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What’s the Best Raspberry Pi Camera For Your Project?

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This project was written by Julian Silver and edited by Rui Santos and Sara Santos.

 

In this post Julian is going to show you several options of cameras for the Raspberry Pi. He will compare its specifications and run some tests to analyse the pictures taken from each of them in different scenarios. After the tests, you should be able to pick up the most suitable camera for your needs.

There are many choices of cameras for the Raspberry Pi and Raspberry Pi Zero. In this article we’re going to take a look at the following cameras:

ZeroCam Noir

The ZeroCam Noir is a camera module for the Raspberry Pi Zero or Raspberry Pi Zero W, so if you want to use it in a Raspberry Pi 3 or 2, you need to use an adapter cable.

This camera doesn’t have infrared filter on the lens, so it is perfect to take pictures in low light. Here’s a list of some of the camera features:

  • 5MP sensor, 2592×1944 pixels
  • 1080p video at 30 FPS (or 60 FPS at 720p, 90 FPS at 480p)
  • 2.9 lens, 3.60 mm focal length
  • 53.50 degrees horizontal, 41.41 degrees vertical field of view
  • Approx. dimensions of circuit and camera: 60 x 11.4 x 5.1mm

ZeroCam Fisheye

This is the Fisheye version of the ZeroCam, which means it has a wide angle image – read “Field of View Comparison” section to compare the pictures.

This camera is also made for the Pi Zero or Pi Zero W, so to use it with another Pi board, you need an adapter cable.

Raspberry Pi compatible fisheye camera from ebay

This is a Raspberry Pi compatible camera from eBay. It has a 175º wide angle fisheye. Here are some of the camera features:

  • 5MP Omnivision 5647 Camera Module
  • Still Picture Resolution: 2592 x 1944
  • Viewing angle: 175 degrees

Raspberry Pi Camera V2

The Raspberry Pi Camera V2 features an 8 megapixel Sony IMX219 image sensor with fixed focus lens, it is capable of 3280×2464 pixel static images and supports 1080p30, 720p60, and 640×480p90 video. The camera is compatible with all Raspberry Pi boards, but if you want to use it with the Pi Zero, you need an adapter cable.

If you want to learn how to use the Raspberry Pi Camera V2 module, you can read our guide here.

Raspberry Pi Camera V2 Noir

The Raspberry Pi Camera V2 Noir has all the features of the V2 module, but it has no infrared filter. This means it is the perfect camera to see in the dark with infrared light.

Raspberry Pi Camera 1.3

The Raspberry Pi Camera 1.3 is the predecessor of the V2 module. It features a 5 MP OmniVision OV5647 sensor.

Field of View Comparison

In this test, all cameras are mounted 1 meter away from the test card. Here’s the results:

Raspberry Pi Camera V2 

Raspberry Pi Camera V1.3

ZeroCam Fisheye

Raspberry Pi compatible Fisheye camera from eBay

ZeroCam Noir

Quality Comparison Zoomed In Image

Here are the results for the Zoom test. All cameras are mounted 1 meter away from the test card.

Raspberry Pi Camera V2 

Raspberry Pi Camera V1.3

ZeroCam Fisheye

Raspberry Pi compatible Fisheye camera from eBay

ZeroCam Noir

Night Vision Comparison

For this test I used the same test card distanced at 1 meter, but in complete darkness except for a 4W IR floodlight reflecting into a white ceiling to give an IR glow, as the one shown in the figure below.

Here are the results for the night vision:

Raspberry Pi Camera V2 Module

Pi Cam V2 Noir

ZeroCam Noir

Night Vision in Several Light Conditions

I just wanted to see how far the cameras would work under various lighting conditions at night: 1. with no artificial lighting, 2. with a 4W IR floodlight, and 3. with a 10W white floodlight. The moon was half lit and overhead to help. The figure below shows the test lighting setup – the 4W IR floodlight at the right, and the 10W white floodlight at the left.

The following figure is the control picture, taken during the day. The tiny white dot in centre is 10 meters away.

1. Night Vision – No Artificial Lighting

With no artificial lighting and with a bright moon overhead, the cameras picked up nothing.

2. Night Vision – 4W IR floodlight

With just the 4W IR floodlight turned on, the IR cams picked up some vague detail 3-4m away. All cameras performed awfully in this test. The best result was for the RPi Camera V2 Noir – picture shown below.

3. Night Vision – 10W white floodlight

With the 10W white floodlight turned on, the IR cams picked up a small 5x5cm flag at 10m away, at the center. All cameras performed awfully in this test. The best result was for the RPi Camera V2 Noir – picture shown below.

Conclusion: trying to see anything further than 5 meters at night with any camera will be a challenge and require significant artificial lighting. The best results were obtained with the 10W white floodlight, following the 5W IR floodlight.

Conclusions

All the cameras performed better than expected. Unfortunately it seems to be a trade off as there don’t seem to be any wide angle (fisheye) cameras with the IR filter removed. So if you need wide angle you will need conventional flood lighting at night.

If you do not need wide angle (fisheye) then IR flood lighting may suffice for your application. Additionally, the more pixels the better. The Raspberry Pi camera V2 module is very good indeed. It is available in standard and IR versions. You will need to use an adaptor cable if you use it for the Raspberry Pi Zero.

Wrapping Up

In this post Julian compared several cameras for the Raspberry Pi. We hope this information helps you chose the best camera and setup for your projects. Do you have any of these cameras? What do you think? Post a comment down below.

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Thanks for reading.


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