Using ISI (Image Sensor Interface)


This page is mainly about how to enable and configure the ISI in AT91SAM SoCs for different image sensors.
  • The Image Sensor Interface (ISI) connects a CMOS-type image sensor to the processor and provides image capture in various formats from sensor side.
  • Use H/VSYNC signal for synchronization or EAV/SAV.
  • ISI supported sensor input formats
    • YCbCr422, RGB565, RGB888 and grayscale raw data.
  • ISI supported output formats
    • ISI has two paths (Preview path and Codec path) for the output.
      • Preview path will output RGB data with different format.
        • Can convert YCbCr or YUV to RGB.
        • Support downscale and decimation.
        • Max output solution is 640x480.
      • Codec path will output YUV data with different orders.
        • Can convert RGB to YCrCb.
        • Max output solution is 2048x2048.


  • Linux Kernel v3.6.9 , Linux Kernel v3.10 , Linux Kernel v3.18 in Linux4sam, all support ISI.
  • Linux4SAM 6.0 and Linux Kernel v4.14 ISI support is explained in this page.
    • Supports ISI of the SAM9G45/9M10, SAM9G25 of SAM9x5 series, SAM9N12 and SAMA5 series.
      • SAM9263 ISI is not supported since it use an old ISI IP.
      • In SAM9x5 series only SAM9G25 support ISI. And SAM9G25 has no LCD controller.
    • In SAMA5D3x-EK boards:
      • J11's PIN29 need to be disconnected when insert ISI module board. Since PIN29 is connected to ISI_D11 (pin mux as TWD1).
      • TWI0 (i2c0)'s TWD0 & TWCK0 signals are using same pins as ISI_VSYNC & ISI_HSYNC. So need to disable i2c0 when you enable ISI.
      • TWI1 (i2c1)'s TWD1 & TWCK1 signals are using same pins as ISI_D11 & ISI_D10. So it cannot support 12bit data input.
      • Led d3 should be disable as well as it conflict with camera sensor's reset pin PE24.
    • Supported CMOS sensors: OV2640, OV2643, OV5640, OV7740 and OV9740.

ALERT! Warning: Currently the dts file of SAMA5D3x-EK disabled ISI by default. To enable ISI, you need uncomment the dts file to include sama5d3xmb_isi_sensors.dtsi, and disable i2c0 and led D3.

Detail description of software

ISI driver in Linux kernel

  • ISI driver support the standard v4L2 APIs. And it is in soc-camera framework.
  • Current supported sensors: OV2640, OV2643, OV5640, OV7740 and OV9740.
  • It's easy to support a sensor if the sensor is
    • Using DVP interface connection. Means it uses H/VSYNC signals.
    • In soc-camera framework. You can find all soc-camera supported sensors in Kernel menuconfig:
      • all the items under the menu: "Device Drivers -> Multimedia support -> Sensors used on soc_camera driver"
    • In platform camera framework. You can find all camera supported platform sensors in Kernel menuconfig by:
      • select the menu: "Device Drivers -> Multimedia support -> Media Controller API"
      • select the menu: "Device Drivers -> Multimedia support -> V4L2 sub-device userspace API"
      • deselect the menu: "Device Drivers -> Multimedia support -> Autoselect ancillary drivers (tuners, sensors, i2c, frontends)"
      • Then all support sensors can be found in the menu: "Device Drivers -> Multimedia support -> Encoders, decoders, sensors and other helper chips"

TIP Tips: to add a new sensor support, you also need to modify the dts file to add the sensor remote port. Like arch/arm/boot/dts/at91sam9x5ek.dtsi to add the new sensor's i2c information and configure the pin mux.

User Applications support ISI


fswebcam is a neat and simple webcam app. It captures images from a V4L1/V4L2 compatible device or file, averages them to reduce noise and draws a caption using the GD Graphics Library which also handles compressing the image to PNG or JPEG. The resulting image is saved to a file or sent to stdio where it can be piped to something like ncftpput or scp.

