Arducam Motorized Focus Camera: Focusing Equation

The values written to the I²C register controlling the Arducam Motorized Focus Camera lens position are strongly nonlinear with distance, so a simple linear increment / decrement isn’t particularly useful. If one had an equation for the focus value given the distance, one could step linearly by distance.

So, we begin.

Set up a lens focus test range amid the benchtop clutter with found objects marking distances:

Arducam Motorized Focus camera - test setup
Arducam Motorized Focus camera – test setup

Fire up the video loopback arrangement to see through the camera:

Arducam Motorized Focus test - focus infinity
Arducam Motorized Focus test – focus infinity

The camera defaults to a focus at infinity (or, perhaps, a bit beyond), corresponding to 0 in its I²C DAC (or whatever). The blue-green scenery visible through the window over on the right is as crisp as it’ll get through a 5 MP camera, the HP spectrum analyzer is slightly defocused at 80 cm, and everything closer is fuzzy.

Experimentally, the low byte of the I²C word written to the DAC doesn’t change the focus much at all, so what you see below comes from writing a focus value to the high byte and zero to the low byte.

For example, to write 18 (decimal) to the camera:

i2cset -y 0 0x0c 18 0

That’s I²C bus 0 (through the RPi camera ribbon cable), camera lens controller address 0x0c (you could use 12 decimal), focus value 18 * 256 + 0 = 0x12 + 0x00 = 4608 decimal.

Which yanks the focus inward to 30 cm, near the end of the ruler:

Arducam Motorized Focus test - focus 30 cm
Arducam Motorized Focus test – focus 30 cm

The window is now blurry, the analyzer becomes better focused, and the screws at the far end of the yellow ruler look good. Obviously, the depth of field spans quite a range at that distance, but iterating a few values at each distance gives a good idea of the center point.

A Bash one-liner steps the focus inward from infinity while you arrange those doodads on the ruler:

for i in {0..31} ; do let h=i*2 ; echo "high: " $h ; let rc=1 ; until (( rc < 1 )) ; do i2cset -y 0 0x0c $h 0 ; let rc=$? ; echo "rc: " $rc ; done ; sleep 1 ; done

Write 33 to set the focus at 10 cm:

Arducam Motorized Focus test - focus 10 cm
Arducam Motorized Focus test – focus 10 cm

Then write 55 for 5 cm:

Arducam Motorized Focus test - focus 5 cm
Arducam Motorized Focus test – focus 5 cm

The tick marks show the depth of field might be 10 mm.

Although the camera doesn’t have a “thin lens” in the optical sense, for my simple purposes the ideal thin lens equation gives some idea of what’s happening. I think the DAC value moves the lens more-or-less linearly with respect to the sensor, so it should be more-or-less inversely related to the focus distance.

Take a few data points, reciprocate & scale, plot on a doodle pad:

Arducam Motorized Focus RPi Camera - focus equation doodles
Arducam Motorized Focus RPi Camera – focus equation doodles

Dang, I loves me some good straight-as-a-ruler plotting action!

The hook at the upper right covers the last few millimeters of lens travel where the object distance is comparable to the sensor distance, so I’ll give the curve a pass.

Feed the points into a calculator and curve-fit to get an equation you could publish:

DAC MSB = 10.8 + 218 / (distance in cm)
= 10.8 + 2180 / distance in mm)

Given the rather casual test setup, the straight-line section definitely doesn’t support three significant figures for the slope and we could quibble about exactly where the focus origin sits with respect to the camera.

So this seems close enough:

DAC MSB = 11 + 2200 / (distance in mm)

Anyhow, I can now tweak a “distance” value in a linear-ish manner (perhaps with a knob, but through evdev), run the equation, send the corresponding DAC value to the camera lens controller, and have the focus come out pretty close to where it should be.

Now, to renew my acquaintance with evdev

Raspberry Pi Interrupts vs. Rotary Encoder

Thinking about using a rotary encoder to focus a Raspberry Pi lens led to a testbed:

RPi knob encoder test setup
RPi knob encoder test setup

There’s not much to it, because the RPi can enable pullup resistors on its digital inputs, whereupon the encoder switches its code bits to common. The third oscilloscope probe to the rear syncs on a trigger output from my knob driver.

