Raspberry Pi’s Official Camera Board Receives 8MP Sony IMX219 Sensor Upgrade, Keeps $25 Price Tag

One of the most popular add-ons for Raspberry Pi's low-cost mini PC line is a 5-megapixel visible-light camera board. It also happens to be Raspberry Pi's first official accessory, which it introduced in 2013. Now three years later, modders and makers have access to a pair of new camera boards, both based on Sony's IMX219 8-megapixel sensor.

The new camera boards are available in visible-light and infrared flavors. As with the old model, these can be used in a variety of projects, including telescopes, kites with aerial views, science lessons, hyperspectral imaging hacks, and the list goes on. The introduction of a new camera accessory comes as stock of the old model has nearly run out.

Raspberry Pi Camera

Raspberry PI's original 5MP cameras used an OmniVision 5647 sensor that reached end-of-life in 2014. The company's hardware partners scooped up large stockpiles, but now that they're almost gone, Raspberry Pi turned to Sony's image sensor division to see if it would be interested in picking up the torch. Turns out it was, and Raspberry Pi is stoked with the result.

"In our testing, IMX219 has proven to be a fantastic choice. You can read all the gory details about IMX219 and the Exmor R back-illuminated sensor architecture on Sony’s website, but suffice to say this is more than just a resolution upgrade: it’s a leap forward in image quality, color fidelity and low-light performance," Raspberry Pi stated in a blog post.

Raspberry Pi Camera AWB
AWB at higher (top) and lower (bottom) color temperatures

There's a lot going on behind the scenes when you take a photo. While the number of megapixels remains a popular metric for comparing cameras, it's not necessarily an indicator of quality. With the IMX219, Sony put a lot of work into the tuning process, and specifically towards lens shading and auto white balance (AWB) to ensure that the true colors of a scene are reproduced no matter what type of lighting is used.

The best part about the new and upgraded camera boards? At $25 a pop, they cost the same as the old ones. If you're ready to pounce at that price, you can pick one up immediately from RS Components or element14.