I have seen CMOS Imaging Sensors (OmniVision, Aptina, ST, etc) as well as Camera modules (like the ones in smartphones; e-con, OmniVision, etc), and I know there are the finished product cameras (Cannon, Nikon, Sony, etc). Now, I understand that sensor is only the imaging chip itself, and module is the chip on something that connects to something else. But, is there an common industry name for the different finished products (modules) that can be used in a DIY project? (maybe differentnames for differnet connection methods? with or without lenses?) (as far as finding it quickly on DigiKey, Mouser, Google, etc)?

Now, following this, for a DIY project - it would be really hard to use an imaging sensor due to its small footprint. So, if I am to get one of those small cmos modules, is there any need for supporting circuitry? Or it can be directly connected to a microprocessor to get an image/video?

Please bare with this question, I understand it is very basic to some of you, but it is not as clear to some.


1 Answer 1


You have got the nomenclature correct. A module contains an imager and lens and focussing element. Most of these imagers operate over an I^2C bus for control and a MIPI bus for the data flow. If your controller supports those interfaces it will be as simple as just connecting them. There are imagers that use other interfaces (Parallel , Analog) but these are not used in modules so I won't mention them here.

Your big issue is going to be understanding how to operate the device and what to turn on/off in the registers. This is not commonly published and is typically only disclosed under NDA (Non disclosure Agreement) and NDA's are typically not signed unless you are a going concern and will drive volume. Your best bet is to find an OS that has explicit support for the camera module you are going to use as the support will be "baked in".

The other option is to use a imager set that doesn't require an NDA and the information is published. Like an ILD CCD, a board camera (typically used in security applications) or similar. Perhaps you can get a complete USB camera.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you. Do you have any experience with manufacturers in that field? How about a wafer level camera? Does that also follow the NDA/I^2C/MIPI concept? What is concidered to be volume by those manufacturers? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4, 2014 at 2:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ A wafer level camera is just a variation on how to manufacture a camera module. Volume levels for camera modules start at 100K for an existing design. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4, 2014 at 3:26

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