I started with the Encoder library from PyPi, but the setup code doesn’t enable the pullup resistors and the interrupt (well, it’s a callback) handler discards the previous encoder state before using it, so the thing can’t work. I kept the overall structure, gutted the code, and rebuilt it around a state table. The code appears at the bottom, but you won’t need it.

Here’s the problem, all in one image:

Knob Encoder - ABT - fast - overview
Knob Encoder – ABT – fast – overview

The top two traces are the A and B encoder bits. The bottom trace is the trigger output from the interrupt handler, which goes high at the start of the handler and low at the end, with a negative blip in the middle when it detects a “no motion” situation: the encoder output hasn’t changed from the last time it was invoked.

Over on the left, where the knob is turning relatively slowly, the first two edges have an interrupt apiece. A detailed view shows them in action (the bottom half enlarge the non-shaded part of the top half):

Knob Encoder - ABT - fast - first IRQs
Knob Encoder – ABT – fast – first IRQs

Notice that each interrupt occurs about 5 ms after the edge causing it!

When the edges occur less than 5 ms apart, the driver can’t keep up. The next four edges produce only three interrupts:

Knob Encoder - ABT - fast - 4 edges 3 IRQ
Knob Encoder – ABT – fast – 4 edges 3 IRQ

A closer look at the three interrupts shows all of them produced the “no motion” pulse, because they all sampled the same (incorrect) input bits:

Knob Encoder - ABT - fast - 4 edges 3 IRQ - detail
Knob Encoder – ABT – fast – 4 edges 3 IRQ – detail

In fact, no matter how many edges occur, you only get three interrupts:

Knob Encoder - ABT - fast - 9 edges 3 IRQ
Knob Encoder – ABT – fast – 9 edges 3 IRQ

The groups of interrupts never occur less than 5 ms apart, no matter how many edges they’ve missed. Casual searching suggests the Linux Completely Fair Scheduler has a minimum timeslice / thread runtime around 5 ms, so the encoder may be running at the fastest possible response for a non-real-time Raspberry Pi kernel, at least with a Python handler.

If. I. Turn. The. Knob. Slowly. Then. It. Works. Fine. But. That. Is. Not. Practical. For. My. Purposes.

Nor anybody else’s purposes, really, which leads me to think very few people have ever tried lashing a rotary encoder to a Raspberry Pi.

So, OK, I’ll go with Nearer and Farther focusing buttons.

The same casual searching suggested tweaking the Python thread’s priority / niceness could lock it to a different CPU core and, obviously, writing the knob handler in C / C++ / any other language would improve the situation, but IMO the result doesn’t justify the effort.

It’s worth noting that writing “portable code” involves more than just getting it to run on a different system with different hardware. Rotary encoder handlers are trivial on an Arduino or, as in this case, even an ARM-based Teensy, but “the same logic” doesn’t deliver the same results on an RPi.

My attempt at a Python encoder driver + simple test program as a GitHub Gist:

# Rotary encoder test driver
# Ed Nisley - KE4ZNU
# Adapted from https://github.com/mivallion/Encoder
# State table from https://github.com/PaulStoffregen/Encoder
import RPi.GPIO as GPIO
class Encoder(object):
def __init__(self, A, B, T=None, Delay=None):
GPIO.setmode(GPIO.BCM)
self.T = T
if T is not None:
GPIO.setup(T, GPIO.OUT)
GPIO.output(T,0)
GPIO.setup(A, GPIO.IN, pull_up_down=GPIO.PUD_UP)
GPIO.setup(B, GPIO.IN, pull_up_down=GPIO.PUD_UP)
self.delay = Delay
self.A = A
self.B = B
self.pos = 0
self.state = (GPIO.input(B) << 1) | GPIO.input(A)
self.edges = (0,1,-1,2,-1,0,-2,1,1,-2,0,-1,2,-1,1,0)
if self.delay is not None:
GPIO.add_event_detect(A, GPIO.BOTH, callback=self.__update,
bouncetime=self.delay)
GPIO.add_event_detect(B, GPIO.BOTH, callback=self.__update,
bouncetime=self.delay)
else:
GPIO.add_event_detect(A, GPIO.BOTH, callback=self.__update)
GPIO.add_event_detect(B, GPIO.BOTH, callback=self.__update)
def __update(self, channel):
if self.T is not None:
GPIO.output(self.T,1) # flag entry
state = (self.state & 0b0011) \
| (GPIO.input(self.B) << 3) \
| (GPIO.input(self.A) << 2)
gflag = '' if self.edges[state] else ' - glitch'
if (self.T is not None) and not self.edges[state]: # flag no-motion glitch
GPIO.output(self.T,0)
GPIO.output(self.T,1)
self.pos += self.edges[state]
self.state = state >> 2
# print(' {} - state: {:04b} pos: {}{}'.format(channel,state,self.pos,gflag))
if self.T is not None:
GPIO.output(self.T,0) # flag exit
def read(self):
return self.pos
def read_reset(self):
rv = self.pos
self.pos = 0
return rv
def write(self,pos):
self.pos = pos
if __name__ == "__main__":
import encoder
import time
from gpiozero import Button
btn = Button(26)
enc = encoder.Encoder(20, 21,T=16)
prev = enc.read()
while not btn.is_held :
now = enc.read()
if now != prev:
print('{:+4d}'.format(now))
prev = now
view raw encoder.py hosted with ❤ by GitHub

