September 10, 2014

Apertus Axiom Beta: World's First 4K Open Source Cinema Camera is Now Crowdfunding

Apertus Axiom Beta Digital Cinema Camera
For the past few years, we've been covering the intriguing work of Apertus, a group of volunteers dedicated to creating the world's first open source digital cinema camera.

Although there were times where it felt like the Apertus Axiom cameras would never see the light of day, the company today started a crowdfunding campaign in which backers can purchase the Axiom Beta camera at cost. Not only is the concept bordering on revolutionary, but this might just be the most affordable 4K digital cinema camera yet.

First up, here's the crowdfunding video for the Apertus Axiom Beta camera.

So let's talk a little bit about how the Apertus Axiom Beta is priced. On their campaign page, you can essentially purchase the camera for the cost of everything but the sensor. This includes all of the miscellaneous components and the cost of assembly etc. Depending on which sensor you choose for the camera (either s35 or 4/3), that price is about $450 and $390 respectively. Then comes the more expensive part of the equation, the sensor. Once the campaign finishes, Apertus is going to buy the sensors in bulk and then sell them to you at cost. Here's a breakdown of the two sensors offered on the Axiom Beta,

Apertus Axiom Beta Digital Cinema Camera Sensor Options

Effectively, once you've paid for everything, the s35 model of the Axiom Beta will set you back about $3500, whereas the 4/3 camera will land in the $2900 range. 

Now let's take a look at the specs that will definitely be in place for the first version Axiom Beta, which is expected to begin shipping in April of 2015:

  • 4K Resolution with large Image Sensor Diameter for cinematic Depth of Field
  • Pin-Sharp Uncompressed Full HD 4:4:4 (downscaled from 4K) via three independent HDMI ports at up to 60FPS
  • Canon, Nikon, MFT lens mounts available (all passive, more will follow)
  • Real Time Image Processing on Reprogrammable Hardware (FPGA), Dual Core ARM CPU runs custom Linux operating system with components from ArchLinux/Raspian
  • capture 4K raw still images
  • maximum flexibility: separate acquisition and recording and choose any external HDMI recorder
  • two Global Shutter image sensor options available (more options will follow)
  • smartphone/tablet/laptop remote control of all camera functions, through wireless and wired connections

And here's a taste of what kind of footage the camera can produce.

These are just the features that will be available on the first batch of Axiom Betas. Here's a brief taste of what Apertus has in store for future hardware and software upgrades.

More Image Sensors
Do you want a 5K Full Frame image sensor? Or a 16mm high speed option? Is dynamic range more important to you than resolution? More image sensors are lined up to be turned into AXIOM Beta modules and you help us decide which one will be implemented first. 

Additional Interfaces 
IO shields featuring 3G-SDI, TC, Genlock, Trigger IO interfaces are on the roadmap. But what do you need most? We are also testing a PCIe interface as bridge to high speed SSDs or a computer to act as recorder. Built-in LCD and control buttons/dials - we want them too.

More Lens Mounts
E-mount, C-Mount, Leica, PL, IMS or electronic lens control? As the lens mount is designed as AXIOM Beta screw-on-module creating new mount options is straightforward. Which mount would you like to see?

The most interesting aspect of the Apertus cameras is that they have the potential to be the last camera you will ever need due to the fact that they're infinitely upgradeable, which means that they won't eventually become technologically obsolete like most of the cameras on the market will. New sensors and various other hardware options will continuously be added to the Beta, which also means that it will ultimately be one of, if not the most, highly customizable cameras on the market. For filmmakers on a budget, they'll only have to pay for the options and features that they need, while still having the ability to upgrade the camera at any time.

Ultimately, the folks at Apertus are aiming to change the way we view cameras and camera technology. By adopting the open source ideology and applying it to their business model, they're essentially taking a shot at other camera manufacturers entrenched in the world of proprietary hardware and software, something which most certainly does not benefit the end user. The amazing thing about this is that if enough people decide to adopt the Axiom Beta, we could very well see a shift in how cameras are developed and manufactured, with interchangeable components becoming the norm. We can only hope.     

