April 9, 2014

Introducing the Apertus Axiom Beta: the Most Affordable 4K Cinema Camera Yet

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!

Link: Axiom Beta Announcement -- Apertus

Your Comment

48 Comments

Cool. Hope to save some money to get my hands on this.

April 9, 2014 at 4:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dominik Belancic

This looks awesome! The idea of getting it out there to further the development is great!

Really cheering for you guys at the Apertus, good stuff!

April 9, 2014 at 4:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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johnny

Want to know in more dtail and how to order it from asian region.I am from bangladesh.I I think it will do great in bd

April 9, 2014 at 4:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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raffael

There's a lot more to building a camera than throwing a sensor in a box. Good firmware, color science, processing, cooling, storage. Blackmagic has been working on their cameras far longer, and they STILL don't have the firmware part of it figured out. I wish these guys all the luck in the world, but until I see something that shows me that the software part of this thing is good, I'm going to remain quite a bit skeptical.

April 9, 2014 at 4:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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There is no comparing this with the Black Magic, really. These guys are all about the people using the camera and helping with the development and molding it into something great. BM is quite the opposite of that at the moment IMO.

April 9, 2014 at 4:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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johnny

Well... for their cameras. Their software they are much more open to listening to feedback and actually responding.

April 10, 2014 at 12:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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David J. Fulde

Yes, there IS comparing this to the Black Magic. The BMPC is out there now for $3K (including internal storage capability, not "experimental HDMI") and working quite well. So a camera like that is an obvious part of evaluating a project like this. Everyone likes good intentions and nice guys, but neither of those put images together in a vacuum and let them produce finished work.

December 27, 2015 at 10:25PM

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David Gurney
DP
1716

Do you know that they released video a couple months ago of some beautiful shots? They released images to show its capabilities. This article may come across as they are just throwing a sensor in the box if you haven't been following them through the process, but they have been developing this for a few years, and color science and computation is a priority to them.

April 9, 2014 at 5:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ken

You are absolutely right that there is a lot more required than just connecting the components but I wouldn't underestimate there dedication. Look at what the huge uphill battle magic lantern guys have been pulling off via reverse engineering. An open source hardware/software camera will have a significantly lower barrier of entry to attract developers.

April 10, 2014 at 4:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Eric

The project has been in development for longer than you think. It originally started by trying to modify the open source Elphel camera to be a cinema camera. However, it's not exactly ideal for cinema use and the developers of the Elphel camera aren't focused on that market. The decision to build a cinema camera from scratch is relatively new but they've been working on many of the core problems for years now.

April 10, 2014 at 4:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Eric W

wish i was nerdy enough to jump on it as a Beta. But I like the spec specs, mostly the 4:3 aspect for anamorphicity!

April 9, 2014 at 4:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Juan Lindo

I like the idea of a 4x3 sensor because I prefer 1.33:1 to any other format. It makes a 50mm lens a lot more usable, too, with all that extra height to the frame.

April 10, 2014 at 3:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jon

CMV 12000 is what's inside the BMD 4K cams as well as AJA Cion. I am sure they get bulk discounts, however.

April 9, 2014 at 4:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Very cool. Very interesting! Very tempting! If you got some kind of ML community around it would be exciting.
Like buying a cheap track car - do you want the kit, or the fully built?

April 9, 2014 at 5:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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marklondon

I know the test footage is super early but it looks terrible, nothing to get that excited about, this is a camera that wont see the light of day for some time still

April 9, 2014 at 5:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Stephen Herron

Pass me the ketchup, I need to eat my words. Amazing.

April 9, 2014 at 5:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Saied

I thinks its great campaign and for me as film student this camera would be more affordable than any arri or c300. I hope they figure things out better than BM team

April 9, 2014 at 5:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ivan

"I hope they figure things out better than BM team"

Meaningless statement. What are you talking about?