RPi HQ Camera: 4.8 mm Computar Video Lens

The Big Box o’ Optics disgorged an ancient new-in-box Computar 4.8 mm lens, originally intended for a TV camera, with a C mount perfectly suited for the Raspberry Pi HQ camera:

RPi HQ Camera - Computar 4.8mm - front view
RPi HQ Camera – Computar 4.8mm – front view

Because it’s a video lens, it includes an aperture driver expecting a video signal from the camera through a standard connector:

Computar 4.8 mm lens - camera plug
Computar 4.8 mm lens – camera plug

The datasheet tucked into the box (!) says it expects 8 to 16 V DC on the red wire (with black common) and video on white:

Computar Auto Iris TV Lens Manual
Computar Auto Iris TV Lens Manual

Fortunately, applying 5 V to red and leaving white unconnected opens the aperture all the way. Presumably, the circuitry thinks it’s looking at a really dark scene and isn’t fussy about the missing sync pulses.

Rather than attempt to find / harvest a matching camera connector, the cord now terminates in a JST plug, with the matching socket hot-melt glued to the Raspberry Pi case:

RPi HQ Camera - 4.8 mm Computar lens - JST power
RPi HQ Camera – 4.8 mm Computar lens – JST power

The Pi has +5 V and ground on the rightmost end of its connector, so the Computar lens will be jammed fully open.

I gave it something to look at:

RPi HQ Camera - Computar 4.8mm - overview
RPi HQ Camera – Computar 4.8mm – overview

With the orange back plate about 150 mm from the RPi, the 4.8 mm lens delivers this scene:

RPi HQ Camera - 4.8 mm Computar lens - 150mm near view
RPi HQ Camera – 4.8 mm Computar lens – 150mm near view

The focus is on the shutdown / startup button just to the right of the heatsink, so the depth of field is maybe 25 mm front-to-back.

For comparison, the official 16 mm lens stopped down to f/8 has a tighter view with good depth of field:

RPi HQ Camera - 16 mm lens - 150mm near view
RPi HQ Camera – 16 mm lens – 150mm near view

It’d be nice to have a variable aperture, but it’s probably not worth the effort.

Arducam Motorized Focus Camera Control

Despite the company name name, the Arducam 5 MP Motorized Focus camera plugs into a Raspberry Pi’s camera connector and lives on a PCB the same size as ordinary RPi cameras:

Arducam Motorized Focus RPi Camera - test overview
Arducam Motorized Focus RPi Camera – test overview

That’s a focus test setup to get some idea of how the control values match up against actual distances.

It powers up focused at infinity (or maybe a bit beyond):

Arducam Motorized Focus RPi Camera - default focus
Arducam Motorized Focus RPi Camera – default focus

In practice, it’s a usable, if a bit soft, at any distance beyond a couple of meters.

The closest focus is around 40 mm, depending on where you set the ruler’s zero point:

Arducam Motorized Focus RPi Camera - near focus
Arducam Motorized Focus RPi Camera – near focus

That’s the back side of the RPi V1 camera PCB most recently seen atop the mystery microscope objective illuminator.

