How to setup a VC MIPI MODULE on a Raspberry PI

Hardware and Software Setup

Revision: 1.2
Date: 2021-02-10
Copyright: 2021 Vision Components GmbH Ettlingen, Germany
Author: VC Support
Foreword and Disclaimer

This documentation has been prepared with most possible care. However Vision Components GmbH does not take any liability for possible errors. In the interest of progress, Vision Components GmbH reserves the right to perform technical changes without further notice.

Please notify if you become aware of any errors in this manual or if a certain topic requires more detailed documentation.

This manual is intended for information of Vision Component’s customers only. Any publication of this document or parts thereof requires written permission by Vision Components GmbH.

Image symbols used in this document
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Note Sign The Light bulb highlights hints and ideas that may be helpful for a development.
Warning Sign This warning sign alerts of possible pitfalls to avoid. Please pay careful attention to sections marked with this sign.
Example Sign This is a sign for an example.


Linux, Debian, the Tux logo, Vivado, Xilinx and Zynq, ARM, Cortex, Windows XP, Total Commander, Tera Term, Motorola, HALCON, Vision Components are registered Trademarks. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Raspberry Pi and Raspbian / Raspberry Pi OS are also registered Trademarks.

ESD sensitivity


Warning Sign The components are very sensitive to electrostatic discharge (ESD)! Please take all the precautions necessary to avoid ESD!


ESD Sign The electronic components and circuits are sensitive to ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD). When handling any circuit board assemblies, it is necessary that ESD safety precautions be observed.

ESD safe best practices include, but are not limited to:

This note is not an exhaustive information about the protection against electrostatic discharge (ESD).

Table of Contents

1   Overview


Overview of relevant components excluding power supply, monitor, USB keyboard, cables


The power supply must at least provide 2.5A at 5V.


Note Sign

The hardware connections are described for the Raspberry Pi 3B+, but the driver is also compatible with the Raspberry Pi 4B, Raspberry Pi Zero, Raspberry Pi Compute Module.


Note Sign

The following VC MIPI modules are supported at the time of writing:

  • VC MIPI OV9281
  • VC MIPI IMX296 / IMX296C
  • VC MIPI IMX297 / IMX297C
  • VC MIPI IMX290 / IMX290C
  • VC MIPI IMX183 / IMX183C
  • VC MIPI IMX226 / IMX226C
  • VC MIPI IMX252 / IMX252C
  • VC MIPI IMX250 / IMX250C

2   Hardware Setup

2.1   Hardware Pre-Check: Install Raspberry Pi OS

First step is to install Raspberry Pi OS from

The driver is known to work with the kernel version 4.19, so download the appropriate Raspberry Pi OS version. Raspberry Pi OS Buster Lite is sufficient, and this guide expects this version to be installed not only for the framebuffer output handling.

For more installation instructions see the Raspberry Pi OS Installation Manual; the procedure depends on the platform type where the OS is going to be installed.


(Original site looks different) Install Raspberry Pi OS by following the instructions provided there

The display shows a login prompt after successful installation. If this is not the case, you have to check your Raspberry Pi OS installation. The most relevant information to succeed can be found at the Raspberry Pi OS website or on the web.


Raspberry Pi OS showing login screen (user is usually pi with password raspberry)

2.2   Connect the MIPI module


Always disconnect other cables before connecting or disconnecting the MIPI module!


Warning Sign

Always disconnect all cables before connecting or disconnecting the MIPI module!

The ends of the MIPI module connector cable is marked with the hardware to connect to. Open the socket connectors first by raising their lid, insert the cable and press their lid back when mounted correctly. You should then not be able to pull the cable out.


Open the MIPI module socket, put in the cable, close the MIPI module socket


Warning Sign

The connection at this type of socket is not protected against bad alignment, so always check the orthogonality, and if it is bent, correct it! Also watch out for the right orientation of the cable! The MIPI module or the board connected on the other side can be irrevocably damaged if the cable is not inserted the right way, and warranty is lost!


