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I spy with my little Pi: Upgraded cameras for single board computer

Raspberry Pi Camera Module 3 adds autofocus and wider field of view

The Raspberry Pi has new cameras to capture images, attention, cash... and maybe your affection and/or admiration.

Raspboss Eben Upton on Monday announced the availability of Camera Module 3.

"The Camera Module was our very first official Raspberry Pi accessory," Upton wrote, noting that its 2013 launch produced "instant success" and led to a NoIR infrared-sensitive variant and then to 2016's 8MP Camera Module 2.

The Pi tribe shifted over two million units of the Camera Module 2.

"But time, and CMOS image sensor technology, marches on," Upton wrote.

Camera Module 3 therefore packs Sony's back-illuminated IMX708 sensor to offer 12MP of image capturing action with its 4,608 x 2,592 array of 1.40μm pixels.

This time around, buyers have four options. All include a new capability, powered autofocus, that can produce "crisp images of objects from around 5cm out to infinity," Upton wrote.

Here's the autofocus in action.

Youtube Video

The Camera Module 3 captures visible light and is available in a model with a standard 66° field of view (FoV) and another with a wide 102° horizontal FoV. Upton wrote that the sensor's "higher linear resolution translates directly into higher angular resolution, and a more detailed picture" in the standard FV models.

The wide FoV models "spread IMX708's higher linear resolution over a larger angle, yielding a slightly lower angular resolution than Camera Module 2, but enabling interesting new applications including digital panning."

The Camera Module 3 NoIR offers the same pair of FoV options, but can work with infrared light.

Upton rates high dynamic range (HDR) as "the most exciting feature of Camera Module 3" as it means the devices don't pick a single exposure time for the entire image, but instead take multiple simultaneous exposures with different exposure times.

"We can then select the exposure which best captures the detail in each region of the image, and apply a tone mapping process to compress the dynamic range of the result for display or storage," Upton explained. The resulting images have a lesser resolution, but Upton thinks they look better.

The standard FoV models cost $25 apiece. The wide view models cost $35.

The new cameras work with all rPi models other than the rPi 400 and the launch edition of the Pi Zero.

Board dimensions and mounting hole positions are identical to Camera Module 2, but changes to the size and position of the sensor module mean it won't fit in the camera lid for the Raspberry Pi Zero Case.

The Pi team has also launched a variant of the High Quality Camera with a native M12 mount at $50. "This eliminates the need for an adapter, and supports a much broader selection of lenses due to the increased back focus flexibility," Upton wrote. ®

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