New Part Day: Raspberry Pi Camera Gets Serious With 12 Megapixels & Proper Lenses

The Raspberry Pi Foundation have slipped out a new product, a $50 camera module with a larger sensor that increases the resolution from the 8 megapixels of its predecessor to a Sony IMX477R stacked, back-illuminated 12.3 megapixel sensor, and most interestingly adds a mounting ring for a C mount lens (the kind used with CCTV equipment) in place of the tiny fixed focus lenses of past Pi cameras. In addition there is a standard threaded tripod mount on the module, and an adapter ring for CS mount lens types. The camera cannot be used without a lens, but there are a few options available when ordering, like 16mm telephoto or 6mm wide angle lenses, if you do not already have a suitable lens on hand.

It’s an exciting move for photography experimenters, because for the first time it offers an affordable way into building custom cameras with both a higher quality sensor and a comprehensive selection of interchangeable lenses. We can imagine that the astronomers and microscopists among us will be enthusiastic about this development, as will those building automated wildlife cameras. For us though the excitement comes in the prospect of building decent quality cameras with custom form factors that break away from the conventional, because aside from a period when consumer digital cameras were in their infancy they have stuck rigidly to the same form factor dictated by a 35mm film canister. It’s clear that this module will be made into many different projects, and we are looking forward to featuring them.

At the time of writing the camera is sold out from all the usual suppliers, which follows the trend for Raspberry Pi products on their launch day. We didn’t manage to snag one, but perhaps with such an expensive module it’s best to step back for a moment and consider the project it will become part of rather than risking it joining the unfinished pile. While waiting for stock then perhaps the next best thing is to 3D print a C mount adapter for your existing Pi camera, or maybe even hook it up to a full-sized SLR lens.

39 thoughts on “New Part Day: Raspberry Pi Camera Gets Serious With 12 Megapixels & Proper Lenses

  1. The funny part is people who are into digital photography know that more megapixels in a small-ish sensor isn’t a huge selling point, and worse it can sometimes be a hindrance. You have less photons being dropped into the “bucket” of a single pixel so you might get more noise across the image overall.

    This may very well be an upgraded sensor, but the idea that it’s because of “more megapixels” is eternally weird to me.

    That said, the c-mount is a nice touch! Lots of interesting c-mount lenses available for cheap!

    1. I tend toward the view that 6 megapixel was the high water mark for most practical purposes and everything after is like audiophiles arguing what metal makes the electrons taste better.

  2. I might use one of these with some sort of outdoor case and a solid mount to try to shoot an analemma time lapse video.

    The hard part is that the camera has to not move for a whole year.

        1. One reason I havn’t tried it. Like in last November we had 3 weeks with 14 seconds of sunlight. Most days you couldnt even see where the sun where. Just grey. Got a little better in december and start of January. Got a few days in a row with sunlight.

  3. Nifty! C-mount is common for CCTV, but perhaps more interesting if the sensor is the right size, Macro-Switar lenses made for Bolex and other 16mm movie cameras can be found in pawn shops and other places that might have old Bolex’s that no one will buy. In particular, the 10mm will focus down to 1:1 image:object.

    I have a couple from an 8mm (Dual 8) Bolex and the image size looks to be more suited to the new camera. I bet they are cheaper. The Macro-Switar lenses for 16mm cameras are rather coveted.

    1. The problem with old, film camera lenses is that they were designed for 0.020 mm pixels, the film “grain” size so they are very fuzzy on 0.00375 mm pixels.

      1. Those two shots are next to worthless. 300×225? You could easily convince me that’s the same camera with a slightly different lighting and camera placement. Can we get some full res shots?

        1. You get the original if you remove the 300×225 part of the URL. The new one looks much better, but it looks like it’s more about the quality of the lens, rather than the sensor.

  4. Are the interfaces to phone cameras standard? It seems like you should be able to get a pretty decent camera using one of those, and probably quite a bit cheaper.

