Building a low cost wifi camera


Johan Kanflo designed a Esparducam board and built a low cost wifi camera with an Arducam Mini and a ESP8266 Wifi module:

Sometime ago I came across the Arducam Mini which is quite a nice camera module from UCTronics. It is a small PCB with a two megapixel OmniVision OV2640 sensor, an interchangeable lens and an FPGA to do the heavy lifting of image processing and JPEG encoding. Priced at around 24 Euros (lens included) you can easily buy a few without hurting your wallet and combined with an ESP8266 you can build quite a low cost wifi camera. Or several. Because designing and building PCBs is both fun and inexpensive I designed a board to go with the ESP8266/Arducam Mini combo, aptly named the Esparducam. And uniquely named too, try googeling for “esparducam“. Heck, even the domain name is available at the time of writing :)

More details at Johan Kanflo’s blog.

Project files are available on Github.

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  1. So the camera alone is like $30, add the ESP8266 at around $5-$6, add the base board and all the parts, add the shipping – and you must be at around $50 bucks. Can’t you buy a half-way decent fixed positioning IP camera for that nowadays over-the-shelf?

    What he should do is add two three-buck RC servos and a five buck Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) servo mounting kit and make the thing into a full PTZ IP camera, and add some cheap infrared lights too. Real PTZ IP cams are a lot more expensive so this build would really become a cheaper alternative.

    What about FOSS to use this camera as a PTZ scanning motion-detect security camcorder? Anyone have experience with that? Often what you’re paying for when you buy an expensive commercial PTZ camera is decent software.

    Finally, keep in-mind the ESP8266 transmits in the clear, not encrypted.

  2. @Drone Nice idea. I think you mean P(an)-T(ilt), there would be no Z(oom) that I know of, not cheaply anyway.

    1. Oops, strictly you are correct. But then again, modern cameras have digital zoom (no moving parts, but resolution does suffer). So I guess you do end up with a “sort-of” PTZ camera after all.

  3. 640×480 pan/tils wifi start really cheap… less then 30 bucks from Ma China. Add 10 more and you get 1024. Motion detector included, ready to go, no hassle, no burn wounds.

    So as much as I appreciate to build it myself, where are the benefits? Did you learn something? Than its good!

    1. Yes 1Mp cameras are becoming the jellybeans of the crop today. But perhaps the complexity lies in the interfacing with the ESP8266? A lot of the bare cheap camera modules come with the Camera Serial Interface Type-2 connector (CSI-2). I can see where writing a library to handle this with the ESP8266 may not be trivial. Plus there’s something like six pins required, 2xTxd, 2xRxd, 2xClk (if I remember correctly).

      1. There is also the data bus. Without an MCU with a dedicated camera-interface-compatible peripheral bus, it’s going to be rather difficult to collect and process the data stream. A FIFO can help, but affordable FIFOs are good for up to VGA resolution only. However, there are some OV chips with JPEG output, but I’ve not seen any projects using such a feature.

      2. Nope, we’re stuck with at least an intermediary piece. the whole MIPI camera interface uses gigabit class SERDES. Without a custom ASIC or and FPGA (so a cell phone class ARM processor or a mid-range FPGA or a Zynq like combo) you won’t be getting the data from those modules. There are still some parallel camera interfaces, but they’re becoming rarer every day.

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