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Raspberry Pi Foundation Announces Official Camera Board

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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New module lets users go Pi-eyed and capture HD pictures and video

On Wednesday evening, the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced the first official add-on to for the world’s favourite budget computer, Raspberry Pi – a five megapixel camera module.

The tiny gizmo is capable of capturing 1080p HD pictures and video, and is priced at $25, exactly as much as the recently released Model A.

The add-on is expected to appear on sale later this year.

Raspberry Pi-ctures

Raspberry Pi, created by the non-profit Raspberry Pi Foundation, is a basic computer that can be connected to a TV or monitor via HDMI. It can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, including office work, Internet browsing and high-definition video playback – all possible through a circuit board not much bigger than a credit card.

camerafrontThe device was designed primarily to get children interested in programming. In just 12 months since its launch, it has sold around a million units and amassed an enthusiastic following worldwide.

According to the Foundation’s marketing manager Liz Upton, the hardware of the camera module is final, but the software drivers still need some work.

The board itself measures 20x25x10mm, comes with a 15mm cable, and weighs “naff all”, in the words of JamesH, the man who was responsible for testing the module. It is capable of taking pictures and recording HD video at 15 to 60 frames per second.

The Pi camera (no official name yet) offers automatic control of exposure and white balance. It plugs directly into the mainboard GPU, which means its bandwidth is not limited by the USB interface.

More details are available on the manufacturer’s website: “OmniVision CMOS image sensors use proprietary sensor technology to improve image quality by reducing or eliminating common lighting/electrical sources of image contamination, such as fixed pattern noise and smearing.”

camerabackThe add-on could be used to create DIY baby monitors, security cameras, drones, robots and any other contraptions that require a visual feed.

A different camera module was tested by the Foundation as early as May, but it didn’t go on sale due to the large size and high cost of the 14MP sensor.

The camera is not the only gadget that was designed to extend the functionality of the Raspberry Pi. For example, the Gertboard, launched in August adds support for sensors, LEDs, motors, and other peripherals.

The release date for the camera hasn’t been announced yet, but Liz Upton said it was “at least a month away”.

Earlier this week, he Raspberry Pi Foundation launched an even cheaper version of its low-cost Linux machine. Called the ‘Model A’, the new board is priced at just $25 (£16), excluding tax and shipping. It has less RAM, no Ethernet and only one USB port. As a result, it is slightly smaller and consumes only a third of the power necessary to run the original ‘Model B’.

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