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OESF Portables Forum _ Gemini PDA - Hardware _ Upgraded external camera

Posted by: zsalab2 Oct 21 2018, 01:51 PM

I wonder if there is any info regarding whether a higher-resolution external camera will be available?

Posted by: Ifanafi Oct 22 2018, 08:02 AM

That upgrade camera has been wish-listed to Planet Computers for inclusion in the (likely) Gemini 2.0 version.

As cameras go, the Gem's camera is woefully outdated.

Planet intended to include a 10mp camera but size / fitting that into the Gem's body was not possible at the production stage.

I suspect the sourced vendor couldn't deliver the agreed upon camera size, so Planet settled for the 5mp camera and thereby not delay further its slipping delivery dates any more than they had already.

Here's hoping version 2.0 includes a current state-of-the art 10+mp camera.

Ifanafi

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QUOTE(zsalab2 @ Oct 21 2018, 05:51 PM) *
I wonder if there is any info regarding whether a higher-resolution external camera will be available?


Posted by: Daniel W Oct 25 2018, 03:41 AM

I wouldn't mind 5MP if they were five GOOD megapixels, like on par with what a reasonably good standalone point-and-shoot camera used to deliver back when those were about 5MP.

But yeah, integrating the rear-facing camera at the factory and locating the module such that it doesn't overlap the screen, should provide enough depth to use a contemporary quality camera. A decent LED flash wouldn't hurt either. The front-facing camera could be quite a bit better too. Try having a video chat somewhere dim and show something like a business card to the other end.

All those things would increase the price though, so maybe they'd have to offer an option without either or both cameras, much like the current Gemini can be bought without the 4G modem.

If they really can't fit decent cameras at any price, I'd prefer an add-on camera plugging into a USB-C port. Clunky, yes, but then the module could be whatever size it would need to be. Ideally, it would fit the current Geminis too. I already have the current add-on, but its quality often prevents me from using it.

Posted by: Jeffers Oct 25 2018, 06:41 AM

I found the quality of the addon camera to be excruciatingly bad. After a few weeks of not wanting to use it because it was so bad, I removed it and sold it.

If there's a Gemini v2 that has a proper camera that doesn't stick out, Planet will get my money.

Posted by: shuntcap Oct 25 2018, 12:04 PM

QUOTE(Daniel W @ Oct 25 2018, 07:41 AM) *
I wouldn't mind 5MP if they were five GOOD megapixels, like on par with what a reasonably good standalone point-and-shoot camera used to deliver back when those were about 5MP.


Exactly. The rear camera isn't just woefully outdated, it's downright horrible. Blurry, smeared, no detail, severe chromatic aberration... it's a sorry excuse for a camera in the year 2018. In fact, all of my QWERTY smartphones from the 2009-2013 era (six different models, 3MP to 8MP) take far superior pictures.

I contacted Planet some time ago asking for a hardware reference manual for the SP5509 module (which is the rear camera), but they could not obtain one. I was hoping to ensure that the kernel driver was properly configuring the camera sensor. I also asked for a connector pinout, but they didn't even respond to that request. I got the distinct impression that they really have very little knowledge of the rear camera module and that their vendor doesn't have much more, either.

I also wrote to SuperPix, the manufacturer of the SP5509 camera module. They didn't respond.

E-con Systems manufactures a large number of camera modules. I found a 13MP module with matching physical dimensions, but the connector is larger (and uses a different bus). But that suggests that may be possible to fit a better module into the Gemini's confined space. However, as I said, I was unable to glean any interface information from Planet and I doubt they see the camera quality as a priority issue. They have more pressing matters.

For anyone interested in a clunky USB camera solution (maybe), e-con Systems has this 13MP board:
https://www.e-consystems.com/13mp-autofocus-usb-camera.asp

Posted by: qbiot Oct 25 2018, 09:52 PM

Well. I tried to fit camera modules from xiaomi nikel, and Homton HT20 (based on MTK x27). Same issue. Even though source code of kernel modules for said cameras is available (both use sony sensor), the problem is with connector size.

Posted by: NCI Oct 27 2018, 06:59 PM

Could someone please post a high quality photo of Gemini add-on camera's connector?

Posted by: qbiot Oct 28 2018, 03:51 AM



Here. Hope this helps.

Posted by: NCI Oct 28 2018, 05:05 AM

QUOTE(qbiot @ Oct 28 2018, 03:51 AM) *
Here. Hope this helps.

Thank you!

Posted by: NCI Oct 28 2018, 05:34 AM

This 13MP module looks awfully similar, no?

https://korean.alibaba.com/product-detail/mt9v128-python10k-python12k-python1300-python16k-vita5000-kae-08151-13mp-camera-module-jal-imx135-e10b-60706875939.html

Posted by: jakfish Oct 28 2018, 06:57 AM

I don't own the camera add-on, but as a brief aside, could someone recommend a very small camera, with reasonable specs? Pocket-sized. Something to carry with the Gemini.

