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.