Why shouldn’t I buy a $69 webcam for my machine vision application?

IDS uEeye camera

This is a question we get asked frequently: “Why should we pay $200 plus for your board level machine vision camera when we can just get a webcam for $69?”

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:

  1. Do you need to program to integrate the video into an application with processing or control?
  2. Do you need consistent image quality?
  3. Are you doing computer vision (the computer is making decisions based on the images) or are you just viewing the images visually?
  4. Do you care if the camera specifications change over your product’s life cycle?
  5. Is the object under inspection moving?
  6. Do you need to control when you take the picture or interface to a trigger or strobe?
  7. 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.

Industrial cameras come with a SDK programmable in C/C++/C#/etc. It allows you to programmatically control the camera for both data acquisition and control of the camera’s parameters. (Example HERE to show extensive support of various operating systems and download)

Moving objects

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.

Example: Without adequate shutter speed with a global shutter, image will be blurry with motion

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.

Example: External trigger control is tightly timed with IO including light flash. Courtesy of IDS Imaging

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.

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Give us some brief idea of your application and we will contact you to discuss camera options.

1st Vision’s sales engineers have over 100 years of combined experience to assist in your camera selection.  With a large portfolio of lenses, cables, NIC card and industrial computers, we can provide a full vision solution!

Ph:  978-474-0044  /  info@1stvision.com  / www.1stvision.com

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What is the fastest 2.4MP GigE camera at the lowest price point? Dalsa’s new Nano M1950 / C1950!

Dalsa Nano

Dalsa NanoTeledyne Dalsa has released the latest addition to the Genie Nano family.  Introducing the Nano M1950 and C1950 cameras using the Sony Pregius IMX392 image sensor.  This is a great replacement for older Sony ICX818 CCD sensors.

These latest Nano models offer 2.4 MP (1936 x 1216) resolution with a GigE interface in color and monochrome with up to 102 frames per second utilizing TurboDrive.

What’s so interesting about the Nano M1950 and C1950 models?

2.4 MP resolution with the speed of the popular IMX174, but at the price of the IMX249:  
Sony Pregius image sensors in a given resolution has created paired sensors, one being faster at a higher price and one slower at a lower price.  The Nano M1940 / C1940 cameras use the IMX174 which is a great sensor and historically had the fastest speed at 2.4MP in GigE, but at a premium.  We could opt for the Nano M1920 / C1920 cameras with the IMX249 at a lower price, but sacrificed speed.

Until now! – The latest Nano M1950 / C1950 models with the IMX392 provides the higher speed of the M1940 / C1940 cameras, but at the lower price of the Nano M1920 / C1920 cameras. 

2.4MP resolution using a 1 /2 in sensor format, provides cost savings on lenses.
Thanks to the Sony Pregius Gen 2 pixel architecture, the pixel size is 3.45um, allowing the same resolution and eliminating the added cost of larger format lenses found in the IMX174 / IMX249 sensors which were 1 / 1.2″ formats.

Contact 1stVision to get our recommendations on lens series designed for the 3.45um pixel pitch. 

When would you use the Sony Pregius IMX392 versus the IMX174 and IMX249 sensors? 

The Sony Pregius IMX174 / IMX249 images still have an incredible dynamic range due to the pixel architecture found in the first generation image sensors.  (Read more here on Gen 1 vs Gen 2).  If you need dynamic range, with large well depths of 30Ke-, then use the IMX174 / IM249 sensors.

I’m so confused!   Where can I get the specs on the new Nano M1950 / C1950, understand what sensors are in what cameras and get a quote?

The tough part today, is that there a ton of model #’s in the Sony Pregius sensors lineup and in turn camera product lines.  Here’s a brief table to help with links to spec’s, related image sensors and a link to get a quote.

Sensor          Model 
IMX174         Nano M1940 / C1940          GET QUOTE
IMX249        Nano M1920 / C1920           GET QUOTE
IMX392        Nano M1950 / C1950           GET QUOTE

1st Vision’s sales engineers have over 100 years of combined experience to assist in your camera selection.  With a large portfolio of lenses, cables, NIC card and industrial computers, we can provide a full vision solution!

