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16MP autofocus cam bests the Raspberry Pi HQ at only $16

Dec 1, 2021 — by Eric Brown 827 views

Arducam is crowdfunding a 16-megapixel “High Resolution Autofocus Camera Module for Raspberry Pi.” Based on a Sony IMX519 sensor, the 1080p30 camera has an RPi V1/V2 form factor and a tripod mount.

Over the years, Raspberry Pi has dominated mainstream, third-party RPi cameras on price and features, with official models including the 8-megapixel, $25 v2 Raspberry Pi Camera and last year’s 12.3-megapixel, $50 High Quality Camera. Now, Arducam is coming after the HQ Camera with a 16MP model that adds autofocus capability and sells for less than half the price.



High Resolution Autofocus Camera Module (left) and next to RPi V2 and V1 cameras
(click images to enlarge)

The High Resolution Autofocus Camera Module for Raspberry Pi has already funded on Kickstarter and is available through Dec. 30 for a standard $16 price, with shipments in January. The open-spec camera will eventually sell for $25 — half the price of the HQ Camera.

The standard model, which at 26 x 24 x 18mm fits in enclosures for the official RPi cameras, ships with a 15cm flex cable and a plastic case. Other packages include a $30 kit that add a MIPI-CSI-to-HDMI adapter set and a $43 Pan-Tilt Kit bundle for $43.

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Arducam’s HR Autofocus Camera uses a Sony IMX519 (or IMX 519) sensor, which is found on a variety of Oppo, OnePlus, Motorola, and Realme phones. The sensor offers a 1/2.53″ optical size, a 1.75 focal ratio, a 4.28mm focal length, and a 10cm to infinity focal range. Sensor resolution is listed at 4656 x 3496-pixel and video modes at 1080p30 and 720p60.

Arducam claims that not only does its camera offer 40 percent higher resolution than the HQ Camera, but also better sharpness, saturation, and exposure quality using the standard RPi tuning algorithms. The Tom’s Hardware review that alerted us to the product seemed to agree with this assessment: “Arducam had slightly-better image quality than the HQ camera. Colors were more vibrant.”

Tom’s Hardware praised the autofocus feature, which not only makes focusing easier, but offers “much better focus,” especially at close range. The review also liked the built-in ¼-inch thread for mounting on tripods.



HR Autofocus Camera with case parts (left) and on tripod connected to Raspberry Pi
(click images to enlarge)
Source: Tom’s Hardware

Yet, the camera was given only 3.5 stars out of 5 due to software problems. Software support includes V4L2, but the camera is currently “limited to its own version of libcamera,” which can cause problems. The reviewer needed a workaround from Arducam simply to get the camera detected by RPI OS Bullseye or the earlier Buster version. Applications including raspistill, raspicam, and PiCamera “just don’t work with this camera, and that is a big shame,” says the review.

Tom’s Hardware notes, however, that the software support should eventually be ironed out. “This new camera comes at an ‘interesting’ time in the history of Raspberry Pi,” says the review. “We’ve just had a new Raspberry Pi OS based on Bullseye and this update has removed the raspistill / raspivid and PiCamera Python package in favor of the libcamera API. The recent release of the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W throws another issue into the mix. The Pi Zero 2 W will not work with any camera using Bullseye OS.”

By the time you read this, the HR Autofocus Camera should have passed its first stretch goal at $10K: added support for the Nvidia Jetson Nano and NX. If it hits 15K, there will be an optional 15-meter cable kit, and at $20K a NoIR version. A quad-camera kit with frame-level syncing would arrive if the campaign hits $30K.

There are other high-end cameras for the Pi that best the HQ Cam, but they are more expensive. Arducam offers a variety of specialty cameras for the Raspberry Pi on its Arducam RPI page, including NoiR and stereoscopic models. E-con’s 13MP e-CAM130_CURB for the Raspberry Pi sells for $99. Unlike the Arducam model, it lacks autofocus support.

 
Further information

The High Resolution Autofocus Camera Module for Raspberry Pi is available starting at $16 (HK$ 120) on Kickstarter through Dec. 30, with shipments beginning in January. Volume discounts are available. More information may be found on the Kickstarter page and more should eventually be available on the Arducam RPi page.

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