Aaton, Maker of the Penelope Delta Camera, is in Financial Trouble, Plus a RED DRAGON Update
We've mentioned the Aaton Penelope Delta a few times, not only because it is a seriously impressive piece of machinery, but also because it comes from a long line of well-designed cameras from the French-based company. While certain manufacturers are going small and/or modular, a few -- namely Aaton and Arri -- are still making cameras that are well-balanced and can be thrown on your shoulder right from the factory. Unfortunately, the company has faced a few setbacks with their still unreleased camera, and now it looks like those issues have put them in serious financial trouble. We've also got an update about the RED DRAGON sensors, and why we've yet to see any footage (even though the hardware is done).
As a refresher, here is a walkthrough of the Delta from Abelcine's Mitch Gross:
Unfortunately, mass production has been hampered by defects controller Dalsa sensor, then the uneven performance of the sensors themselves, the quality was not up to the prototypes.
Unable to deliver the ordered and already made many cameras, Aaton found itself short of cash and had to resort to bankruptcy proceedings to allow its purchase by a buyer.
So if they can survive, does that mean it will be the end of the line for the Penelope Delta? It's a camera I've been very interested in for a long time thanks to the fact that it does not have any rolling shutter, and it's pixel shift and ND filter tech is unlike anything we've seen anywhere else. It's also a camera that is built with film productions in mind, and doesn't require anything fancy in the way of add-ons -- you're basically good to go once you get your lens, battery, and media in order.
Seeing Aaton go out of business would definitely be unfortunate, as they have been extremely influential in the film industry. They were one of the go-to documentary cameras in the 70s and 80s, and were certainly helpful for low-budget filmmakers shooting on 16mm. I have worked a bit with their A-Minima, but when they introduced the Penelope, it was truly the next evolution of the film camera. While their first foray into digital originally involved an interchangeable back for the Penelope -- it was later slightly redesigned into its own digital-only version called the Penelope Delta.
Only time will tell what's next for the company and whether we'll see more from them in the future. It's interesting that they seemingly had the same issues that have plagued the Blackmagic Cinema Camera -- so it's pretty clear that fabricating sensors is a very complicated business, and plenty of things can go wrong even at the high-end.
RED has been pretty quiet since NAB where they were upgrading cameras on the show floor, but company President Jarred Land has offered an update:
Dragon is coming along well.. Graeme is working his magic and getting some incredible new color science buttoned up for when we are ready. REDCINE-X with Dragon support is ready. The Dragon camera firmware is complete. The Sensors and ASICs are performing like champs, its all down to the bottom end noise that was found in the power supplies, which have been redesigned and we should see those come in from manufacturing in a couple weeks.
The slice of production line is back from NAB and we are stocking up on all the mechanicals, sensors and ASICs so we can hit the ground running to do the upgrades when everything comes together.
I know everyone is eager and waiting.. thank you for your patience.
They've also been doing lens tests with the sensor, so we should have an idea soon enough which lenses should work with the camera. It looks like we are going to have to wait a bit longer to see some footage from the sensor, especially since they had to redesign the power supply, so hopefully we'll get something exceptionally tasty sometime in the next month or two that really shows what this little guy can do. Of course you're never going to see the resolution online, but you will absolutely get a sense of the color depth and dynamic range.
I think at this point RED really can't get away with delivering buggy cameras, so if the sensors and other electronics are really done, I'm sure they are testing like crazy to make sure everything is solid right out of the gate.
If you need to get up to speed on everything RED is doing with DRAGON upgrades, be sure to check out our previous post.