December 27, 2015 at 10:28PM

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David Gurney
DP
1716

If you want to excite people , put up some cracking test shots....these are terrible !!! IPhone 3G footage looks better. We don't need more 4K cameras....work one perfecting the ones we have. Everyone seems to be in a rush to create the cheapest 4K camera...what the market needs is someone to create really good lenses at a reasonable price....cause the others have been raping us for years with overpriced lenses. Any camera without a lens is a box going nowhere. " I got a $3000 4K camera !!! , but my 50mm lens cost me 5K !!!"...too long we have been ripped off...I'd be more excited to see a really good cine lens kit for 4-5K than another 4K camera.

April 9, 2014 at 6:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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brett

I'm a Director/Producer and really don't know why kids soooo want cheap film equipment. Kids, learn something: the camera you use for a specific project, is the camera that suits that project. You CAN'T use the same camera for everything. A good Cinematographer is capable of assessing what camera goes for each different project and MAKES THE PRODUCER PAY FOR THE RENTAL. Kids, stop paying for what the producer should be paying and learn to work with the best (which is the most expensive) equipment instead of the cheap stuff. Just think about it, there has supposedly been a "revolution" in camera manufacturing, but the best camera is still manufactured by the same manufacturer who made the best cameras 40 years ago. So where is the "revolution"? I tell you what, if all these poorly built cameras that came up in the last 6 years wouldn't exist (excepting the epic, to a point), we would have saved ourselves of tons of really shitty and repetitive pictures. Amen...

April 9, 2014 at 11:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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bestfrontman

Totally true :)

I have worked with a range of cameras from a whole lot of different broadcast cameras over Red to Sony F3 and what not, but all I ever owned myself is a gopro and a 7D. And the 7D I hardly ever used for video, just for taking pictures (which is a hobby of mine).

I work as a cameraman and never really saw the need to buy a camera, because when I work a job, a camera will be there to work with.

It really is a lot more fun to work with horribly expensive cameras that you don't have to pay for! ;)

April 10, 2014 at 1:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Heiko

Ok, Dad! :)

April 10, 2014 at 2:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Steven: good boy! You are going to get far :)) Heiko: as you wisely put it, the camera should be there for as to work.

April 10, 2014 at 7:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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bestfrontman

Yes, because that's conducive to grabbing "your" camera and shooting on a regular basis to hone your craft. And learning technical pitfalls of the gear you'll use on projects.

Oh wait: It isn't.

December 27, 2015 at 10:32PM

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David Gurney
DP
1716

Yes, and his name was Stanley Kubrick, yes he allways rent, never own, never adapt cine gear to his vision??..Or yes, he done exactley what these new kids are doing!!!!Question is now?

April 11, 2014 at 6:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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MM Top

"if all these poorly built cameras that came up in the last 6 years wouldn't exist (excepting the epic, to a point), we would have saved ourselves of tons of really shitty and repetitive pictures."

What are you talking about?

December 27, 2015 at 10:30PM

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David Gurney
DP
1716

@Brett- the Samyang/Rokinon line of (EF and F mount) cine lenses is very reasonably priced per quality offered. You might be able to get a set of three primes for about a grand.

April 10, 2014 at 2:15AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Those lenses are garbage and are likely to ruin your project. You're much better off using good still lenses, despite the need for cumbersome focusing-ring adapters and electronic iris control.

See the reviews of the Rokinon 35mm (your workhorse lens) on the B&H site for examples of its shitty image quality.

December 27, 2015 at 10:34PM

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David Gurney
DP
1716

You know that not many people will ever buy cinema lenses, right? That makes them a lot more expensive!

And by the way: there are some really good Samyang cinema lenses for less than a thousand bucks each. They're not quite Zeiss, but they will absolutely make good pictures for everyone who can't afford the more expensive lenses.

April 10, 2014 at 1:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Heiko

Those are the same as Rokinon, and they're abysmal junk. To see people regurgitating this same bullshit is irritating and a real disservice to your fellow filmmaker, who will find his production ruined by lenses that render NOTHING in focus. Ghosting, softness... yeah, that's Rokinon/Samyang's forte.