Contact us to help in the specification and providing pricing

Ph:  978-474-0044  /  info@1stvision.com  / www.1stvision.com

Related Blogs & Technical resources

Imaging Quick ref Poster
Quick Reference Imaging poster download

Sony Pregius sensor “Generations” – What do those differences mean for machine vision?

Teledyne Dalsa TurboDrive 2.0 breaks past GigE limits now with 6 levels of compression

What is a lens optical format? Can I use any machine vision camera with any format? NOT!

Sony Pregius sensor “Generations” – What do those differences mean for machine vision?

Sony Pregius

Pregius
Courtesy of Sony
Machine Vision cameras continue to reap the benefits of the latest CMOS image sensor technology since Sony announced the discontinuation of CCD’s.  We have been testing and comparing various sensors over the years and have always come back to using Sony Pregius sensors when dynamic range and sensitivity is needed.

If you’ve been watching the technology shift from CCD’s to CMOS, you have probably also seen a ton of new image sensor names within the “Generations”.  Honestly, its hard to keep track of all of Sony’s part numbers, so we will try to give you some insight into the progression of Sony’s Pregius image sensors used in industrial machine vision cameras.

1 – First, how can I tell if its a Sony Pregius generation sensor?

Sony has prefixes of the image sensors which make it easy to identify if its an ExView HAD sensor or Pregius sensor.  Previous CCD, EXViewHAD sensors primarily in the last 10 years had a prefix of “ICX”.  Example:   ICX285, which was a great sensor back in the day.   All new Sony Pregius sensors have a prefix of “IMX”    Example:  IMX174.. which today is one of the best for dynamic range.
1stVision’s camera selector can be filter by “Resolution” and you can scroll and see the sensors with a prefix of IMX.  CLICK HERE NOW

2 – What is the differences in the “Generations” of Sony Pregius Image sensors?

Sony Pregius Generation 1:  This primarily consisted of a 2.4MP resolution sensor with 5.86um pixels BUT had a well depth (saturation capacity) of 30Ke- and still unique in this regard within the generations.   Sony also brought the new generations to the market with “slow” and “fast” versions of the sensors at two different price points.  In this case, the IMX174 and IMX249 were incorporated into industrial machine vision cameras providing two levels of performance.  Example being Dalsa Nano M1940 (52 fps)  using IMX174 vs Dalsa Nano M1920 (39 fps) using IMX249, but the IMX249 is 40% less in price.

Sony Pregius Generation 2:  The primary goal of Sony was to expand the portfolio of Pregius sensors which consists of VGA to 12 MP image sensors.  However, the pixel size decreased to 3.45um along with well depth to ~ 10Ke-, but noise also decreased!  The smaller pixels allowed smaller format lenses to be used saving overall system cost.   However this became more taxing on lens resolution being able to resolve the 3.45um pixels!   In general it offered a great family of image sensors and in turn an abundance of machine vision industrial cameras at lower cost than CCD’s with better performance.   

1stVision’s camera selector  can be filter by “Resolution” AND pixel size that correspond to one of the generations.  You will have a list of cameras in which you can select those starting with IMX!.  I.e  All Generation 2 sensors will be 3.45um, and can narrow to a desired resolution. CLICK HERE NOW

Sony Pregius Generation 3:  Sony’s has taken the best of both the Gen 1 and Gen 2 to create Gen 3!  The pixel size increased to 4.5um increasing the well depth to 20Ke-!  This generation has the fastest data rates, dynamic range and lowest noise.  The family will expand from VGA to 7.1MP as well.  We are just starting to see Gen 3 sensors in our machine vision camera lineup and expecting more to come through 2019+.

Contact us

Sony Pregius image sensor Comparison Chart

sony comparison chart

Sony’s Pregius Product line up for machine vision industrial cameras below for reference as of April 2019

Sony Pregius product line up
Courtesy of Sony

1st Vision’s sales engineers have over 100 years of combined experience to assist in your camera selection.  With a large portfolio of lenses, cables, NIC card and industrial computers, we can provide a full vision solution!

