16.8. cam_gen

This program can create Pinhole (Section 20.1), Optical Bar (Section 20.2), and CSM (Section 8.12) camera models, given camera’s optical center, focal length, pixel pitch, the longitude-latitude coordinates of the camera image corners (or some other pixels) as measured on a DEM. It can also approximate any camera supported by ASP.

A datum (and a height above it) can be used instead of the DEM. Normally all these inputs are known only approximately, so the output camera model will not be quite precise either, yet it could be good enough to refine later with bundle adjustment, which can also make use of the GCP file that this tool creates.

This program can be used with historical images (Section 8.24) for which camera position and orientation is not known. If the corners of the image on the ground are not known, they could be guessed in Google Earth. Section 8.23 makes use of cam_gen for SkySat images.

The accuracy of this tool decreases as the field of view becomes very narrow. In that case it is suggested to use it to approximate a good known camera rather than creating a camera from scratch given corner ground coordinates (Section

See Section for how to find a good DEM to infer the heights from.


cam_gen [options] <image-file> -o <camera-file>

16.8.1. Examples Pinhole cameras

cam_gen --refine-camera --lon-lat-values                             \
  '-122.389 37.627,-122.354 37.626,-122.358 37.612,-122.393 37.613'  \
   --reference-dem dem.tif --focal-length 553846.153846              \
   --optical-center 1280 540 --pixel-pitch 1                         \
   img.tif -o img.tsai --gcp-file img.gcp --gcp-std 1e-2             \

Here we assume that the pixel pitch is 1, hence both the focal length and the optical center are in units of pixels. If the focal length and pixel pitch are given in meters, and one assumes the optical center to be the center of the image, then the optical center passed to this tool should be half of the image width and height, with both multiplied by the pixel pitch, to make them in meters as well.

This procedure is not as accurate as approximating an existing camera (Section

Some other pixels can be used instead of corners, if using the --pixel-values option. Optical bar cameras

For optical bar cameras, the camera parameters must be passed in using the --sample-file option instead of specifying them all manually. This is discussed in Section 8.26. Fit a prior camera

This tool can also create a Pinhole camera approximating any camera supported by ASP, such as from ISIS cubes, RPC cameras, etc., as long as the intrinsics are known, as above. For that, it will shoot rays from the image corners (and also some inner points) using the provided camera that will intersect the provided DEM, determining the footprint on the ground. This will be used to find the best-fit pinhole model.

In this case, the corner longitude-latitude coordinates need not be specified.

Here is an example for ISIS cameras:

cam_gen image.cub --input-camera image.cub     \
  --focal-length 1000 --optical-center 500 300 \
  --pixel-pitch 1                              \
  --gcp-std 1 --refine-camera                  \
  --reference-dem dem.tif                      \
  --height-above-datum 4000                    \
  -o output.tsai --gcp-file output.gcp

Here we passed the image as the input camera, since for ISIS cubes (and also for some RPC cameras) the camera information is not stored in a separate camera file.

This does not model distortion. For that, one has to produce CSM cameras (Section

Ensure the correct datum is passed for your planet, if a DEM is not used on input. For example: --datum D_MARS.

The --height-above-datum option will not be used if the input DEM covers the image ground footprint. CSM Frame cameras

This program can create a CSM Frame camera (Section 8.12) that approximates any camera supported by ASP.

In this mode, distortion is modeled as well. An additional solver pass can be invoked, which can refine the intrinsics, that is, the focal length, optical center, and the distortion coefficients, in addition to the camera pose. See the --distortion option in Section 16.8.4 for the distortion model.

Good initial guesses, especially for the focal length and optical center, are still expected.


cam_gen input.tif                             \
  --input-camera input.xml                    \
  --reference-dem dem.tif                     \
  --focal-length 30000                        \
  --optical-center 3000 2000                  \
  --pixel-pitch 1                             \
  --refine-camera                             \
  --refine-intrinsics focal_length,distortion \
  -o output.json

The pixel pitch must always be 1, so the focal length and optical center must be in units of pixel.

