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jbeale
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a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Thu Jul 10, 2014 5:17 pm

I was interested to note that a knockoff version of the R-Pi camera board I got from ebay has a PCB layout that is similar, but not the same to the genuine article. Some trace routing is different, and a few extra test points on back. I'm sure there's more design freedom when you don't bother with FCC or CE testing, although maybe they just copied an earlier version of the board. I also see the lens housing is different, so they may well use a different (and cheaper?) lens.

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https://picasaweb.google.com/1099282360 ... 4337994930

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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Thu Jul 10, 2014 5:27 pm

It may not be the case on your knock-off, but on some others it has been found that if you disable the camera LED from boot/config.txt, then the camera doesn't power up. They're track tracing was obviously slightly flawed or something. Just a friendly heads-up :)
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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Thu Jul 10, 2014 6:02 pm

This version of the board does work with the LED off. However the image quality is not as good as the genuine board; it softer and more noisy. Foreground and background alike so I don't think it's a lens focus issue; I think the lens itself is not as good (and maybe a higher f-number = darker image, so AGC had to use more gain, bringing up the noise). I suppose you get what you pay for, no surprise of course. Two comparison crops from a full-res still below; the image from the real R-Pi camera board is the one on the right.

Image
https://picasaweb.google.com/1099282360 ... 3274388386

EDIT: further inspection shows the ebay version focus was off; it came focused around 50 cm, and some effort with two sets of pliers on the lens housing improved it. Still not quite as sharp as the R-Pi board though, and the noisy image is what it is.

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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Thu Jul 10, 2014 6:47 pm

Almost certainly correct on the lens quality. Must be the same silicon inside (or it wouldn't work), packaged in a different module, odd though that the Sunny part number is the same yet the modules are clearly different - I wonder if that is a 'fake'.
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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Thu Jul 10, 2014 7:17 pm

Yep- the camera isn't any better than its lens. I'm also now seeing a completely redesigned board, which does not use a flex cable module at all. However the lens looks the same as my ebay example, down to the red pull-tab, so I'm guessing it is.

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http://www.ebay.com/itm/New-Camera-Modu ... 1283046704

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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Thu Jul 10, 2014 7:34 pm

Sunny make all sorts of packaging for the actual silicon (as do other manufacturers). Not sure why the Foundation chose the flex cable version, probably cheaper at the time.
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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Thu Jul 10, 2014 7:53 pm

We obviously look to duplication and flattery but it's obvious what you are getting is not up to the originl quality.

This is the same league as the fake Rolex but obviously a different division within that league when it comes to cost. ;-)
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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Thu Jul 10, 2014 8:07 pm

Soft and noisy image sounds like the imaging sensor isn't true 5 mega pixels but interpolated to make it appear 5 mega pixels.
I'm not sure if such a thing is possible on the Pi but some of my so called high resolution USB webcams use this dirty trick for generating photos.

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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Thu Jul 10, 2014 10:41 pm

Remember that the R-Pi's GPU does all the image processing, getting only raw bayer-format data from the camera chip, so it would be a pretty good trick to make a fully compatible camera board with a lower pixel count! Would probably be a lot more expensive than the real chip. Just as JamesH said, I'm pretty sure it's the real imager chip, but with a cheaper lens (which they didn't bother to focus correctly, either).

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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Thu Jul 10, 2014 10:55 pm

If you swapped the two sensor modules between the boards, does each board work with the other's sensor? ;)

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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Fri Jul 11, 2014 12:52 am

AndrewS wrote:If you swapped the two sensor modules between the boards, does each board work with the other's sensor? ;)
Probably, but I'm not interested enough to find out :-). But I did just realize something else: the ebay board lens is clearly a different design because it has a different focal length; it has about 10% wider field of view- note the corners of the image. Slight change but noticeable when you do an A/B comparison. Too bad it is also more blurry and more noisy.
rpi.jpg
R-Pi camera board
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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Fri Jul 11, 2014 1:51 am

My question is:
how do you all respond to a situation like this where Chinese scam artists copy a design and markets it at a lower price without bothering about even trying to pass EMC regulations, electrical safety tests and such crap (more of an issue with relay boards).
Do you just shout "Bingo!" and buy a dozen, or do you care that it undercuts real companies that work hard to bring you quality products?
How should real companies and engineers handle this situation? Any ideas?

