The Bigger Picture: The PONF Modular System

If you’ve been following PONF for a while, you already know that we set out to build an extraordinary hybrid camera. Our plans have come a long way since the beginning of the year and we wanted to give you a comprehensive update. We’re pleased to announce that our vision has recently expanded in dynamic, innovative ways with the support of new partners. 

More Than Just A Camera

As all types of photographers know, no matter what you’re doing with photographs, pressing the shutter button is only the beginning. We aspire to create an entire PONF Modular System, a bespoke ecosystem of supporting accessories and hardware to bring your entire photography workflow together. The PONF Modular System starts with a modular camera body with a film back and digital back, as we have always planned. The mechanical film back will allow one to take advantage of all of the visual characteristics of film or swap (film) backs mid-roll should you have two of them in your PONF System. Think of your favorite film camera, custom built exactly the way you want.

The digital back will capture images on a sensor, but beyond that, it will contain a powerful microcomputer for storing, processing, and sharing images. Think of all the things you do once you capture an image. Maybe you use a card reader to transfer data to a computer, on which you edit the photos using software and share them to some platform using the Internet. The PONF Camera’s Digital Back brings all of that into one device. As mentioned before, the camera will easily be able to connect with the rest of the tools you need in your workflow: a monitor for larger scale viewing, with a tablet and keyboard for retouching. You’ll have ample image storage within the camera itself, and images will back up wirelessly to the cloud thanks to internet connectivity. Because of the programmable and adaptable nature of the PONF System, the limit of the technology is your imagination. As the Internet of Things grows to include more devices that we use every day, it makes sense that a camera should join them. 

Partnerships Beyond Photography

These new developments would not be possible without the support of our partners. The PONF Fellowship is growing. Each of our partner companies believes in what PONF is designing as the future of imaging technology. We are proud to announce that HP (yes, that HP!) has joined our efforts as a production partner in creating imaging solutions, and will be supporting PONF on key aspects of our manufacturing. Their 3D printing technologies will allow us to make the camera in a host of materials: from metals, to wood, to resins and plastics, and beyond. This means really positive things for the look and feel of PONF. 3D printing will also greatly improve the quality and speed of PONF Camera production when it comes to components and accessories alike.

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Potential materials for the PONF Modular System

The second partner which is particularly relevant here is our acceptance into the Inception program with Nvidia. Nvidia is a renowned technology company and their Inception program is an accelerator for startups making innovations in the fields of AI and deep learning. You may have wondered how drones and robotics will come in to play – it’s with Nvidia that PONF will be creating imaging solutions of the future, a smart camera capable of working in tandem with self driving/flying devices, and of intelligently categorizing, editing, or otherwise automatically working with your images. This is an integration of photography and IT as has never been available in the past.

Imaging Solutions Like Never Before

But what does this all really mean? Many ideas that we are looking to execute have never before been accomplished before. Yet through dedicated R&D and the support of technologists and designers from around the world, PONF aims to have it all. AI and robotics in photography will allow the camera to not override, but enhance your vision. Can you imagine if your camera had some knowledge of your favorite compositions and color profiles, to create folders of likely selects while you’re shooting? A camera that was wirelessly tethered and sent images directly to a smart TV or monitor for full size viewing in studio? A camera that was able to track motion and recognize pattern on its own? We’ve been imaging this and more, and that’s exactly the kind of things that AI in photography will make possible.

What do you think? What are the futuristic functions that you can dream of your camera having? We’d like to know! Let us know in the comments or complete the PONF Multiback Camera Survey here. You can keep up with project updates by signing up for our newsletter, or following on Instagram and Facebook.

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PONF x Cinestill Film: Bright Analog Future

How’s it going, PONF Fellows? Having a nice start to the summer? As usual, it’s been busy behind the scenes at PONF. We’re ramping up for the presale of the PONF Camera coming later on this year, and planning how to deliver you the best camera we possibly can. That said, we’ve got something exciting to share with you on this #FilmFriday…we will be partnering with the fine folks at Cinestill Film to send rolls of premium 35mm color negative films with the PONF Cameras ordered in the presale!

We didn’t want you to have to wait even a moment before you’re able to put a roll of film into the analog back to give your new camera a test. And we wanted your very first 35mm roll to be the best of the best. That’s why we’re going to be sending exclusively Cinestill films along with it, so there will be nothing holding you back from taking your first amazing PONF photos on film when the camera arrives. That’s what PONF stands for, of course! I don’t know about you, but I’m always eager to hear the first clicks of the shutter in my new cameras.

