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Apertus Announces Axiom Camera: 4K at 150fps, 15 Stop Dynamic Range, Under $10K

07.11.12 @ 12:51PM Tags : , , , , , ,

It looks like RED, Sony, and Canon will be getting some interesting competition very soon. Apertus, the open source camera project that started in 2006, was designing a camera with all open source hardware and software using the small sensor Elphel camera. They recently announced that they’ll be building a brand new camera that is going shoot Cinema DNG files and sport a 4K Super 35mm sensor, 150fps at 4K, a global shutter, and the capability to get up to 15 stops of dynamic range using a process similar to RED’s HDRx. The best part of all — it’s open source, and they are planning on running a crowdfunding campaign to fund the project.

Here is a nice graphic that tells you everything you need to know at a glance:

The Axiom will feature a positive lock interchangeable mount system, which will allow it to take just about any mount imaginable using the P+S TECHNIK adapters. As of right now, at the full 4K resolution (4096 x 3072), the camera will be recording Cinema DNG files between 8-bit and 12-bit depending on the frame rate. The possibility for doing real anamorphic shooting with this camera is also interesting, as the open source nature of the camera should mean that we’ll be able to select the entire area of the sensor to record from. That is one of the requested features for the Blackmagic Camera, but we may not see anything like that for that specific camera until the next generation.

Well below $10,000 as a target price is certainly intriguing, especially since there isn’t a camera today below $10,000 that can claim all of those specs (and this one is open source). Sony’s FS700 will likely cost over $10,000 all together when it finally gets 4K capability. RED’s SCARLET is a hair above $10K for just the brain — but that doesn’t include everything to really make the camera work (though to be fair it’s possible this camera will need a few more parts to really make it function). With SSDs getting cheaper, and traditional hard drives getting bigger, recording high resolution RAW video is a reality for more and more shooters. I’ve already talked about how uncompressed RAW can take up a tremendous amount of space, but ideally prices for both SSDs and spinning disk drives will continue to fall.

Apertus is also working on a piece of software called Open Cine which will be very similar in functionality to REDCINE-X. It looks like it will be very powerful in terms of workflow. Though the software is not their top priority (the hardware is), here is a mock-up:

There is certainly an undeserved market of semi-professional/professional shooters who want a RAW-shooting Super 35mm sensor 1080p camera for between $5,000 and $8,000. It’s clear that Sony, Canon, or even RED won’t release anything for those specs at that price in the next year, so it’s up to other manufacturers like Blackmagic (with a possible upgrade to their Cinema Camera) and Apertus to fill that need. The big difference between this camera and those cameras is that at the moment, everything to make the camera work is not inside one body. They haven’t finalized any details about the external recorder yet, or if they might plan to sell the entire camera (including recorder) in a self contained body, but at the moment the recorder will be included in the under $10,000 price.

Specifications aren’t everything, and anyone can make anything look good on paper. How a camera handles and what its images look like might arguably be more important than resolution and frame rates. If your images aren’t pleasing, no one will care if the camera can shoot at 16K and has a medium format sensor. Some big specs are still under wraps — like native dynamic range and ISO performance. There is no test footage yet, as this camera is in the early stages of development, but we should be getting more details in the coming weeks before their crowdfunding campaign launches.

If open source is the future for low-cost camera development, this is certainly an interesting development. You can read more information about the project by clicking on the links below.

Links: Apertus Axiom & Apertus Open Source Cinema


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Description image 71 COMMENTS

  • I get wary when a camera is advertised as “under $10K” when all they show you is the “brains”

    • Me too, but they’re claiming the recorder, whatever they end up doing, will also be included for that price. Since profit margin isn’t really a concern, I might be more inclined to believe it, especially since they’re going to do a Kickstarter to really get the project going. You can get a 5K Full Frame 35mm sensor for around $4,000, so lower-priced 4K Super 35mm sensors are probably out there.

      • do Canon/Sony/Red sell their sensors separately, or do they keep all their tech in-house?

        also, how much of how a camera processes the image is in the sensor and how much is in the processor? could you put a Canon 5/7/60D sensor in a Red camera and start generating 4K images off of it? the pixels are there, so theoretically, it should work, right?