Pondering the sample code shows the camera focus setting involves writing two bytes to an I²C address through the video controller’s I²C bus. Enable that bus with a line in /boot/config.txt:

dtparam=i2c_vc=on

If you’re planning to capture 1280×720 or larger still images, reserve enough memory in the GPU:

gpu_mem=512

I don’t know how to determine the correct value.

And, if user pi isn’t in group i2c, make it so, then reboot.

The camera must be running before you can focus it, so run raspivid and watch the picture. I think you must do that in order to focus a (higher-res) still picture, perhaps starting a video preroll (not that kind) in a different thread while you fire off a (predetermined?) focus value, allow time for the lens to settle, then acquire a still picture with the video still running.

The focus value is number between 0 and 1023, in two bytes divided, written in big-endian order to address 0x0c on bus 0:

i2cset -y 0 0x0c 0x3f 0xff

You can, of course, use decimal numbers:

i2cset -y 0 0x0c 63 255

I think hex values are easier to tweak by hand.

Some tinkering gives this rough correlation:

Focus value (hex)Focus distance (mm)
3FFF45 (-ish)
300055
200095
1000530
0800850
Arducam Motorized Focus Camera – numeric value vs mm

Beyond a meter, the somewhat gritty camera resolution gets in the way of precise focusing, particularly in low indoor lighting.

A successful write produces a return code of 0. Sometimes the write will inexplicably fail with an Error: Write failed message, a return code of 1, and no focus change, so it’s Good Practice to retry until it works.

This obviously calls for a knob and a persistent value!

Raspberry Pi HQ Camera + 16 MM 10 MP Lens: Depth of Field

Part of the motivation for getting a Raspberry Pi HQ camera sensor was being able to use lenses with adjustable focus and aperture, like the Official 10 MP “telephoto” lens:

RPi HQ Camera - aperture demo setup
RPi HQ Camera – aperture demo setup

Yes, it can focus absurdly close to the lens, particularly when you mess around with the back focus adjustment.

With the aperture fully open at f/1.4:

RPi HQ Camera - aperture demo - f 1.4
RPi HQ Camera – aperture demo – f 1.4

Stopped down to f/16:

RPi HQ Camera - aperture demo - f 16
RPi HQ Camera – aperture demo – f 16

The field of view is about 60 mm (left-to-right) at 150 mm. Obviously, arranging the camera with its optical axis more-or-less perpendicular to the page will improve everything about the image.

For normal subjects at normal ranges with normal lighting, the depth of field works pretty much the way you’d expect:

At f/1.4, focused on the potted plants a dozen feet away:

Raspberry Pi HQ Camera - outdoor near focus
Raspberry Pi HQ Camera – outdoor near focus

Also at f/1.4, focused on the background at infinity:

Raspberry Pi HQ Camera - outdoor far focus
Raspberry Pi HQ Camera – outdoor far focus

In comparison, the laptop camera renders everything equally badly (at a lower resolution, so it’s not a fair comparison):

Laptop camera - outdoors
Laptop camera – outdoors

Stipulated: these are screen captures of “movies” from raspivid over the network to VLC. The HQ sensor is capable of much better images.

None of this is surprising, but it’s a relief from the usual phone sensor camera with fixed focus (at “infinity” if you’re lucky) and a wide-open aperture.

Mystery Microscope Objective Illuminator

Rummaging through the Big Box o’ Optics in search of something else produced this doodad:

Microscope objective illuminator - overview
Microscope objective illuminator – overview

It carries no brand name or identifier, suggesting it was shop-made for a very specific and completely unknown purpose. The 5× objective also came from the BBo’O, but wasn’t related in any way other than fitting the threads, so the original purpose probably didn’t include it.

The little bulb fit into a cute and obviously heat-stressed socket:

Microscope objective illuminator - bulb detail
Microscope objective illuminator – bulb detail

The filament was, of course, broken, so I dismantled the socket and conjured a quick-n-dirty white LED that appears blue under the warm-white bench lighting:

Microscope objective illuminator - white LED
Microscope objective illuminator – white LED

The socket fits into the housing on the left, which screws onto a fitting I would have sworn was glued / frozen in place. Eventually, I found a slotted grub screw hidden under a glob of dirt:

Microscope objective illuminator - lock screw
Microscope objective illuminator – lock screw

Releasing the screw let the fitting slide right out:

Microscope objective illuminator - lamp reflector
Microscope objective illuminator – lamp reflector

The glass reflector sits at 45° to direct the light coaxially down into the objective (or whatever optics it was originally intended for), with the other end of the widget having a clear view straight through. I cleaned the usual collection of fuzz & dirt off the glass, then centered and aligned the reflection with the objective.