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Brandon and Brian Wright, creators and cofounders of CineStill Film, have been innovating and charging ahead into the future of film photography for the past few years. That’s part of the reason that we’re so excited to be partnering up with them. Their film is creating a new gold standard in color negative films, thanks to their own innovation, which you’ll read about below. We went behind the scenes with Brian and Brandon to learn about their own personal history of photography, their adventure into film making, and finally, their thoughts on PONF. Enjoy!

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PONF: Where are you from, and where are you now?

Brian: We were born in the LA area, with a stint in Seattle during our formative years. Now we are back in LA.

Brandon: Hollywood, to be specific.

Do you have a favorite photograph that you’ve taken? Can you remember the moment you took it?

Brian: No. I don’t think I have a favorite, actually. They are like your children, you know?

Brandon: Some you love. Others, you are really disappointed in how they turn out.

Brian:  Man. That was good actually.

Brandon: Thank you.

Brian: Super messed up though…

What is your earliest memory with photography?

Brian: My mom’s ultrasound.

Brandon: [Eyes Rolling] No. Taking pictures on our dad’s Olympus OM-1 while skateboarding.

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What about your first encounter with digital photography?

Brandon: We got a free HP digital camera that came with our family computer.

Brian: It was fun to play with and get instant feedback. Anything we cared about we also shot on film.

Brandon: Actually, I think we may still have those files somewhere…

So what are your favorite film(s) and cameras or image making equipment /processes so far?

Brian: [Smiling] Our favorite film is anything CineStill.

Brandon: HA!

Brian: And the camera I have with me is my favorite.

Brandon: [Another Eye Roll] Come on.  We love our Leica M2. Pentax 67ii.

Brian: And our Rollei TLR. I can keep going.

Brandon: Yeah.  I guess whichever one we have with us.

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Tell us about the journey of Cinestill. As long or short as you wish!

Brian: About seven years ago now, when we were strictly doing the photographer and film maker thing, we recognized some of the more special characteristics of motion picture technology and emulsions. We set out to find a way to adapt it so we could use it to make still photos.  So, I guess the initial concept was actually pretty selfish.

Brandon: Hahaha. It was purely selfish! We wanted to shoot movie film in our Leicas. That’s it! So we started figuring out how to do that.

Brian: We began posting our results online so people could see how cool motion picture film looked when it was shot as stills – especially in low light. 

Brandon: Our friends and other professionals started messaging us asking if they could get some as well. But no one seemed willing to jump through all the hoops we did in order to shoot it.

Brian: Until then, it really didn’t occur to us that other people would necessarily want this.

Brandon: Yeah. We were essentially just tinkering for our own reasons. But enough people started showing interest that we said, “Oh yeah. If we want it others might too.”

Brian:  So we started trying to make it available to our friends and colleagues. Fast-forward seven years and here we are.  Making film for people around the world.

Brandon: So cool.

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What was the biggest challenge? The biggest surprise?

Brian: The biggest challenge so far was probably making CineStill in medium format.  It was kind of a monumental undertaking. Bigger than we realized initially.

Brandon: Yeah, I agree. I think it just took way more resources and capital. It makes sense now, but at the time, we were hoping the path to large scale manufacturing was going to be smoother than it was.  But we did it. And it took a lot of support from the film community to make it happen.

Brian: I think that connects to the biggest surprise as well, which is the degree of support we have had from the global photography community – pretty much from the beginning. 

Brandon: I agree. It completely blew us away. Within our first six months of launching, people started sending us images from all over the world that they shot on film we made. 

Brian: We were stunned.  It was so exciting. 

Brandon: Yeah – such a great feeling.

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From where you stand, what do you think the future holds for photography?

Brandon: I think things are headed in a great direction right now.  Look, nothing will supplant digital photography, or the tech that is driving it.  It is here to stay and it is super cool. But something interesting that came out of the “digital vs. film” days is that it gave serious  photographers, hobbyists and enthusiasts an alternative place to go. A place to explore. Now, more than ever, people – young people – are exploring film alongside digital. Many for the first time ever! And it is capturing people’s hearts and creative energy like never before. I don’t think this kind of passion over available mediums ever would have happened without the digital revolution. 

Brian: For sure. The market seems to be exploding with newcomers to film shooting. And it really is a renaissance fueled by the merging of old and new ideas. The future is so bright!

What are some of your initial thoughts on the film and digital PONF Camera? 

The PONF camera seems like a great option for those of us who shoot both film and digital and appreciate the benefits of each medium. As film photographers who love film, I think we’ve all dreamed of having the ability to switch seamlessly from shooting film for the images we really care about to shooting digital while still using the same 35mm camera system.

How might you customize one — what does your modular dream camera look like? What special programs does it have?

