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