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Robo Pi
(@robo-pi)
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2020-10-28 11:34 pm  

Does anyone know of any video cameras that record video in MP4 file format?

I need a camera with the following capabilities:

  1. Must be able to record close-up shots with good detail.  Perhaps a macro mode?
  2. Must record videos in MP4 file format.
  3. Needs to have a 1280 x 720 (30fps) mode

Anyone know of any video cameras that fit this description?

Almost everything I find records video in AVI format.  But that creates a much larger file that I need to upload to my computer and convert back down to MP4 anyway.  I'm currently doing that now.  I'd like to have a video camera that records video in MP4 format straight-away so I don't need to keep converting all my videos to MP4 after the fact.

Thanks.

 

DroneBot Workshop Robotics Engineer
James


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DroneBot Workshop
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2020-10-29 11:02 am  

All modern Canon cameras record in MP4, that Canon M100 that I showed in the Raspberry Pi HQ Camera video uses MP4 as it's video format.

My older Canons all use MOV, which makes for much larger file sizes. When I first got the M100 I was skeptical about the MP4, but after using it for almost two years I can say that the quality is just as good as the MOV.  My videos, therefore, use a combination of MP4 and MOV.  If you're the daring type (I'm not) you can also hack Canon cameras with Magic Lantern to allow them to export RAW video, which makes for huge file sizes but super high quality. That's true of the images as well.

You can probably find M100's pretty cheap right now, as they are superseded by the M200 - the main difference being that the M200 records 4K video, while the M100 is limited to 1080 HD.  And Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) are only a month away!

😎

Bill

"Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window." — Steve Wozniak


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Robo Pi
(@robo-pi)
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2020-10-29 10:47 pm  

Thanks for the quick reply Bill.  The camera you've suggested is indeed awesome.  I forgot to add my forth requirement.  I'd like it to be fairly inexpensive. 😊 

I realize this is a fairly inexpensive camera as cameras go.  And I have no doubt it's worth the price.   Just the same, whatever I get, I'd like to get two of them so I can take simultaneous shots from different angles.   So that instantly doubles the price.

I'm wondering if there's anything I could get for the Raspberry Pi, or Jetson Nano?  I believe I can write software in OpenCV that will capture MP4 videos.  So all I'll need there is a camera that has a fairly good resolution with close-up shots.    When I say 'close-up' I'm actually talking about a foot to 6 inches away.  So it doesn't need to be extreme macro.  But I'd like it to have some crisp focus and fair clarity.

In fact, to be more precise, the project I'm currently setting up to video is doing machining on a metal lathe.  I've taken some shots with my current cameras, but I'm not pleased with the final results.  They seem to lack focus and clarity.

It may be true that I'll need to move up to something like the Canon you've suggested.  But in the meantime, being the "Mr Cheapie" I am, if I can get away with paying something like $100 a piece for the cameras for $200 total for a dual camera set up, that would be super great.  In fact, I think I can get suitable cameras at that price if I settle for AVI format files and just continue converting them.  Extra work, but if it saves that kind of cash I'll have to go that route.

As I say, the only other thing I'm considering right now is to maybe find cameras for a Raspberry Pi, or Jetson Nano that would work.   In fact, I haven't even tried my current Raspberry Pi camera.   Not sure what it can do.  But it was only about $25 so I'm not expecting a whole lot from it.

DroneBot Workshop Robotics Engineer
James


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DroneBot Workshop
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2020-10-30 9:49 am  

I'm actually surprised that you've run into so many cameras that output in AVI, I actually thought that was an essentially "dead" format these days.

Posted by: @robo-pi

So all I'll need there is a camera that has a fairly good resolution with close-up shots.    When I say 'close-up' I'm actually talking about a foot to 6 inches away.  So it doesn't need to be extreme macro.  But I'd like it to have some crisp focus and fair clarity.

Sounds to me that you're really shopping for a cheap and effective lens, and that camera specifications are secondary.  You can forget anything that only has a "digital zoom", you'll need some way of adjusting the optics to a shorter focal length.

