Seeking knowledge to hack a cheap and small CMOS video camera

Has anyone happened to use something like the following cheap cameras with a microcontroller?  I'm interested in interfacing a camera with an STM32 ARM Cortex-M3 microcontroller to record pictures or video, or to stream to an embedded display or wireless link (for example via an RN-171 WiFi module).

  1. Turnigy ultra-mini digicam (without memory card):  This seems like a good candidate to hack as it is designed to interface with an SD card.
  2. CMOS Color Surveillance Security Camera (PAL):  This seems like a very small and cheap possibility, but I have no idea on the internal digital signals (it is an analog output unit), but I am assuming it has some due to a look at a customer picture.

You are welcome to comment on your experience with more expensive solutions that are in the $40 and up range, but I am very interested in a less expensive solution.  Any insight into the limitations, operation, etc of these type(s) of CMOS cameras would also be great.  Thanks LMR!

This may be what you need

Have a look at this it may be what you need. If nothing else you can download their source and data for free to get an idea of how they have done a loopback application. They also have an atmega32 version for 20 bucks less,

cheap webcams

There are lots of cheap webcams that plug into a computer with USB. These are as cheap as $5 or so. They’re tiny and easy to take apart. There’s a tiny PCB inside.

Cams like the PAL unit you mention (or NTSB) are video and are meant to hook up with video equipment via RGB or composite signals, not digital. The boards are also tiny like USB cams.

I haven’t hacked one yet but I’m planning on doing so eventually. I will go with a USB cam and access the video via digital means. Sorry I don’t have more specific info.

Thanks for the finds and good ideas

Well the more I think about it I want to just interface a camera module such as the Toshiba TCM8230MD, which seems like a popular choice as I’ve seen a few people using it, here’s an example.  Others I have found are the TCM8240MD (another one from Toshiba which has JPEG compression and better resolution) and the VS6624 from ST Microelectronics.

I don’t know where I could buy just a breakout board for the TCM8230MD which would be great, so I will likely need to make a board and solder it up.


This is great! Tnx Merser. I got a STM32F100 board and one from china with F106 and 2.8" touchscreen tft. Also have a camera. uCam ttl from 4dsystems (Australia). Just need to bring them together (I will be quiet now for 6-12 months :wink: and look at the sample code.

The file contains another zip which is encrypted, you get the code when you buy the board they say.

I tried some passwords, found out it is