Harmfully angled (left) and good (right) cable fixation

The socket type is also not protected against wrong orientation, so compare your setup to the figures below before switching the power on.


Watch the orientation of the cable (left: bad, right: good)

There may be a dust prevention sticker at the socket named CAMERA at the raspberryPi, remove it first. Like at the sensor module, open the lid first, insert the cable to be orthogonally fixed after shutting the lid. Also check the orthogonality here and correct it if the cable is angled!


Connect the cable to the CAMERA socket at the raspberry Pi equally (left: bad, right: good)


Warning Sign

Do not connect other devices to the I²C bus named VC, since it can affect the communication between the camera sensor and the driver!

For example, running the touch screen of the Raspberry PI 7 inch display will lead to communication problems between driver and camera sensor. The display may work with the following line appended to the /boot/config.txt, but test first without connecting it to the Raspberry PI to be sure everything works so far:


Don't connect the SDA/SCK of the 7 inch display since this would connect the I²C bus VC from the socket named DISPLAY with the I²C bus ARM at the pinout!

Reconnect the other peripherials to the Raspberry Pi.


Connection setup for the first image acquisition test.

You should have the login prompt back after switching the system on.


Raspberry Pi OS showing login screen (user is usually pi with password raspberry)

3   Software Setup


Warning Sign

It is recommended to install this driver package on a fresh Raspberry Pi OS image. I you have older drivers from Vision Components (without Debian package) it may cause issues with the new installation.

3.1   Get the driver and demo code

You can download the driver and demo code from the following links.

3.2   Install necessary Raspberry Pi OS packages


Warning Sign

The current version of Raspberry Pi OS contains kernel 5.4. The driver is NOT COMPATIBLE with this version yet and may not work with it. It is advised to stay with kernel 4.19 for the time being. If you need to downgrade from kernel 5.4 to 4.19 you can use these packages (install with dpkg -i):
  • Upload all the debian packages contained in the archive to /tmp on your Raspberry Pi
  • run the command dpkg -i /tmp/*.deb
  • wait for the installation to finish and reboot
  • continue with step 4 below. Do not execute steps 1 to 3!

We are working on an update which will be available soon.

Before beginning with the installation, do the following steps first. This requires your Raspberry PI to already have an internet connection; otherwise you have to install the packages mentioned manually, search the web for the procedure needed.

  1. Update the raspberrypi-kernel package and your system by calling:

    sudo  apt-get update   &&   sudo  apt-get upgrade
  2. Reboot.

  3. Install the raspberrypi-kernel-headers and device-tree-compiler package by using the following command:

    sudo  apt-get install  raspberrypi-kernel-headers  device-tree-compiler
  4. Test if the version of the running kernel matches the version of the kernel headers, the following command should show the directory for compiling the sensor module kernel module driver:

    ls "/usr/src/linux-headers-$(uname -r)"
  5. Install the dkms package with:

    sudo apt-get install dkms

3.3   Driver Installation


Note Sign

If you already installed an older version of the driver, an update will not modify the device tree files and the configuration files, in case customers made their own changes. If you wish to update the device tree files and the configuration files together with the driver it is necessary to deinstall the driver first and to delete the device tree files with the following commands:

sudo apt-get purge vc-mipi-driver-bcm2835-dkms
sudo rm -rf /boot/config_vc*
sudo rm -rf /boot/overlays/vc-mipi*


Warning Sign

It is important that the date and time of your Raspberry Pi are set correctly! You can set the date and time using NTP or the command "date", for example:

sudo date -s "2020-07-08 10:03:00"
  1. Copy the driver debian package (vc-mipi-driver-bcm2835-dkms_x.x.x_armhf.deb) to the /tmp folder on the Raspberry Pi.

