Hobby-level microcontrollers are finally getting big and powerful enough to start handling camera modules that historically would have required a full computer or FPGA to handle. The RP2040 and ESP32-Sx series of chips, for example, have enough pins to communicate with the 8-bit data output, DMA to quickly grab a frame, and the necessary RAM to buffer a raw snapshot. Now all we need is a nice camera module to make interfacing easy!
This Adafruit OV5640 Camera Breakout with 120-Degree Lens and Autofocus has a nice quality OV5640 camera with a 5 Megapixel sensor element, a 120-degree fisheye lens and autofocus motor, plus all the support circuitry you need. We looked at existing camera modules, and while this breakout board is backwards compatible, we made some improvements:
- Standard 2 x 9 header if you want it, but also a duplicated header strip 0.3" apart so you can plug it into a breadboard or perf board
- Selectable external or internal 24MHz "XCLK" clock generation - save one GPIO pin, or just have a nice stable 24 MHz signal even if your microcontroller can't generate it for you.
- Heat-sinking camera area with exposed ground pad, with lots of vias for good thermal transfer. Helpful when doing continuous encoding and reducing thermal image drift.
- Optional VMotor 3.3V power jumper on DATA1, for auto-focusing camera modules
- 3.3V power-good LED on the back that can be disabled
Note that to use the auto-focusing capability, you need to load a new firmware binary over I2C, and short the VM jumper on the back of the camera module which will provide 3.3V power on DATA1. The autofocus system is controlled with I2C commands to begin an auto-focus procedure and then determine that the focus is complete. Otherwise, the camera looks just like any other OV5640 sensor.