        • They don’t sell their sensors separately – and they do keep their tech-in house. Some of them might have partnerships with other companies, for example Sony makes some of Nikon’s sensors, but for the most part they are separate companies with separate sensor design teams. You wouldn’t be able to take those sensors out and make them work somewhere else, but even if you could, it’s likely those sensors wouldn’t be able to do 4K at a usable frame rate. The new Canon 1D X, however, actually has a sensor that can, and its processor can handle the massive amount of data continuously.

      • It’s opensource you should be able to see the work as it should be available to public.

      • The sensor is the cmosis CMV12000, and it costs about $1000 in big quantities

        • You can read more about it here:

          (the sensor could do 300 fps, but the FPGA won’t be able to work so fast, bandwith is a serious bottleneck here)

          • That’s interesting, they’ve actually talked about that sensor on their site. So there’s no question that’s the one.

          • It’s pretty certain that’s the one. And, AFAIK, its approach to HDR is different from Red’s sensors’. I believe that the CMV12000 does a dual readout — high-gain and low-gain — and the readouts are then processed into an HDR composite. Whether that’s done on chip or in post, I don’t know. I believe that the Arri Alexa sensor does something similar, although that’ uses dual 14-bit ADCs (one for each readout) to produce a 16-bit composite image.

            I believe the CMV12000 costs significantly less than $4,000 — something like $1,500, but I could be wrong. Unfortunately, it’s a 12-bit 4K chip, so the images it produces will debayer to less than 4K. Red was doing this six or seven years ago, albeit more expensively.

            As to codec, uncompressed CinemaDNG will be really burdensome and significantly reduce frame rates higher than 24p/25p/30p. I know CineForm RAW is not open-source, but it’s mature, manageable, and simpler to process in camera than many other codecs. Its reduced data rate would also enable much higher frame rates.

  • I still like the Black magic cinema camera and the Red Scarlet… Now this? I think my father was right when he said “A camera is like a good woman. Find a good one and use it for a couple years then move on to the next, but never let her catch you looking at another woman!” I think that’s how he said it… ehh he wasn’t the nicest guy… what the hell was i talking about?

  • :-) I won a bet yay.

    • We did know about this a week ago, but I didn’t want to post until the details were somewhat finalized and announced at the LSM conference.

  • That’s great. I love the DIY spirit that is taking over with the BMC and now this.

  • Kevin Marshall on 07.11.12 @ 1:57PM

    Well good luck to ‘em, should be interesting if it gets funded. I know won’t have the drive space/speed for 4K uncompressed. If they get something onboard as efficient as RedCode, I’ll be all in.

    • Agreed, they would need to go the BMD route and offer something like prores or something, too. 4K RAW is massive.

      • ProRes or DNxHD are not open formats, and that’s the idea for the camera, completely open source. There are other options, but I don’t see them incorporating anything that’s not open to anyone and everyone. People from Blackmagic User have talked about compressing the RAW with Cineform to save space. It’s not a bad option, but you’ve got to purchase Cineform.

  • Question… Does the global shutter mean no more rolling shutter?

  • The internet age is awesome. 20 years ago this wouldn’t be possible. They would have to put so much money into advertising just to get word out that they couldn’t afford to sell the camera at such low costs. Now they just need a few sites to post the info and it’s funded within a few weeks.

    My hope is that we start to see the big companies respond to this new wave of “Indie cameras”. If they don’t, I’m fine leaving them behind.

    • That’s kind of a novel idea: indie cameras for indie projects! :) I like it.

    • Yeah, this type of stuff is great for us, the consumer. The days of slow, incremental updates will be coming to an end sooner rather than later. Or at least they should be if the bigger companies want to keep selling video cameras in the next 5 years.

    • Luke, I followed your facebook link here, you’re absolutely correct, 20 years ago we would all be waiting on the “big dogs” (Sony, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, etc.) to release a camera and then hoping and praying it would be able to be adapted or hacked to the exact purposes needed…

      Now, the “camera hackers” have figured out they can actually make their own cameras.. we will see an acceleration in the speed of technology development.

      I’d compare this to the video game software industry.. we used to wait years for a CD/DVD in a cardboard box, and the sales numbers were the only “feedback” for the big players in the industry.

      Now, video games companies enlist armies of beta testers as online participants, and actually “interact” with the gaming community (the good ones, anyways)… many games are “mod-able” and have downloadable content.. Valve lets the public design new game items and has launched a project to allow players to select which projects go forward (Steam Greenlight)… it’s a much more cooperative effort now between software companies and the public.