We would love to see a true optical rangefinder camera in Leica M mount that can shoot both film and digital backs. Add to that the ability to switch the front module to an SLR-style viewfinder/mount and you could easily fill out a full system with longer lenses. In terms of special programs, it would be great if the digital back could upload files to the cloud via wifi and scan 35mm film negatives to the memory card.

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Let’s end with your advice to another photographer but with a twist: Five words or less or a Haiku.

SHOOT MORE FILM!

The PONF “Tell Your Friends & Test The Camera” Contest

Dearest Fellows, we talk a lot about our revolutionary camera. We imagine by now, you’ve become quite eager to test it for yourself. This is your chance! We’ll be producing our first prototypes soon, and want to let you, our community, in on this excitement. If you help us spread the word about the PONF Multiback Camera, you could be the first lucky tester!

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Starting today until the end of June, we will be having a contest to see who can help us spread the word about PONF the farthest. To reward the winner who tells the most friends, we will make you our honorary First Testing Fellow. You’ll be one of the first to work with a prototype of the camera, letting us know your feedback and sharing your results with the PONF Community and the world. It’s an exciting opportunity for anyone who has been following the project to be a part of the development and feedback process.

It’s easy to enter! First, visit the Tell A Friend, Test The Camera page and fill the form, letting us know how you learned of the project, and let us know anyone you’d like us to tell. Each friend whose email you share will count as an entry towards the grand prize. Then to tell more friends, it’s as easy as this: just spread the word about the PONF Camera by sharing the link. Your friends will enter their names with you in the “Who told you” section for an additional entry, and then they can spread the world to anyone they know who might be interested in this camera which will truly be more than a camera.

Tell the whole world! Everyone you know, not just the photographers. PONF is a powerful imaging tool for the curious, the experimenters, the computer programmers, the artists, the bloggers, fashionistas, trendsetters, the innovators, and of course, your friend that always has the latest tech.

What vision will our winner capture and share? How will unique imaging solutions fit into their lives? We’re excited to see! Check back in a few days for the leaderboard, to see how you rank in the contest. Good Luck!

Moving Forward: Our First Working Camera Using Raspberry PI

We’re thrilled to show you a sneak peek into the progress of the PONF Camera. We’ve got a simple prototype that works!

Maybe along the way you’ve asked, what is Raspberry PI, and how are we using it to make a fully programmable camera? Here we’ll explore exactly what this tiny yet powerful system can do and how we’re using to power the PONF systems. And more importantly, how you, the proud owner of your PONF Camera, will be using it too! One of our favorite aspects about this technology is how accessible it is to dive in and learn to create different functions for your camera. That’s the benefit of uniting computers and photography.

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The Raspberry PI itself, in case you’re not familiar, is a fully functional computer with all necessary components to operate programs and perform various tasks. It connects to a display and will use a program to communicate between the sensor and the Raspberry PI, operated by the user via the touch screen. You can see below the Raspberry PI is connected to the 7″ screen, along with the other cables needed for this model. In this very first version, we’ve used a ribbon cable to connect a small sensor to the Raspberry PI. This provides a working camera, but not a great one like we’re envisioning. The final PONF Camera will have its own printed circuit board which communicates the vast amount of information needed to create an image once captured by the high resolution sensor to the main computer for processing. At its very simplest, this is how digital photography works.

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We connected the screen, the Raspberry PI, and a sensor. What’s next? Programming the functions. This very first version has the ability to capture still and video images, and is also connected to wifi. The basic programming language used is Python, which in brief, is an object oriented, simple code used to give the commands to the Raspberry PI. Right now, these are only the simple commands noted above: Take a picture, record a video, and connect to the web browser.

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As you know however, these simple functions will only be the beginning. In the finished camera, one will be able to select one menu to control all functions of the camera. Another menu will allow access to the display of the camera, where you’ll be able to make changes to the way the camera’s controls are set up. A third menu will allow access to other devices, like printers, monitors, external storage, and more. We’ll teach you to create all the functionality you want using the simple code structure.

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Do you have any questions? Let us know!

Given that we are an Open Source Project, we are PONF are excited to keep our community updated on our progress, and look forward to sharing the official renderings of the camera and our first corresponding prototypes.

In the meantime, we’ll keep you in the loop on how things are progressing. The best way to follow the project is by signing up for our Newsletter! You can also follow us on Instagram and Facebook.

PONF x SONY Update: BIG Things To Come

PONF has a big vision for camera modularity. We see modularity as the key to the ability to create an ecosystem of camera bodies, lenses, systems, and formats that can be exchanged in and out depending on who is using them and how.

Sometimes you need something fast and light. Other times, the situation calls for the process to slow down and see things in stunning, highest possible definition, and you simply need the ability to capture more light. That’s where medium format comes in.