Your Comment

48 Comments

So, a external recorder is required. Which is better than have a non-replaceable internal SSD, in my opinion.

Crowdfunding is cool, it's a hope it will get out of the paper. But I like the other options they mentioned. If I could choose and build my own camera, a Super 16mm sensor with very high dynamic range (no HDR) and PL mount already would be great!

September 10, 2014 at 12:24PM, Edited September 10, 12:24PM

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I think that's a great idea and need be optomized, becouse it's not clear all that they offer.

With time they add news features... and new options always it's a great deal for us

September 10, 2014 at 12:41PM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7566

What was unclear to you?

September 11, 2014 at 2:16PM

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Tobias Deml
Cinematographer & Director
163

The idea it's very good but, sometimes if you don't sell a full models (with a few personalizations), maybe could be a suicide (maybe I am wrong but it's my thought). It's a dangerous game, and very courageous hace this options. Always we want having more options that could help us with our films needs.

September 12, 2014 at 4:57AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7566

I love the open source model and I sincerely hope this succeeds. I'll be keeping a close eye on this one.

September 10, 2014 at 12:43PM

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Vincent Lange
Editor/VFX Artist/Cinematographer
74

I'd consider myself a camera nerd because I waste too much time looking at them but this doesn't seem very clear.

I don't care if something is open source, I just want a good camera. Customizable is great but everything else seems mysterious. Am I going to get a huge computer with a desktop fan and a lens mounted to it?

September 10, 2014 at 12:50PM

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Josh Paul
Most often DP, Direct or Gaff
1252

You can gauge the dimensions of the AXIOM Beta by comparing the camera body to the sensor size, which is nowhere close to a huge computer. I think you're referring to the AXIOM Alpha. Graphics with exact dimensions of the Beta are in the works.

September 11, 2014 at 2:24PM

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Tobias Deml
Cinematographer & Director
163

I can give you so much: The dimensions are 108mm x 69 mm x 37mm. That's around one and a half times smaller than a 5D MkII.

September 11, 2014 at 2:32PM

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Tobias Deml
Cinematographer & Director
163

Good for them in attempting a crowd funding pitch video that isn't just a yawn-inducing tech-guy rambling on against a black or white backdrop - the idea to take a disruptive, fun "Onion News Network" approach is good but for me it misses the mark. These kinds of ironic pitches are a cool marketing tactic but they're very hard to pull off without coming off as cheesy or cringe-worthy. I wish they'd included more images (even if just 3D renders) of the camera rather than the Alpha model. Functionality in hardware and software is important but so are aesthetics - just ask Apple…

The images from the camera look good and are certainly a better selling tool than the first images that came from Digital Bolex but for me, this is still very much a "wait and see" product.

September 10, 2014 at 1:10PM

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Neil Every
Writer/Director/Story Consultant
191

Heh. Well, I thought it was cheesy. Didn't take away from the product presentation though.

September 10, 2014 at 3:03PM

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Christopher Kou
Production Manager
204

Dinky DR is going to shoot this little dude in the foot - dynamic range is really what's being pushed for in good imagers. I like the idea of upgrading the sensor later as time goes on, thought. Best of luck to them.

September 10, 2014 at 1:16PM

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Alex Enman
Filmist/Colormaker
304

The AXIOM has - as of now - up 15 Stops of Dynamic Range for the CMOSIS CMV12000 Sensor. The difference to other cameras is that you can control said dynamic range and response curves.

More information: https://www.apertus.org/axiom_imagesensor

September 11, 2014 at 2:28PM

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Tobias Deml
Cinematographer & Director
163

The CMV12000's native dynamic range is maximally ten stops. Each of its three HDR methods has problems. I suggest reading http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/archive/index.php/t-299568.html.

September 11, 2014 at 5:37PM

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So the idea and meaning behind it is cool and I also understand that its only at the beta level but it looks like the image is lacking something. Looks on par with most DSLR's not film cameras.

