Camera Interfaces: Understanding the Pros and Cons of Different High Speed Machine Vision Interfaces

high speed machine vision interfacesFor high speed machine vision imaging applications, finding the right camera interface is a critical part of achieving your desired imaging performance. But with so many different interfaces and performance considerations, it can be difficult to find the right one.

The most common camera interfaces, and the interfaces with the most wide-ranging potential for high speed applications, include USB 3.2, Thunderbolt3, CoaXpress 2.0, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, and CameraLink HS. Each of these camera interfaces differs in performance and potential applications.

Performance Considerations for High Speed Camera Interfaces

When deciding on which camera interface would be best for your application, it’s important to take a holistic view of the vision and imaging performance attributes you’ll need and prioritize based on what will have the greatest impact on your application.

While it’s important to assess your unique needs, there are a few performance attributes of camera interfaces you’ll want to assess regardless of your application. These would include throughput, ease of deployment, cable length, low life-cycle cost and customer ecosystem. Considering these attributes will point you in the right direction in choosing a camera interface.

Pros and Cons of High Speed Machine Vision Interfaces

Each high speed camera interface has several pros and cons in relation to the above performance considerations:

  • USB 3.2: this camera interface is twice as fast as USB 3.1 with a 20 Gigabit/second transfer speed, but short cable lengths and high costs limit their adoption.
  • Thunderbolt3: these interfaces allow for extremely high transfer speeds of 40 Gigabit/second and allows for daisy-chained hosts, but short cable length of 0.5 meters for passive copper cables is an important drawback for some applications.
  • CoaXpress 2.0: this camera interface allows for 4K60 video over a single cable with triggering rates over 500 kHz, but still requires a frame grabber and becomes expensive for purpose-built multi-core assemblies.
  • 10 Gigabit Ethernet: with long cable lengths and reliable transfer, these camera interfaces are perfect for a range of industrial applications, but low throughput limits their ability in many high speed applications.
  • CameraLink HS: these camera interfaces feature error correction for reliability and come with many cable options, but they still require frame grabbers and their speed drops quickly as cable length increases.

Finding the right camera interface in high speed vision and imaging applications is one of the most important parts of achieving your desired system performance. The camera interfaces listed above are the ones best suited for high speed applications, although each has various pros and cons.

To take a deeper dive on this subject, watch our free archived webinar “High Speed Interfaces Compared”, exclusively sponsored by FLIR Systems, Inc.