It is suggested to not optimize the optical center, as that correlates with the camera pose and can lead to an implausible solution. The --distortion option need not be set, as the program will try to figure that out.

If invoked with --refine-intrinsics none, the provided intrinsics will be passed to the CSM model, but then only the camera pose will be refined. This is different than just using --refine-camera alone, which does not support distortion.

If the camera model is contained within the image, pass the image to --input-camera.

To transfer the intrinsics produced by the invocation above to another camera acquired with the same sensor, run:

cam_gen input2.tif            \
  --input-camera input2.xml   \
  --reference-dem dem.tif     \
  --pixel-pitch 1             \
  --refine-camera             \
  --refine-intrinsics none    \
  --sample-file output.json   \
  -o output2.json

The produced camera intrinsics can be jointly refined with other frame or linescan cameras using bundle_adjust (Section 12.2.3).

The cam_test program (Section 16.9) can evaluate the agreement between the input and output cameras. CSM linescan cameras

This program can take as input a linescan camera, such as WorldView (Section 5), Pleiades (Section 8.21), ASTER (Section 8.17), and CSM (Section 8.12), and convert it to the CSM linescan model state format (Section 8.12.6). This allows one to use ASP with a combination of linescan cameras from different vendors and also with Frame cameras (Section 12.2.3).

An example is as follows:

cam_gen --camera-type linescan       \
  input.tif --input-camera input.xml \
  -o output.json

The option --bundle-adjust-prefix can be used to apply an adjustment to the camera on loading.

The cam_test program (Section 16.9) can verify the agreement between the input and output cameras. Do not specify the --bundle-adjust-prefix option for such experiments, as the original camera does not have the adjustment applied to it, the produced one does, and cam_test will apply such an adjustment to both.

If desired to create linescan cameras to given specifications, use instead sat_sim (Section 16.60).

16.8.2. Further refinement

The camera obtained using this tool (whether with or without the --refine-camera option) can be re-optimized in bundle_adjust using the GCP file written above as follows:

bundle_adjust img.tif img.tsai img.gcp -o run/run --datum WGS84 \
  --inline-adjustments --robust-threshold 10000

It is suggested that this is avoided by default. One has to be a bit careful when doing this optimization to ensure some corners are not optimized at the expense of others. This is discussed in Section 10.4.

16.8.3. Validation

It is strongly suggested to mapproject the image onto the obtained camera to verify if it projects where expected:

mapproject dem.tif img.tif img.tsai img_map.tif

The output img_map.tif can be overlaid onto the hillshaded DEM in stereo_gui.

Use cam_test program (Section 16.9) for sanity checks.

The sfm_view program (Section 16.63) can be used to visualize the cameras in orbit.

One can invoke orbitviz (Section 16.44):

orbitviz img.tif img.tsai -o orbit.kml

to create a KML file that can then be opened in Google Earth. It will display the cameras above the planet.

16.8.4. Command-line options

-o, --output-camera-file <string (default: “”)>

Specify the output camera file with a .tsai or .json extension.

--camera-type <string (default: “pinhole”)>

Specify the output camera type. Options: pinhole, opticalbar, linescan. For linescan usage see Section

--lon-lat-values <string (default: “”)>

A (quoted) string listing numbers, separated by commas or spaces, having the longitude and latitude (alternating and in this order) of each image corner or some other list of pixels given by --pixel-values. If the corners are used, they are traversed in the order (0, 0) (w, 0) (w, h), (0, h) where w and h are the image width and height.

--pixel-values <string (default: “”)>

A (quoted) string listing numbers, separated by commas or spaces, having the column and row (alternating and in this order) of each pixel in the raw image at which the longitude and latitude is known and given by --lon-lat-values. By default this is empty, and will be populated by the image corners traversed as mentioned at the earlier option.

--reference-dem <string (default: “”)>

Use this DEM to infer the heights above datum of the image corners.

