On the software side, I have worked on the exact Pi-as-a-webcam software project for a while . It's quite customizable and you can play with parameters of the camera to further extract values out of the hardware. I also am hoping, in the future, to implement "smart" functions such as auto-panning the camera and such.
However, I still couldn't figure out a good case for it so the setup looks kinda crummy, not as slick as the iSight.
1. This doesn't work on OSX yet. Works really well in windows though.
2. There's no microphone. I'm looking for a directional mic setup for the rpi but haven't found anything I'm satisfied with yet.
3. The 6mm lens is total crap. The 16mm lens is decent but the zoom makes it difficult to use as a webcam. I'm still looking for a good rectilinear lens in the 4mm to 8mm range that has minimal distortion and doesn't cost an arm and a leg (after all, the whole point of this is to do it on the cheap). There's no obvious candidate yet.
4. Commonlands has a couple M12 lenses that look promising. I'd prefer a C mount but you have to go with what's available. I'm going to pull the trigger on one of them to test out when I get back from vacation.
5. Arducam has a bunch of lenses, but I find them to be very strange. Maybe it's a language barrier issue, but the videos and the marketing copy are all very odd and don't quite tell you what you want to know. It feels like a Chinese company masquerading as an English company. It's all weird enough that I'm not ready to pull the trigger and purchase one of their lenses.
6. Focusing is a pain in the ass with all these lenses. You will not have the same experience as a typical webcam but once you have the focus dialed in things look great. Just don't move.
7. The HQ camera is very capable but it's limited by the bandwidth limitations of the pi interface. 1080p 30fps is the max you'll get. Don't expect 4k video.
I think the article's author is right that today's webcams are boring. But I would go a step further and say that the webcam market really needs some of that patented disruption that people keep talking about.
I've had good luck making use of the Pi-cam in the lab, but would love to be able to configure them with a higher-bandwidth connection to a computer with a burlier processor/GPU.
Thanks for putting this together.
1) hang on the wall with official display
2) sit on the table with official display
3) hang on wall with tiny display
4) hang on wall with epaper display
5) outdoor webcam
6) indoor tilt/shift webcam
7) webcam on top of monitor
8) small server case with space for gpio breakout inside and ports either routed to the back or through grommets
I mean heck, I've ordered a raspberry pi on amazon and I recall it was "#1 selling barebones" so I think there is money in it.
Open source consumer electronics does neither. It is at best a hobby and a very expensive one at that. Take a look at /r/mechanical keyboards or /r/headphones and you will see.
But I am with you. I would love to work on a drop.com equivalent that would focus only on curating and aggregating open source projects focused on consumer electronics.
Really, the chances of getting funded go way up when you have patents, exclusivity, a monopoly, etc.
Maybe a company doing the packaging and selling of open-source hardware as whole product, much like as Mutable Instruments did with modular synthesizers, could work but then you aren't simply making cases anymore.
Edit: $50 for the Pi HQ camera, $30 for the lens, $20 for four Pi Zeroes (just in case it’s not as easy to find them for $5 where you are). Still comes out to way less than half the price of a used A6000 with the kit lens.
The cheapest 6mm lenses that come even remotely close to using the sensor resolution start at 400€.
If you have a mirrorless that has a clean HDMI out signal, I highly recommend it.
I run my mirrorless via microUSB using two apps, Camera Live and CamTwist, both free.
Camera Live claims to only support Canon, but I can tell you that Sony ASP-Cs work fine. The details of how exactly to get it working vary by camera, but a search for "$your-camera webcam CamTwist" will turn something up.
It's called "Imaging Edge Webcam" : https://support.d-imaging.sony.co.jp/app/webcam/en/
I'm personally using an A7ii with a Tamron 28-75 for Canon EF, and it works much better resolution and quality wise with the HDMI, just because of the limitation to 1024x768 of the USB camera mode, which was really meant for tethering. Coupled with a 4$ phantom battery, it's awesome! I can get a clear image in the very low light conditions of my room at night, too. No need to turn the lights on, even :)
Starting to think some kind of capture card might be worth the investment though.