  2. Install the driver package by calling (replace x.x.x by the current version number):

    sudo dpkg -i /tmp/vc-mipi-driver-bcm2835-dkms_x.x.x_armhf.deb
  3. Edit the file /boot/config_vc-mipi-driver-bcm2835.txt (for example with nano with the command: sudo nano /boot/config_vc-mipi-driver-bcm2835.txt).

    • choose the correct platform by uncommenting the corresponding line (for Raspberry Pi 4B choose config_vc-mipi-driver-bcm2835-raspi3Bplus)
    • choose the correct overlay according to your MIPI module and platform by uncommenting the corresponding line
    • choose the desired sensor mode (see chapter Sensor modes below for mode description)
    • change the IO configuration if necessary (see chapter IO configuration below for IO description)

    All these settings can be done for cam0 and cam1 in case you are using a Raspberry Pi CMIO or a VC CMIO.


    Example of configuration file for the OV9281 MIPI module on a Raspberry Pi 4B in sensor mode 1.

  4. Reboot.

3.4   First Image Acquisition Test

A sensor device should be listed as Video input at the following command output (from the Video4Linux-Control):

v4l2-ctl --all

The following command dumps sensor data:

v4l2-ctl --stream-mmap --stream-count=-1 -d /dev/video0 --stream-to=/dev/null

It will output subsequent lines ending with a frames-per-second information (in the example named [number]) until pressing CTRL-C:

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< [number] fps
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< [number] fps
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< [number] fps

3.5   Running the Demo

The demo itself is a program named vcmipidemo and its source code is mainly in the file vcmipidemo.c. However more programs are provided, namely the vcimgnetsrv, a network image server, and its counterpart The vcimgnetsrv is started as background service, and the vcmipidemo connects to it. Then you can use the on your PC to view live captured images.

But for the first run it is better to just run the vcmipidemo and check if it shows the ascii representation. This works without any network cable attached. You can then output the captured image to the framebuffer of the display by using the -f command line switch.

3.5.1   Compile the programs

  1. Unpack the previously downloaded archive and copy the folder vcmipidemo to the Raspberry Pi (for example to /home/pi/)
  1. Change to the subdirectory named vcmipidemo/src.

  2. The source directory contains a Makefile to compile the driver. Do so by calling:

    make clean all

3.5.2   Execute the demo

Just run the demo itself:


or with framebuffer output:

./vcmipidemo -f

or with live view over ethernet:

./vcimgnetsrv &

For live view over ethernet, execute the at the client. This needs Python 2 and PyGTK. Install both following packages in this order (Windows):

3.6   Switching Sensor Configuration

3.6.1   Sensor modes

The sensor driver provides different modes which support several features. They can be switched by changing values of sensor driver parameters.

To list available parameters of the sensor driver kernel module, you can use the following command:


You can also check the table below (Sensor modes description) for a complete list of available sensor modes.


Example of the dmesg command for an OV9281 MIPI module, showing the available sensor modes.

To set the desired mode, edit the file /boot/config_vc-mipi-driver-bcm2835.txt (for example with nano with the command: sudo nano /boot/config_vc-mipi-driver-bcm2835.txt). Change the sensor mode by modifing dtparam:


The number after the underscore is the sensor mode. For mode 0 the correct setting would be dtparam=cam0_sensor_mode_0.


Example of setting the sensor mode to 1 for cam0.

3.6.2   Sensor modes description

This table lists the available modes for all mipi modules.