  • Add fswebcam in Buildroot
    • Select "Package Selection for the target -> Graphic libraries and applications -> fswebcam".
  • Use fswebcam to capture a image.
    # test preview channel
    fswebcam -S ${SKIP_FRAMES} -d ${VIDEO_DEV} -p RGB565 -r 640x480 rgb565.jpg
    fswebcam -S ${SKIP_FRAMES} -d ${VIDEO_DEV} -p RGB565 -r 320x240 rgb565_defactor.jpg
    # test codec channel
    fswebcam -S ${SKIP_FRAMES} -d ${VIDEO_DEV} -p YUYV -r 640x480 yuyv.jpg
    fswebcam -S ${SKIP_FRAMES} -d ${VIDEO_DEV} -p YUYV -r 800x600 yuyv_800x600.jpg
    fswebcam -S ${SKIP_FRAMES} -d ${VIDEO_DEV} -p UYVY -r 640x480 uyvy.jpg
    fswebcam -S ${SKIP_FRAMES} -d ${VIDEO_DEV} -p UYVY -r 800x600 uyvy_800x600.jpg
    # test codec channel, without any processing, GREY, or Bayer RGB.
    fswebcam -S ${SKIP_FRAMES} -d ${VIDEO_DEV} -p BAYER -r 640x480 bayer_bggr8.jpg
    fswebcam -S ${SKIP_FRAMES} -d ${VIDEO_DEV} -p SGRBG8 -r 640x480 bayer_grbg8.jpg
    • -S: frames that need to skip.
    • -d /dev/video0: specify the ISI as the input source.
    • -p: pixel format, can be RGB565, YUYV, UYVY, BAYER, SGRBGB8 and etc.
    • -r: resolution.


FFmpeg is a complete, cross-platform solution to record, convert and stream audio and video. It supports video4linux2 in Linux.

  • Add FFmpeg in Buildroot (It's already included in the Linux4SAM buildroot demo).
    • Select "Package Selection for the target -> Audio and video applications -> ffmpeg".
  • Use FFmpeg to capture a mpeg4 video clip.
       ffmpeg -r 25 -s vga -t 20 -pix_fmt yuyv422 -f video4linux2 -i /dev/video0 video.avi
    • -r: frame rate
    • -s: resolution, it can be qcif, cif, qvga, vga, svga, xga, uxga.
    • -t: time duration in second.
    • -pix_fmt: pixel format, only support yuyv422.
    • -f video4linux2: specify the format. Use ffmpeg -formats will show all supported formats.
    • -i /dev/video0: specify the ISI as the input source. Run following command to check the source name:
      # cat /sys/class/video4linux/video0/name
    • video.avi: output video file name

TIP Tips: As no vcodec specified, it use mpeg4 as default.

TIP Tips: Run ffmpeg -pix_fmts can show all the supported pixel formats.

  • Use FFmpeg application to capture images.
       ffmpeg -f video4linux2 -r 1 -s vga -t 4 -i /dev/video0 -pix_fmt yuyv422 -f image2 -vcodec png image%d.png
    • -r: frame rate
    • -s: resolution, it can be qcif, cif, qvga, vga, svga, xga, uxga.
    • -t: time duration in second.
    • -i /dev/video0: specify the ISI as the input source. Run following command to check the source name:
      # cat /sys/class/video4linux/video0/name
    • -pix_fmt: pixel format, only support yuyv422.
    • -f image2: image2 sequence format. Use ffmpeg -formats will show all supported formats.
    • -vcodec png: specify output format is png. Use ffmpeg -codecs will show all supported codec.
    • image%d.png: output file name is image1.png, image2.png and etc.


GStreamer is a library for constructing graphs of media-handling components. The applications it supports range from simple Ogg/Vorbis playback, audio/video streaming to complex audio (mixing) and video (non-linear editing) processing.

GStreamer has been ported to a wide range of operating systems, processors and compilers.

  • Add GStreamer in Buildroot (It's already included in the Linux4SAM Buildroot demo).
    • Select "Package Selection for the target -> Audio and video applications -> gstreamer" and the plugins that you needed.
  • Use GStreamer to preview on LCD.
       # gstreamer 0.10
       gst-launch v4l2src device="/dev/video1" ! video/x-raw-yuv,width=640,height=480 ! ffmpegcolorspace ! fbdevsink
       # gstreamer 1.0
       gst-launch-1.0 v4l2src device="/dev/video1" ! video/x-raw,width=640,height=480 ! videoconvert ! fbdevsink
    • v4l2src: a plugin to support v4l2 device as a source
      • device="/dev/video1": specify the ISI as the v4l2 input device.
        • You can check the device name by run command: cat /sys/class/video4linux/video1/name
      • video/x-raw-yuv,width=640,height=480: For gstreamer 0.10, specify the v4l2 output video format and size.
      • video/x-raw,width=640,height=480: For gstreamer 1.0, specify the v4l2 output video format and size.
    • ffmpegcolorspace or videoconvert: a plugin to convert from one color space to another
    • fbdevsink: a plugin to render to framebuffer device

TIP Tips: gstreamer 1.0 is different from 0.10, more detail can check:

TIP Tips: run gst-inspect will show all installed plugins.