Then again, I'm the type of person to lug around an A7ii with a 135 2.8 and a 28-75 2.8 everywhere I go!
But yes, the prices did indeed rise. It's quite how remarkable how well cameras conserve their value compared to other electronics.
You can also find $18 fake "USB 3" devices that are the same chip, but a higher price, a different case, and a blue plug.
As it's USB2, you'll find it will only do uncompressed 1080p at 5fps, although it'll do 30fps if you use mjpeg. At either framerate, I noticed several frames of video lag, putting my lips and voice slightly out of sync (although how much is the camera vs the capture card is hard to say).
I'm fairly certain the capture card also introduces some colour distortion compared to the camera's preview screen - perhaps brightening? You'll need a way to convince your camera to autofocus continuously, which might mean running in video-recording mode at all times. And of course you'll need a camera support that's the right height for where you're making calls from. You'll need mains power, or at least enough batteries to run the camera all day. And of course, no taking calls in different rooms for you!
Works great. Haven't had any framerate issues when paired with a Panasonic GH3.
1080p -- or whatever the resolution is that it's delivering -- is easily enough for Google/Jitsi meet. Quality is much better than the MacBook Pro internal webcam.
Whats most likely to break, however, is the shutter mechanism. But even that isn't affected here.
I assume that has changed.
It's really moreso an excuse to up sell you on a video camera.
Meanwhile, I have a slightly tweaked version of uvc-gadget that does not jump to 100% CPU when the camera is off: https://github.com/rcarmo/uvc-gadget
The iPhone camera module is among most expensive parts in the bill of materials, at about $37.60.
The Apple processor is about $30. NAND and RAM? $40 combined. TrueDepth? $17.
There were of cylindrical fluorescent vacuum tubes that has rectangular imaging area at one end. Inch size notation like 1” or 1/1.2” for CMOS sensors denote size of equivalent imaging tube diameter for its imaging area.
“135 full frame”, “APS-C”, “Super 35mm”, “Medium format” on the other hand refers to film sizes, and thus respective imaging area dimensions.
Also what is the output? Can it do 1080p60? Forgive my naivety if I am asking something obvious
- I haven't had time to look at the custom lenses, as this is quite confusing to me.
- Output is 1080p30. Here is the link for the specs: https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/hardware/camera/
Are there any good lenses out there that don't cost a lot?
I could not find any good demo videos from the Rpi HQ camera. There are either macro shots showing the background blur, or some terrible medium range ones.
If a good lens costs an arm and a leg, it is probably still cheaper to buy used entry level mirrorless camera, and it will also have autofocus.
I really wish there were better webcams and I would not have to result some bulky mirrorless/dslr or iphone with droidcam.
I used it to make this fun little tool:
For those that weren’t around at the time it’s hard to overstate just how over the top ubiquitous that ad campaign was.
> If you have a slow computer (less then 200mhz) the pictures will be a bit fuzzy and the lighting is bad.
It was weird because you _could_ get excellent video input on the Indy just by hooking up a real camcorder to the S-Video port. The Indy was the only SGI that came out-of-the-box with analog video capture. But the IndyCam wasn't analog, and it wasn't good for anything either.
If one wanted to capture vintage / retro computer generated video, the Indy VINO did a great job of it.
Quickcam now fails to provide a hardware ID but the Intel works.
No Intel drivers this old built into Windows 10 any more or from Windows Update, but there was no need for Windows 9x or the matching VfW or WDM drivers on the original CD.
By the time Windows XP came out there were built-in NT WDM drivers for Intel cams right there in the INF & SYSTEM32 folders.
In Windows 10, pointing Device Manager manually to those XP folders gets the cam working without any need for compatibility mode or anything.
Then the Windows 10 Camera App can not detect the installed WDM cam, but Expression Encoder or VLC have no problem at all.
Incidentally if you are using Windows 10 on a primary partition of a system booting in BIOS (not UEFI) mode, that means you traditionally have a WINDOWS folder on your NTFS _C:_ volume, not much differently than in previous decades. Ideally your NT6 BOOT folder would be on your C: volume too, and that partiton would be Actively bootable instead of some separate hidden boot partition. The NT6 BOOT folder migrated toward hidden during Windows 7 support period. Both NT5 & NT6 work with either combined or separate Boot & System partitions.
