In a nutshell: Raspberry Pi has launched a new series of autofocus camera models for its popular single-board computers. The Raspberry Pi Camera Module 3 is offered in four different variants: visible-light and infrared-sensitive, in either standard or wide field of view (FoV). All use Sony's back-illuminated IMX708 sensor and produce 12-megapixel images (4,608 x 2,592 resolution with 1.40μm pixels).

The original Camera Module launched in 2013 as Raspberry Pi's first official accessory and was followed by a NoIR infrared-sensitive variant later that year. The Camera Module 2, built around Sony's eight megapixel IMX219, dropped in 2016 and has served the community ever since. More than two million units of the Camera Module 2 have been sold to date.

The standard-FoV cameras provide a 66-degree field of view while the wide-FoV checks in at 102 degrees.

The camera module features powered autofocus that can focus on objects from around 5cm out to infinity. It primarily relies on phase detection autofocus but will fall back to Pi's contrast detection algorithm if a high-confidence phase detection autofocus result is not available. All previous Raspberry Pi cameras had fixed-focus optics with a static set of lenses optimized to focus at infinity.

As Raspberry Pi founder Ebon Upton notes, phase detection allows the autofocus algorithm to run continuously when capturing video to maintain focus as the target in the scene and / or the shooter move.

The new camera module also supports high dynamic range imaging, which involves capturing simultaneous photos with different exposure times and blending them together into a single photo that correctly exposes light and dark regions. The resulting image is a quarter of the resolution of a non-HDR shot, Upton said, but in some situations, the sacrifice is worth it.

Raspberry Pi was able to stick with the $25 price point for the standard-FoV variants; the wide-FoV models feature a more complex and expensive optical stack and thus command $35.

The Raspberry Pi Camera Module 3 is available now from a variety of approved resellers.