September 10, 2014 at 1:37PM, Edited September 10, 1:37PM

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Charles C.
Editor/ Director/ Director of Photography/ Wannabe Thinker
1023

This looks like an incredible project. The S35 sensor specs list at a maximum 300fps. Anyone have any idea what the max fps of the Beta will be?

September 10, 2014 at 3:01PM, Edited September 10, 3:01PM

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Christopher Kou
Production Manager
204

Ah, nevermind. I just found it. 60fps. Hmmm. Yeah, that is disappointingly low. Was hoping for 120. With only 10 stops of DR, I don't think it will beat out my BMPC4K. At least not yet . . .

September 10, 2014 at 3:07PM

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Christopher Kou
Production Manager
204

where did you find that number?

September 10, 2014 at 3:26PM

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aombk
251

It says "Pin-Sharp Uncompressed Full HD 4:4:4 (downscaled from 4K) via three independent HDMI ports at up to 60FPS"

Not sure how that translates to 180, Sebastian. Wouldn't it just mean that it's outputting the same 60fps through three outputs simultaneously?

September 11, 2014 at 5:26PM

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Christopher Kou
Production Manager
204

With the triple HDMI port shield you get 1080p60 4:4:4 not once but three times, so if we implement an alternating frame output high speed mode you could get 1080p at 3x60 = 180 FPS - would require 3 recorders though.

Other interface shields could provide simpler solutions for high bandwidth transfer but how this interface could look like is just speculation for now.

September 10, 2014 at 4:27PM

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Same sensor.

September 11, 2014 at 11:36PM

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The latitude coming from these sensors leaves much to be desired.

September 10, 2014 at 3:33PM

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----
296

the cmv12000 sensor has hdr mode. this is not like red hdrx. it is better.
and it gives 15stops DR.
i suggest you watch this sensor presentation, its very informative:
http://vimeo.com/17230822

also the max framerate of the sensor is 300fps. the goal of apertus is to do their best to reach that number. not 60fps. 60fps was the number their previous camera achieved. not this one.
maybe you mean 60fps through hdmi to external video recorders. thats the hdmi bandwith limit for 4k video.
but there will be a solution for higher framerates.

September 10, 2014 at 4:01PM

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aombk
251

I really like the idea of a fully opensource modular system. Unfortunately I'm not in the financial position to be an early adopter, but once they get that highlight roll off fixed (I'm guessing once the next gen sensor gets implemented), then I'm in.

September 10, 2014 at 5:09PM

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Hendrikus De Vaan
Producer - Director
260

The closest we've seen to open source software on a camera system is the Magic Lantern hack for Canon cameras. And even then, the codebase isn't accessible to the average developer. Look at the proliferation of apps for mobile phones -- and map this onto camera systems.

Example: I need to shoot video of wildlife, but only when they walk in front of the camera. Today, I'd have to buy expensive dedicated hardware to do this. Tomorrow, I'll be able to download (or write!) an app for Axiom and be in business.

Even if we all don't own Axiom cameras -- I suspect that we will be inspired by some of the bits of software that others create for it. And especially with FPGA available, developers will find fun ways to push this unit.

September 10, 2014 at 6:11PM

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Why aren't the test shots in 24fps =(?

September 10, 2014 at 8:32PM

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Tommy Plesky
Director / D.P / Editor
1974

With the exponentially faster development and release of new cameras, I would be very careful when "investing" money on something that doesn't exist yet. While I love the concept and hope it will come out great, I think there will be too many variables in the air until we can actually see results of extensive testing of the final product. Camera is not just about the parts, it could take long time to develop proper colour science according to the final specs. Also by the time the product ships, if there is another game changer, this might be outdated already.

September 11, 2014 at 6:04AM

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Smells like linux...headache included

September 11, 2014 at 6:10AM

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Riaan Myburgh
DP / COLORIST
358

do you have a smartphone?
android is based on linux and is mainly open source and ios is unix based.
many electronic devices we use everyday are actually linux based. its just that there is no way for you to come close and fiddle with their inner workings, if you want.

