We 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):
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 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:
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?
[Aaton A-Minima photo courtesy of Pure for Cameras]