Jake

Posted by: Daniel W Nov 6 2018, 11:53 AM

QUOTE(NCI @ Oct 28 2018, 02:34 PM) *
This 13MP module looks awfully similar, no?

As it so happens, I measured my SP5509 before mounting it. Width and height matches closely. The JAL-IMX135-E10B is 8.6 x 16.7mm, while the SP5509 is 8.5 x 17.4mm (the length includes the flex cable and connector). Both seems to use a "2 lane MIPI interface" (whatever that is).

However, the JAL-IMX135-E10B datasheet says its "lens" is 5.75mm thick (possibly plus mounting and the flex cable), while the SP5509 is 4.00mm thick in total (my calipers says 4.04mm, including the blue protective sticker).

Given its 1.12um BSI pixels, one could easily think the SP5509 could be better. At "only" 5MP, it's 1/5" type sensor size shouldn't have to be a problem, but for some reason, the images are indeed quite terrible. Given the lack of detail in even the best of light, it kind of looks like the Gemini would be doing something weird, like upsampling a screen grab of the viewfinder stream.

While it likely wouldn't solve anything, maybe I should try to estimate the useful level of detail at different resolutions. If nothing else, should it turn out that 5MP images only contains, say, 2MP worth of detail, at least I could lower the resolution to that when taking pictures, and get smaller files.

As for truly compact cameras, they seem to have been pushed out of the market by smartphones. I used to have good experiences with the Canon Ixus series, but current models seems to have grown thicker to fit more zoom. Casio and Sony used to make thin cameras too, but no longer it seems. Perhaps you can find something cheap second hand, though finding replacement battery packs might be tricky.


Posted by: a1astair Nov 7 2018, 12:44 AM

QUOTE(jakfish @ Oct 29 2018, 12:57 AM) *
I don't own the camera add-on, but as a brief aside, could someone recommend a very small camera, with reasonable specs? Pocket-sized. Something to carry with the Gemini.

Jake


OK - not exactly small, but this has a flash and allows you to remotely control it over WiFi (includes built-in access point):

http://www.pixpro.world/products/smart-lenses/sl5/

Another model has 25x optical zoom and 30s shutter speed option for night time photography:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1085783-REG/kodak_sl25_bk_sl25_smartphone_lens_with.html

I picked them both up on eBay new. Perfect companions to the Gemini!

Posted by: bobamser Nov 9 2018, 02:50 PM

I went for a snap - https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/snap-the-smallest-affordable-4k-action-camera#/

Waiting for delivery and will see how it does.


Posted by: jakfish Nov 10 2018, 10:26 AM

Thanks to all for small camera ideas. That Snap looks very intriguing. Can't decide whether to go for a small camera or wait for the Cosmos...

Jake

Posted by: Daniel W Nov 11 2018, 04:41 PM

QUOTE(shuntcap @ Oct 25 2018, 09:04 PM) *
E-con Systems manufactures a large number of camera modules. I found a 13MP module with matching physical dimensions, but the connector is larger (and uses a different bus). But that suggests that may be possible to fit a better module into the Gemini's confined space.

As far as I can see E-con Systems has one 13MP Autofocus module: https://www.e-consystems.com/13mp-onsemi-autofocus-mipi-camera-module.asp

While the Gemini SP5509 is 17.4 x 8.5 x 4.0mm, the E-con e-CAM130_MI1335_MOD is 24.18 x 11.6 x 6.525mm, or >35% taller and wider, and >60% thicker. I think we'll just have to wait for the Cosmo to take decent pictures with a Planet Computers device. The Gemini camera is really only good for things like barcodes.

BTW. After a pseudo-scientific experiment, in which I convinced my Gemini to precariously sit briefly on a tripod, so I could take a picture of the same page of text, with the same framing, in 2, 3 and 5MP, I'd say there is a *tad* more details in the 5MP image, but it's really not much at all. I may have to do a follow-up with even more light, though, as the heavy image noise made meaningful comparison hard.

Posted by: shuntcap Nov 13 2018, 01:19 AM

QUOTE(Daniel W @ Nov 11 2018, 07:41 PM) *
While the Gemini SP5509 is 17.4 x 8.5 x 4.0mm, the E-con e-CAM130_MI1335_MOD is 24.18 x 11.6 x 6.525mm, or >35% taller and wider, and >60% thicker. I think we'll just have to wait for the Cosmo to take decent pictures with a Planet Computers device. The Gemini camera is really only good for things like barcodes.

Actually, if you download the datasheet (you need to give them your e-mail address), the module itself is only 8.74x8.74x6.07mm LxWxH. The dimensions you saw include the width and length of the pigtail. I was just looking for proof that Planet could have fit a better module into that tight location with an appropriate connector. But it matters not: the e-Con's connector won't fit, and the Cosmo is coming.