*the websites you visit everyday, run on linux too

linux doesnt mean headache to me.
it means serious business.
with a tux

September 11, 2014 at 8:10AM

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aombk
251

September 11, 2014 at 8:13AM

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aombk
251

Is the Axiom a full frame, because the crop sensor seems incredibly....small?

Thanks.

September 11, 2014 at 12:21PM

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Jackson Stone
Videographer/Photographer/editor
74

It's not full frame, there's two sensors to choose from basically (well three) but you've got a micro4/3 as well as an s35 (think an APS-C, like the 7d).

September 11, 2014 at 12:39PM

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Seth Deming
Owner
88

Does anyone know what the iso/gain is like on this camera? I'm assuming it changes per sensor.

No camera is perfect, but this one looks pretty close...looks really great. I'm really tempted, but I'm just wondering if I could get used to such a modular setup. Having an external battery, monitor, recorder would get a bit bulky.

September 11, 2014 at 12:38PM

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Seth Deming
Owner
88

>No camera is perfect, but this one looks pretty close
Except it's just a concept at this time. I love open source and hope it can influence the camera landscape but this looks to be much too early in the process to start collecting money from people. Going to their development page and choosing Project type: Software, Related to: Axiom camera give no results(!) (or their site is broken, hopefully). Their are a number of interesting projects related to their other camera project (Elphel), though. But this is funding for the Axiom so they better put out some info on their ongoing software projects regarding that.

September 11, 2014 at 1:34PM

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Wow, interesting response. A camera is as much software as it is hardware. I couldn't even find a planned or researched software project related to their Axiom camera (haven't had another look on their website). If you want an open source software project to succeed you'd want to attract as much attention and involvement as possible and work hard to build a community. No where on their website could I see how to get involved in a specific Axiom software project. Visit any successfull open source project to get a reference, like Ubuntu, Apache or Imagemagick.

Again, I LOVE open source. I hope Axiom will start looking more like an open source project.

September 13, 2014 at 6:37AM

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We had a problem on the website that is now fixed. Since currently the hardware and software part of the project is highly dependant on each other, we didn't create specific pages for each sub project. The plan was to not confuse people, I guess it didn't fully work :-).

But rest assured that we are at a much later stage than "concept". The alpha prototype is finished and working exactly as planned. Just visit our repository to have an (more technical) overview of what we are working on : https://github.com/apertus-open-source-cinema

Based solely on what is available in this repository, people already managed to make their own "alpha". Not what I'd call vaporware :-)

September 18, 2014 at 7:14AM

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This is a great idea. In adds incredible freedom to the creative process.

September 11, 2014 at 2:56PM

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Orlando Jarquin
Director/Director of Photography/Steadicam and Movi Operator
81

I have been a fan of open source since the beginning. I always like how it transform the landscape and the rules of creativity in any industry. It allows people to dream and sometimes those dreams and ideas become reality.

September 11, 2014 at 3:06PM

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Walter Wallace
Spokesperson/Entrepreneur
1187

The dimensions are 108mm x 69 mm x 37mm. That's around one and a half times smaller than a 5D MkII.
September 11, 2014
1
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This is really just a very small sensor trying to outdo the world of good 4K and higher sensors that actually give a far better image than a much smaller postage stamp mini sensor for an actually high price that will have nickel and dime charges down the line. Very deceptive camera offering for many who do not understand "quality" 4k cameras. The real market in a few years will be 8K and this camera will never make it. I've built several custom 70mm cameras and this camera is a sham. This camera will not make it.

September 11, 2014 at 8:26PM

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Jay Carlton
Camera Creator/DP
74

nice comment! full of insight and very informative!