Unfortunately, the objective lens lacks antireflection coatings:

Microscope objective illuminator - stray light
Microscope objective illuminator – stray light

The LED tube is off to the right at 2 o’clock, with the bar across the reflector coming from stray light bouncing back from the far wall of the interior. The brilliant dot in the middle comes from light reflected off the various surfaces inside the objective.

An unimpeachable source tells me microscope objectives are designed to form a real image 180 mm up inside the ‘scope tube with the lens at the design height above the object. I have the luxury of being able to ignore all that, so I perched a lensless Raspberry Pi V1 camera on a short brass tube and affixed it to a three-axis positioner:

Microscope objective illuminator - RPi camera lashup
Microscope objective illuminator – RPi camera lashup

A closer look at the lashup reveals the utter crudity:

Microscope objective illuminator - RPi camera lashup - detail
Microscope objective illuminator – RPi camera lashup – detail

It’s better than I expected:

Microscope objective illuminator - RPi V1 camera image - unprocessed
Microscope objective illuminator – RPi V1 camera image – unprocessed

What you’re seeing is the real image formed by the objective lens directly on the RPi V1 camera’s sensor: in effect, the objective replaces the itsy-bitsy camera lens. It’s a screen capture from VLC using V4L2 loopback trickery.

Those are 0.1 inch squares printed on the paper, so the view is about 150×110 mil. Positioning the camera further from the objective would reduce both the view (increase the magnification) and the amount of light, so this may be about as good as it get.

The image started out with low contrast from all the stray light, but can be coerced into usability:

Microscope objective illuminator - RPi V1 camera image - auto-level adjust
Microscope objective illuminator – RPi V1 camera image – auto-level adjust

The weird violet-to-greenish color shading apparently comes from the lens shading correction matrix baked into the RPi image capture pipeline and can, with some difficulty, be fixed if you have a mind to do so.

All this is likely not worth the effort given the results of just perching a Pixel 3a atop the stereo zoom microscope:

Pixel 3a on stereo zoom microscope
Pixel 3a on stereo zoom microscope

But I just had to try it out.

Raspberry Pi HQ Camera Mount

As far as I can tell, Raspberry Pi cases are a solved problem, so 3D printing an intricate widget to stick a Pi on the back of an HQ camera seems unnecessary unless you really, really like solid modeling, which, admittedly, can be a thing. All you really need is a simple adapter between the camera PCB and the case of your choice:

HQ Camera Backplate - OpenSCAD model
HQ Camera Backplate – OpenSCAD model

A quartet of 6 mm M2.5 nylon spacers mount the adapter to the camera PCB:

RPi HQ Camera - nylon standoffs
RPi HQ Camera – nylon standoffs

The plate has recesses to put the screw heads below the surface. I used nylon screws, but it doesn’t really matter.

The case has all the right openings, slots in the bottom for a pair of screws, and costs six bucks. A pair of M3 brass inserts epoxied into the plate capture the screws:

RPi HQ Camera - case adapter plate - screws
RPi HQ Camera – case adapter plate – screws

Thick washers punched from an old credit card go under the screws to compensate for the case’s silicone bump feet. I suppose Doing the Right Thing would involve 3D printed spacers matching the cross-shaped case cutouts.

Not everyone agrees with my choice of retina-burn orange PETG:

RPi HQ Camera - 16 mm lens - case adapter plate
RPi HQ Camera – 16 mm lens – case adapter plate

Yes, that’s a C-mount TV lens lurking in the background, about which more later.

