Pi NoIR Camera Module

I recently received my Pi NoIR from elemet14, as part of the “Santa Catcher” RoadTest kit. It wasn’t long before I started playing with it. This is my first 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)

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 Pi NoIR camera board
  • a piece of blue translucent plastic

pinoir-package pinoir-package_content

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.

pinoir-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.

Screen+Shot+2013-12-20+at+09.52.04 Screen+Shot+2013-12-20+at+09.52.07

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:

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:

picam01

Pi NoIR & Pi NoIR with blue filter:

pinoir01 pinoir01-bluefilter

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. The picture on the left is taken with the normal Pi Camera, the picture on the right with the Pi NoIR.

 image-normal-dark image-noir-dark

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 (Pi Camera left, Pi NoIR right):

image-normal-dark2 image-noir-dark2

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.

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