VC MIPI OV9281 Mode Image format (bits) Lanes Capture mode Resolution
  0 10 2 Streaming 1280x800
  1 8 2 Streaming 1280x800
  2 10 2 External trigger 1280x800
  3 8 2 External trigger 1280x800
VC MIPI IMX296 Mode Image format (bits) Lanes Capture mode Resolution
  0 10 1 Streaming 1440x1080
  1 10 1 External trigger 1440x1080
  2 10 1 Streaming 720x540
  3 10 1 External trigger 720x540
VC MIPI IMX296 C Mode Image format (bits) Lanes Capture mode Resolution
  0 10 1 Streaming 1440x1080
  1 10 1 External trigger 1440x1080
VC MIPI IMX297 Mode Image format (bits) Lanes Capture mode Resolution
  0 10 1 Streaming 720x540
  1 10 1 External trigger 720x540
VC MIPI IMX290 Mode Image format (bits) Lanes Capture mode Resolution
  0 10 2 Streaming 1920x1080
  1 10 4 Streaming 1920x1080
VC MIPI IMX327 C Mode Image format (bits) Lanes Capture mode Resolution
  0 10 2 Streaming 1920x1080
  1 10 4 Streaming 1920x1080
VC MIPI IMX412 C Mode Image format (bits) Lanes Capture mode Resolution
  0 10 2 Streaming 4056x3040
  1 10 4 Streaming 4056x3040
VC MIPI IMX415 C Mode Image format (bits) Lanes Capture mode Resolution
  0 10 2 Streaming 3864x2192
  1 10 4 Streaming 3864x2192
VC MIPI IMX183 Mode Image format (bits) Lanes Capture mode Resolution
  0 8 2 Streaming 5440x3694
  1 10 2 Streaming 5440x3694
  2 12 2 Streaming 5440x3694
  3 8 2 External trigger 5440x3694
  4 10 2 External trigger 5440x3694
  5 12 2 External trigger 5440x3694
  6 8 4 Streaming 5440x3694
  7 10 4 Streaming 5440x3694
  8 12 4 Streaming 5440x3694
  9 8 4 External trigger 5440x3694
  10 10 4 External trigger 5440x3694
  11 12 4 External trigger 5440x3694
VC MIPI IMX226 Mode Image format (bits) Lanes Capture mode Resolution
  0 8 2 Streaming 3840x3046
  1 10 2 Streaming 3840x3046
  2 12 2 Streaming 3840x3046
  3 8 2 External trigger 3840x3046
  4 10 2 External trigger 3840x3046
  5 12 2 External trigger 3840x3046
  6 8 4 Streaming 3840x3046
  7 10 4 Streaming 3840x3046
  8 12 4 Streaming 3840x3046
  9 8 4 External trigger 3840x3046
  10 10 4 External trigger 3840x3046
  11 12 4 External trigger 3840x3046
VC MIPI IMX252 Mode Image format (bits) Lanes Capture mode Resolution
  0 8 2 Streaming 2048x1536
  1 10 2 Streaming 2048x1536
  2 12 2 Streaming 2048x1536
  3 8 2 External trigger 2048x1536
  4 10 2 External trigger 2048x1536
  5 12 2 External trigger 2048x1536
  6 8 4 Streaming 2048x1536
  7 10 4 Streaming 2048x1536
  8 12 4 Streaming 2048x1536
  9 8 4 External trigger 2048x1536
  10 10 4 External trigger 2048x1536
  11 12 4 External trigger 2048x1536
VC MIPI IMX250 Mode Image format (bits) Lanes Capture mode Resolution
  0 8 2 Streaming 2432x2048
  1 10 2 Streaming 2432x2048
  2 12 2 Streaming 2432x2048
  3 8 2 External trigger 2432x2048
  4 10 2 External trigger 2432x2048
  5 12 2 External trigger 2432x2048
  6 8 4 Streaming 2432x2048
  7 10 4 Streaming 2432x2048
  8 12 4 Streaming 2432x2048
  9 8 4 External trigger 2432x2048
  10 10 4 External trigger 2432x2048
  11 12 4 External trigger 2432x2048

3.6.3   IO configuration

Some sensors can be triggered externally and also provide a flash output. These two features can be switched using the cam0_io_config parameter.


Example of setting the IO configuration to 8 for cam0.

This parameter corresponds to the value written to register 3 on the MIPI module. A value of 0x08 activates the trigger input. A value of 0x09 activates the trigger input and the flash output.

After modifying the sensor mode or the IO configuration, save the changes and reboot.