So you're basically ready to install XP alongside W10 (without reformatting of course) into its own dedicated folder other than WINDOWS. I suggest the folder WINXP instead of the WINNT name that was also shared by W2K and earlier NT. The XP setup routine will prompt you to create a different folder on your target volume if there is already a WINDOWS folder there. You will have already needed to rename the W10 Program Files folder to something like Program10Files so it will not be replaced by the XP install. The only other folder written by XP setup is Documents And Settings, so there will be a real folder there when finished and W10 can handle it no differently than the default symlink it carries for backward compatibility.
Simply XP setup will overwrite the bootsector of your Active volume with an NT5 NTLDR-seeking version, put NTDETECT.COM, BOOT.INI, and NTLDR on the root of your Active boot volume next to the NT6 BOOTMGR and BOOT folder already there, and write the three WINXP, Program Files, & Documents and Settings folders to C:.
And act like you no longer have Windows 10 unless you know better.
Windows 10 is of course still properly installed too, but it will need a BOOTMGR-seeking bootsector again which can be easily replaced from the command prompt of W10 install media using the BOOTSECT.EXE command. Before you boot back to Windows 10, you need to also rename the new Program Files folder to something like ProgramXPFiles, and rename Program10Files back to plain Program Files.
Then it will act like you don't have XP any more
So then you add an NTLDR entry to the W10 boot menu using BCDEDIT.EXE, not a difficult exercise, and you get freedom of choice.
When XP boots it doesn't use the Program Files folder anyway until you actually try to run a program residing there.
So you can do file management, and lots of other things when booted to XP whenever you want with fewer headaches many times than NT6.
Even without drivers for all your devices, none of them current either, and default low-resolution graphics.
Too bad going forward Intel is discontinuing BIOS support leaving only UEFI on its branded mainboards.
I use a cheap HDMI capture device to get the video off of it, and due to Cisco/Tandberg being a bit evasive about the control protocol I'm working on my own software to control it this evening... that and notes about getting it up and running here: https://github.com/jcrawfordor/tandyberg
These Tandberg systems were expensive ($1500 and up) when new but the outdated ones turn up at auction somewhat regularly and the cameras, having been top of the line at the time, are still pretty good by modern standards. I'm quite happy with it for $35. Later versions were 1080p as well.
I actually used the exact model I got at a previous job, although it was on ethernet by that point. I remember the codec's UI being painfully hard to use. I have a SIP setup here so I might try to get the codec working with it later, but for now I haven't even powered it up yet. I did crack it open out of curiosity and it's neat how they heatsinked all of the ASIC codec chips to the aluminum case. All around very nice hardware design, which I guess we ought to expect out of Norway. The camera is surprisingly heavy but the drive motors are extremely smooth and quiet compared to the PTZ surveillance cameras I'm more used to working with.
Its FireWire 400 cable is connected to a powered drive enclosure to convert it to FireWire 800. That cable is connected to a Thunderbolt 2 adapter which is connected to a Thunderbolt 3 adapter. I already had all these parts; if I had a FireWire 400 to 800 cable, I wouldn’t need the powered enclosure, the iSight cable is detachable.
I don’t know what part Apple played with Intel in the design of FireWire and Thunderbolt. I’m glad that over ~20 years of marked improvement, it’s still possible to connect and use this hardware. I think I still have a 3com USB webcam somewhere that’s even older but after only a few years, it wouldn’t work with anything I had.
Apply a dark tint film on the top lens and a white diffuser and add an RGB led that turns on colorfully when you wake the voice assistant.
The only other 'classic' I can think of is the Logitech QuickCam Express.
Should we call that arrangement "unknolling"? I love it.
Fun project, great writeup.
I still have a knock-off iSight from eBay which was quite similar but of course had worse image and production quality. One advantage is that it features a thread on the bottom so it can be mounted to a small tripod which still looks quite nice. I use it for a time-lapse project that records the growth of a plant by taking a photograph every 15 minutes. The image resolution is a lot better than the video resolution on these things but still years behind the pi camera I guess.
