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Tutorial 3: Depth sensing with the ZED

This tutorial shows how to get the depth from the ZED SDK. The program will loop until 50 frames are grabbed. We assume that you have followed previous tutorials (opening the ZED and image capture).


  • Windows 10, Ubuntu LTS
  • ZED SDK and its dependencies (CUDA)

Build the program

Download the sample and follow the instructions below: More

Build for Windows

  • Create a "build" folder in the source folder
  • Open cmake-gui and select the source and build folders
  • Generate the Visual Studio Win64 solution
  • Open the resulting solution and change configuration to Release
  • Build solution

Build for Linux

Open a terminal in the sample directory and execute the following command:

mkdir build
cd build
cmake ..

Code overview

Create a camera

As in other tutorials, we create, configure and open the ZED. We set the ZED in HD720 mode at 60fps and enable depth in PERFORMANCE mode. The ZED SDK provides different depth modes: PERFORMANCE, QUALITY, ULTRA. For more information, see online documentation.

// Create a ZED camera
Camera zed;

// Create configuration parameters
InitParameters init_params;
init_params.sdk_verbose = true; // Enable the verbose mode
init_params.depth_mode = DEPTH_MODE::PERFORMANCE; // Set the depth mode to performance (fastest)
init_params.coordinate_units = UNIT::MILLIMETER; // Use millimeter units

// Open the camera
if (err != ERROR_CODE::SUCCESS) {
    std::cout << "Error " << err << ", exit program.\n"; // Display the error
    return -1;

Note: Default parameter for depth mode is DEPTH_MODE::PERFORMANCE. In practice, it is not necessary to set the depth mode in InitParameters.

Capture data

Now that the ZED is opened, we can capture images and depth. Here we loop until we have successfully captured 50 images. Retrieving the depth map is as simple as retrieving an image:

  • We create a Mat to store the depth map.
  • We call retrieveMeasure() to get the depth map.
  • We call retrieveMeasure() to get the point cloud.
// Capture 50 images and depth, then stop
int i = 0;
sl::Mat image, depth;
while (i < 50) {
    // Grab an image
    if (zed.grab(runtime_parameters) == ERROR_CODE::SUCCESS) {

        // A new image is available if grab() returns ERROR_CODE::SUCCESS
        zed.retrieveImage(image, VIEW::LEFT); // Get the left image
        zed.retrieveMeasure(depth, MEASURE::DEPTH); // Retrieve depth Mat. Depth is aligned on the left image
        zed.retrieveMeasure(point_cloud, MEASURE::XYZRGBA);

Now that we have retrieved the point cloud, we may want to get the distance to a specific pixel. In the example, we extract the distance of the point at the center of the image (width/2, height/2)

// Get and print distance value in mm at the center of the image
// We measure the distance camera - object using Euclidean distance
int x = image.getWidth() / 2;
int y = image.getHeight() / 2;
sl::float4 point_cloud_value;
point_cloud.getValue(x, y, &point_cloud_value);

float distance = sqrt(point_cloud_value.x*point_cloud_value.x + point_cloud_value.y*point_cloud_value.y + point_cloud_value.z*point_cloud_value.z);
printf("Distance to Camera at (%d, %d): %f mm\n", x, y, distance);

If we want to use the depth map instead of the point cloud, you can get a depth value with the following code.

int x = image.getWidth() / 2;
int y = image.getHeight() / 2;
float depth_value;
depth.getValue(x,y, depth_value);
printf("Depth to Camera at (%d, %d): %f mm\n", x, y, depth_value);

Once 50 frames have been grabbed, we close the camera.

// Close the camera

You are now using the ZED as a depth sensor.You can move on to the next tutorial to learn how to use the ZED as a positional tracker.

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