Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera 12MP: 5 Things to Know Before You Buy
The Raspberry Pi Foundation surprised the community with its release of the 12MP Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera at the end of April. It’s a new game-changer for the Raspberry Pi cameras, but may also be too new to buy with full confidence for the uncertainties. We may finally get to know it as more makers get their hands on it, but Arducam wants to give a quick response to the questions and concerns about this brand-new camera module we’ve recently received. Here is the Top 5.
- NoIR version and IR sensitivity issues
- Why 3MP lens on 12MP camera
- Use RPi High Quality Camera on Jetson Nano
- Does it support HDR, 1080P 60fps and 4K video
- How to use M12 lenses on the HQ Camera
Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera NoIR – Is there an easy way out?
This HQ camera comes with an IR cut-off filter to block the infrared and “ensure the outdoor photos look more natural.” A common board-level camera depends on the lens for the IR sensitivity, more specifically, on the IR filter at the bottom of the lens. However, the IR filter of the RPi HQ camera is glued to the lens holder, or in the official term, on the “main housing.” That assembly is similar to our camera modules with switchable IR-cut filters, except that it’s not switchable.
Therefore, there are possibly 2 ways to alter the IR sensitivity of the HQ camera module – you can change the lens holder (main housing) as a whole, or remove the filter by following the official guidance. Either way, it does not seem like an ideal solution, and here is why:
Firstly, if you want to take off the original housing and replace that with a new lens holder, you need to make sure that you can fix it to the camera board by screwing bolts into the mounting hole. However, it seems like the HQ camera adopts a customized standard with a hole spacing of around 24-25mm, which means it’s highly possible that there are no ready-to-use replacements on the market. It’s feasible to 3D-print a lens holder but could be much less robust.
Secondly, If you plan to do it the official way and manually remove the filter glued to the main housing, you may void the warranty and expose the image sensor to dust. Another side-effect we’ve found is when you take the main housing off to remove the filter, you may move it a little bit so the main housing will no longer be strictly centered as a lens holder.
To conclude, there is no out-of-box experience for NoIR applications like the V1/V2 cameras offer. You will have to wait for the 3-party manufacturers to build customized HQ NoIR cameras if you want an easy way out.
12MP high-quality camera module with 3MP CS-Mount lens
The lower-end lens recommended for the HQ camera has a 3MP mark on the top, which has raised lots of controversy among the community. However, that is an unavoidable concession for the balance.
We can pretty much say that no manufacturer will ever be willing to produce a CS-Mount lens exclusively for the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera. After all, it’s such a trivial part when you consider how massive the whole video surveillance market is. Even if a manufacturer targets this exclusive segment, the price of the final product will be absurdly high. That price will put it in an awkward place where it’s too expensive for the Raspberry Pi ecosystem and less popular than the other compatible lenses, so the whole idea is just not feasible.
Therefore, the best way for the HQ camera to accommodate a cost-effective CS-Mount lens is to borrow from other fields, more precisely, the CCTV lenses for video surveillance. In that field, a higher-resolution lens does not make a huge difference, because most videos recorded for surveillance are 720P, 1080P, and 2K, respectively 1MP, 2MP, and 3MP. You see, the 3MP mark means it’s designed for a camera that supports up to 2k video recording, and that’s pretty decent in this way.
On the other hand, the 3MP mark on the lens never means it will output the same 3MP picture quality for different image sensors. You can still get a better picture quality on the same lens with a higher-resolution camera. I’m pretty confident to say that because we’ve covered a full product series of 0.3MP to 18MP MIPI cameras for the Raspberry Pi, and we are pretty sure that the lens is not a huge handicap for most Raspberry Pi compatible cameras.
In short, although some may think that there’s no point selling a lens marked 3MP for a 12MP camera, but I think most will not accept a $500 12MP C/CS camera lens for a $50 camera module.
Using the Raspberry Pi HQ camera on the Jetson Nano
The Jetson Nano is released with the native support of Raspberry Pi Camera V2, so some people assume that the latest HQ camera may also work with the Nano. Can it? Well, the simple answer is that it can’t, and the fancier answer is that it’s happening.
If we think in a simple way, you cannot use the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera with the Jetson Nano, and the reason is simple – there are no drivers! We’re pretty sure that it’s impossible for the Raspberry Pi Foundation to build drivers for the Jetson nano community, because why would they?
On the other side, the NVIDIA embedded group does not seem likely to build the driver either, because they’ve pretty much left all the camera works to the “Jetson Camera Partners” who build their own products, and the camera driver of a new Raspberry Pi camera isn’t really their focus for this AI platform.
Here is the interesting part: Arducam is confident to bring the Raspberry Pi HQ camera to the Jetson Nano, and we’ve already made it possible to acquire RAW data from the HQ camera on the Jetson Nano. Thanks to the Arducam USB camera shields, a camera development tool that facilitates rapid camera evaluation and prototyping, we’ve managed to get an image from the HQ camera with the Jetson Nano and Windows PCs on the first day we’ve received it.
In the near future, Arducam will also bring the IMX477 to our Project Jetvariety, which aims to rapidly expand the Jetson Nano camera variety with our one kernel camera driver for all.
Unable to make the most of Sony IMX477 with HDR and 4K video
HDR is one of the highlight features for IMX477, it uses DOL-HDR which called “Digital Overlay High Dynamic Range” technology. When DOL-HDR mode is enabled the IMX477 can output different exposure frames within an HDR frame cycle. For example, in DOL-HDR 2 frames mode the two differently exposed frames are overlapped in the line-by-line pattern, the same line but with different exposure time. It allows the backend ISP to merge these two frames into a higher contrast image and make the HDR image looks more like what the human eyes see.
Unfortunately, the Raspberry Pi VideoCore IV GPU core’s ISP was designed many years ago and there are no big improvements in the past few years, it is sad to find that it doesn’t support HDR feature. For the same reason, the H.264 encoder only supports [email protected] which is a little bit outdated compared to the mainstream H.265 [email protected]
Looking forward to the new generation Broadcom GPU to support these new features in the near future.
Use a smaller M12 lens on RPi HQ camera for applications like drones
We’ve heard many complaints from drone users that the CS or C mount lens will be too bulky for their applications, and they want a smaller lens, preferably m12 lenses as they’ve used before with Arducam IMX219 series.
For now, the best solution is a CS-mount to M12 mount adapter, which will at least allow you to accommodate an M12 lens on the HQ camera module. Arducam happens to sell those adapters so we’ve tested them with many of our M12 lenses. The followings are some of our suggestions if you want to use M12 lenses on the IMX477.
Even if you’ve successfully mounted the m12 lens on the HQ camera, it does not mean it will work without issues. The smaller M12 cameras offer a smaller lens optical format, which could be insufficient to cover the whole image sensor area, leading to dark unexposed pixels around the corners. If you are not clear about this, learn from this page about how should the lenses and sensors match.
Therefore, we’ve been selecting and testing M12 lenses for several days to sort out the best M12 lenses for the HQ camera with different focal lengths, so our users will not have to worry about the compatibility. However, if you want an even smaller housing and a more native mount, the answer is still to wait for third party customized board.
Is there anything you want to know or want Arducam to do about the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera? Leave a comment below.