Posted by: @robo-pi

I'm wondering if there's anything I could get for the Raspberry Pi, or Jetson Nano? 

Not sure if you saw the video/article I did on the Raspberry Pi HQ Camera, but I think a few items I showed in it could suit your requirements. The HQ Camera itself uses type C and CS lenses, and the Arducam uses the type M12 lenses. 

You could use two of the lower-quality (i.e. 5 megapixels instead of 8 or 12) cameras with type M100 lenses to meet your requirements for well under 200 dollars. You probably have more vendors available to you in the US, but up here RobotShop is a good source of the cameras and inexpensive M12 lenses.

I'm not sure if you can use the HQ camera with the Jetson Nano yet, but you can certainly use some of the Waveshare or Arducam devices with it and they are cheaper as well. And the newer (post mid-2019) Nanos have dual camera CSI connectors, so they are all ready for two cameras. Otherwise, you can get adaptor boards, like the StereoPi, for the Raspberry Pi to accommodate dual cameras.

You can convert to MP4 at the command line, the video/article shows you how. 

You likely won't find any SBC camera systems that directly output MP4, as MP4 is a licensed propriety format and not open source, just as MP3 is for audio. That's why you have to convert the video (and why you need a plugin for Audacity to work with MP3 files).

😎

Bill

This post was modified 1 month ago by DroneBot Workshop

"Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window." — Steve Wozniak


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DroneBot Workshop
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2020-10-30 2:06 pm  

@robo-pi

These Arducam Modules use type M12 lenses, and a lens is included. They work on both the Jetson Nano and Raspberry Pi.

And here is a listing of some M12 lenses

If you want high-quality lenses you can visit Edmund Scientific (one of my favorite stores when I was a kid and was immersed in astronomy).

😎

Bill

"Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window." — Steve Wozniak


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Robo Pi
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2020-10-30 4:59 pm  
Posted by: @dronebot-workshop

I'm actually surprised that you've run into so many cameras that output in AVI, I actually thought that was an essentially "dead" format these days.

That might have something to do with the fact that I was only looking at cheap cameras? 🤣   I didn't bother looking at anything much over $100 to $200 because I don't want to invest that much money in cameras right now.  I wish I could, but I'm really looking for the cheapest possible way to do this to get started.  One problem is that I'm spending money on other things too.  So my budget simply won't allow me the luxury to just buy everything I'd like to have.

 

Posted by: @dronebot-workshop

Sounds to me that you're really shopping for a cheap and effective lens, and that camera specifications are secondary.  You can forget anything that only has a "digital zoom", you'll need some way of adjusting the optics to a shorter focal length.

Yes, I wish I could just buy close-up lenses for my current cameras.  They seem to take fairly good quality video of normal everyday scenes.   It's just when I try to focus close up on things they don't seem to be up to the task.   The lens doesn't come off, but it does have screw threads around the rim (about 37mm in diameter).  Not sure if I could get some kind of close-up lens that would screw on there?

Not finding a lens for my current cameras I figured if I need to buy new cameras I may as well solve the MP4 problem while I'm at it.  That's actually a secondary concern.  I if I could use my current cameras I'd certainly do that. 

I'd need a close-up lens that screws onto 37mm filter threads.  It does appear to have those filter threads.  Not sure where to find that kind of lens though?  Or if that's even possible?

Posted by: @dronebot-workshop

If you want high-quality lenses you can visit Edmund Scientific (one of my favorite stores when I was a kid and was immersed in astronomy).

I remember them well.  I too was into astronomy when I was a kid.  I built a 10" Newtonian telescope and had my eye on the sky quite intently at one time.   That was years ago though.  Today I'm lucky to be able to tell the difference between Venus and Jupiter when they are visible on a clear night.  I used to know exactly where they would be.  But not anymore.

 

Posted by: @dronebot-workshop

Not sure if you saw the video/article I did on the Raspberry Pi HQ Camera, but I think a few items I showed in it could suit your requirements. The HQ Camera itself uses type C and CS lenses, and the Arducam uses the type M12 lenses. 

