Raspberry Pi Camera Module 3 First Impressions
A few days ago on Jan 9, 2023 the Raspberry Pi Ltd. announced the Raspberry Pi Camera Module 3 and I was fortunate enough to get one of the last available in german online stores. So this is my first impressions review with some images that I captured. I got the standard Camera Module 3 with 66 deg angle of view and IR filter.
Facts about the Raspberry Pi Camera Module 3
There are 4 variants of the Raspberry Pi Camera Module 3. All use the Sony IMX708 sensor that came out in 2020 and was first used in Oppo Smartphones. The sensor provides a 4608×2592 (11.9 megapixel) array of 1.40μm pixels. All 4 variants come with a builtin autofocus lens. There are 2 variants with 66 deg angle of view (horizontal) and 2 variants with 102 deg angle of view (horizontal). Of each of these pairs, one comes with and the other without an IR filter. The sensor now comes with an HDR mode. the camera module connects to the Raspi via a CSL-2 cable.
1. Impression: the cable is too short
Ok, let’s start with a slight negative: The CSL-2 cable in the box is just too short. If you want to put the camera module on a tripod or anywhere else than basically on the Raspi itself, you have to get a longer cable.
There is no tripod mount
In contrast to the HQ camera module there is no tripod mount on the bottom of the module. This is kinda inconvenient at first but if you consider that the camera module is so small and might be used in self built enclosures anyway it’s understandable. Just use the 4 holes on the edges of the module to secure it against something.
You need the latest updates to get the camera module 3 to work
The camera module 3 will not work with older software versions of the Raspberry Pi OS kernel and especially the libcamera libs. So update to a version that got released after Jan 10, 2023 or so.
You have to enable glamor acceleration on Raspi 3B+ and older
You cannot use the camera module 3 on a Raspi 3B+ without glamor graphics acceleration. So go to the raspi config, advanced configuration and enable
A8 Glamor. Then restart the Raspi. Apparently this should also work on older Raspis but I cannot test that because the oldest Pi I have is a 3B+.
The Camera Module 3 only works with libcamera
Since the introduction of Raspberry Pi OS libcamera is the default library to use with all Raspi camera modules. Unfortunately other apps like ffmpeg that use video4linux2 are not yet compatible with the new software stack. I tried to enable the legacy mode but ffmpeg wasn’t able to access the camera. As a workaround you can pipe the output of libcamera-vid to ffmpeg or use ffmpeg/libav as a backend.
Image quality is decent
Ok, on to what really matters: how good is the camera? Well, decent. It’s not perfectly sharp but for a $25 module including lens it’s absolutely fine. Here is a still image I captured just before sunset using the default settings of libcamera-still. Unfortunately the weather was dreary and I plan to provide more appealing images when the light is better.
The second picture shows the HDR mode. Here the resolution decreases from 12MP to 3MP. The HDR effect is rather strong even though the test scene is quite evenly lit because of the clouds. Again: it will be interesting to see how the camera module performs in a scenario with more direct sunlight and deeper shadows.
The final image shows the same scene at night.
The auto focus seems to work well. I had no issues. There was some slight hunting during the video tests but nothing I would deem to be problematic (yet).
HDR mode even works when capturing video
Ok, here is the big one: HDR mode works even in Full HD video capture. This is so awesome. For me it makes the camera module perfect for a webcam scenario if you want to show a landscape. I’m sure you will have other applications, but I’m super happy that the feature exists.
Here are four sample clips, all in Full HD in day and night with HDR and without. In the night shots we can see some focus hunting in the beginning but once the focus is locked on, it seems to stay there.
After getting through the initial setup the Raspberry Camera Module 3 seems to be a very capable image and video capture platform. The inclusion of HDR mode for images as well as videos is a highlight. I’m looking forward to using the camera module in my projects. I will compare it against the HQ camera module in the near future.