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Official Raspberry Pi Camera Gets Upgraded 8MP Sony Sensor

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Component shortages mean an enforced upgrade for Raspberry Pi Camera V2, but it still costs the same, providing a boost for IoT projects

The official camera module for the Raspberry Pi has been upgraded from five to eight megapixels and is on sale now.

It is expected to improve the performance of existing video and imaging based projects while opening up possibilities for new uses, possibly involving the Internet of Things (IoT).

The Pi Camera V2 and Pi Camera NoIR V2 – which dispenses with an infa-red filter for low  light applications, have the same $25 price tag as their predecessors, and are backwards compatible. This means that so long as a Raspberry Pi is using the most up to date version of the Raspian OS, it can be interchanged with the older model.

The next generation module can take photos up to a 3,280 x 2,464 resolution, and can shoot 1080p video at 30fps, 720p at 60fps and 480p video at 90fps for slow motion.

Raspberry Pi Camera V2

Raspberry Pi Camera 5The original Pi Camera, and a non-infra red version, was released in 2013 and has been used for telescopes, kites and science lessons among other things, but the sensor used to power it has been discontinued. This led the Raspberry Pi Foundation to source a new sensor from Sony which allowed for the upgrade.

“The OmniVision OV5647 sensor used in both boards was end-of-lifed at the end of 2014. Our partners both bought up large stockpiles, but these are now almost completely depleted, so we needed to do something new,” explained Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton.

“Fortunately, we’d already struck up conversation with Sony’s image sensor division, and so in the nick of time we’re able to announce the immediate availability of both visible-light and infrared cameras based on the Sony IMX219 8-megapixel sensor, at the same low price of $25.

“In our testing, IMX219 has proven to be a fantastic choice. You can read all the gory details about IMX219 and the Exmor R back-illuminated sensor architecture on Sony’s website, but suffice to say this is more than just a resolution upgrade: it’s a leap forward in image quality, colour fidelity and low-light performance.”

Raspberry Pi Camera 2

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The most significant problem with this change in supplier was how the module interacted with Broadcom’s VideoCore low-power multimedia processor architecture, which convers raw RGB format images and corrects them for deficiencies such as noise, defective pixels and distortion.

Tuning this architecture to work with a new sensor is time consuming, so Naush Patuck, formerly of Broadcom’s imaging team, volunteered to resolve any problems.

The Raspberry Pi 3 was released on the fourth anniversary of the launch of the original device, adding integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a more powerful processor. So far, eight million units have been sold to educational institutions, hobbyists and businesses. It is hoped the additional connectivity will boost the popularity of the computer for IoT applications.

A range of official and unofficial accessories, such as cases, screens and hard drives, have been released since the original Raspberry Pi debuted in 2012.

What do you know about the Raspberry Pi?