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Raspberry Pi Camera Module 3 Brings HDR, a Higher Resolution, and Motorized Autofocus Capabilities

Based on a near 12-megapixel Sony IMX708 sensor, the Raspberry Pi Camera Module 3 boasts a wealth of shiny new features.

Gareth Halfacree
1 year agoPhotos & Video / HW101

Raspberry Pi has officially launched a next-generation Camera Module, available globally today in four variants and boasting an improved sensor and powered autofocus system — plus a new variant of its High Quality Camera Module (HQ Camera Module) featuring an M12 lens mount.

"We’ve produced Camera Modules with both visible-light and infrared-sensitive options, and with either a standard or wide field of view (FoV)," says company co-founder Eben Upton of the launch. "And in place of the fixed-focus optics of its predecessors, Camera Module 3 provides powered autofocus — which many of you have requested — allowing you to take crisp images of objects from around 5cm [around 2"] out to infinity."

Raspberry Pi has launched a third-generation Camera Module, this time bringing motorized autofocus and HDR capabilities. (📹: Raspberry Pi)

Building on the earlier Raspberry Pi Camera Module and Camera Module 2 designs, the Raspberry Pi Camera Module 3 uses the same mechanical layout — though with a shift to the size of the lens assembly, which means cases designed to go over the top of the module may not fit — with a Sony IMX708 sensor, giving it a near 12-megapixel resolution. Compared to the 8.1 megapixel resolution of the Camera Module 2, that means a big boost in detail.

It's the autofocus feature that really makes the new module stand apart from its predecessors, though. Using the same approach as third-party modules, including Arducam's 16MP Autofocus Camera Module launched in November 2021, the new camera uses a voice coil to shift the focal point of the lens from a close-range 2" to infinity on-demand. "We use the Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF) capabilities of the IMX708 sensor," Upton explains, "falling back to our own Contrast Detection Autofocus (CDAF) algorithm if a high-confidence PDAF result is not available. A nice bonus of PDAF is that it allows us to run the autofocus algorithm continuously during video recording, maintaining optimal focus as the camera, and objects in the scene, move."

Another feature of the new sensor is high dynamic range (HDR) capabilities, capturing multiple exposures simultaneously then combining them to produce a tone-mapped combination with details in both the highlights and shadows — though enabling the feature does cut the maximum resolution to a quarter of that achievable with non-HDR modes. Finally, the new module comes in two lens variants, one offering a 66° field of view and the other offering a wider 102° FoV, plus the usual infrared-filtering standard and night-vision-capable NoIR variants.

Alongside the launch of the Camera Module 3, Raspberry Pi has also refreshed the High Quality Camera Module — bringing a new variant that offers compatibility with M12-mount lenses. This will be sold alongside the existing HQ Camera Module with its C- and CS-mount capabilities, and at the same $50 price point.

The Raspberry Pi Camera Module 3 is available to buy now from all official resellers (including Newark) at $25 in standard or $35 in wide-angle variants, though anyone upgrading from an older module should check compatibility: the new module is only usable through the libcamera package, and not the older software stack available prior to Raspberry Pi OS Bullseye — and Python compatibility requires the still-in-beta PiCamera2 library.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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