Raspberry Pi Camera Modules

Learn about your official and aftermarket options

Raspberry Pi camera modules have been used to create impressive robots with live videostreams, nighttime wildlife monitors, homemade cameras, and more. There are four versions of the official module alongside an array of aftermarket options, so choosing the best Raspberry Pi camera module can be a challenge for new users.

Depending on your version of Raspberry Pi, you may need a special connector cable to use some of these modules. See the official Raspberry Pi docs for more information about camera compatibility.

01
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Official Camera Module Version 1: Standard

Raspberry Pi Camera Module Version 1 Standard Model released May 2013
What We Like
  • Easy to install.

  • Inexpensive if you can find one used.

What We Don't Like
  • Not really suitable for low-light conditions.

  • No longer in production.

Just over a year after Raspberry Pi's initial launch, founder Eben Upton announced the release of the original camera module board. The original board packs a 5-megapixel OmniVision OV5647 sensor with a resolution of 2592x1944 pixels. It was designed for daytime use only.

In terms of video, it supports 1080p and 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, so long as you're not picky about resolution, night photography, and being 3 megapixels behind the newer version.

02
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Official Camera Module Version 1: NoIR Infrared

NoIR Camera Module version 1 Raspberry Pi camera module for night photography
What We Like
  • Captures infared images.

  • Perfect for nightime use and low-light conditions.

What We Don't Like
  • Not suitable for daytime use.

  • No longer in production.

In October 2013, the Raspberry Pi Foundation released a new infrared (IR) 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. You'll get a purple image during the ​day, so IR cameras are best reserved for nighttime projects.

Like the original module, these may be hard to find now that they've been superseded by newer versions.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

03
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Official Camera Module Version 2: Standard Version

Raspberry Pi Camera Module Version 2 - Standard Model
What We Like
  • Captures higher-quality images than the original module.

  • Uses the same code commands as the original.

What We Don't Like
  • Not suitable for low-light conditions.

  • Few improvements over the original.

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

04
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Official Camera Module Version 2: NoIR Version

Raspberry Pi NoIR Camera Module Version 2
What We Like
  • Captures higher-quality infared images than the original NoIR.

  • Perfect for nightime use and low-light conditions.

What We Don't Like
  • Not suitable for daytime use.

  • Few improvements over the original.

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.

05
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Waveshare Night Vision Camera Module With IR LEDs

Waveshare Zooming Camera Module, an aftermarket Raspberry Pi camera module accessory
What We Like
  • Best option for nighttime photography.

  • Automatically adjusts lighting for optimal results.

What We Don't Like
  • Not suitable for daytime use.

  • Rather large and indiscreet.

This model from Waveshare combines an adjustable-focus lens with attachable IR LEDs to create a solid night-vision option. The IR board also comes with a photoresistor, which detects ambient light and adjusts the IR intensity accordingly, as well as a built-in resistor for further adjusting.

If you plan to do some night photography and don't want the hassle of arranging or building 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.

06
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Waveshare Fisheye Lens Camera Module

Waveshare Fish-eye Camera Module, an aftermarket Raspberry Pi camera module accessory
What We Like
  • Captures wide panoramic shots.

  • Choose between daytime and night vision models.

What We Don't Like
  • Images lose focus around the edges.

  • Not ideal for all types of photography.

Another offering from Waveshare 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, the edges of the shots will lose focus, and you may have a ring around the output images.