I'll look into this.  I just now fired up my Jetson Nanos and Raspberry pies.  I haven't touched them all summer.  I'm lucky to remember how to get them all fired back up again.  I have the cheap Raspberry Pi camera on the Jetson Nano.  I just tried it out and I can see that  it's not going to focus up close with a lot of detail either.  It does focus close, but it's still a bit fuzzy.  Not the kind of sharp detail I'm looking for.

But as you suggest maybe the HQ camera or the Arducam might do the trick.  I'll look into those.

DroneBot Workshop Robotics Engineer
James


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frogandtoad
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2020-10-30 5:12 pm  

@robo-pi

Unless I missed it. have you considered a cheap action camera?

You can get 4K action cam with MP4 recording for well under $100.

Cheers.


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Robo Pi
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2020-10-30 6:19 pm  
Posted by: @frogandtoad

@robo-pi

Unless I missed it. have you considered a cheap action camera?

You can get 4K action cam with MP4 recording for well under $100.

Cheers.

Are they capable of detailed close-up shots?

The main reason I need a new camera is to take close-up shots of projects I'm doing on a metal lathe.

The cameras I have right now don't want to take crisp shots of the detailed features I'm machining into the parts.   I need the camera to be about 6" to a foot from the workpiece, or further away and zoomed in.  But the resulting video needs to be detailed enough to see the features I've machined into a part.

The cameras I currently have seem to focus at those distances fairly well, but even at the best focus the details are blurry.  I've even tried having the camera further away and zoomed in on the part, but that doesn't seem to make any difference.

So I basically need "macro" capabilities.  Extreme close up with sharp focus.

If you know of a cheap action cam that can do that, please post a link to it.

Thanks.

Right now I'm looking at the Arducam for the Raspberry Pi that Bill mentioned.  I see them for $18 on Amazon.  If the Arducam will produce the image I'm looking for, I'll probably go with that.

But if you know of a good action cam that can focus on extreme close-ups please do let me know.  I'll take a look at it.

 

DroneBot Workshop Robotics Engineer
James


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DroneBot Workshop
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2020-10-30 7:17 pm  
Posted by: @robo-pi

I built a 10" Newtonian telescope and had my eye on the sky quite intently at one time. 

I'm jealous, I built their 8" Newtonian telescope!  Also, I took a class at the planetarium in Calgary and ground a 10-inch mirror, but I kind of botched it and never finished building a scope around it.  That was 40 years ago!

Posted by: @frogandtoad

You can get 4K action cam with MP4 recording for well under $100.

Most of those action cameras only have digital zoom and autofocus, and I suspect that at the close-up range that Robo Pi needs they wouldn't perform well.

If a cheap camera is all you need you can get Blu and other no-name brands of phones with decent 8Mp cameras for under 50 bucks, they record in MP4 and connect to your LAN via WiFi (you don't need to actually use them as phones). Amazon also has their Fire tablets with a reasonable camera on sale often for next to nothing, and lots of sales days coming up at the end of November.

But all of the above suffer from the same problem - they don't have an adjustable optical lens. At that close range, you will want to reduce the focal length.

Posted by: @robo-pi

I just tried it out and I can see that  it's not going to focus up close with a lot of detail either.  It does focus close, but it's still a bit fuzzy.  Not the kind of sharp detail I'm looking for.

Another solution I posted on the same video was to replace the camera module itself, in other words, upgrade or fix a Raspi camera like yours. I bought a cheap (20 Canadian, about 15 US dollars) camera module which had an M12-lens on it.  A pretty cheap upgrade, and now it can use interchangeable lenses.

Posted by: @robo-pi

Not finding a lens for my current cameras I figured if I need to buy new cameras I may as well solve the MP4 problem while I'm at it.  That's actually a secondary concern.  I if I could use my current cameras I'd certainly do that. 

You need to find either a lens or, more likely, a "step ring" to adapt your 37mm thread to one that fits the lens of your choice.  You can use multiple step rings as well, and you can go up or down.

Amazon lists a number of step ring kits that you can use to adapt pretty well anything to anything, including 37mm.  Find a couple of lenses that do the job and adapt them to your existing cameras.

