Raspberry Pi HQ Camera - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Raspberry Pi HQ Camera

Author: rancell

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools

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?: Raspberry Pi Camera Module

What were the biggest problems encountered?:

Detailed Review:

Security camera, facial recognition lock, photo booth, motion controlled camera, camera enabled telescope, time lapse recorder, augmented reality. There’s an seemingly endless number of interesting projects you can build with a Raspberry Pi and a camera. To make these there are two official camera products for the Raspberry Pi, the Camera Module and the new (April 2020) High Quality Camera. Take your pick!

 

For this road test I will review the High Quality Camera and compare it to the Camera Module. I received the following from Element14:

  • Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera
  • Raspberry Pi 4 4GB
  • CGL Electronic 6mm wide angle lens
  • CGL Electronic 16mm Telephoto lens

The included lenses are listed as compatible by the Raspberry Pi foundation, though other C and CS mount lenses should work.

 

To do this road test I provided the following:

  • 8GB microSD card
  • USB-C power supply
  • Micro HDMI cable connected to monitor
  • Keyboard, mouse
  • Raspberry Pi Camera Module (for comparison)
  • Mini tripod
  • Laptop (for setting up the OS).

 

Assembly and Setup

 

After unboxing, the camera is easily connected to the Raspberry Pi using the attached ribbon. I chose the 6mm wide angle lens and screwed it onto the camera. A small included screwdriver is provided to keep the lens firmly connected (nice addition!). The camera comes with a C to CS mount adapter attached which needed to be removed for the 6mm wide angle lens, and left attached for the 16mm telephoto lens. Don’t forget to remove the lens caps!

To setup the Raspberry Pi software I inserted the SD card into my laptop, and wrote a copy of Raspberry Pi OS (previously known as Raspbian) onto it using the Raspberry Pi Imager tool. Once completed I transferred the SD card to the Raspberry Pi and booted it up.

 

 

The Raspberry Pi camera interface is not enabled by default. This can be done on the command-line with the raspi-config tool or using the graphical Raspberry Pi Configuration application. Once enabled a reboot is required to complete the configuration. The Raspberry Pi camera is not hot-swappable - so make sure to connect it before powering on!

 

 

Capturing Images

 

I initially expected to use a graphical camera application to get images from the camera, but the Raspberry Pi turns out to have a slightly different way of acquiring images. Instead you use a command line application raspistill which then shows a live feed from the camera overlaid onto your desktop. This is a little unexpected as you would think this is a widow that can be moved but the desktop is fully functional behind it. I found you can make this overlay transparent which can be useful if you need to see what is behind it. I believe the reason this overlay is used is due to the camera writing directly into video memory which gives it very good performance. Once used to the quirks this actually turns out to be a quite an effective way of acquiring images on the modest hardware that the Raspberry Pi is (this would be particularly effective on the older models).

 

 

With the live video on screen it was easy to adjust the focus and aperture of the lens to get my subject showing clearly. I was initially holding the camera in my hand and tried to make a stand out of LEGO but I quickly realised what was required was a small tripod to both get good shots and keep the camera from being knocked over. The High Quality Camera has a  1/4”-20 tripod mount, and compatible mini tripods are cheap and easy to find online. I highly recommend getting one if you have this camera. For more permanent projects there are four holes in the camera circuit board for strong attachment.

I used the following from the command line to take photos. This shows the preview for five seconds then writes to the provided filename.

 

$ raspistill -o image.jpg

 

Here are some photos taken using the 6mm wide angle lens:

 

 

And here is one using the 12mm zoom lens:

 

 

The resultant images are 4056×3040px and have appropriate Exif data included (manufacturer set to RaspberryPi, model set to RP_imx477).

 

I had a quick look at the picamera Python library for controlling the camera and with the following short program I was easily able to produce the same result as using raspistill. I thought I would need to use Python for more control but raspistill turns out to be fully featured enough that I didn’t need it during this RoadTest. There is also a raspivid command line application for taking videos which works well but for this RoadTest I focused on taking photos.

 

from picamera import PiCamera
from time import sleep

camera = PiCamera()

camera.start_preview()
sleep(5)
camera.capture('/home/pi/image.jpg')
camera.stop_preview()

 

Comparison to Camera Module

 

The Camera Module is the older and cheaper second option for the Raspberry Pi. It costs about half the price of the High Quality Camera and doesn’t require lenses, so that saves money again. The first thing you’ll notice is how compact the Camera Module is, being made from the sort of hardware you’d find in a webcam or a smartphone.

 

 

The hardware interface is identical, so I only had to disconnect the High Quality camera ribbon cable (while the Raspberry Pi was powered down) and connect the Camera Module cable. And the software is the same too, so I could easily acquire photos using the same techniques I’d already used. You notice immediately the difference in sharpness and colours with this module compared to the High Quality Camera.

 

 

The resultant images are 3280×2464px and have appropriate Exif data included (manufacturer set to RaspberryPi, model set to RP_imx219).

 

Project

 

I decided a good project to use the camera was to try and make some stop motion films with my children. This is not something we have done before but looked like a lot of fun!

To record we used the raspistill tool to take a photo each time you pressed enter (-k option) and write a series of files with the frame number (movie-000.jpg, movie-001.jpg etc). I scale the images down to a more suitable size.

 

$ raspistill -k -w 507 -h 380 -o movie-%03d.jpg

 

I then converted these images into a GIF using ImageMagick:

 

$ sudo apt install imagemagick

$ convert -delay 20 movie-*.jpg movie.gif

 

Here is one of the videos we made:

 

 

It was a fun project and the camera and software worked great!

 

Conclusion

 

Raspberry Pi has two great choices for cameras! I found both options great to use but I did especially like the High Quality camera which felt like you could get SLR camera quality.

 

Since prices vary from region to region I’ll list the prices relative to the cost of the Raspberry Pi model I used. The RP is the new currency unit of the Maker revolution!

  • Raspberry Pi 4 4GB - 1RP
  • HQ Camera - 1RP
  • Camera Module - 0.5RP
  • 6mm wide angle lens - 0.5RP
  • 16mm telephoto lens - 1RP

 

In my opinion both cameras are quite affordable products so it comes down to what is suitable for your project.

 

I would choose the High Quality Camera when I:

  • Needed better quality images for example if I was filming something I wanted to share online.
  • Needed a particular lens shape (high zoom or wide angle).
  • Wanted to be able to control the depth of field of my shots.
  • Was considering just buying one for playing around with, and could afford the High Quality option.

 

I would choose the Camera Module when I:

  • Needed to reduce project costs.
  • Had less space available to mount the camera.
  • Wanted to do infra-red photography, and don’t feel brave enough to remove the filter on the HQ camera (looks difficult and will void warranty). You can purchase a version of the Camera Module with the IR filter not installed.

 

In my final scoring I knocked a few points off for the software but this really nit-picking. This product is not a plug and play webcam, but is targeted at Makers. There is a lot of high quality online material available from the Raspberry Pi foundation (article, project, documentation) for the camera, which I made good use of to find my way around.

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