• M5Stack, MicroPython
    4 min | 712

    #MicroPython: Support for cameras: M5CAMERA, ESP32-CAM etc.

    M5Stack, MicroPython | 4 min | 712

    This tutorial updates the article: MicroPython: Taking photos with an ESP32-CAM, in which I described the steps to add support to the ESP32-CAM on MicroPython. In this tutorial, I've updated the driver, and more cameras/boards are now supported. I tested the driver on the ESP32-CAM and the M5CAMERA (model B). It should also work with every board that has an OV2640, and it can be extended to support the OV3660 (I didn't find any board with an ESP32 that uses this camera).

    The main difference is that now the camera pins are configurable from MicroPython. The default mode works for the ESP32-CAM. But, if you have an M5CAMERA, you can change the pins so that the ESP32 connects to the OV2640 and takes photos.

    Software and Hardware

    The following hardware and software will be used in this tutorial:

    Code Example

    You can use the camera driver as follows:

    import camera
    # ESP32-CAM (default configuration) - https://bit.ly/2Ndn8tN
    camera.init(0, format=camera.JPEG)  
    # M5Camera (Version B) - https://bit.ly/317Xb74
    camera.init(0, d0=32, d1=35, d2=34, d3=5, d4=39, d5=18, d6=36, d7=19, 
                format=camera.JPEG, xclk_freq=camera.XCLK_10MHz,
                href=26, vsync=25, reset=15, sioc=23, siod=22, xclk=27, pclk=21)
    # These parameters: format=camera.JPEG, xclk_freq=camera.XCLK_10MHz are standard for both cameras.
    # You can try using a faster xclk (20MHz), this also worked with the esp32-cam and m5camera 
    # but the image was pixelated and somehow green.
    buf = camera.capture()
    Some important information:
    • Except when using CIF or lower resolution with JPEG, the driver requires PSRAM to be installed and activated. This is activated, but it is limited because MicroPython needs RAM.
    • Using YUV or RGB puts a lot of strain on the chip because writing to PSRAM is not particularly fast. The result is that image data might be missing. This is particularly true if WiFi is enabled. If you need RGB data, it is recommended that JPEG is captured and then turned into RGB using `fmt2rgb888 or fmt2bmp/frame2bmp`. The conversion is not supported. The formats are included, but almost every time I ran out of memory, trying to capture an image in a different format than JPEG. You can fork the repository and extend that!

    DIY (compiled firmware)

    I've included a compiled MicroPython firmware with support for camera and BLE (check the firmware folder). The firmware was compiled using esp-idf 4.x (hash 4c81978a3).

    To flash it to the board, you need to type the following:

    esptool.py --chip esp32 --port /dev/ttyUSB0 erase_flash
    esptool.py --chip esp32 --port /dev/ttyUSB0 --baud 460800 write_flash -z 0x1000 micropython_3a9d948_esp32_idf4.x_ble_camera.bin

    More information is available in this tutorial.

    If you want to compile your driver from scratch follow the next section:

    DIY (from Scratch)

    Read this section if you want to include the camera support to MicroPython from scratch. To do that follow these steps:

    1. Clone the MicroPython repository:

      git clone --recursive https://github.com/micropython/micropython.git

      Note: The MicroPython repo changes a lot, I've done this using the version with the hash 3a9d948032e27f690e1fb09084c36bd47b1a75a0.

    2. Copy the files of this repository inside the folder ports/esp32. If you don't want to replace the files mpconfigport.h, main.h, and Makefile make the following modifications to the original ones:

      • mpconfigport.c

        1. add the line

          extern const struct _mp_obj_module_t mp_module_camera;

          in the code block below // extra built in modules to add to the list of known ones (approx. line 184)

        2. add the line:

          { MP_OBJ_NEW_QSTR(MP_QSTR_camera), (mp_obj_t)&mp_module_camera }, \

          in the code block below #define MICROPY_PORT_BUILTIN_MODULES \ (approx. line 194/195)

      • main.c: modify the lines inside the #if CONFIG_ESP32_SPIRAM_SUPPORT || CONFIG_SPIRAM_SUPPORT, they should look like:

            mp_task_heap_size = 2 * 1024 * 1024;
            void *mp_task_heap = malloc(mp_task_heap_size);
            ESP_LOGI("main", "Allocated %dK for micropython heap at %p", mp_task_heap_size/1024, mp_task_heap);
      • Makefile:

        1. add the lines:

          INC_ESPCOMP += -I$(ESPCOMP)/esp32-camera/driver/include
          INC_ESPCOMP += -I$(ESPCOMP)/esp32-camera/driver/private_include
          INC_ESPCOMP += -I$(ESPCOMP)/esp32-camera/conversions/include
          INC_ESPCOMP += -I$(ESPCOMP)/esp32-camera/conversions/private_include
          INC_ESPCOMP += -I$(ESPCOMP)/esp32-camera/sensors/private_include

          inside under the # Compiler and linker flags (approx. line 135)

        2. add the line:

          modcamera.c \

          inside the SRC_C = \ block (approx. line 329 - after the above insertion)

        3. add the lines:

          ESP32_CAM_O = $(patsubst %.c,%.o,\
          $(wildcard $(ESPCOMP)/esp32-camera/driver/*.c) \
          $(wildcard $(ESPCOMP)/esp32-camera/sensors/*.c) \
          $(wildcard $(ESPCOMP)/esp32-camera/conversions/*.c) \

          above the line OBJ_ESPIDF = (approx. line 615 - after the above insertions)

        4. add the line:

          $(eval $(call gen_espidf_lib_rule,esp32_cam,$(ESP32_CAM_O)))

          in the block above ifeq ($(ESPIDF_CURHASH),$(ESPIDF_SUPHASH_V4)) (approx. line 655 - after the above insertions)

    3. Clone the https://github.com/lemariva/esp32-camera repository inside the ~/esp/esp-idf/components folder.

          cd ~/esp/esp-idf/components
          git clone https://github.com/lemariva/esp32-camera.git
    4. Compile and deploy MicroPython following the instructions from this tutorial. But, use the following compiling options:

      make BOARD=GENERIC_CAM PYTHON=python3 MICROPY_PY_BTREE=0 -j deploy


    This tutorial explains how to extend the MicroPython firmware to support the OV2640 camera. Different ESP32 board has this camera: ESP32-EYE, ESP32-CAM, and M5Camera. Stay tuned for an example application!


    Francesco 06.26.2020

    Hi, great job. I would like to compile micropython with PPP support, is it possible?