May 4, 2013

Aaton to Be Taken Over by New Owners, Shifting Focus to New Documentary-Style Digital Camera

Jean-Pierre Beauviala and Penelope DeltaWe reported recently that French camera maker Aaton was in financial trouble thanks to issues with sensor development on its Penelope Delta digital cinema camera which has yet to see the light of day in any real numbers. Confirming these issues, Jean-Pierre Beauviala, Aaton founder, explained in a statement what's happening with the company, and what they plan to focus on going forward -- which includes a new audio recorder and a new documentary-style digital cinema camera.

Thank to Cinescopophilia, here is a little bit from the email from Beauviala (pictured above with the Penelope Delta):

AATON YESTERDAY

Over the last couple of years, Aaton devoted its energy and resources to the development of a new high-end camera, Delta Penelope. The prototype got rave reviews for its crisp but still velvet image structure, and its outstanding chromatic finesse resulting in exceptional skin tones and subtle hues.
The CCD sensor used, though its imaging was excellent in the prototypes, has not allowed us to ensure the same perfomances in industrial production. This is particularly regrettable, since many orders have been placed for the camera.

AATON TODAY

Aaton is not closed; the company will be taken over by new owners.
At this stage, finance will not in itself solve the Delta Penelope problem, but it will allow us to continue on other developments (based on Aaton patents) already in the pipeline.

While it doesn't seem like they have completely given up hope on the Delta project, obviously the sensor issues have become a serious roadblock, so it could be the end of the road for the camera if they can't sort out the problems. Jean-Pierre Beauviala goes on to mention that they are shifting focus to two new products, the Cantar X+ Audio Recorder and the D-Minima, a documentary style reflex viewfinder digital cinema camera. Here is the original Cantar Audio Recorder (which it seems they will still be producing alongside the new one):

I have to imagine that they are going to go down a similar route as they did with the Penelope Delta, and take design cues from their original film camera, the A-Minima:

Aaton A Minima

He did not give any other details about the camera, but it would likely take a Super 16mm-sized digital sensor and some of the same ergonomics of the original A-Minima. While there is a ton of competition in the camera business, few companies take into consideration that human beings actually have to use these devices. Modularity is certainly a valid approach, but I've always preferred when a camera is usable and comfortable right out of the box -- something Aaton has done as well as anyone. It's anyone's guess when we might actually see the new D-Minima, but it will definitely be interesting considering it will be the first small digital cinema camera of its kind with a mechanical viewfinder.

So the good news is that the company will survive and keep producing new products, but that may be it for the Penelope Delta.

What do you guys think about the news? How about the new mechanical viewfinder digital camera?

Link: Jean-Pierre Beauviala Outlines The Future For Aaton -- Cinescopophilia

[Aaton A-Minima photo courtesy of Pure for Cameras]

Your Comment

17 Comments

Honestly it will ultimately come down to pricing , seeing how most camera's would be for rental houses . It will come depend on if cameras are under the 35k range, because honestly its a new day, when you can own an epic dragon starter package under 30k, sony f55, and even more affordable black magic cameras that produce nice dynamic range that rivals film

May 4, 2013

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JayClout

And yet high-end Alexa Studio packages are on top because the camera is workhorse and it's Arri.

May 4, 2013

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Natt

Just to point out, they don't rival film. Nothing can.

May 5, 2013

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Tyler

You're right: they surpass film. (Hey: you started it !)

May 5, 2013

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FabDex

...and although sane people admit that digital audio these days surpasses vinyl, there will always be someone who claims his 10K record player sounds better than any digital source... ;)

May 9, 2013

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Heiko

Ah, subjectivity...if it looks good to YOU, then it's good.

May 9, 2013

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PKVariance

Can't compare apples to oranges...

July 27, 2013

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The reason behind a reflex viewfinder could be to construct a usable autofocus into a professional camera. This would be well in line with the description "documentary style".

May 4, 2013

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"The CCD sensor used, though its imaging was excellent in the prototypes, has not allowed us to ensure the same perfomances in industrial production. This is particularly regrettable, since many orders have been placed for the camera."

Does anyone know what this might mean? Why would the prototype CCDs perform any differently that ones that would be used in the actual production units? Calibration issues?

May 4, 2013

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Ben Prater

Those Dalsa CCD sensors aren't anything impressive anyway. Aaton better license some high-end senor line from CMOSIS, like Blackmagic did. Apparently they have 70mm or medium format, 35mm and 16mm sensor models. They have global shutter, extended DR and they actually work.

May 4, 2013

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Natt

The Dalsa sensor Aaton was using had 14 stops of dynamic range and a base ISO of 800. The CMOSIS sensor in the Blackmagic 4K will likely only be around 11-12, and the base ISO will probably be around 400, thought it may be higher.

It's not all about specs, either, this is why Blackmagic chose the sensor they did for the 2.5K BMCC - color reproduction and dynamic range were superb, and will likely be better than the 4K camera.

May 4, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Most CCD sensors have truly great color reproduction. Skin tones are in most cases better then on CMOS sensors. Alexa is the benchmark here. If it's that good it's a real good sensor. The Black magic camera have real nice colors too but it's not an Alexa...

May 5, 2013

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Martin

excuse you tell me where you read that Alexa will be the point of reference? Says who?
Why 'Martin did not give it a try and show us what and' better?
I'd be curious to see.

May 5, 2013

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Alexis

This is not really true, there is a reason cmos sensors out reign ccd sensors and the main reason is because CCD sesnors drain batteries and are not as good as good lowlight performance just to name a few. As far as skintones are concerned it has to do with the way the sensors are engineered.

Also while ccd sesnsors do not struggle with rolling shutter, they are very prone to light streaks, so there for you gain one and loose one. Ultimatley im really interested in seeing F55 and dragon sesnor pics combined with motion global shutter add on

May 6, 2013

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JayClout

A D-Minima would be so sick!

May 5, 2013

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john jeffries

The A-Minima viewing system has a spinning mirror. This rotating shutter cures JELLO!. The disadvantage is that you cannot use a 359 degree shutter (+ 1 stop) in low loght,

I'm interested in this camera 'cause I prefer Super16 to Super35 for guerilla film-making. And also Aaton knows how to develop ergonomic cameras.

May 5, 2013

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c.d.embrey

I love super 16mm for certain projects and have just wrapped a documentary shot on the stuff and for me and the project nothing out there would have achieved the look we wanted :P but i know shooting 16mm is financially crazy and there will be a day i can no longer have the pleasure so i have been longing for the day we get a digital super 16mm camera with the form factor of a real camera mans camera and well this Aaton or a (please) super16 Alexa in the form of an Arri SRIII will be my dream come true! Blackmagic pocket will have to do for now and can become a b-cam later xD but there is so much amazing super 16 PL mount glass out there! man exciting times.

May 6, 2013

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JBV