4   Troubleshooting and Background Information

4.1   Q/A


Running make fails with an error:

make[1]: *** /lib/modules/4.14.79-v7+/build: No such file or directory. Stop.


The system needs the build tools of the kernel to build the sensor driver (which itself is a kernel module). They can be obtained by installing the RaspberryPi Kernel Headers package named raspberrypi-kernel-headers, see


The sensor module driver cannot be started, it shows an error:

[ 4.773298] ov9281 0-0060: Error -5 setting default controls
[ 4.773346] ov9281: probe of 0-0060 failed with error -5


Be sure no other device is connected to the I²C bus 0! For example, the touch screen controller of the Raspberry PI display may not be connected.

Check the orientation of the cable at the sensor side as well as at the cpu side. Also check if the cable and the sockets are orthogonal.

4.2   Driver Knowledge

The following tasks have to be done to do an image acquisition with the camera sensor:

  • Information about the new sensor hardware and its connector must be provided to the kernel by adding it to the so-called kernel device tree as overlay.
  • This device tree overlay must be applied to the kernel device tree.
  • For the driver to communicate with the sensor the I²C bus must be set up to connect between the CPU and the MIPI socket.
  • The driver itself must be installed as kernel modules.
  • Contiguous memory must be reserved for the captured image.

The driver is separated into parts exclusive for the platform, e.g. the Raspi3BPlus as well as generic parts.

The main configuration file for the driver is named:


It should include the platform specific configuration, here the file:


and also refer to the sensor overlays (see the following) you would like to use. Overlays can be found relative to the configuration file at the ./overlays/ directory.

4.2.1   Providing device tree overlays

The so-called kernel device tree overlay contains information about the socket and periphery where the mipi module is connected to.

Here are the steps to compile a device tree overlay by yourself:

We assume to compile an example overlay file named

  1. Install the device-tree-compiler package via:

    sudo  apt-get install  device-tree-compiler
  2. Compile the dtbo kernel device tree overlay binary representation by using the following command:

    dtc -@ -I dts -O dtb -o example123.dtbo example123-overlay.dts
  3. Copy the binary to

    /boot/overlays/example123.dtbo   Telling the RTOS to use the device tree overlay

Raspbian Boot overview

Before starting the linux kernel, the Raspberry Pi first boots a real-time operating system (RTOS) on the GPU. This RTOS looks into the file /boot/config.txt. It loads a default Kernel device tree and patches it by overlaying the device tree parts listed by the dtoverlay entries at the file /boot/config.txt. To add new information to the device tree this config-file (or a therein included file) needs the following entry:


The device tree will then be modified by the overlay at


before the linux kernel is run.

To check the behaviour of the RTOS one can look at the output by the following command:

sudo vcdbg log msg


Example Sign After reboot the applied overlays can be shown by executing the following command:

sudo vcdbg log msg  2>&1 | grep '^[0-9\.]\+: Loaded overlay'

Here is a sample output:

002143.555: Loaded overlay 'example123'

A deeper insight into the device tree overlays and parameters can be found at

4.2.2   Set up the I²C bus for driver-sensor communication

For the RaspberryPi 3B+ there is only one socket available, so there is no need to change the CSI port information at a device tree overlay provided.


Trigger input is hardwired to pin 133, trigger output to pin 134, unuseable/unaccessible.


Note Sign

On this Raspberry PI model the pins used for trigger input and output are hard-wired to some GPIO, so external triggering is not possible (no access).


Warning Sign

Hardware will be damaged and warranty lost if you use pins as outputs where the sensor has its own flash output, so double-check before you (if you are able to) access the trigger gpio pins! Don't activate sensor flash or sync output (e.g via the dtparam cam*_io_config) if the wires are connected to an output, for example at a RaspberryPi3B+!

The sensor driver needs to communicate via the I²C Bus named VC. To be able to access it, assigning it to the CPU is mandatory.