The OpenSCAD source code as a GitHub Gist:

// Raspberry Pi HQ Camera Backplate
// Ed Nisley KE4ZNU 2020-09
//-- Extrusion parameters
/* [Hidden] */
ThreadThick = 0.25;
ThreadWidth = 0.40;
HoleWindage = 0.2;
function IntegerMultiple(Size,Unit) = Unit * ceil(Size / Unit);
function IntegerLessMultiple(Size,Unit) = Unit * floor(Size / Unit);
Protrusion = 0.1; // make holes end cleanly
inch = 25.4;
ID = 0;
OD = 1;
LENGTH = 2;
//- Basic dimensions
CamPCB = [39.0,39.0,1.5]; // Overall PCB size, plus a bit
CornerRound = 3.0; // ... has rounded corners
CamScrewOC = [30.0,30.0,0]; // ... mounting screw layout
CamScrew = [2.5,5.0,2.2]; // ... LENGTH = head thickness
Standoff = [2.5,5.5,6.0]; // nylon standoffs
Insert = [3.0,4.0,4.0];
WallThick = IntegerMultiple(2.0,ThreadWidth);
PlateThick = Insert[LENGTH];
CamBox = [CamPCB.x + 2*WallThick,
CamPCB.y + 2*WallThick,
Standoff.z + PlateThick + CamPCB.z + 1.0];
PiPlate = [90.0,60.0,PlateThick];
PiPlateOffset = [0.0,(PiPlate.y - CamBox.y)/2,0];
PiSlotOC = [0.0,40.0];
PiSlotOffset = [3.5,3.5];
NumSides = 2*3*4;
TextDepth = 2*ThreadThick;
//----------------------
// Useful routines
module PolyCyl(Dia,Height,ForceSides=0) { // based on nophead's polyholes
Sides = (ForceSides != 0) ? ForceSides : (ceil(Dia) + 2);
FixDia = Dia / cos(180/Sides);
cylinder(r=(FixDia + HoleWindage)/2,h=Height,$fn=Sides);
}
//----------------------
// Build it
difference() {
union() {
hull() // camera enclosure
for (i=[-1,1], j=[-1,1])
translate([i*(CamBox.x/2 - CornerRound),j*(CamBox.y/2 - CornerRound),0])
cylinder(r=CornerRound,h=CamBox.z,$fn=NumSides);
translate(PiPlateOffset)
hull()
for (i=[-1,1], j=[-1,1]) // Pi case plate
translate([i*(PiPlate.x/2 - CornerRound),j*(PiPlate.y/2 - CornerRound),0])
cylinder(r=CornerRound,h=PiPlate.z,$fn=NumSides);
}
hull() // camera PCB space
for (i=[-1,1], j=[-1,1])
translate([i*(CamPCB.x/2 - CornerRound),j*(CamPCB.y/2 - CornerRound),PlateThick])
cylinder(r=CornerRound,h=CamBox.z,$fn=NumSides);
translate([0,-CamBox.y/2,PlateThick + CamBox.z/2])
cube([CamScrewOC.x - Standoff[OD],CamBox.y,CamBox.z],center=true);
for (i=[-1,1], j=[-1,1]) // camera screws with head recesses
translate([i*CamScrewOC.x/2,j*CamScrewOC.y/2,-Protrusion]) {
PolyCyl(CamScrew[ID],2*CamBox.z,6);
PolyCyl(CamScrew[OD],CamScrew[LENGTH] + Protrusion,6);
}
for (j=[-1,1]) // Pi case screw inserts
translate([0,j*PiSlotOC.y/2 + PiSlotOffset.y,-Protrusion] + PiPlateOffset)
PolyCyl(Insert[OD],2*PiPlate.z,6);
translate([-PiPlate.x/2 + (PiPlate.x - CamBox.x)/4,0,PlateThick - TextDepth/2] + PiPlateOffset)
cube([15.0,30.0,TextDepth + Protrusion],center=true);
}
translate([-PiPlate.x/2 + (PiPlate.x - CamBox.x)/4 + 3,0,PlateThick - TextDepth - Protrusion] + PiPlateOffset)
linear_extrude(height=TextDepth + Protrusion,convexity=2)
rotate(-90)
text("Ed Nisley",font="Arial:style=Bold",halign="center",valign="center",size=4,spacing=1.05);
translate([-PiPlate.x/2 + (PiPlate.x - CamBox.x)/4 - 3,0,PlateThick - TextDepth - Protrusion] + PiPlateOffset)
linear_extrude(height=TextDepth + Protrusion,convexity=2)
rotate(-90)
text("KE4ZNU",font="Arial:style=Bold",halign="center",valign="center",size=4,spacing=1.05);