We've been covering the work that the fine folks over at Apertus have been doing for quite a while. In fact, just under a month ago, we got our first taste of footage from their early prototype camera, the Axiom Alpha, and it was quite promising. In the spirit of NAB, where multiple new 4K cameras have already been announced (see our constantly-updating NAB News article), Apertus thought it prudent to make a major announcement of their own. Today they unveiled the Axiom Beta project and gave word that a crowdfunding campaign is imminent, which means that an extremely affordable 4K open-source cinema camera might be in your hands before the year is through. Read on for details on this major announcement from Apertus.
Just in case anybody missed the first footage from the Axiom Alpha that Apertus released last month, here's another quick look:
And here is the big announcement from Apertus:
We hereby announce the Axiom Beta! It will be smaller and cheaper, exhibiting far more streamlined features that are much better suited for shooting, testing and development purposes than the Axiom Alpha could ever be. This time we need your contribution to make it happen, as we will start a crowd funding campaign to cover hardware and software development. We plan to start with an initial batch of approximately 250 cameras once we know that the design actually works, and this first batch will be exclusively reserved for crowd-funding backers. Each of those cameras will have a degree of personalization possible.
This is absolutely fantastic news for those of us who thought that the Axiom camera was a revolutionary idea that might never see the light of day (it's far too easy to be pessimistic). Clearly Apertus is further along than many of us thought, and the fact that Axiom Betas will soon make their way into the hands of eager early adopters and developers is excellent news.
Here's a list of planned features for the Axiom Beta. Many of these likely won't be available upon initial delivery of the cameras, but through constant firmware updates, the Apertus team hopes to implement all of these features and then some.
- HDMI Full HD (4:4:4) output at up to 60 FPS
- 4K raw output via experimental HDMI formats
- Capture full resolution, full bitdepth raw still images to MicroSD card
- Remote control of all camera functions from smartphone, tablet, laptop
- Power management and monitoring (e.g. voltage, current, temperature)
- Highly customizable via modular I/O addons (e.g. SDI)
- Accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope e.g. for image stabilization
- Different lens mount options (e.g. Nikon F-mount, EF and M4/3)
- Wide input voltage range (5-40V)
- Very lightweight and compact ~110x60x50mm
- Embedded Linux (e.g. Raspian, ArchLinux)
- LUTs, matrix color conversion, FPN compensation, false color display, overlays, dead pixel compensation
- Using Microzed board (instead of Zedboard used in Axiom Alpha)
One of the most interesting facets of the Axiom Beta system is that it isn't tied to a particular sensor, and Apertus will actually be giving early adopters (and probably all buyers) a choice of what sensor their camera is equipped with, something that few, if any, other camera companies are doing. Here are the current sensors that Apertus is looking to incorporate into the camera.
And now for the biggest part of this announcement from Apertus, the price. In the initial crowdfunding campaign, which should launch relatively soon, Apertus will be offering all of the camera components and assembly "at cost." Here's what the announcement on the Apertus website had to say about the cost of the new camera.
Backers who support the Axiom Beta development in the crowd funding campaign with a minimum amount of 350 EUR / 485 USD or more will receive the Axiom Beta (including all the necessary I/O modules) for manufacturing costs only (i.e. material and assembly), at approximately 550 EUR / $760 USD (without image sensor).But rest assured, no matter what hardware options you choose, you will only pay for the materials, assembly and shipping. Naturally, if we manage to attract more backers than initially planned, the cost of production per unit will be reduced and everyone will get to pay less. The main focus of this campaign is to find early adopters and get the hardware into the hands of hackers and developers. Once our product matures, you can expect the Axiom camera to grow in complexity along with its feature set and price. For this reason, it is unlikely that future Axiom models will be as affordable as what we are offering in the Axiom Beta crowd funding campaign.
The prices listed above are a bit deceptive because they don't include the most expensive component of the imaging system, the sensor. Here are what each of the three sensors listed above cost on a "per unit" basis. The prices for these sensors could be lowered if Apertus buys them in bulk.
Even with the hefty cost of the sensors, the cost for an Axiom Beta through the crowdfunding campaign will be well under $3000 for a fully-loaded cinema camera. With the less expensive sensor options, the Axiom Beta will definitely be the most affordable 4K cinema camera out there (even cheaper than the GH4). Granted it will be a beta camera, which means that there will likely be bugs. Hence the reason for the price. By getting these cameras into the hands of developers, hackers, and shooters at an affordable price, they can speed up the development process significantly.
We're still not sure when the crowdfunding campaign for the Apertus Axiom Beta will launch, but rest assured that we'll be covering it like white on rice the moment it goes live. For more information about the Axiom Beta, head on over to the Apertus website.
What do you guys think about this major announcement from Apertus? Let's hear your thoughts down in the comments!