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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Fri Jul 11, 2014 2:47 am

It's happened to the company I work with, they were marketing a cheap copy of our consumer electronics device under our brand name and even our customer service phone #. Ebay was cooperative about shutting that down. US Customs can seize counterfeit products at the border, like http://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-media ... ner-purses

But if they aren't infringing trademarks, and it's just generic cheap non-standards-compliant junk, I don't know. Because there seems to be an awful lot of that, and there seems to be a market for it.

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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Fri Jul 11, 2014 6:31 am

Tage wrote:My question is:
how do you all respond to a situation like this where Chinese scam artists copy a design and markets it at a lower price without bothering about even trying to pass EMC regulations, electrical safety tests and such crap (more of an issue with relay boards).
Do you just shout "Bingo!" and buy a dozen, or do you care that it undercuts real companies that work hard to bring you quality products?
How should real companies and engineers handle this situation? Any ideas?
I is one of my biggest fears.
I have been working very, very hard on a new product. I spend a lot of capital on it and I am really afraid some Chinese
rip-off takes it and robs me of my income. As I am just a one-man company my only defense would be to
plead with the raspberry-Pi community not to buy the rip-offs.

By the way: my Gertboard is already being ripped off and there is little I can do about it.

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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:56 am

Tage wrote:My question is:
how do you all respond to a situation like this where Chinese scam artists copy a design and markets it at a lower price without bothering about even trying to pass EMC regulations, electrical safety tests and such crap (more of an issue with relay boards).
Do you just shout "Bingo!" and buy a dozen, or do you care that it undercuts real companies that work hard to bring you quality products?
How should real companies and engineers handle this situation? Any ideas?
In this case they actually have, silkscreened on on the board, Raspberry Pi Camera. This is a infringement of trademark, so Ebay (once you get through the painful reporting process) will take any items down. The Foundation has to do this a lot - lots of people claim things like "Raspberry Pi Expansion board" which because it implies it's from the Foundation, is a trademark infringement. If they said something like a Expansion board for the Raspberry Pi with a disclaimer that they are not part of the Foundation, they are OK. Most people are fine with rewording their description, but you do get the occasional knob-end who refuses to change stuff at which point they get slam dunked.

It's a minor distinction, but very important.

Note that neither of the knock off modules above seem to slavishly copy the original design, so they are clear there. As for EMC , safety etc, that's not for the Foundation to decide.
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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:57 am

There is another way of looking at this a company is looking to build a competitor product so they know it will be similar because they need to have the same interface there is only one socket on the RPi.

So you make some with alternative parts as a test now what do you do with those test modules with other cameras.

The capitalist way says you throw away those modules but that is wastefull.

We get upset if a supermarket throws away food that even near it's sell by date and have no objection if that is sold off.

These new modules have to be marked as an RPi product otherwise how would you know what they are for.
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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:59 am

If you want the official product buy from the official dealer if you are happy with a cheap possibly inferior copy look for one at a flea market.

For flea market read ebay independant trader. cveat emptor

Sorry about double post
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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Fri Jul 11, 2014 9:18 am

Jim JKla wrote:If you want the official product buy from the official dealer if you are happy with a cheap possibly inferior copy look for one at a flea market.
Sorry, but this is nonsense. The camera only works, because the foundation (and also Broadcom) have invested a lot of time and money into software development. To refund them and make future development possible, you should only buy the original product. In fact, future products (from the foundation) may cost more if you don't.
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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Fri Jul 11, 2014 10:24 am

Could you let us know who the seller was, @JBeale? I'll get the trademarks team to go and kick nuts.
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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Fri Jul 11, 2014 12:05 pm

Here are my thoughts on why the fake camera board is noisier than the genuine board.

