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29 May 2013
The Raspberry Pi computer includes a connector designed for a camera module to connect to. The camera is now available, although due to popular demand there is limited availability at the moment. I was up early on the day the camera went on sale to ensure that I was able to get hold of one.
The camera is a tiny 5 megapixel camera mounted on a small circuit board. It is similar to the camera used in mobile phones. It has a fixed focus lens.
The small size can be an advantage if used in a small space, or a slight disadvantage as it's difficult to hold still. The main advantage of this camera over a USB webcam is that it is able to make use of the graphics processing capability of the Broadcom CPU. This bypasses the USB interface and is much better than having to use the normal processor.
I've now had an opportunity to put the camera to use taking a photograph for the Element 14 Raspberry Pi camera module competition. In this case it's a photo of the Raspberry Pi interactive model bee project that I made with my children. I have placed some flowers around the project to compliment the project and to provide some additional contrast to show the camera capability off.
As you can see from the photo below the setup required to take the photo was not quite as convenient as a normal camera, due to the long extension lead, monitor and keyboard. Of course in a project the camera could be automated to record direct to the SD card or perhaps using wifi to send the images to another computer.
I did have a couple of problems with the camera. The first was getting the ribbon cable installed correctly on the Raspberry Pi connector. It's a little fiddly to connect, and it took 3 attempts to get right. In all the previous atempts the camera looked to be connected correctly, but wasn't recognised. Once connected stayed in place quite firmly. There are instructions on using the camera and a video on connecting it to the Pi on the Raspberry Pi website.
The other problem is holding the camera still which can be awkward with such a small camera.
There is some software made available to allow capturing images and video. It doesn't appear to work with most other software as most software is looking for a usb camera, but it may be possible to get it working in future, which is a big advantage of open source software.
I was very pleased with the quality of the photo. I shouldn't really have been surprised as this is the same quality as you'd expect from a 5megapixel mobile phone camera, but due to the low cost and size I was definitely pleased with the results. I'm sure there are goingto be lots of great projects in the future using this camera.
Finally here's a link to my Raspberry Pi camera module competition entry - fingers crossed!