--datum <string (default: “”)>

Use this datum to interpret the longitude and latitude, unless a DEM is given. Options:

  • WGS_1984

  • D_MOON (1,737,400 meters)

  • D_MARS (3,396,190 meters)

  • MOLA (3,396,000 meters)

  • NAD83

  • WGS72

  • NAD27

  • Earth (alias for WGS_1984)

  • Mars (alias for D_MARS)

  • Moon (alias for D_MOON)

--height-above-datum <float (default: 0.0)>

Assume this height above datum in meters for the image corners unless read from the DEM.

--sample-file <string (default: “”)>

Read the camera intrinsics from this file. Required for optical bar cameras. See Section 8.26, Section 20.1.3, and Section 20.2.

--focal-length <float (default: 0.0)>

The camera focal length.

--optical-center <float (default: NaN NaN)>

The camera optical center. If not specified for pinhole cameras, it will be set to image center (half of image dimensions) times the pixel pitch. The optical bar camera always uses the image center.

--pixel-pitch <float (default: 0.0)>

The camera pixel pitch.

--distortion <string (default: “”)>

Distortion model parameters. It is best to leave this blank and have the program determine them. By default, the OpenCV radial-tangential lens distortion model is used. Then, can specify 5 numbers, in quotes, in the order k1, k2, p1, p2, k3. Also supported is the transverse model, which needs 20 values. These are the coefficients of a pair of polynomials of degree 3 in x and y. Only applicable when creating CSM Frame cameras. The default is zero distortion. See also --distortion-type.

--distortion-type <string (default: “radtan”)>

Set the distortion type. Options: radtan, transverse. Only applicable when creating CSM Frame cameras (Section


After a rough initial camera is obtained, refine it using least squares. This does not support distortion. For CSM Frame cameras, a more powerful solver is available, see option --refine-intrinsics.

--refine-intrinsics <string (default: “”)>

Refine the camera intrinsics together with the camera pose. Specify, in quotes or with comma as separator, one or more of: focal_length, optical_center, other_intrinsics (same as distortion). Also can set as all or none. In the latter mode only the camera pose is optimized. Applicable only with option --input-camera and when creating a CSM Frame camera model (Section

--frame-index <string (default: “”)>

A file used to look up the longitude and latitude of image corners based on the image name, in the format provided by the SkySat video product.

--gcp-file <string (default: “”)>

If provided, save the image corner coordinates and heights in the GCP format to this file.

--gcp-std <double (default: 1.0)>

The standard deviation for each GCP pixel, if saving a GCP file. A smaller value suggests a more reliable measurement, hence will be given more weight.

--input-camera <string (default: “”)>

Create the output pinhole camera approximating this camera. If with a _pinhole.json suffix, read it verbatim, with no refinements or taking into account other input options. Example in Section 8.23.1.

--cam-height <float (default: 0.0)>

If both this and --cam-weight are positive, enforce that the output camera is at this height above datum.

--cam-weight <float (default: 0.0)>

If positive, try to enforce the option --cam-height with this weight (a bigger weight means try harder to enforce).

--cam-ctr-weight <float (default: 0.0)>

If positive, try to enforce that during camera refinement the camera center stays close to the initial value (a bigger weight means try harder to enforce this, a value like 1000 is good enough).

-t, --session-type <string (default: “”)>

Select the input camera model type. Normally this is auto-detected, but may need to be specified if the input camera model is in XML format. See Section 16.50.5 for options.

--bundle-adjust-prefix <string (default: “”)>

Use the camera adjustment obtained by previously running bundle_adjust when providing an input camera.

--threads <integer (default: 0)>

Select the number of threads to use for each process. If 0, use the value in ~/.vwrc.

--cache-size-mb <integer (default = 1024)>

Set the system cache size, in MB.

--tile-size <integer (default: 256 256)>

Image tile size used for multi-threaded processing.


Tell GDAL to not create BigTIFF files.

--tif-compress <None|LZW|Deflate|Packbits (default: LZW)>

TIFF compression method.

-v, --version

Display the version of software.

-h, --help

Display this help message.