      Obviously, hardware isn’t software, but I see the same passion and intensity within the camera/film community to always be better, and I think we’ll see even more “home-grown” solutions as time goes forward. This will pressure the “big dogs” to be more innovative at cheaper pricepoints.

      Win, win, for everybody. :-))

  • Andreas Kopriva on 07.11.12 @ 2:49PM

    This does indeed sound like a fantastic development. It will be quite interesting to see how this develops and what will be required to have it operate as a full kit. It’s refreshing to see another company embrace the modularity that RED introduced with the DSMC system and it’s even more refreshing to see the openness of it all. The one thing which pisses me off as a RED owner is the proprietary nature of Redcode and the SSD costs.
    I understand the reason behind both, but still, it feels like an artificial block on an otherwise close-to-flawless system.
    Maybe the Axiom’s software openness urges other companies to follow suite and at least give open options. At the very least, it should. Either way, excellent to see such developments – though at this early point in time I’m still a bit wary about the suggested price.

  • Call me skeptic but it sounds too good to be true at that price point. Although it’s a great middle finger to bigger companies like Canon with their stupid 4K 1DC for over 12k.
    Let’s just hope it’s not all hype, fingers crossed.

    • They aren’t really trying to make a profit or else it would probably cost a lot more money. Believe me these sensors are out there – you can get a 5K full frame 35mm sensor for $4,000. It’s easier to not build in compression, so really the only question comes down to the calibration of the sensor and the software.

      • That i know of but still, all the rest of the hardware and software you will need to allow you to go up to 150fps in 4K RAW and still that cheap? I’m guessing it’s like you said, they aren’t trying to make a profit, also considering you already have several cameras in the 10k-15k price range that have already established themselfs on the market over time, it’s probably actually easier for them to go for a price tag that isn’t as explored like 7K-9K. Interesting time we live in.

  • shakezoolah on 07.11.12 @ 3:39PM

    maybe someone should make a cheap but actually good 1080p camera with no issues first. 4k is quite an overkill.

    • YEA!!! Why can’t we just have a Super 35 2k or 2.5K (some room for some ‘smooth cam’) with pro res or something decent with a mount that satisfies most lens needs and FREAKIN’ BE DONE WITH IT ALREADY!!!! For crying out loud, just give us what we need… NOW!

      • 2.5K is just about the limit for real 1080p resolution because of debayering the single CMOS sensor, which yields, at most, 80% of original pixels. You wouldn’t want a single sensor camera that only shoots 2K with a 2K sensor, you’d never be able to get a “real” 1080p. You know what gives an amazing 1080p image for under $10,000? The Sony EX1 – 3 CMOS sensors for Red, Green, and Blue. We all got spoiled with cheap large sensor DSLRs.

        What you’re asking for exists (Arri Alexa), but that’s probably not the amount of money you want to spend (which gets into the whole spoiled idea). That’s where the issue comes in – if everyone could produce an Arri Alexa for $5,000, wouldn’t they? That seems like a no-brainer to me, but it’s just not that simple unfortunately.

        • Micheal Green on 07.11.12 @ 4:26PM

          To add to what Joe said,
          The Axiom will have a PL IMS interchangeable mount. Here are all the extra mounts you can buy:

        • LIExpressway on 07.12.12 @ 10:38AM

          The GH2 also along with the EX1 gives a “close” to true 1080p image. They are both about equal in true resolution to me.

          • While the GH2 does resolve a lot of detail, it’s not going to be able to touch a well-designed 3-chip like the EX1 or the XF300 because they have a dedicated pixel for each color and can all resolve at least 1000 lines. Interpolation does an amazing job, but there are plenty of tests that people have done showing those 3-chip cameras can still out-resolve any DSLR.

            Now, the real question is, how much does this matter in practice? Not as much, because in the end all that matters is what you do with whatever pixels you have to work with.

          • LIExpressway on 07.12.12 @ 4:12PM

            You are correct the EX1 will out resolve any “DSLR” and the control in color is superior.
            I have used an EX1 extensively and I don’t think its hitting quite a thousand lines from what tests I have seen. Don’t know about the Xf300 What i do know for certain is that my unhacked gh2 with a very sharp handpicked Nikkor ais prime is definitely close to or equal to the EX1 we use from time to time. I would not be surprised if the GH2 actually out resolves it. I would like to see these tests of an EX1 out resolving a GH2 so. You are also right that it doesn’t matter except for me it does. I use my cameras primarily for various tasks related to architectural visualization. So I need to start with a clean image sharp Image. The GH2 is the first camera i have owned that makes the grade. The BMC for my work is a godsend.