  5. The ribbon cable is a pain in the neck IMO, it is a common single-point-of-failure especially with PTZ mounts. Maybe a third party will sell a mounting hole compatible backpack for the camera that adapts the ribbon cable to a cylindrical cable and a robust connector – same for the RPi board itself.

  6. Please show pic of camera w both lenses attached & how you would achieve a robust connection w your paper thin ribbon cables.
    I might know people very interested to purchase if said connections were markedly more secure.
    Otherwise $150 is just too steep to spend on a flaky mount. Also would like to see the s/w to make the camera function in several modes ie.
    Cc, still pics, night mode pics, video etc.

    1. Has everyone forgotten that most consumer electronics a connected internally with very similar or identical ribbons and connectors? Seriously, these parts or going in a case, where they will be protected and not likely to move.

      Also, why are you phrasing your comment like your speaking to the actual seller, whom you apparently think is trying to swindle you with substandard parts? The author here doesn’t even have a review model, this cam hasn’t even shipped yet. She’s just saying “hey check this out, it will probably be awesome!”.

    2. I see 4 mounting holes on the camera board PCB and one threaded hole on the lens mount that could be used for secure mounting.

      The threaded hole in the lens mount being the most secure of the lot from what I can see. Looks very robust. This is not a surprise given it has the highest mass of the lot. Clearly the intent is that hole is exposed in your design so you can use that to mount the entire rig, with the other holes used to mount the housing.

      Mounting of the Raspberry Pi itself is an exercise left for the reader, but even a few lengths of balsa wood could be fashioned into a suitable arrangement which would protect the integrity of the data cable. Not rocket science.

      That said, I think you can only mount one lens at a time, so a photo with both of them mounted together won’t happen.

  7. Instead of making weird expensive camera modules the PRi foundation should focus on opening up the API so third parties can make their own camera modules. The V1 camera module was not locked down and there is a variety of cheap 3rd party offerings with different lens mounts and other features. The V2 module is DRM locked and any 3d party options only replace the camera chip which is quite limiting.

      1. Yup, and there are V2 replicas that behave the same.

        The general issue is that anything that isn’t an exact replica is not supported by the binary-only ISP firmware.

  8. if this one has manual control it’ll be very useful. what raspberry foundation doesn’t understand is that manual control is the most important thing. 3d printing adapters will allow for very nice projects like tilt/shift
    if its control is like on the other cameras it’ll only be good for security cameras. however at that price you can get a good fully built security camera and it’ll be as useless as their wolfson audio shield.

    1. What do you mean by manual controls? The V2 camera had manual shutter speed and ISO controls, so does this one. This also – allegedly – supports 12bit RAW output, which would be a nice addon too.

  9. That is more to do with their IP agreement with Broadcom than Raspberry pi foundation themselves.
    It’s a shame that certain aspects of the pi are locked down like that, but not surprising.
    I think some aspects of the pi’s SoC will always just be a proprietary blob, although they do seem to be a lot more open than some other comparable platforms.

  10. I ordered one yesterday. The most interresting part to me is the increased sensor size (1/2.3″ instead of 1/4″ for the V2). Pixel size has also doubled so the sensor should perform much metter in low light conditions.

    1. I ordered one as well. My biggest complaint of the RPi cameras so far is poor quality low light sensitivity and high contrast problems. And perpetual “over” or “under” voltage problems with the RPi boards causing the camera software to lock up requiring reboot.

    1. According to the “The Official Raspberry Pi Camera Guide” book, the maximum shutter speed is around 200 seconds. The minimum should be similar to the older modules, according to a raspberry forum thread, the minimum automatic shutter speed is around 200us (100us if set to “sport” mode), but you should be able to set it to any multiple of 18.9us.

  11. Arducam has a number of options for global shutter cameras that work with Pi. I’ve used the AR0134, and it works pretty well, but they also have others.

  12. Does anyone know if there is a lens that would act like a microscope? I’ve had a look but its lots of technical jargon I dont understand lol

    I’m having a fantasy if getting such a lens, hooking it up to an older Pi I have and a 5″ screen so I can check out my soldering and help me when hand soldering SMT chips with stupid fine pins :)

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