The camera module is a mixed-signal chip. Great care must be exercised in the circuit design and layout to ensure that the noisier digital signals and power supply do not contaminate the analog section.

Let's assume the camera module is not a fake and start with the flex printed circuit (FPC) pigtail from the module. Even though the FPC has the same Sunny part number as the genuine one, the conductive traces look different. The layout of those traces may do a poor job separating the digital and analog sections. Also there is a question about the material used for the dielectric of the FPC.

The board has three linear regulators for the core, digital IO and analog power supplies. Who knows what parts are used for those linear regulators? A good design would use an LDO regulator with tight regulation, low noise and high PSRR (power supply rejection ratio) for the analog power supply.

A low-noise circuit relies on proper layout and decoupling and filtering of power supplies with high quality capacitors. Who knows what parts are used for the capacitors on the fake board? Since they are trying to save every single penny as they can, I don't think good capacitors are used. To achieve low noise, I would use capacitors with good tolerance over a wide temperature and voltage range, NPO for small capacitances, low ESR and X7R or X5R dielectric for large capacitances, from reputable manufacturers such as AVX, Murata, etc.

Of course if the camera module is fake, all bets are off.
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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Fri Jul 11, 2014 1:47 pm

It's not hard to find these knockoffs just search for Pi Camera and set the price range from 10 to 20 quid.
Looking at my current list I can see several eBay sellers some sadly coming from the UK and making a nice little profit at same time. -shame on you all!

As for image quality I just had another thought, it's possible the IR filter is not optically perfect and the gel coating maybe distorting the image slightly at high res.
This could also explain how they're able to sell them considerably less than the genuine ones if they were using cheaper less perfect IR filters.

I bet if the IR filter was removed from the knockoffs they would probably perform just as well as the NoIR Pi Camera.

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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Fri Jul 11, 2014 2:16 pm

liz wrote:Could you let us know who the seller was, @JBeale? I'll get the trademarks team to go and kick nuts.
Hi Liz
I sent a PM to you with the info.

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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Wed Jul 16, 2014 12:50 am

redhawk wrote:As for image quality I just had another thought, it's possible the IR filter is not optically perfect and the gel coating maybe distorting the image slightly at high res.
This could also explain how they're able to sell them considerably less than the genuine ones if they were using cheaper less perfect IR filters.
As mentioned, the lens module was misfocused and adjusting it got a lot closer to nominal resolution, the remaining difference perhaps from the lens design itself. Of course that did nothing for the noise. My bet is bad board design, or cheap / too small filter caps, but anything's possible, including use of a rejected batch of sensor chips that were for some reason more noisy. Bottom line is always the same though- the cheapest option is often not the best one.

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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Wed Jul 16, 2014 3:17 am

I have purchased these boards simply because they offer something I can't easily get with the original Pi Camera or PiNoir(both of which I own), M12 and CS mounts.
I opted for M12 mounts as the replacement lenses were inexpensive and readily available and fit my design. I have original Pi boards with lens attachments(fisheye and macro) and the image quality was not great after going through the lens adapters.

My solution is to donate to the Pi Foundation directly, still working particulars out with Bank Liz :) as it is a mod that I can't afford otherwise. I looked into modifying my own board but I lack the skills to get it right every time, possibly even once honestly. The commercially available camera Mod to make a Pi with M12 mounts was more than 3 or more of these other cameras.

So where does a modified product fall on the scale?
Oh and Gert I totally understand your pain as you did heavy lifting and someone else is getting rewarded.
No company should be using the Pi name on the product, period. Unless of course the foundation has a deal with them, ;)
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Re: a China knockoff version of R-Pi camera board

Wed Jul 16, 2014 2:48 pm

As mentioned, the lens module was misfocused and adjusting it got a lot closer to nominal resolution.
Actually, I've bought two official cameras, and immediately when I got the second I compared them side-by-side and it was obvious that the new one was blurry. I had to refocus it and then it was alright. They also had slightly different hue, which might have been due to aging of the older one.

So it's not like the official camera is without it's manufacturing flaws.

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