September 11, 2014 at 10:19PM, Edited September 11, 10:19PM

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aombk
251

While this is still a good idea, it's not as fresh as it was years ago, when Apertus first announced it. Trouble is, (due to limited resources) Apertus took too long. A lot of the stuff this cam offers is already being done by other manufacturers for the same or lower cost. Want to upgrade your sensor? Blackmagic's URSA offers that option - and the URSA's 4K sensor is global (no rolling shutter), just as Apertus' sensors are. Panasonic's GH4 offers a lot of 4K bang for the buck and it will have a lot more when the Atomos Shogun comes out. The same goes for Sony's A7S - and it's full frame sensor is a low light monster. Apertus may offer options like these in the future, but because their pace of development is downright glacial, it may be a lifetime until we see any. Like it or not, timing is an important part of the game. And yes, you can fiddle with the Axiom's internal code, but I'm a filmmaker - not a coder. I think I'm on the fence with this one.

September 12, 2014 at 1:45AM

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Ed Wright
Director, DP, Writer
417

i agree, its not that fresh as it was years ago.
but none of the cameras you mentioned combines all the apertus features and in lower cost.
each camera you mentioned is good in something and bad in something else.
for example about gh4 and a7s the rolling shutter breaks it for me. i already own rolling shutter cameras.
blackmagic cameras have global shutter but low dynamic range and low fps.

the thing is, i hope, apertus will offer all they promise and even more, because they work not in openness. they are building a community not a fanbase.

while i dont know anything about the sensors and the chips of those other cameras, thats the proprietary style, the complete and detailed datasheets for the sensor and the chips that beta camera will use are already out there and i can assure you that many talented people are looking at them and do the math and make breakthroughs and already write code. i am personally very excited about this.

September 12, 2014 at 8:48AM

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aombk
251

*correction, they work IN openness

September 12, 2014 at 10:09AM

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aombk
251

*correction, they work IN openness

September 12, 2014 at 10:09AM

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aombk
251

You make some good points - like I said, I'm on the fence - not sure whether to buy this camera or not....

September 15, 2014 at 12:36AM

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Ed Wright
Director, DP, Writer
417

yes i understand your concerns.

i personally have faith in open source projects because of many examples of its success (gnu linux, firefox, android aosp/cyanogen, apache, blender, mysql, libre/openoffice, inkscape, gimp, wordpress, x264, wikipedia and many many more i am sure i forgot to mention)

people seem to find it hard to support open source projects just because its a different model. thats understandable to some extent

so i backed up the project and i just hope this campaign succeeds so more people can test and use this camera so they can see that open source/hardware is something they can rely on.

September 15, 2014 at 12:30PM

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aombk
251

The people who are saying, "by the time this comes out it could be outdated" are misunderstanding the whole concept behind this project. You aren't buying a camera with set features and functions, it is modular and open source both in hardware and in software. Whatever features the hardware are capable of will be unlocked, and if you need to upgrade the hardware at some point you can just pay to upgrade the necessary components rather than forking out another several grand to buy an equivalent or slightly better camera. Instead of worrying about it being outdated we should just help people get excited about contributing and in the end we will end up a camera system that just keeps improving itself. :)

September 16, 2014 at 12:22PM

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Kevin
144

The graded sample footage from the Axiom is full of heavy blocked-up shadows. The one-second glimpse of flat footage shows just muddy grey shadows. What's driving the sensor? Apertus doesn't say; they just talk about "sending commands" to the sensor as if it were a digital device. Seems like they're using some off-the-shelf part to drive the sensor, and it's crap. Oh, I hear you saying: This is alpha hardware and things will improve. But why do you think Sony and Panasonic have armies of signal-processing engineers filing patents all day long? Because that stuff is not easy. If the Apertus Axiom can pull up its shadows without producing digital oatmeal, I'll be surprised.

September 21, 2014 at 10:09PM

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fjfjjj
81

every sensor of every camera has fixed pattern noise if thats what you are referring to. every camera corrects that. thats really not that hard as you make it sound.

if you are referring to the poor youtube encoding then, i dont think there is much one can say in this matter.

patents are not getting filed all day long because of these stuff being hard. patents and this whole system belong to the legal domain, nothing to do with engineering. you really want to open a discussion on patents and what they are all about on an article about an Open Source Cinema Camera?

September 22, 2014 at 10:35AM

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aombk
251