TIP Tips: run gst-inspect [plugin name] will show all supported parameters for this plugins.

ZXing barcode reader

ZXing is an open-source, multi-format 1D/2D barcode image processing library implemented in Java, with ports to other languages. The project also includes a barcode reader example.

  • Add the ZXing barcode reader application in Buildroot.
    • Add ZXing libary in Buildroot (The Linux4SAM buildroot demo already include it).
      • Select "Package Selection for the target -> Libraries -> Graphics -> zxing".
    • Apply attached patch on top of the buildroot-2012.11.1-at91.
      • This patch will change the zxing project's Makefile to generate not only zxing library but also the barcode reader example.
    • Run command make zxing to generate the barcode application: zxing_barcode.
      • zxing_barcode is located on outpout/target/use/bin/.

  • Read barcode from the image by using ZXing barcode reader.
    • Get an picture which include a barcode.
      • Please refer to FFmpeg section for the image capture.
    • Run following command to reader the barcode.
      zxing_barcode *.jpg


Q: How to enable ISI support in SAMA5D3x-EK board?

  1. Find the dts file according to your board type in: arch/arm/boot/dts/sama5d3xek.dts
    • x is the number of your board type.
  2. Uncomment the line to enable isi and sensors.
    #include "sama5d3xmb_isi_sensors.dtsi"
  3. Disable led d3 and i2c0.
          i2c0: i2c@f0014000 {
              status = "disabled";
          ... ...
          leds {
               d3 {
                   label = "d3";
                   gpios = <&pioE 24 GPIO_ACTIVE_HIGH>;
                   status = "disabled";
  4. Run following command to re-compile the dts to dtb file in the top of kernel source directory.
    make dtbs  # before doing this make sure your config is based on sama5_defconfig
  5. Load your kernel with above correct dtb file, which will enable ISI and disable the audio.

ALERT! Warning: Enable ISI will disable audio as these two components are conflicted in hardware configuration.

Q: How to check the ISI is probed in my board?

  1. Check the boot message whether there is an information about sensor probe.
    soc-camera-pdrv soc-camera-pdrv.0: Probing soc-camera-pdrv.0
    ov2640 0-0030: ov2640 Product ID 26:42 Manufacturer ID 7f:a2
    i2c i2c-0: OV2640 Probed
    soc-camera-pdrv soc-camera-pdrv.1: Probing soc-camera-pdrv.1
    ov5642 0-003c: reg_read: i2c read error, reg: 300a
    ov5642: probe of 0-003c failed with error -121
    In above example, the message shows an OV2640 sensor is probed. But fail to probe of OV5642 as we only support one camera module slot in the board.
  2. Print all the v4L2 device in system to check ISI device is existed?
    # ls /sys/class/video4linux/video*
    debug      dev        index      name       power      subsystem  uevent
    debug      device     name       subsystem
    dev        index      power      uevent
    # cat /sys/class/video4linux/video0/name
    # cat /sys/class/video4linux/video1/name
    In above example, we can find the video1 is the isi-camera device.

Q: If the ISI cannot be probed in my board, what should I do?

  1. Check the kernel boot message to see if there is any error message about ISI and sensor
  2. Following the below check list to troubleshoot above errors.
    • Check the kernel config file:
      • Is the ISI driver and the sensor driver enabled?
    • Check your board's device tree file(.dts, .dtsi):
      • Is the ISI device node is enabled?
      • Is the ISI pins are configured correctly?
    • Check arch/arm/mach-at91/board-dt.c file or .dts, .dtsi (in linux-3.18 and later) files:
      • Is the sensor's i2c info correct?
      • Is the sensor's power/reset pin correct?
      • Is the PCK correct?


I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
PNGpng common-camera-sensors_3.18.png manage 169.3 K 2015-05-19 - 05:08 UnknownUser  
PNGpng soc-camera-sensors_3.18.png manage 103.1 K 2015-05-19 - 05:09 UnknownUser  
PNGpng to-select-common-camera-sensors_3.18.png manage 133.4 K 2015-05-19 - 05:09 UnknownUser