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


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.



Model Mike

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.


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.


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


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.


I don’t understand any of this…


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.


Weird choice of Technology correspondent.

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


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.


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?


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

Adrian Tung

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


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…


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