Setting up a Pi Zero W and Octocam

The Kit

A small camera in an octopus shaped acrylic stand
Pi Zero W and Octocam

I wanted to get a time-lapse camera setup to monitor my aquarium. The OctoCam – Pi Zero W Project Kit seemed like a good fit for the job. As the camera would be out in a high traffic place I didn’t want to be using breadboards or have to solder components that might be delicate to knocks.

The OctoCam kit has everything you’ll need, including a Pi Zero W, a super-small 5MP camera, a fun octopus acrylic mount with four suction cups, and a desk stand. It’ll take you around 30 minutes to put it all together…

The kit includes:

  • Pi Zero W
  • 5MP camera with built-in cable and circuitry
  • OctoCam acrylic mount, suction cups, desk stand
  • 50cm USB A to micro-B cable
  • USB A (female) to micro B (male) adaptor
  • Mini to full-size HDMI adaptor
  • Male 2×20 pin header
  • Sticker sheet
  • Comes in a reusable kit box

I ordered mine from Pimoroni and it cost £40. NB: it does not come with a power supply or micro SD card.

The physical setup was quite easy, although attaching the acrylic stand is a little fiddly. A good guide to putting the kit together can be found here.

Setting up the OS

I downloaded NOOBS (New Out Of the Box Software) Operating system onto a SD card.

It was a somple case of downloading the .zip file from the above link and extracting the contents straight onto the SD card, which was plugged in as a USB stick in my PC. If you need more help installing the OS, you can find it here.

I then placed the SD card into the Pi Zero W, attached a HDMI cable and a keyboard (no mouse) and then powered up the machine.

The OS automatically began the install. During the installation I was prompted to install Raspbian. I selected the menu item by pressing space and then ‘i’ to install.

Updating the OS

Once the Pi Zero W booted into Raspbian, I used the keyboard to navigate to Terminal. Hint: pressing the Windows key caused the Menu to open.

In order to get the Pi Zero W onto my wireless, I ran:

sudo raspi-config

I chose option “2 Network Options” and then chose the wifi option and entered the SSID (Network Name) and the wifi password.

Next up, I wanted to update Raspbian, by running:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

After this, I rebooted the Pi Zero W.

Setting up VNC on the Pi Zero W

VNC is remote viewer that will let me control Pi Zero W remotely from my main PC through its monitor, keyboard and mouse. This is far more convenient than directly plugging into the Pi Zero W, as it cannot support both a keyboard and mouse. To setup VNC, in Terminal I ran:

sudo raspi-config

I then chose “5 Interfacing Options” and then “P3 VNC”.

As I have two Raspberry Pi machines, I also changed the hostname of the Pi Zero W by choosing “2 Network Options” and then “N1 Hostname”.

Before I could VNC into the Pi Zero W, I had to know its IP address on my local network. So I ran:


The ip address of wlan0 adapter is the IP address I needed.

I downloaded VNC Viewer (not Server!) onto my main PC and then connected to the Pi Zero W by entering the ip address of the machine.

Unfortunately in headless mode (no monitor and peripherals) the Pi Zero W defaults to minimal resolution. I changed this by running:

sudo raspi-config

Then in “Advanced Options” and “Resolution”, I set the resolution of the Pi Zero W to the highest resolution, which my monitor supports.

Then I rebooted the machine.

Updating and Configuring the Octocam

Firstly I updated the camera firmware by running:

sudo rpi-update

This required a reboot after the Octocam firmware update.

Then I checked that I had the latest camera packages installed by running:

sudo apt-get install python-picamera python3-picamera

To get the camera to take a photo, in Terminal I ran:

raspistill -o cam.jpg

This took an image called cam.jpg and saved it in my user home directory.

Then using raspistill I played around with the configuration settings of the Octocam, using the above command (with different .jpg filenames) to compare the changes I was making.

These were the settings I needed up choosing:

raspistill -sh 100
raspistill -iso 800
raspistill -awb fluorescent
raspistill -br 20

You can see all the parameters available in raspistill by running the following command in Terminal, or you can view them here.