😎

Bill

 

"Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window." — Steve Wozniak


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Robo Pi
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2020-10-30 10:16 pm  
Posted by: @dronebot-workshop

Amazon lists a number of step ring kits that you can use to adapt pretty well anything to anything, including 37mm.  Find a couple of lenses that do the job and adapt them to your existing cameras.

I would certainly do that if I knew exactly what to buy.  The adapter rings you linked too certainly look interesting.   But the lens on my cameras does not unscrew.   It just has some screw threads in front of it for filters.  Although they do sell a wide-angle lens for it that screws onto those threads.

If I can find a workable screw-on close-up lens that works on my camera, I'd definitely go for that.  Just not sure exactly what to buy.

DroneBot Workshop Robotics Engineer
James


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DroneBot Workshop
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2020-10-30 10:57 pm  
Posted by: @robo-pi

If I can find a workable screw-on close-up lens that works on my camera, I'd definitely go for that.  Just not sure exactly what to buy

I guess the obvious question (which I should have asked earlier) is "what kind of camera is it"? 

I'm sure you've already Googled for any info you can get about it, but it's possible that someone out there may know something about it.  And I assume that it is not a Bayonet Mount, which is the most common type these days on professional cameras (those just twist off and on).

This site at Cornell has a huge list of cameras and the types of mounts they have.

Edmund (those folks again) have a video about the different mounting arrangements, and the effect of the mount on the focal length of the lens system, something you'd need to know if you're shooting something very close.  Something that you might already know from your telescope days!

Of course, it is possible that you have a camera whose lens just was never designed to be replaced, this is especially true of some cameras with zoom lenses. If so then the Pi cameras with M12 lenses would be the cheapest alternative that I can think of.

😎

Bill

 

"Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window." — Steve Wozniak


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Robo Pi
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2020-10-30 11:55 pm  
Posted by: @dronebot-workshop

Of course, it is possible that you have a camera whose lens just was never designed to be replaced, this is especially true of some cameras with zoom lenses

That's what I have.  These cameras have an 18x zoom feature.  And I'm pretty sure the lens is not removable.

Posted by: @dronebot-workshop

If so then the Pi cameras with M12 lenses would be the cheapest alternative that I can think of.

I think that's the direction I'll go for now.   I see them on Amazon for $21 with mounting bracket.  That's only $42 for two.  I'll give those a shot.  I just want something to get by on for now.  Since I already have lots of pies there won't be any cost at that end.  Maybe someday when I'm rich and famous I can move up to a better quality camera. 😎 

Maybe I could even run these on a Pi Zero?   That would be a pretty cheap camera system.

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James


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DroneBot Workshop
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2020-10-31 12:00 am  
Posted by: @robo-pi

Maybe I could even run these on a Pi Zero?   That would be a pretty cheap camera system.

Yes, I've run the camera on the Pi Zero and it works OK.

"Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window." — Steve Wozniak


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Robo Pi
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2020-10-31 12:31 am  
Posted by: @dronebot-workshop

Yes, I've run the camera on the Pi Zero and it works OK.

This might actually be the best thing ever.  I can use all the fancy AI techniques that Paul McWhorter taught me in his OpenCV course.  Like having arrows automatically appear to point at specific features instead of having to dub them in later when doing the video editing. 😊 

I'll end up with a personally programmed AI Pi zero camera. Can't beat that. 👍 

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James


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frogandtoad
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2020-10-31 7:51 am  

@robo-pi

Posted by: @frogandtoad
Posted by: @frogandtoad

@robo-pi

Unless I missed it. have you considered a cheap action camera?

You can get 4K action cam with MP4 recording for well under $100.

Cheers.

Are they capable of detailed close-up shots?

The main reason I need a new camera is to take close-up shots of projects I'm doing on a metal lathe.

I watch a lot of YT engineering videos, and some of them do have quite good close up shot's, but I can't say exactly which model of camera they are using for sure.

Posted by: @robo-pi

But if you know of a good action cam that can focus on extreme close-ups please do let me know.  I'll take a look at it.

Sure, will do.

Cheers.


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