December 27, 2015 at 10:36PM

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David Gurney
DP
1716

Honestly, I think these people need to give a camera to Philip Bloom for reviewing. Since it's in beta, and feedback from developers, hackers, and shooters is exactly what they're trying to get, a review from him would not only give them feedback from a world renowned filmmaker and DP, the hype generated from his followers would easily multiply any backing for this camera...

April 9, 2014 at 9:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ryan

Not to hate on Philip Bloom but he is not a world renowned filmmaker and DP. Haskel Wexler, Roger Deakins, Emmanuel Lubeski, Vittorio Storaro, Janusz Kaminski, et al are. I respect what Bloom does, but he's not in the same league as some of the best. If were to ask anyone to review these cameras it would be someone who is actually going to light a complex scene, even a Zacuto Shootout, not city scapes or trees and rivers as people walk by. Everyone nowadays wants a camera that can just be thrown on sticks, and expose either with iso or f/stop as opposed to picking an aesthetic and lighting for that based on metrics from your light meter and eyeballs and tests.

April 10, 2014 at 9:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jorge Cayon

...I think Ryan was being sarcastic!

I quote: "the hype generated from his followers would easily multiply any backing for this camera…"

He was totally making fun of Phillip Bloom here!

April 10, 2014 at 1:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Heiko

I saw the sarcasm but I don't see the light in perpetuating shoddy camera releases and cheap tech coming out. It makes the market saturated with cheap cameras and "filmmakers" lacking quality.

April 11, 2014 at 12:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jorge Cayon

Hmmm. A very interesting engineering problem for Universities that have both schools of engineering and cinema. Cheap, opensource and an opportunity to develop 3rd party tools that can generate revenue.

April 10, 2014 at 2:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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sid

HUH?? How on earth can you say this is cheaper than the Panasonic GH4, it is about half the price! (without the YAGH, which isn't *essential* for 4K recording)

April 10, 2014 at 2:20AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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David. GH4 isn't a cimema camera. It doesn't even have an option to record at 4.4.4 let alone RAW.

April 10, 2014 at 2:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Randy S.

Do you think just because these chip are 4k so they are cinema. The most acclaimed digital cinema camera is the Arri Alexa which is 2k and 2.7k in RAW. One of its best features is that it rivalled film dynamic range at 14 stops. Two of these chip here are 10 stop which is not very good at all. They would be beaten easily by most DSLR in DR which is more important than 4k for a cinema look as you go above 2k.

April 11, 2014 at 4:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel

Loved this read. However after some research I have discovered that song makes a much cheaper 4K camara.

April 10, 2014 at 4:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I will like if it's possible to get a capture chip all ready in the size of a anamorphic ratio 2;40
all ready crop for this, using a PL lens mount and larger lens to cover all the chip.
To used lens made for medium size camera still for portrait like Hasselblad and Pentacon Six
2 1/4 x 2 1/4 film those lens it's easy to find great manual lens made in the 90's like Zeiss in this format.
( SCOOP WITH REGULAR WIDE LENS )

The possibility to hack like the GH 2 but with more control made a way to do multiple setting menu and load some if you need it a way to made a versatile camera.

April 11, 2014 at 12:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Pierre Samuel Rioux

Not yet moved but waiting

April 11, 2014 at 3:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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If the people of Axion are looking here for some feedback, I would tell them that they should give other choices of sensor than 4k ones, more so that if they only give uncompressed 4k codec. Looking at the fiasco of Blackmagic production camera with its very low usable ISO and banding. I would prefer a much more rounded sensor with good to very good DR and low light and resolution. I would prefer the 2.5k, 13 stop DR and usable 1600 ISO sensor in the Blackmagic Cinema camera to the 4k 10 stop sensor you are proposing. Only the Truesense sensor with 12 stop of DR seems ok, but what about the low light.

Just add a olpf to eliminate the moire/aliasing, at least 60p and if possible faster read for less rolling shutter to the fairchild sensor like the 2.5 fairchild sensor and you will have a winner. It will make 10 times more sense to use it in practical ways that the mammoth datarate of the 4k sensors in uncompress raw. The people that will look at the cheapest camera won't be the one who will have the means to use these type of data rate.

