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Raspberry Pi camera module

Recently I’ve received a Raspberry pi camera board. So decided to make a post about it.

Raspberry PI comes with two interesting connectors on board. One is between Ethernet and HDMI and another is near GPIO. The one closer to Ethernet connector is CSI (Camera Serial Interface) bus interface. This interface is common in mobile phones with cameras. This interface is specially designed for high data rates that is necessary for transferring pixel data.

raspberry pi camera

Camera board is a small size (25mm x 20mm x 9mm) board where fixed focus 5MP camera module (OV5647) is assembled. Camera connects to Raspberry Pi via 15cm ribbon cable. Camera module is capable of producing 1080p images at 30fps or 720p at 60 fps and 640x480p at 60/90 fps. Obviously such images and fps require high speed interface and processing. So CSI is connected directly go Raspberry Pi GPU which can process images without ARM intervention. This is why camera module is much better choice than USB camera which occupies main processor and slows down whole system. GPU processing also benefits with fast H264 video encoding and JPEG compression capabilities.

Camera board ships with ribbon cable already attached to it, so the only thing is left is to attach the other end to Raspberry Pi CSI connector. Cable snaps in to connector pretty easy. First remove yellow transparent sticker from connector and then loosen brown clip. Attach ribbon cable with blue side towards Ethernet connector and press down the clip. Connection seems to firm enough for carrying the thing around.

raspberry pi camera connection

Hardware attachment is easy task. Now we need to set up camera for work. If you are using newest raspberry distribution, then the most work is already done. If not, be sure to upgrade software and firmware to newest version running following commands through shell:

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get -y upgrade

sudo apt-get -y dist-upgrade

sudo rpi-update

Execute each command or write a script to do this for you. Anyway, when you are done with updates it’s time to enable camera module. For this access configuration settings by executing next command in terminal:

sudo raspi-config

in configuration menu list select Enable Camera


Then confirm camera enable:


Then finish configuration and reboot Raspberry Pi. This is it. Now you can start playing around with camera.

Camera control is accessed with two powerful commands raspivid and raspistill. The names are self explanatory where raspivid is used for capturing videos while raspistill is for taking photos.

Lets start with capturing images.

If you type raspistill in terminal you will get all information and available options regarding it.

For instance you can capture an image and store to jpeg by typing:

raspistill -o image.jpg

This will enable preview for default 5s and captures image at the end of period. Option -o means output ti file specified. Red LED on camera board indicates when camera is in preview mode. Lets say you want to preview to be 2s before image capture. Then use -t 2000 option. The number represents miliseconds.

raspistill -o image -t 2000

In order to write short video just type following command:

raspivid -o video.h264 -t 2000

this will write 2 second video in to H264 formatted file.

In our setup we are connected remotely to camera and so we cannot view images from putty console. If you wish to see images instantly, then connect a monitor via HDMI or other interface. Otherwise we need to download images and view them locally, or access files via network. I think the power of Raspberry Pi lies of accessing and controlling things remotely. There is a nice resource on raspberrypi.org where you can transmit feed from camera module. As we are using Windows for accessing things, we need couple programs to download:

Mplayer and Netcat

They both will help to connect to feed. I copied both programs to C drive in to mplayer and nc folders.

First of all find out your PC IP address by typing ipconfig command in command prompt. For instanve My PC has IP address.

First of all lets run mplayer to view feed: in command prompt run following command:

C:\nc\nc.exe -L -p 5001 | c:\mplayer\mplayer.exe -fps 31 -cache 1024 –

Then in raspberry pi console run command to transmit feed to my PC:

raspivid -t 999999 -o – -w 720 -h 360 | nc -v 5001

This works like a charm. You can see live video but with some delay.

I haven’t dug deep enough in to all features and capabilities of camera module. The commands raspistill and raspivid support much more options like time lapse capture, various effects like negative, emboss image capture. The lists foes on and on and it is still work in progress. If you want to see full list of features take a look at camera documentation.

Sadly, but camera board doesn’t record sound when capturing video. If you need audio, you need to find different solution for this.

One Comment:

  1. Well, I just found your blog through search engine.I didn’t intend to visit it before, yet after I read your article, I just can say that it’s so inspiring. Thanks for making such nice article!

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