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BBC tries out Raspberry Pi's 'nightmarishly complex' camera add-on

By dpreview staff on May 16, 2013 at 00:37 GMT

The BBC's Technology Correspondant, Rory Cellan-Jones, has been getting to grips with the new camera module for Raspberry Pi - the low-cost DIY computer. Since its introduction early last year, hundreds of thousands of Paspberry Pi computers have been sold all around the world, and as well as 'homebrew' computer enthusiasts they've also proven popular in schools, as an inexpensive way of encouraging children to develop practical coding skills.

The Raspberry Pi camera board was announced earlier this year, and opens up enormous potential for applications including robotics and high risk aerial/underwater use. Cellan-Jones got hold of one of the new camera boards and wrote a short article in which he details the 'nightmarish complexity' of making it work. 

The BBC's Technology Correspondant, Rory Cellan-Jones, struggling to get to grips with the camera module for the low-cost Raspberry Pi computer. (picture: BBC)

In Cellan-Jones's words, ''at first sight, it must be just about the most useless camera you can possibly imagine. To take a picture you have to somehow hold it in one hand while typing a line of code with another and pressing return.' 

Ultimately, Cellan-Jones came to appreciate the 'DIY' aspect to setting up the camera module, concluding 'I still found the whole lengthy process rather satisfying. Instead of turning a camera on and pressing a button, I'd been forced to think about the software behind digital photography and muddle my way through'. 

If you're a homebrew computer enthusiast and you fancy experimenting with the new camera module, be sure to check out the recently-announced Raspberry Pi photography competition.

Comments

Total comments: 34
ChrisKramer1
By ChrisKramer1 (11 months ago)

I have fond memories of the BBC's "Great Egg Race". I doubt Heinz Wolff would describe the device as "nightmarishly complex".("Delightfully complex", perhaps).

2 upvotes
SeeRoy
By SeeRoy (11 months ago)

It's sad to reflect on the fact that the BBC was once responsible for introducing the first really useful computer for education, the BBC B. I ran an electronics business using one of these too. The B was combined with a series of educational programs (intended primarily for schools) and the whole project was the first real attempt to stimulate computer science education in the UK (The Pi and Arduino are its sucessors.) Acorn, who built the BBC computers have since gone on to great commercial success. But of course successive governments have been trying to dismantle the BBC for decades now so we end up with a "Science and Technology correspondent" who admits to not knowing much about, er, Science and Technology.

2 upvotes
ChrisKramer1
By ChrisKramer1 (11 months ago)

LOL! All the BBC B and Acorn owners at school were using them to play "Elite".

Comment edited 21 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Model Mike
By Model Mike (11 months ago)

Can't say I'd blame governments for attempting to reform if not dismantle the BBC. It's a self serving monster with a voracious appetite for licence payers money. Five minutes watching the news or listening to the shambles that passes for the Today program (with the notable exception of Ewan Davies) should be evidence enough of its decline.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
gsum
By gsum (11 months ago)

RCJ is the BBC's Apple correspondent. His ramblings on the BBC website indicate that has no knowledge of software or technology. It's not surprising that he couldn't get his head round RaspPi.

6 upvotes
psn
By psn (11 months ago)

WTF?! It's a "nightmarishly complex" camera module so I'll write about it and tell people it's a pain to set up and use. But I'll also tell the somewhat geeky people that I still had a satisfying experience with it.

Dude's fscking clueless.

4 upvotes
areichow
By areichow (11 months ago)

What an absurd article. This isn't a consumer product meant to replace a consumer P&S.

Criminy.

1 upvote
JaFO
By JaFO (11 months ago)

So wasn't it about time an article highlighted that bit ?
Every geek is raving about the Rasberry pi being the best thing since sliced bread while failing to realize that not everyone loves the DIY aspect of the hobby.

1 upvote
Andrew Booth
By Andrew Booth (11 months ago)

The whole point of the Raspberry Pi is the DIY aspect. It's meant to be a learning tool - and you're meant to learn by doing.

The BBC correspondant is completely clueless. Not surprising - the BBC is a shadow of it's former self - and should be broken up.

2 upvotes
Plastek
By Plastek (11 months ago)

lol. The universe will collapse because someone wrote a review where he's not pis*ing his pants over Raspberry Pi. If anyone's clueless here - it's you Andrew. I see no reason to dramatize this article like you did.

0 upvotes
Model Mike
By Model Mike (11 months ago)

The quality of the article needs to be seen in the overall context of the BBC. There is not a single scientist amongst the BBC's board of Trustees. There is not a single scientist amongst the BBC Executive Board. (RCJ's wife happens to the Vice Chairperson of the BBC Trust). RCJ's background seems to be business/economics. Lamentable situation, lamentable article.

Comment edited 10 minutes after posting
7 upvotes
ianp5a
By ianp5a (11 months ago)

The point of the device is to encourage learning of the technology. But rather than being a stepping stone for beginners, it drops them right in at the deep end. It offers nothing new to help people learn. Apart from the price.
If you have never used a command line before and you blindly paste a command in, you have not learnt anything and you probably will not understand any error message if something goes wrong. In which case you will probably need to know a whole load of other commands to be able to cope. Which is why he pointed out this problem. Sadly, scaring potential users off. The thing is only suitable for a few.