          • First you say Joe is correct in that the EX1 will out resolve any DSLR then,
            you say, that you do know for certain that ‘your’ GH2 is definitely close to or equal to the EX1. And, that you would not be surprised if your GH2 actually out resolves it.

            Which is it, LIExpressway? Did you get the extra high resolution version of the GH2?

      • This is the camera you are looking for
        KineRAW S35

        • I guess these days all one needs fro a revolutionary new digital camera is a free web hosting service and some basic knowledge on how to cook-up a web site. The most amazing part is how many otherwise intelligent people actually fall hard for these sorts of lame, unsubstantiated schemes.

    • Cheap is relative to the user. Camera makers put profit first and foremost (most of them design their sensors and R&D is not cheap) – but I assume by cheap you mean a few thousand dollars? The Super 35mm and bigger sensors aren’t quite cheap enough to get a clean 1080p in a full camera package for that low of a price. I mean Blackmagic is doing what you’re saying. It’s a complete package with amazing codecs and clean 1080p for $3,000.

  • I used an open source elphel camera kit with a notebook to shoot a good part of my first short, since most of it was in a very small bathroom with 2 actors and my other camera was to big to use in it :D, and the images were great. So by my experience i personally think elphel is not a bad company to trust my money :D and open source hardware is a thing i would love to see taking a good share of the market, since open/transparent society without open tools and open access and exchange of information is not possible at all, but i might be wrong! :)

  • This is cool. So a Prores 1080p codec should not be too far off since its open source huh..we just side load it thru theOS.

  • Cláudio Júlio on 07.12.12 @ 9:24AM

    Hello! The price is too high. The profit margin must be huge. I heard that the sensor costs $ 1,500 in large quantities. The ideal price would be $ 5,000. This price, Axiom would compete strongly with the Canon and Nikon DSLRs, had also features photography, of course.

    The ideal is that Axion had the format “Large SLR” like Canon and Nikon D4 1dx.

    (This message was automatically translated from Brazilian Portuguese)

    • Sensor itself is wholesale priced these days at around US600, actually. I am not sure where the $10,000 sticker prices comes in, therefore. This is just a machine vision sensor in a small box, bloody hell.

      • Actually it is going to be a cmosis CMV12000 sensor which will retail, at wholesale, for over $1000.

    • well, an Iphone also costs a fraction of its price to build in China. It’s not only the sensor, there’s RND, design, parts manufacture and assembling, taxes, distribution, transportation, support etc, etc. Price sometimes is driven also by the market, sorry don’t blame the company blame capitalism.

  • Come on get serious, this stuff is dreamland. Its like saying some guy put the concept of the red up on crowdsourcing and people think it can be done so quick. Everyone knows how many people and how many years in the end it took to make a red, most likely same amount of years to make this. The only way it could be quicker is if it is already made by some unknown chinese company, and he is just going to do the marketing for it under his name.

  • You can get a similar machine vision mini camera brain from Point Gray for under $1,000. 4K & global shutter. This APERTUS “brain” here costs 10x as much, okay it has a larger sensor, but the thing is not worth anything like $10,000 for the brain only. I am not sure it’s worth anything over $2.500, frankly.

    Maybe it’ll happen for real, we’ll see. There is not much here but a sensor in a small box. Typical machine vision hardware.

    • The sensor alone cost more than $1000. No where in the article or on the website does it mention that just the “brain” will cost $10k. Quite the contrary:
      “They haven’t finalized any details about the external recorder yet, or if they might plan to sell the entire camera (including recorder) in a self contained body, but at the moment the recorder will be included in the under $10,000 price.”

      This is going to be a professional piece of equipment, and as such it won’t be cheap. The point gray is neat, but it isn’t anything even comparable to the Axiom.

  • Wow definitely looking forward to that :)

  • All of these new releases in technology are going to change the film industry a lot within the next 5-10 years. Indi film will more than likely become a lot more popular with people who haven’t been exposed to it very much. Can’t wait to see what’s in the works next from others.

  • Did you mean “underserved” or “undeserved” ?

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