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4K2K PDAF camera targets i.MX8M and i.MX8M Mini

Aug 10, 2021 — by Eric Brown — 289 views

THine’s $239 “THeia-Cam” runs Linux and V4L2 on its THP7312-P ISP and is designed for use with NXP’s EVKs for the i.MX8M and i.MX8M Mini. With its Sony IMX258 PDAF sensor, the camera module supports up to 3849 x 2160 @30fps, with 13MP modes in the works.

Earlier this year we looked at THine Electronics’ Cable Extension Kit for Raspberry Pi Camera, which extends the range of Pi cameras to up to 20 meters. Now, the Japanese company has announced a THeia-Cam camera module, also called the THSCM101 Kit, that is designed to work with NXP evaluation kits for the i.MX8M Family, starting with the i.MX8M and i.MX8M Mini EVKs (see farther below for a recap).



THeia-Cam with .MX 8M EVKB (left) and its Linux Camera Board
(click images to enlarge)

The camera module can also be used independently for camera project development. There are plans to add support for the i.MX8M Nano and NPU-equipped i.MX8M Plus and it is likely the camera works with other i.MX8M Family SBCs equipped with a MIPI-CSI connector.

According to the PR-style Electronics Weekly report that alerted us to the product, NXP’s i.MX8M Family EVK have been typically limited to 5MP camera options with “no capability for image customization nor production scalability.” The THeia-Cam, however offers embedded ISP firmware that “compensates for CMOS Camera Module variations that are each fully characterized at the factory to achieve perfect unit-to-unit image quality in production,” says the story.



THeia-Cam detail views
(click images to enlarge)

The THeia-Cam currently tops out at 4K2K @ 30fps resolution, but future upgrades will boost that to 13-megapixels. The camera is designed for a wide range of embedded vision applications ranging from bodycams to drone cameras to document scanners.

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The THeia-Cam runs Linux on THine’s own 32-bit, RISC architecture THP7312-P image signal processor, working in conjunction with the Linux-driven i.MX8M Family SoCs. Equipped with 4- and 2-lane MIPI-CSI interfaces, the processor offers various ISP-driven algorithms including dark area correction, image stabilization, and face detection.

The THeia-Cam’s Linux Camera Board module combines the THP7312-P with a 13MP Sony IMX258 CMOS sensor, which offers PDAF (Phase Detection Auto-Focus) capabilities for fast and accurate auto-focus. Auto-focus modes include one-shot and continuous contrast AF modes, as well as both modes with PDAF Hybrid AF. We have previously seen the iMX258 on a Lantronix Open-Q IMX258 Camera, which is available as an option for its Qualcomm QCS610 powered Open-Q 610 μSOM module.



THP7312-P block diagram (left) and THeia-Cam current and future resolution options
(click images to enlarge)

An open source V4L2 (Video4Linux2) driver is available to enable resolution choices ranging from 1080p @ 60fps to 4K2K @ 30fps. As shown in the chart above, additional resolution options are in the works for the Nano and Plus EVKs.

The Linux Camera Board is further equipped with an IC flash chip for firmware storage and a MIPI-CSI-2 output connector for a bundled Mini-SAS ribbon cable to the EVK. A micro-SD card image is available for plugging additional firmware into the EVK. THine’s GUI-based software development tools and reference circuit schematics are available to customers, and THine also provides customized image quality tuning services.

 
NXP’s i.MX8M and i.MX8M Mini EVKs

Although we have covered numerous SBCs built around the quad -A53 i.MX8M and i.MX8M Mini, such as F&S’ armStone MX8M and Boundary Devices’ Nitrogen8M_Mini, we have never fully reported on NXP’s own EVKs. The $449 i.MX 8M EVKB (MCIMX8M-EVKB) and $399 i.MX 8M Mini EVKB (MCIMX8MMINILPD4-EVKB) have different designs. The i.MX8M model is a monolithic SBC while the Mini version is built around a compute module.



i.MX 8M EVKB (left) and i.MX 8M Mini EVKB
(click images to enlarge)

The i.MX 8M EVKB is equipped with up to 4GB LPDDR4, 16GB eMMC and a microSD slot. You also get GbE, USB 3.0 host, USB 3.0 Type-C, and HDMI 2.0 ports. There are also MIPI-DSI and -CSI connectors, an audio jack, and a WiFi/BT module along with JTAG, IR, and M.2 interfaces.

The more recent i.MX 8M Mini EVKB has 2GB LPDDR4, 32GB eMMC 5.1, and a microSD slot. The board provides GbE, USB 2.0 Type-C, MIPI-DSI and -CSI and an audio jack. Other features include WiFi/BT, JTAG, and an M.2 slot.

 
Further information

The THeia-Cam (THSCM101 Kit) is available for $239.45 at Digi-Key. More information may be found in THine Electronics’ blog post, which includes several YouTube videos, as well as the product page.
 

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