The Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced the launch of its first official accessory for the eponymous single-board computer: a five megapixel camera board.

When the Raspberry Pi launched last year - following a delay to its September 2011 schedule as a result of manufacturing problems and the need for compliance testing - few could have predicted its success: using outdated system-on-chip components from Broadcom to hit a pocket-friendly sub-£30 price tag, the machine sold like the proverbial hot cakes - and now, a year later, has easily broken a million units sold. While plenty of third-party add-on boards, from GPIO extensions to battery packs and, of course, custom watercooling rigs, exist for the system, the Foundation itself concentrated on the boards themselves.

Until now: following a by-now completely expected delay, the Foundation has announced the release of the official Raspberry Pi Camera Board. Designed to plug in to the Pi's CSI (Camera Serial Interface) port, the module itself is tiny: measuring just 25mm x 25mm and 9mm tall and weighing around 4g, the module packs a five megapixel sensor and surprisingly powerful imaging engine - previously found driving the camera on Nokia's N8 smartphone - while drawing its power from the Pi itself.

As well as capturing still images using a command-line utility baked into the latest revision of the Pi's Raspbian operating system, the camera can be used to record or stream video at resolutions of up to 1080p/30 - or 720p/60 if you'd prefer faster motion. For high-speed video shooting, a VGA resolution video can be captured at 90 frames per second. All video capture is done in H.264 format, making use of the integrated hardware acceleration found in the Pi's Broadcom BCM2835 SoC.

The camera module is the first, but likely not the last, official accessory to come from the Foundation. Giving Pi owners something to connect to the board's CSI port, it will likely be followed by a small form factor display which uses the as-yet unfulfilled DSI (Display Serial Interface) capabilities of the low-cost single-board computer.

The camera board is available to purchase now from Farnell, RS Electronics and CPC, priced at just shy of £20. Instructions on its use, and a handy video set-up guide, can be found on the official Raspberry Pi blog.
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