Add an eye to the Octopi: Camera See3CAM_CU30 – review

Up close and personal with the E-con system lenses

I’d love to have 3D printer at home. For now, the only access to one is via local Hackspace. The 3D printing jobs are queued and left overnight and let’s be honest, these are not the greatest 3D printers we have there, the prints often fail. Ever since I heard about Octopi image for Raspberry Pi, I was tempted to swap our regular controller with a camera-enabled Raspberry PI to monitor the prints overnight in low light. Around about the same time people from E-con systems got in touch with me about their optical sensor – Camera See3CAM_CU30.

Octopi and Camera See3CAM_CU30

The camera is here but the Hackspace remains packed up until we have a new building to host the workshop. I decided to go with my review anyway, as I don’t actually need the printer hardware alone to run the Octopi and check the quality of the streams. The e-con camera module is labelled for low light performance and it’s something I will be testing.

It’s not my first camera module, plus I have some other USB cameras I can play with! That should make a pretty good testing setup. But before I get to the test, let’s look at the hardware specs.

Resolution USB 3.0 USB 2.0
UYVY MJPEG UYVY MJPEG
3.4MP (2304 x 1536) 24 fps & 12 fps 48 fps 5 fps & 2.5 fps 48 fps
3MP (2304 x 1296) 30 fps & 15 fps 60 fps 6 fps & 3 fps 60 fps
3MP (2048 x 1536) 42 fps & 21 fps 50 fps 5 fps & 2.5 fps 50 fps
1280P (1920 x 1280) 50 fps & 25 fps 50 fps 6 fps & 3 fps 50 fps
FHD (1920 x 1080) 60,30 & 15 fps 60 fps 8 fps & 3 fps 60 fps
960P (1280 x 960) 58 fps & 30 fps 58 fps 14 fps & 7 fps 58 fps
HD (1280 x 720) 60 fps & 30 fps 60 fps 16 fps & 8 fps 60 fps
XGA+ (1152 x 768) 60 fps & 30 fps 60 fps 19 fps & 9.5 fps 60 fps
VGA (640 x 480) 60 fps & 30 fps 60 fps 30 fps & 15 fps 60 fps

The on-paper specs may not look like much especially compared to the consumer webcams like Logi C920 but hooking this thing up to a nice screen shows that See3CAM_CU30 is a well-made camera module with interesting features.

First of all, the e-con added a custom wide angle lens to the sensor. I have to say the lens is very impressive. If you follow my Instagram, you would see how close and personal I got with my own eye!

The See3CAM_CU30 camera is Using USB-C connector, but it’s capable of outputting good image quality over USB 2.0 which is important to our Octopi setup. Apart from a 10 GPIO controller which can be hooked up to a Raspberry Pi, you will also find two 4-pin connectors for LEDs. I used these to crude mount white LEDs to check them out in the dark.

Turns out that the image and FPS actually beat my Logi C920 (I was not expecting that just looking at the specs) and stream provides a very nice, smooth image even in the low light. Other webcams I have tried were significantly cheaper, but at the same time, the level of the details I could see was also subpar.

Octopi comes with some great options for camera monitoring. I will be super eager to try to make a rig that can move and pan the camera around. In addition to that, Octopi comes with time-lapse and stream options so you have everything you need to monitor the print and create a nice (and short) videos of the print.

Conclusion

I have to say, if you want to just check if the print is still on the table, any webcam would do. The See3CAM_CU30 gives you a chance to monitor the prints carefully, with enough details to see if the individual layers are printed out correctly. If this is the level of control you are looking for, go ahead and treat yourself to one of the modules like this.

Disclaimer
The See3CAM_CU30 has been provided to me for the purpose of the review. As usual, with all my reviews I reserve the right to an honest critique of the product.
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