Experimenting with the Particle Photon Board

As an amateur photographer with a proclivity for electronics, I like to experiment with hooking my trusty SONY NEX-3N to electronic DIY contraptions. Usually, my projects are based around Arduino and Raspberry Pi, but I never pass up the chance to try something different.

So when I stumbled upon the Particle Photon Wi-Fi dev kit, I thought it would make a perfect board for my experiments. And since the board costs a paltry 19 USD, I ordered one right away. The price is not Photon’s only attraction, though. The board is tiny and can be plugged into a regular breadboard for more convenient prototyping. As the name suggests, Photon has an on-board Wi-Fi module, and the accompanying Android and iOS app makes it supremely easy to connect the Photon board to a wireless network. The Build web-based development environment can be used to write and compile Photon programs, and then flash them on to the board over-the-air. Photon’s programming language is very similar to Arduino’s, so existing Arduino sketches can be easily ported to Photon. The Dashboard interface makes it possible to visualize data published by the Photon board. Furthermore, the Particle platform provides a RESTful API that can be used to access and control the Photon board using HTTP requests. On top of that, Photon is released as open hardware. In short, there are plenty of reasons to like this tiny board.

To master Photon’s basics, I built a simple transistor-based shutter release for the SONY NEX-3N camera (it can be easily adapted for other cameras, too) that can be controlled via the web and the command line. This project deserves a separate article, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, you can grab the project’s code and files from GitHub.

Tech writer covering Linux and open source software

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