I have been using an old smartphone as webcam for quite some time now, and I got to say it works quite well. The only problem is the power supply, because video recording draws a lot of power it drains the battery even when it's plugged in.
Of course, an out of the box solution with UVC would be much nicer!
All those problems went away when I switched to pi zero. Other problems invited themselves though.
I called SGI in high school and received some beautiful brochures, on the Indy, and Indigo II. The webcam on the Indy was the most futuristic thing I’d seen at the time.
Google Meet, for example, does not even support 1080p.
Those are, I believe, rather simple to adjust.
But 1280x720 unfortunately is
I recognize that it shouldn't take a workaround, but there are workarounds, and I have seen interesting articles on Medium that I'm glad I've read.
Also, I want to say thanks for your work on Sway and Sourcehut, I use both frequently.
I've noticed that some paywalled sites (NY Times, in particular) provoke an almost immediate posting of an unpaywalled mirror (usually archive.org or outline.com). It would actually be nice if HN just did that automatically.
Well, do you want to read 20 comments on HN by people who have read the linked document in its entirety, commenting about the linked document, or do you want to read 100 comments on HN whining about Medium.com? Yes, paywalls are annoying, but comments saying "WWAAAAAAHHHH MEDUMB" are not good comments, they aren't interesting reading, they don't add to the dicussion on whatever the linked document is, or on the topic of paywalls. IMO they aren't on-topic here under the guidelines "Don't introduce flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say. Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents." (Medium.com having a paywall is unrelated to putting an rPi in a webcam, paywalls are a generic tangent) and "Please don't post shallow dismissals" ("No" is not a thoughtful substantive dismissal) and maybe "please don't complain about website formatting, back-button breakage, and similar annoyances. They're too common to be interesting." - requiring a login is too common an annoyance to be interesting.
In particular to this article and your slatestarcodex link, this webcam article isn't clickbait with zero payoff like the "why are men pointing guns at their dicks" reference, this is a story of something technical that someone did, along with many links relating to the parts they bought, the guides they followed, gif of what it looks like when it's working, links to source code and 3D printer models used. It's not the most technical post ever, but it's incredibly good and relevant to HN compared to a clickbait article on US political social media memes.
I don't enjoy paywalls, and I don't pay for them, but this is what they should be for - if this guy gets a few cents for writing this post about an interesting real project which took a couple of hundred dollars and some decent chunk of hours of design, electronics, hardware assembling and software work to do, then good.
The FAQ  actually specifically allows for paywalls with workarounds.
Edit: Missed character.
Had I read the FAQ more closely, I would have pointed directly at the entry "please don't post complaints about paywalls. Those are off topic." in defense of flagging and downvoting said comments.
I was just offering more evidence to support your case.
If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email email@example.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.
Most people's Zoom video is poor quality because it's "garbage in, garbage out". Barely-passable camera, and lighting that's actively hostile to picture quality, because nobody cares as long as your face is more or less visible.
Ah when the iSight came out, the best thing about it was the stereo microphone array inside of it. Well, that and it looked amazing. Microsoft has a camera that looks like a crappier version of the isight called the lifecam.
I still just have the basic Microsoft 1280x720 USB webcam that I grabbed from the office when we left in March. Phone-as-webcam was more trouble than it was worth, but it did get me playing with OBS for better control over exposure, white balance, gamma, etc.
From there I rigged up a couple of desk lights and clamp lights I had around for better lighting. Then I got a cheap green sheet to replace the white sheet I'd hung behind me to hide the junk room I've been using as a temp office. Then I hooked up a Shure mic to the old USB audio interface I used to have hooked up for messing with guitar.
So now I've got the best sound, lighting, and video-loop backgrounds of the team. Yay? ;)
That’s true if you have a decent quality camera, but the built-in camera on a laptop or the front-facing camera on a phone are generally terrible to begin with. The MacBook Pro comes with a “720p FaceTime HD” camera and I know it’s not the best on the market, but it’s more or less typical and it’s mostly garbage, except for the fact that it gets the job done and it fits where it needs to go.
