Pi NoIR and Catch Santa Challenge - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Pi NoIR and Catch Santa Challenge

Author: fvan

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Independent Products

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: Pi Camera

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Figuring out what the blue square is meant for.

Detailed Review:


Introduction

 

I recently received my Pi NoIR as part of the “Santa Catcher” kit. It wasn’t long before I started playing with it. This is my first Roadtest review, I hope it will be useful to you in some way.

 

 

The Pi NoIR (No InfraRed) is the second camera board made specifically for the Raspberry Pi. The only difference compared to the original camera is that the infrared filter has been removed.

The camera can also easily be distinguished from the original by its black PCB (compared to green for the original)


Original Pi Camera (left) and Pi NoIR (right)

 

 

Just like the Pi Camera, the Pi NoIR, with its 5 megapixel resolution and fixed focus, is capable of:

  • 2592 x 1944 px static images
  • 1080p30, 720p60 and 640x480p60/90 video

 

 

Package

 

The Pi NoIR box contained three items:

 

  • Instructions
  • The PiNoIR camera board
  • A piece of blue translucent plastic

 


Pi NoIR box, content and mysterious blue square

 

 

The instructions cover the physical installation of the camera board. I found the instructions to be extremely clear, even for someone not having installed a camera board for the Pi before.

 

The camera, together with the flat cable, were inside an antistatic bag.

 

Finally, there was also a small square of blue translucent plastic. Nothing was mentioned about it in the instructions or anywhere else.

I started searching online, and found this (http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/5146) article on raspberrypi.org which explains the purpose of the blue square.

 

From what I understood, it serves as an extra filter meant to filter out visible red light, allowing to register only near-infrared light on the red channel.

Some possible applications for the filter:

  • artistic: can be used to create special effects in pictures/videos
  • scientific: check the health of plants by measuring the amount of IR light reflected

 

I’m sure there are other applications for this filter, but perhaps not something I would immediately use it for.

 

Installation

 

Using the clear set of instructions included in the box, I connected the camera board to the RaspberryPi. Straightforward and easy.

 

Next was the software.

 

The camera board needs to be enabled using the “Raspberry Pi Software Configuration Tool”: via command line, use sudo raspi-config

A blue screen appears with a menu providing some options. One of the options is “Enable Camera”.

I enabled the camera using the menu option and rebooted the pi.

 

Raspberry Pi Software Configuration Tool

 

 

This concluded the installation, both hardware and software, of the camera. Again, straightforward and easy.

 

Testing

 

With both hardware and software ready, it was time to take some pictures.

 

In order to test everything is functioning, I executed following command: raspistill -o image.jpg

This will created a file called image.jpg in the current folder, with a default resolution of 2592 × 1944.

 

A full list of parameters and command examples of the RaspiCam applications can be found here: https://github.com/raspberrypi/userland/blob/master/host_applications/linux/apps/raspicam/README.md

 

To see how long taking a picture took, I extended the command to report the date immediately before and after taking the picture:

 

pi@santaCatcher ~ $ date ; raspistill -o image.jpg ; date

Fri Dec 20 09:47:09 UTC 2013

Fri Dec 20 09:47:15 UTC 2013

 

Taking the picture and saving it to file takes approximately 6 seconds. I made multiple attempts and the timing results were all consistent.

 

Here’s a comparison of the output of above test using the the “normal” Pi Camera, the Pi NoIR and the Pi NoIR with the blue piece of plastic, all shot through the window:

 

Standard Pi Camera

Pi NoIR

Pi NoIR with blue filter

 

 

Above pictures were taken on a clear and sunny day.

 

The next test was to try low light environments and see how differently the Pi NoIR would behave compared to the normal Pi Camera.

 

I’ve taken following pictures in our baby room with a small night light and some indirect light coming from the hall.

 

Low light environment test: Pi Camera (left) and Pi NoIR (right)

 

Above pictures demonstrate that in a low light environment the Pi NoIR manages to get a clearer view compared the Pi Camera.

 

The next test involves the use of IR light, which should be visible with the Pi NoIR, but not with the Pi Camera.

Unfortunately, I do not have any big IR light sources to play around at this time. I did, however, use my TV’s remote control as a test. I kept one of the buttons of the remote pressed while pointing at my hand and taking a still image.

 

This was the result:

 

Infrared light test: Pi Camera (left) and Pi NoIR (right)

 

 

The Pi NoIR was able to pick up the IR light from the remote and resulted in my hand being visible in the dark, compared to the normal Pi Camera where nothing is visible because of its IR filter.

 

Conclusion

 

The Pi NoIR can quickly be installed and is easy to use.

 

It is not suited for normal photography/filming purposes, but is useful for different applications/situations, such as:

  • Special effects
  • Low light environment
  • In combination with IR light sources
  • Plant health analysis
  • ...

 

In the future, I will most likely end up using it as a night photography camera in combination with a bunch of IR LEDs lighting whatever is in front of the camera.


Tags: pi_noir, rpiintermediate , santa_catcher, roadtest

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