Contact us to help in the specification of your imaging components 

Ph:  978-474-0044  /  info@1stvision.com  / www.1stvision.com

How can we help answer your questions about industrial imaging?  We have used several terms you may not be familiar with and would like to help in your education.  Below are some related blogs that will help.  Or contact us via email or phone number as we love to help educate our customers!

Related Blogs & Technical resources

Imaging Quick ref Poster
Quick Reference Imaging poster download

What are the attributes to consider when selecting a camera and its performance?

CCD vs CMOS industrial cameras – Learn how CMOS image sensors excel over CCD!

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Optotune liquid lenses – 5 case examples for machine vision

Optotune tunable lenses

Optotune & Gardasoft liquid lens controlsLiquid lens technology, with its ability to change focus within the order of milliseconds is opening up a host of new applications in both machine vision and the life sciences.  It is gaining growing interest from a wide cross section of applications and easily adapts to standard machine vision lenses.

Liquid lens technology alone provides nice solutions, but when combined with advanced controls, many more applications can be solved.

To learn the fundamentals of liquid lens technology and download a comprehensive white paper read our previous blog HERE. 

see spec's

In this blog, we will highlight several case application areas for liquid lens technology.

Case 1:  Applications requiring various focus points and extended depth of field:  This does cover many applications, such as logistics, packaging and code reading in packaging.   Liquid lenses provide the ability to have pre-set focus points, auto-focus or utilize distance sensors for feedback to the lens.  In the example below, 2 presets can be programmed and toggled to read 2D codes at various heights essentially extending the depth of field.

extended DOF

Case 2:  3D imagery of transparent materials / Hyperfocal (Extended DOF Images:  When image stackingusing an Optotune liquid lens in conjunction with a Gardasoft TR-CL180 controller, sequence of images can be taken with the focus point stepped between each image.  This technique is known as focus stacking.   This will build up a 3D image of transparent environments such as cell tissue or liquid for analysis.  This can also be used to find particles suspended in liquids.

image stacking for cells

A Z-stack of images can also be used to extract 3D data (depth of focus) and compute a hyper-focus or extended depth of field (EFOF) image.

The EDOF technique requires tacking a stack of individual well focused images which have preferably been synchronized with one flash per image.  An example is show below with the rendered hyper focus image shown at right.

Hyperfocus imageCase 3:  Lens inspection:  Liquid lenses can be used to inspect lenses, such as those in cell phones for dust and scratches looking through the lens stack.

Optotune liquid lens stack imageFor this application, a liquid lens is used in conjunction with a telescentric lens taking images through different heights of the lens stack.  

Case 4:  Bottle / Container inspection:  Optotune Liquid lenses can be used to facilitate image bottom’s of glass bottles or containers of various heights.

In this example, the camera is consistently at the neck of the bottle, but the bottom is at different heights.  optotune lens - bottle inspection

Case 5:  Large surface inspections with variation in height:  Items ranging from PCB’s to LCD’s are not flat, have various component heights and need to be inspected at high magnification (typically using lenses with minimal DOF).  Optotune Liquid lenses are a perfect solution using preset focus points.

pcb inspection

Machine Vision applications using Optotune Liquid lenses and controller are endless!

These applications are just the tip of the iceberg and many more exist, but this will give you a good idea of capabilities.   Gardasoft TR-CL controllers are fully GigE Vision compliant, so any compatible GigE Vision client image processing software such as Cognex VisionPro, Teledyne Dalsa Sherlock or National Instruments LABVIEW can be used easily.

Click to contact

1st Vision’s sales engineers have over 100 years of combined experience to assist in your camera selection.  With a large portfolio of lenses, cables, NIC card and industrial computers, we can provide a full vision solution!

Contact us to help in the specification and providing pricing

Ph:  978-474-0044  /  info@1stvision.com  / www.1stvision.com

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Learn how liquid lenses keep continuous focus on machine vision cameras when the working distance changes.