It's true that the bandwidth isn't there to push 4k. But being decently lit, with a real depth of field, large sensor and aperture, and the flattering effect of a good focal length, all adds up. I look a lot better than the other people on the call, and people notice and comment on that.
This isn't worth a few grand on its own. But if you have other uses for decent video and photography equipment, or just find yourself needing an expensive hobby, you'll get a substantially better effect with it.
And I haven’t done anything about my lighting which is pretty terrible. At least I can set the exposure for my face regardless of whether the background ends up solid white or black.
I’ve spent a few hours trying to pick one and there’s no standout obvious choice.
LUMIX GH5? Kind of old and likely to be replaced soon.
LUMIX G100? New, but video record limit and bad autofocus.
Sony ZV1? Good autofocus, but no interchangeable lens and smaller sensor
It’s really hard to find something that is clearly the best choice.
Edit: just saw your response to the other comment, thanks
I certainly wouldn’t buy it just for a webcam, but I already have the camera and I got the Cam Link for my son’s violin performances that moved to Zoom for a while.
Oh, also I use the ECM-B1M mic even though I use Bluetooth headphones. I realized Bluetooth headphones (at least on a Mac) drop down to super low quality when transmitting both audio and mic, so I only use them for my sound and rely on the camera mic through the Cam Link for input.
I've been satisfied with the results, I'm wondering if you've done both and if you see a difference. I'll probably end up with a capture setup eventually, but I've been kicking it down the road.
Thanks for sharing the software setup! It'd be nice to not have to carry the Cam Link if I want to use this on the go, so I might try setting it up when I get some time. Right now the Cam Link is working very well; it's totally plug-n-play and the quality is top notch.
Will try to remember to come back and share here if I do try the software setup.
HFS/HSP is one of the major reasons why I'm still reluctant to use wireless headphones as my default playback device.
Never had anyone say that with my laptop integrated cam on wifi. My guess is that now that every laptop has a camera and a mic just above the keyboard, we are just used to seeing shitty images and hearing garbled sound but apparently, it does make a difference.
OTOH, take a 10 year old DSLR, flip it to video mode and compare the results when you don't have the lights amped up to max.
Webcams are one of those areas where 7-8 years ago I was wondering why all the webcams were still USB2. For something like video you _REALLY_ want the extra bandwidth. Sure lots of peoples home connections aren't going to be able to feed the 250Mbit or so that is possible with a USB2 webcam, but in many cases your GPU/etc is probably much more capable of doing a good job with a random codec than whatever $.50c codec happens to be integrated on the webcam itself. So run a reasonable bandwidth to the PC and let it cleanup/compress the image. Rather than having the camera compress it to mpeg2, drop 1/2 the clarity, then have your PC decompress it and re-compress it with a more modern codec.
The term "potato quality" has a lovely ring to it.
I don't really care if you meant "makes you look like a potato" or "looks like you're using a potato as a webcam", it works so well either way.
Is it the Sony RX100 I or a later version? I couldn't find any CamLink which supports the first generation.
I recently upgraded to a gaming laptop with no camera at all, and for a moment thought my remote working life would be burdened by expensive and clunky extra hardware to avoid seeming ineptly suited to working from home. Instead it's only burdened by awkward phone placement, but the image quality is much better than before.
it will take years before good quality webcams become the norm. we are only just starting to see them with built in IR sensors in mid to higher end models
This is a universal problem regardless of webcam and regardless of laptop manufacturer, even Apple.
To fix this, you either need to give it the light it wants or get a better sensor/lens package--and in this case, "better" means "bigger".
Which is why you buy a mirrorless camera when you're serious about decent video in your office.
You'd be surprised.
4Mbps is nowhere near low enough to level out all the differences between a crap camera and a great camera. With modern codecs, 4Mbps is actually quite a lot of room to work with; Zoom specifies a requirement of just 3Mbps for group video calls at 1080p, and even Twitch only supports up to 6Mbps.
I often use my own barebones WebRTC thingy for 1:1 meetings and get crisp video.
Sure the plastic will be here for a long time after we have all parted this earthly plane.
Just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you should.