April 11, 2014 at 5:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel

You speak a lot of sense in your post. Thanks.

April 11, 2014 at 7:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Shenan

I think people should appreciate what is on offer here. From little corns .mighty oaks of cinedemocracy will vrow where thinks xo not cost millions.

April 11, 2014 at 6:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I' m an the trace since about ten years (dv-info) and other pages. Had tons's of posting with them, sharing ideas and will jump on

April 11, 2014 at 7:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Sarah

This should whip up some interest. I'm a sponsor, and there were not many of us, but this shows what can be done to everybody else.

The cost of the sender, should be viewed as the cost of the Sender in the cheapest Sony Nex or cheapest 4/3rds camera, probably no note than $50 in bulk ordering with the extra costs these small fabless sensor manufactured incur. But such quantities may new be reached, however a $100 sensor maybe reached. A whole 4k camera could be done for $200, but the industry is not up to that level yet.

Good to see the boys are adopting sine of the suggestions, such as Bayer pixel packing in HDMI, and tablet phone cheap control.

What is the record option here?

Can we please USS text instead of videos? We can skip through those quickly.

The Cmosis CMV8000 seems to be the odd one out on resolution, and the CMV12000 the star performer. I really prefer 15 stop without HDR and 16 bit pixels. 4/3rds with wired and auto control to a low profile m43 lens, such as on Pansonic's smallest, would be great as a run around camera.

April 11, 2014 at 10:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Wayne Morellini

My apologies for that post, slipped by, I'm out using my phone. Ridiculous android auto correction is substituting the wrong words again. Here's a corrected version:

This should whip up some interest. I’m a sponsor, and there were not many of us, but this shows what can be done for everybody else.

The cost of the sensor, should be viewed as the cost of the sensor in the cheapest Sony Nex or cheapest 4/3rds camera, probably no note than $50 in bulk ordering with the extra costs that these small fabless sensor manufactures incur. But such quantities may never be reached, however a $100 sensor maybe reached. A whole 4k camera could be done for $200, but the industry is not up to that level yet.

Good to see the boys are adopting some of the suggestions, such as Bayer pixel packing in HDMI, and tablet phone cheap control.

What is the record option here?

Can we please use text instead of videos? We can skip through those quickly.

The Cmosis CMV8000 seems to be the odd one out on resolution, and the CMV12000 the star performer. I really prefer 15 stop without HDR and 16 bit pixels. 4/3rds with wired and auto lens control to a low profile m43 lens, such as on Pansonic’s smallest, would be great as a run around camera.

April 11, 2014 at 10:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Wayne Morellini

Indeed, these people have been building knowledge up over the last 8 years. m

Colour does not take as long as a certain company might suggest.  It can be done within 6 months with knowledge (even 6 hours with the right setup).  If you try to do it without access to the decades of knowledge and skill built up over years, it might take a long while.  So getting access to that is important.  Most companies seem to release all their cameras with the color science they intend, despite his bad it might looks.  A lot of this stuff is smoke and mirror marketing to try to get customers to think they are getting more than they actually are.

No one should think this is the same quality sensor as the GH4, but for pro codec support the axion is working towards beating the GH4 as a pro camera, and it beats those sub $7k small sensor 4k visually lossless camcorders in quality.

What we see from camera footage is often fake.  Normally footage is too grey and drab, but color processing boosts it up to look a certain way,.ko even near normal.  The only sorts of hi-res video sensors that produce anywhere near normal samples are a few like the Red dragon.  Most are still under colored.  Davinci Resolve color tool has a free version.

About sensors, they could try Aptina, they supply the 4k 60fps video sensor in the Nikon 1. Maybe a much cheaper trye ultra HD sensor resolution could be had for $100 as a special deal.

They could approach a stills camera company that still does their own sensor technology but is developing a 4k video version, and offer a deal where the company can produce a version of the axiom camera with their sensor, as their video/stills camera. This would give
Axiom access to more advanced sensor technology.

April 12, 2014 at 1:40AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Wayne Morellini