The Gemini's 3.18 kernel from MediaTek only supports one 24MP camera sensor, the OmniVision OV23850. This is a 23.8MP, 1/2.3" sensor. If this is what will be used in the Cosmo with its planned 24MP sensor, it should be a good camera.

QUOTE
BTW. After a pseudo-scientific experiment, in which I convinced my Gemini to precariously sit briefly on a tripod, so I could take a picture of the same page of text, with the same framing, in 2, 3 and 5MP, I'd say there is a *tad* more details in the 5MP image, but it's really not much at all. I may have to do a follow-up with even more light, though, as the heavy image noise made meaningful comparison hard.

I conducted a similar experiment a few months ago and came to the exact same conclusion. There was enough of a difference in detail to clear SuperPix of any hidden pixel interpolation guilt, but just barely.

If my eyes aren't deceiving me, the camera's live preview image is actually sharper than the final photo. That was one of the reasons I tried to squeeze information out of Planet so I could perhaps tweak the poorly documented kernel driver, but they didn't have any information.

Posted by: Daniel W Nov 13 2018, 08:32 AM

QUOTE(shuntcap @ Nov 13 2018, 10:19 AM) *
Actually, if you download the datasheet (you need to give them your e-mail address), the module itself is only 8.74x8.74x6.07mm LxWxH. The dimensions you saw include the width and length of the pigtail.
Yes, so does the measurements I gave for the SP5509, measured by my cheap digital calipers (and I have a bunch of photos of the SP5509, should anyone be interested). Since the back of the display seems to sit directly beneath the rear camera, preventing us from soldering just the module onto something, we need a cable, giving us 6.525mm depth for the E-con, and the 4.00mm deep (in total) SP5509 already creates a considerable camera bulge. For the record, the SP5509 module itself is 8.47x8.55mm, which should be close enough. It's the depth difference that stops the party.

Posted by: sobukus Feb 15 2019, 03:55 AM

I also spent some time with the camera on the Gemini and concluded that results are much better if I reduce the camera gain (fixing ISO 400 and below, setting negative exposure bias value). The picture may be dark, but the autofocus finally manages to actually focus the picture.

It's simply out of focus otherwise. If the software can be convinced to use a low-gain mode for focus and independently from that either high gain or long exposure for the final picture, I could live with it. The missing flash can be compensated with a tiny flashlight that's useful on its own (granted, nowadays people use their smartphones as pocket flashlights …).

Can you confirm that pictures look better if enforcing less gain (noisy, but sharper)?

Posted by: Daniel W Feb 17 2019, 04:33 PM

QUOTE(sobukus @ Feb 15 2019, 12:55 PM) *
Can you confirm that pictures look better if enforcing less gain (noisy, but sharper)?
In short: Confirmed. Locking the Gemini camera to ISO 400 (or below) in low-ish light, tends to give darker pictures, but with better focus more often.


Auto ISO in low light. Brighter, but blurrier. This is not motion blur, as the Gemini was supported and the picture was taken with a delay.


ISO400 in low light. Darker, but sharper. Look, for example at the word "KEYS" in the "iRig KEYS" logo.

More detailed: In light such that the automatic ISO setting goes past 400, the camera apparently becomes less than able to correctly focus the image. In such light, if I lock the sensitivity to 400 (or lower), I get darker pictures, and longer exposure (beware of motion blur), but the camera now seems much more able to correctly focus the image. If I, instead, lock the sensitivity to 800 or 1600, I get the same kind of out-of-focus pictures as in auto mode, but it isn't as simple as high ISO = blur, because if I have plenty of light, such that the automatic ISO setting would have stayed below 400, and I still lock the sensitivity to 800 or 1600, to get shorter exposure times, I still get photos with correct focus.

So, it seems that in good light, the Gemini camera can handle high ISO values, but not in low light, where it would be needed the most. My guesstimate is that in low light, the raw image gets rather noisy and cranking up the ISO amplifies that noise further, such that heavier noise reduction gets applied, which I think is the real problem here. While the focus algorithm looks for contrast, the noise reduction, trying to average out noise, softens the image to a point where the focus algorithm can't tell if it is in focus or not, and thus fails. Perhaps the camera driver could limit the ISO and bypass the noise reduction while looking for focus, and then, with the focus locked, turn up the ISO if needed, engage the the noise reduction and shoot the image. There could be reasons as to why that wouldn't be feasible, or maybe the precise problem is somewhat different.

Either way, if this can be worked around, I guess it must be done in a low lever driver, so I guess it isn't something Planet Computers can do themselves, but would have to defer to SuperPix (who makes the camera hardware), who then may or may not actually bother.

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