2 upvotes
Stephen123
By Stephen123 (11 months ago)

It's not an educational product for teaching technology. It is a component for a low cost open computer hardware platform create by DIYers and often used for education.

1 upvote
ianp5a
By ianp5a (11 months ago)

That was their original intention. And still is if you read their web site. But it appealed to techies more as it was designed by techies.

Comment edited 7 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
PaulChapman
By PaulChapman (11 months ago)

It is not so difficult that a child of 12 can't do it....back in the old days my son, then 11, was building mapping robots using his Lego, an old steam engine and a 48K Spectrum equipped with a robotics package; he was writing the code in Z80 machine language. We were too stingy to let him buy ready made programs. This is the audience for Rasberry Pie/Arduino. Don't knock it....and it is great fun

9 upvotes
Ulfric M Douglas
By Ulfric M Douglas (11 months ago)

48k Speccy was awesome ... and my first computer. You could program it straight out of the box. Cost me half of £125 back in the day.
What were we talking about?

0 upvotes
fillkay
By fillkay (11 months ago)

He's writing for a general, rather than specialist audience and trying to demonstrate that one needs rather more nous than the average punter can be expected to have. He did do it and expressed satisfaction, so don't give the bloke too hard a time.

3 upvotes
psn
By psn (11 months ago)

There's nothing nightmarishly complex about the process he outlined in his article. Instead of bothering his geeky friends, he could have just done a Google search and probably gotten better answers. Or go to youtube and see some crazy things people do with it.

If you write a negative article about something you don't really understand, you deserve the cr@p you get.

1 upvote
JaFO
By JaFO (11 months ago)

It is nightmarishly complex to someone who is not a programmer by nature.

Add to this that modern users haven't seen a CLI in decades (ignoring Apple/Macintosh legacy for a moment) and the fact that this stuff isn't sold with a proper manual.

0 upvotes
psn
By psn (11 months ago)

@JaFO: The Raspberry Pi and the camera module are not for those people. Tell me of anybody in their right mind, who isn't a programmer by nature (your words), who would buy this stuff?

People who buy this camera module (and the Raspberry Pi) do it because they want, and have the patience, to learn and experiment.

0 upvotes
jkokich
By jkokich (11 months ago)

I don't understand any of this...

0 upvotes
DonThomaso
By DonThomaso (11 months ago)

A lot of complaining in the article about how difficult it was. It didn't sound too difficult, it just sounded that he should have bought a Point & Shoot instead and skipped the learning something new part.

1 upvote
Kuppenbender
By Kuppenbender (11 months ago)

Weird choice of Technology correspondent.

'As someone who is anything but a digital native, I find this stuff hard'

4 upvotes
JaFO
By JaFO (11 months ago)

It's not a weird choice.
Not all sports correspondents have played in sports either.

There are basically 2 types of technology lovers :
(1) the ones that want to know how stuff works and what makes it tick (they build their own multimedia device from scratch if need be)

(2) the ones that simply love seeing the endresult (they simply buy the latest iDevice )

Rasberry Pi is clearly aimed at type 1, but that shouldn't prevent a type 2 from looking at it from their perspective.

1 upvote
xlynx9
By xlynx9 (11 months ago)

Entirely misses the point. You don't buy a load of timber and then complain your house is not assembled. Nikon doesn't complain Sony's sensors are hard to use.

These are COMPONENTS. They are used to build things.

If they are hard to use that's because you haven't done your job and made them easy to use. This user should direct his complaints to himself.

14 upvotes
JaFO
By JaFO (11 months ago)

One also doesn't sell a load of timber to a newbie and claim that building a house is easy either ...

yet that is what webshops are doing with this device.

1 upvote
RichRMA
By RichRMA (11 months ago)

The Raspberry is a coder's computer not an iPhone. At some point, this thing could be installed anywhere, relaying images in real-time to the user's phone, which I believe is already available from security companies, but where is the fun in that?

0 upvotes
submagination
By submagination (11 months ago)

So... what he doesn't like about the experience is the exact reason that the target audience actively wants it.

6 upvotes
Adrian Tung
By Adrian Tung (11 months ago)

I bet someone would take this, strap the whole thing onto a battery-powered platform and make a robot out of it.

2 upvotes
areichow
By areichow (11 months ago)

That's precisely the kind of use case intended. They should have you write for the BBC instead of this goofball. :)

0 upvotes
JaFO
By JaFO (11 months ago)

You mean like this :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVNgPjM5pU4

0 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (11 months ago)

Sometimes... people feel the need to get a piece of timber from the woods, saw and chip and chisel it to a camera shape, sandpaper and smooth out the rough edges, apply a shinny lacquer black finish...

Then gouge out a tiny one square centimeter hole on the front face...

...and put a tiny cell phone/laptop camera in there.

Oh the joy of complexity...

.

1 upvote
JaFO
By JaFO (11 months ago)

Sounds like something for James Mays' "Manlab"-series.
"We could have gone to the shop and bought [insert project], but we decided not to and create our own ... from scratch, just because"

0 upvotes
Lan
By Lan (11 months ago)

You didn't work with Hasselblad on the Lunar project did you? ;)

0 upvotes
Total comments: 34