Raspberry Pi Camera Modules

Learn about your official and aftermarket options

The camera module is a fantastic way to make exciting projects with your Raspberry Pi.

While the GPIO pins can control LEDs, buzzers, sensors, and more, adding a visual element opens up a whole new set of project opportunities.

Enthusiasts have used the camera module to create impressive Pi robots with live video streams, wildlife night monitors, homemade cameras, and much more, all made with a Raspberry Pi at the core.

There are now four versions of the official Raspberry Pi camera module, alongside an array of aftermarket options. This can be a little confusing for new Raspberry Pi users, so let's take a look at what's available.

Official Camera Module Version 1: Standard

Raspberry Pi Camera Module Version 1 Standard Model released May 2013

On May 14, 2013, ​Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton announced the release of the original camera module board. This was just over a year after Raspberry Pi's initial launch, 

The original board packed a 5-megapixel OmniVision OV5647 sensor with a resolution of 2592x1944 pixels. It was designed for daytime use.

In terms of video, it supported 1080p as well as slow-motion modes, albeit at a lower resolution.

The original camera module is a good option for many types of projects if you can find one for sale cheaper than the new version and you're not that picky about resolution, night photography, and being 3 megapixels behind the newer version.

Official Camera Module Version 1: NoIR Infrared

NoIR Camera Module version 1 Raspberry Pi camera module for night photography

In October 2013, the Raspberry Pi Foundation released a new infrared version of the camera module board called the NoIR module.

The stylish black NoIR module was designed for night photography and other IR experiments, such as viewing plant photosynthesis. Simply flood your subject with IR light and have night vision at your fingertips! (You'll get a very purple image during the ​day, however, so these are best reserved for night projects.)

Like the original module, these may be hard to find now that they've been superseded by newer versions. But if you can find an inexpensive one and aren't concerned with its lower resolution, an original NoIR module could be an affordable entry to night photography.

Official Camera Module Version 2: Standard Version

Raspberry Pi Camera Module Version 2 - Standard Model

Version 2 of the Raspberry Pi camera module was released in April 2016, this time boasting 8 megapixels.

The previously used OmniVision OV5647 sensors were no longer being produced, so the Raspberry Pi Foundation switched to hardware based on Sony's IMX219 model. Everything else, including size, hole layout, and code commands, stayed the same.

As version 1 boards become harder and harder to find, version 2 camera modules will soon be the only official daytime camera option. The megapixel boost should be enough to tempt most buyers away from aftermarket options.

Official Camera Module Version 2: NoIR Version

Raspberry Pi NoIR Camera Module Version 2

The second version of the NoIR camera module was released on the same day as the new standard version. Aside from the additional megapixels, the camera module was unchanged.

As it gets more difficult to source the original boards, this will be the go-to official night camera module.

Waveshare Camera Module

Waveshare camera module, a generic Chinese Raspberry Pi camera module

It wasn't long before aftermarket versions of the camera module began to appear online.

This example is from Waveshare; it's almost a replica of the original 5-megapixel standard board and appears to have the same OV5647 sensor used in the official modules.

The extended lens section looks interesting, but it may interrupt compatibility with cases and other products focused around the camera module.

This is not a good option unless you're curious about the extended lens. The product has only 5 megapixels, compared with the current official module's 8 megapixels, and it doesn't cost that much less. 

Waveshare Zooming Camera Module With IR LEDs

Waveshare Zooming Camera Module, an aftermarket Raspberry Pi camera module accessory

This is a more exciting aftermarket camera module, offering new and interesting features. This model, also from Waveshare, features both a zooming lens and attachable IR LEDs combining to create a solid night-vision option.

The IR board also comes with a photoresistor, which will detect ambient light and adjust the IR intensity accordingly, as well as a built-in resistor for further adjusting.

If you're planning on some night photography and don't want the hassle of arranging or building your own IR lighting, this is a good solution.

The quality of aftermarket cameras and sensors can be inconsistent, however, so consider your requirements before making a purchase.

Waveshare Fisheye Lens Camera Module

Waveshare Fish-eye Camera Module, an aftermarket Raspberry Pi camera module accessory

Another offering from Waveshare, which seems to be the only real aftermarket player, is this fisheye variant of its camera. The device gives a wide panoramic view and is available in normal and IR versions, making night vision possible.

If you need to capture more in your shots, for a project such as a Pi CCTV, this fisheye lens might be helpful.

However, remember that the edges of your shots will lose focus and you may have a ring around your output images.