Raspbian I²C connection: Influence of the parameter dtparam=i2c_vc=on

The I²C bus is assigned by the RTOS. So the file /boot/config_vc-mipi-driver-bcm2835-raspi3Bplus.txt has an entry:


It changes the physical I²C bus VC accessor from the default, the GPU, to the CPU. The referred overlay vc-mipi-bcm2835-raspi3Bplus-i2c0 makes it accessible for linux over GPIO pins.


Note Sign

Some hardware like the touch display demands exclusiveness over the I²C Bus VC or their drivers assume the I²C Bus VC is connected to the RTOS. Since the sensor driver must communicate with the sensor module connected to the MIPI socket, neither the exclusiveness nor the RTOS connectedness is given. So the I²C bus VC cannot be used for other purposes when the sensor is attached.


Example Sign After reboot the dtparam line can be shown by executing the following command:

sudo vcdbg log msg  2>&1 | grep '^[0-9\.]\+: dtparam:'

Here is a sample output:

002077.358: dtparam: audio=on
002096.467: dtparam: i2c_vc=on

4.2.3   Providing the sensor driver as kernel module

Here are the steps to compile the kernel modules by yourself:

  1. After installation of the DKMS module the driver will be found at a subdirectory of the folder /usr/src/:


  2. Copy it to a new place and change to that new place, since the previous mentioned subdirectory is part of the DKMS package management! Be aware, that after a new kernel version installation, the DKMS will rebuild the driver. Check where the sources for that rebuild lies to have your customized setup after the kernel update.

  3. The source directory contains a Makefile to compile the driver. Do so by calling:

    make clean all
  4. The directory then contains the driver as several modules. They must be copied to their place

    • *.ko to /lib/modules/$(uname -r)/kernel/drivers/media/i2c/
    • *.txt to /boot/
    • overlays/*.dtbo to /boot/overlays/

    Afterwards the new modules must be registered by calling depmod -a and the main configuration file must be included at the /boot/config.txt.

    All this can be also done by calling:

    make install

The module drivers will then be loaded by calling the following commands in that order (or automatically at boot):

modprobe vc_mipi_modules_0
modprobe bcm2835-unicam


Example Sign After reboot you can display the output of the vc_mipi_ov9281 kernel module by executing the following command:

dmesg | grep '^[^]]*\] vc_mipi_modules_0'

Here is a sample output which will be different at your setup:

[ 13.260918] vc_mipi_modules_0 0-001a: VC_SEN_FPGA found!
[ 13.260930] vc_mipi_modules_0 0-001a: [ MAGIC ] [ mipi-module ]
[ 13.260941] vc_mipi_modules_0 0-001a: [ MANUF. ] [ Vision Components ] [ MID=0x0427 ]
[ 13.464166] vc_mipi_modules_0 0-001a: VC_SEN_MODE=0 PowerOn STATUS=0x80 try=2

4.2.4   Reserving Contiguous Memory for the Image Captures

In contrast to the normally used non-contiguous memory the capture hardware needs a contiguous memory region to transfer pixel data to by using direct memory access (DMA).

To reserve other than 128MByte of memory for capturing images, edit the overlay file named


and change its size entry, for example to use 64MiB:

size = <0x4000000>; /* 64MiB */

Compile the .dts file and copy its .dtbo file to /boot/overlays/.

After reboot the kernel message line beginning with Memory: will show an updated entry (last one):

[ 0.000000] Memory: 881620K/970752K available (8192K kernel code, 653K rwdata, 2220K rodata, 1024K init, 822K bss, 23596K reserved, 65536K cma-reserved)


Example Sign After reboot you can show the line by executing the following command:

dmesg | grep '^[^]]*\] Memory:'

Here is a sample output which will look slightly different at your setup:

[    0.000000] Memory: 817108K/970752K available (7168K kernel code, 576K rwdata, 2076K rodata, 1024K init, 698K bss, 22572K reserved, 131072K cma-reserved)