We told you back in July about the Apertus project and their goal to build the first open source digital cinema camera -- not only that, but one that could match or exceed the specs of some of the other digital cinema cameras out there. This open source camera, the Axiom, will be capable of RAW high-speed 4K recording, and best of all, the software will be made open to the public so that the users can do whatever they want with it, similar to the Magic Lantern project, but without any hacking involved since it's being made available for free. The team over at Apertus has been hard at work behind the scenes, and while their crowdfunding project for the camera will not start this year, they launched a website to detail the Axiom and the new Axiom Alpha, a prototype using the same sensor as the final camera.
Here is a little bit about the Axiom Alpha from Apertus. It will have a Nikon F mount, as there are many of these high quality manual lenses around and it's one of the simpler mounts to construct (the final camera will be interchangeable mount):
Apertus Axiom Alpha is the name of the Apertus Axiom prototype that is more than just a proof-of-concept. It is planned to already meet the demands of real world applications like being used for film production.
Apertus Axiom Alpha will utilize the same image sensor from CMOSIS that will be used in Apertus Axiom. The CMV12000 image sensor has 4K resolution and Super35 dimensions with a global shutter. Alpha though will down-sample this resolution internally and output a clean uncompressed Full HD signal. Alpha itself will not record footage. We will not install an optical low pass filter in front of the sensor yet and camera control will at this point only be possible with a USB 2.0 interface to send commands to the camera and receive information back. Alpha will not record sound and will not at this point be able to record RAW. You can use any 3G-SDI recorder of choice though and most of these also have audio inputs. By using a debayer algorithm that generates RGB values of a single pixel from a 2x2 photosite (RGBG) block we go from 4K to 2K and from bayer-pattern to 4:4:4 RGB in a single processing step.
The lens mount metal parts are done. The electronics (PCBs) are being developed now. Software (FPGA code, etc.) will follow once the electronics are done.
The Alpha isn't meant as a replacement for the more advanced camera, but it will be the first working version of the Axiom. At this point it will only be capable of 25fps at 1080p, but it's merely the first step in the process. The camera is being developed by a small team of people at the moment, and the goal is to begin a crowdfunding campaign in 2013 so that they can start on the 4K version of the Apertus Axiom.
The sensor is capable of very high frame rates -- up to 175fps in 8-bit, 150fps in 10-bit, and 75fps in 12-bit, all at 4K -- but final capabilities of the actual camera itself will still have to be ironed out. At this point we do know that the camera will be capable of up to 15 stops of dynamic range through some fancy tech similar to RED's HDRx. There will actually be a few different ways to achieve more dynamic range, however:
The image sensor supports three different High Dynamic Range (HDR) modes.
- One mode alters the sensors photosite response curve from a linear default behavior to a shape that is closer to a logarithmic response. This happens before the ADC so no digital data is sacrificed for the additional dynamic range.
- The second mode uses different exposure times for even and odd pixel rows. So two exposure brackets can be captured at the same time for sacrificing vertical resolution.
- The third mode is possible due to the high speed nature of the sensor allowing alternating exposure times with each recorded frame and doubling/tripling/etc. frame rate result in double/triple/etc. the amount of data to be captured.
Each way will have its own positives and negatives, and it will be up to the user in the end to decide which way will work best in a given situation. The normal dynamic range of the camera will be 10 stops, but since it will be recording RAW, there will far more flexibility in terms of choosing where you'd like to place your highlights.
For anyone who has complained about not having feature A or option B, the Axiom project will be able to finally deliver something that is competitively priced at under $10,000 and extremely capable with a maximum resolution of 4096 x 3072. This will also be the first Super 35mm-sized global shutter digital cinema camera anywhere near this price, with the only other somewhat affordable one at this point being the over-$30,000 Sony F55. A global shutter will mean no more rolling shutter skew, just like we have with CCD sensors on 1/3" and 2/3" cameras.
You might be thinking that we have enough cameras already, but this project is a special one because it means that people will be able to tailor their camera for their own specific uses, and they will only be limited by what's actually possible, not what a manufacturer makes available to the user.
Be sure to head on over to the Apertus Axiom website to learn more about the project and about the camera. We'll keep you updated on all of the latest news for the camera as the crowdfunding campaign nears.