IDS Imaginghas released its new contrast-based autofocus features in the popular LE board level cameras. These additions take advantage of standard liquid lenses from Varioptic with resolutions up to 18 megapixels. The uEye software now comes with an intuitive GUI with adjustable regions of interest and various image sharpness measurement algorithms.
As much as “Auto focus” seems like it would be the flip of a switch, its important to understand the various methods used in the image analysis. In order to focus an image, algorithms are needed to measure image sharpness which is relayed to the liquid lens to make adjustments. These methods as based on principles in measuring edge sharpness to analyzing histogram values of the pixel grey scales.
Measuring image sharpness additionally has various algorithms which which can be run providing more exact methods versus basic analysis. It is important to understand these methods as additional processing power is required, effecting the overall camera frame rate.
IDS Imaging has a “Tech Tip”which covers various auto focus methods, defines the characteristics of search algorithms and how they effect speed and provides application examples. Click the icon below to download.
A great question and maybe you can, but what ARE the differences?
Basically, there are just a few questions you need to answer to see if you should use a webcam for you machine vision application which are as follows:
Do you need to program to integrate the video into an application with processing or control?
Do you need consistent image quality?
Are you doing computer vision (the computer is making decisions based on the images) or are you just viewing the images visually?
Do you care if the camera specifications change over your product’s life cycle?
Is the object under inspection moving?
Do you need to control when you take the picture or interface to a trigger or strobe?
Do you need to be able to choose what lens you will need?
If the answer to any of the above are YES, then a webcam will NOT work well or at all for your application. If the answers are NO, then by all means, you might be able to save money and just use a webcam. (You can stop reading here if you want, or continue for more details below).
Machine Vision Camera Software
Webcams do NOT come with a SDK as they are made to show video only. They normally provide a universal video driver, and also an application for viewing video.
Webcams have rolling shutter sensors which mean they cannot acquire images of moving objects without ‘smearing’ them. Industrial machine vision cameras use sensors with global shutters providing the ability to freeze the image to produce non smeared images of moving objects.
Trigger and Strobe Control
Webcams only have an interface to the USB data, whereas industrial machine vision cameras have hardware and software inputs and outputs. These allow for exact timing for a trigger to take a picture and a strobe to illuminate the object.
Camera Specs Changing over time
Webcams just need to show you video! In turn the manufacturers are not concerned if the sensors inside the camera change every six months. Whether the sensitivity changes by 10% makes no difference when you are just video conferencing with Grandma.
Industrial machine vision cameras are made with image sensors that don’t go obsolete every 6 months, but rather companies hope for 10 year life spans. It makes a huge difference if you are doing a computer vision algorithm that you have 5 man years of software development and the sensor’s sensitivity changes by even 1%.
Furthermore, the form factor of webcams change frequently as well. This doesn’t make a difference when it is just on your desk. It makes a huge difference when your camera and lens is fixtured in a machine that has 500 hours of CAD work to design, much less build. Moving the camera and lens 10cm might not be possible!
Do you need to choose your lens?
Webcams come with an integrated lens that is suitable for general viewing, and this lens is integrated with the camera and not changeable. Industrial machine vision cameras come with no lenses as not only do lenses come in a variety of focal lengths for different magnification, but also lenses coming in a variety of resolutions. Choosing a lens requires you to know the size of the sensor, your working distance, your field of view, and the pixel size. (See related educational blogs on lenses at end of this post)
What are your options for a low cost camera solution?
If you need industrial machine vision camera solutions with a solid SDK, long life cycles, at a low price, there several solutions to consider. Rolling shutter imagers are always lower price which are always a place to start along with USB2 interfaces. Read our previous blog HERE which outlines some specific models which are low cost. There is also a great new platform coming providing 5 Megapixel resolution with a rolling shutter imager, but with great performance for $280! Contact us for more details.
10 GigE Vision compliant cameras are easy to integrate enabling more machine vision applications and image processing. Camera image sensors have continued to increase in resolution which requires higher bandwidth interfaces to achieve high frame rates. 10 GigE cameras are a great solution as implementation is less costly and complex versus camera link and CoaxPress.
Aside from the features of 10GiGE Vision, the Baumer VLXT series cameras are extremely feature rich and cost competitive making them an excellent choice for 10GigE Vision cameras.
11 Key Features are listed below with many being unique, solving more vision applications in 10 GigE Vision cameras
1 – True 10GigE bandwidth! – 2 – Liquid lens & Canon EF mount control 3 – Exposure times down to 1uS with Sony Sensors 4 – Power outputs (4x) for direct driving LED lights eliminating a lighting controller. 5 – IP67 Ratings and extended temperatures for harsh environments 6 – IEEE 1588 Precision Timing protocols for synchronized timing with multiple devices. 7 – Long cable lengths up to 55 meters (Cat 6) and 70+ meters with Cat 6a / 7 and longer with optional fiber optic interface. 8 – Standard low cost 10GigE NIC’s can be used opposed to some manufacturers requiring special NICs 9 – Fully GigE Vision compliant for easy implementation with the benefits of high bandwidths. Allows support of third party software libraries. 10 – RS232 support 11 – On board JPEG compression available
Industrial machine vision cameras historically have used CCD image sensors, but there is a transition in the industrial imaging marketplace to move to CMOS imagers. Why is this?.. Sony who is the primary supplier of image sensors announced in 2015 it will stop making CCD image sensors and is already past its last time buy. The market was nervous at first until we experienced the new CMOS image sensor designs. The latest Sony Pregius Image sensors provide increased performance with lower cost making it compelling to make changes to systems using older CCD image sensors.
What is the difference between CCD and CMOS image sensors in machine vision cameras?
Both produce an image by taking light energy (photons) and convert them into an electrical charge, but the process is done very differently.
In CCD image sensors, each pixel collects light, but then is moved across the circuit via current through vertical and horizontal shift registers. The light level is then sampled in the read out circuitry. Essentially its a bucket brigade to move the pixel information around which takes time and power.
In CMOS sensors, each pixel has the read out circuitry located at the photosensitive site. The analog to digital circuit samples the information very quickly and eliminates artifacts such as smear and blooming. The pixel architecture has also radically changed moving the photosensitive electronics to be more efficient in collecting light.
6 advantages of CMOS image sensors vs CCD
There are many advantages of CMOS versus CCDs and outlined below: 1 – Higher Sensitivity due to the latest pixel architecture which is beneficial in lower light applications. 2 – Lower dark noise will contribute to a higher fidelity image. 3 – Pixel well depth (saturation capacity) is improved providing higher dynamic range. 4 – Lower Power consumption. This becomes important as lower heat dissipation equals a cooler camera and less noise. 5 – Lower cost! – 5 Megapixel cameras used to cost ~ $2500 and only achieve 15 fps and now cost ~ $450 with increased frame rates. 6 – Smaller pixels reduce the sensor format decreasing the lens cost.
What CMOS image sensors cross over from existing CCD image sensors?