured this way: remove the lens assembly, put the skin on, and re-attach the lens assembly. This way, the lens assembly prevents the skin from falling or slipping off the camera (keep the skin in position). In one embodiment, this consists of 2 pieces.

In one embodiment, the LCD protector (skin) has 2 pieces. It can have a protective membrane over LCD (or used for clear lens). The skin is made of rubber, stretchable, soft, and elastic, stretching over a form and conforming to a shape.

In one embodiment, the LCD protector (skin) has 3 pieces: (1) LCD shield, protected by hard clear plastic, (2) main skin for the body of camera, holding LCD shield in place, and (3) Lens Shield Armor, circular shape, positioned over the lens.

In one embodiment, the LCD protector (skin) has only 1 piece.

The LCD cover or lens cover can be made of transparent, translucent, reflective, clear, or semi-clear material. In one embodiment, the cover is a film which sticks to the surfaces by static force (or low adhesive surface or “vinyl magnet”). In one embodiment, to access the buttons, either they are directly exposed to the user, or they are protected by a specific part of the skin (usually a thin, flexible, clear, and visible piece of skin). In one embodiment, the skin comprises multiple flaps, which can be pulled back, to let the user access different parts of the camera.

In one embodiment, the lens assembly is also protected, with the same piece of skin, or with an extra piece of skin or cover, which may or may not get attached to the rest of the skin or camera. In one embodiment, the lens protector covers just the lens. In one embodiment, the lens protector covers the shaft of the lens assembly, plus the front of the lens. Normally, this requires flexible material, to be able to fit multiple types of lenses, with different shapes and sizes.

In one embodiment, the skin is made of one or more of the following materials or structures: plastic, elastic material, nylon, bubble-protection material, layered material, soft material, synthetic material, shock absorbent material, hard material, solid material, liquid-containing material, gas-containing material, pressurized-gas-containing material, balloon-type material, inflatable material, gel-type material, natural material, leather, water-proof material, oil-protected surface, paper, cardboard, stretchable material, elastic band network, net-shape material, magnetic material, metallic material, metallic chain, array of metallic rings, multi-dimensional structure, folded structure, hinges, hinged plates, hinged micro-plates, connected tiles, Lego-shaped material, brick-shaped material, ceramic tiles, stone tiles, artificial material tiles, glass tiles, transparent material, translucent material, reflective material, fluorescent material, metal-plated material, painted material, rug, woven material, bamboo, carpet material, wooden material, sticks, insulation material, water-cooling jacket, air-cooling jacket, heating-element jacket, insulation jacket, or any similar, compound, chemical, or composite material.

In one embodiment, the skin includes (in, attached to, or on it) one or more of the following items: a picture frame, clock, notebook, calculator, solar cell array, battery, pen holder, pen, pencil, magnetic plate, magnetic decoration, light, LED, LCD, display, small TV, small radio, thermometer, pressure gauge, biometric sensor, thumb/fingerprint recognition module, combination lock, lock, Velcro, hook-and-loop, password entry input, small keyboard, input device, pointing device, speaker, microphone, small telephone set, keychain ring, hook (for hanging the unit), small video game, music player, downloading unit (from Internet or satellite), wireless unit, communication unit, antenna, small computer, small web browser, recorder, or any other electronic or mechanical device, apparatus, system, toy, decoration, or equipment.

Inflatable Skin Cover, as an Embodiment, to Fit (Almost) Any Size Camera

In one embodiment, the skin cover comprises multiple layers. In one embodiment, the skin cover is inflatable. In one embodiment, the skin cover is inflated using one or more of the following, or combination or mixture of the following: gas, liquid, solid, dust, gel-type, liquidated-solid, pressurized fluid, water-absorbent sponge, sponge-type material, or any expandable solid, liquid, fluid, chemical, gas, or material, caused by chemical reaction, heat, temperature variation, catalyst, chain reaction, exceeding critical mass, seed material, mixing, or pressure.

In one embodiment, the size or shape of said skin cover is adjusted based on the size, model, or type of the camera. In one embodiment, the inflation is adjusted based on the size, model, or type of the camera. In one embodiment, the size or shape of said skin cover is adjusted by one or more of the following, or a combination of the following: a user, a computer, feedback from one or more sensors, feedback module, pressure gauges at different points, data about the model number or type of said camera, data about the dimensions or weight of said camera, fuzzy logic system, a training module, or a neural network module. In one embodiment, the skin cover has multiple parts or chambers, each of which can be optimized, or inflated separately, or in concert, with respect to each other.

In one embodiment, a database holds all the information about specific cameras, to inflate the components or parts accordingly, to fit the camera. The more individual chamber or parts we have (smaller chambers), the easier one can make it fit to the shape of a specific camera. The chambers can be connected together, or can be individually inflated, independent of each other.

This embodiment is useful for semi-custom-made or generic skin cover, to act or behave as a custom-made skin cover (fit perfectly with the camera).

Any other variation of the above teaching is also meant to be protected by the current patent.