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Even before the first PONF Camera, which will be based on the 35mm format and have either APS-C or Full Frame Sony imaging sensor, is on the market, we already have eyes on the future to release something BIGGER.

In partnership with our friends at Sony, PONF is pleased to announce that we will be officially using their 100MP sensors in the second family of PONF products, allowing users to seamlessly alternate between medium format film and medium format digital. Our democratic pricing structures will make this technology to professionals, educators, and consumers alike for the first time in history.  Gone are the days where only the top dollar professionals could access top of the line sensors. At PONF, it’s preeminence to the people!

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Also gone are the days of having to consider analog photography a “risk”. PONF offers both imaging solutions of film and digital side by side. You can have the immediate gratification and “fail proof” option of digital, but you can also have the physical, tangible, undeletable aspect of film. Not to mention both looks, highly sought after by artists and clients alike. Bye bye, presets! 

For everyone that’s ever dreamed of creating amazing, and wished they had access to their dream camera to bring it to life, the time has come. PONF, the Everything Camera, will be yours to explore the world with soon!

Stay in the know! Be sure to follow PONF Camera progress on our Facebook, Instagram, and by signing up for our newsletter.

What Would YOU Do With A Fully Programmable Camera?

PONF set out last year to make the best camera for everyone. There are so many cameras in the world, each one perhaps uniquely suited to different types of photography and the endless amount of subject matter on the globe. Even if they had identical camera tastes, would a wedding photographer need the same type of camera as a medical research photographer in the lab? Perhaps, but perhaps not. They undoubtedly have different goals for their images.

This question of customization not only refers to the physical form of your camera, but the way the camera’s digital back is configured from a software perspective. You know the PONF Camera will be a film and digital hybrid, allowing you to shoot film and digital seamlessly by interchanging the backs. Beyond simply being modular, the PONF Camera will be customizable thanks to the Linux operating system. What does a custom camera mean? Maybe you’ve never even considered the idea.

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Or maybe you have. In our Internet of Things World, more and more objects which before had to be connected with cables or tethered to computers in order to communicate data are now Wifi Enabled. This opens a whole new world of technology, so now, we’re setting the bar high for not only a camera which has Internet of Things connectivity, but also uses it to the fullest. Transferring files to cloud storage wirelessly? Special in-camera scanning software to digitize your negatives? The ability to control peripheral equipment like audio gear or drones? That’s just the beginning. And, it’s only the ideas we’ve had, and we aren’t the photographers PONF is creating the camera for…YOU are!

We’ve chosen Linux as the operating system of the microcomputer which drives the digital back because it’s easy to approach from a programming standpoint. Just like PONF has been an Open Project through the development phase, so it will stay, allowing any programmer the opportunity to give the camera their own personal touch. If you’re not a programmer, it’s no problem. Our team will be happy to consult with you on your needs, to create menus and functionality according to your ideas and specifications. That’s the magic of uniting programming, IoT, and photography. Anything is possible!

So, we want to know, how would you use your PONF Camera’s programmability? What custom functions would you teach your camera? What extra access? We’re excited to hear what our brilliant community can dream up!

Tell us your ideas in the comments below, and be sure to follow PONF Camera progress on our Facebook, Instagram, and by signing up for our newsletter.

What’s The PONF Configurator Tool, Anyway?

By Katherine Phipps

BONUS: More Tech Specs Revealed!

We’ve said time and time again that the PONF Camera is completely customizable, and perhaps you wondered at some point what that meant. It’s an interesting concept, and perhaps one that doesn’t exist in cameras so much as it does in computers. Actually, that we can think of, there has not been a fully customizable camera so far.

For example, say you (or more specifically, me, a freelance creative working on all types of projects) need a super fast processor and great screen resolution for image processing, but you could cut a bit of cost by choosing a slightly smaller SSD in your laptop. Each component of the laptop is selected according to one’s personal needs. Of course, there are “popular setups” which could be a combination of features and settings that a broad group of people would get a lot of use from. We plan to have something like that too.

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So now, returning to the conversation about cameras, imagine the things that you do and don’t like about cameras that you do and don’t like. If you’ve used a lot of different gear (especially older cameras, and larger ones) you might have a few more preferences than someone who has less tactile experience. One of the most important decisions you’ll make is which lens mount your camera will have. From there, you will also be able to choose the size, body shape, weight, material finish, location of strap lugs, and more. And that’s just for the physical appearance!

Lens Mounts Canon (FL/FD, EF/EF-S), Pentax K, Nikon F, Sony A, M42 Sony E, Micro 4/3 M39 / LSM
Format/ Body Size Reflex: 35mm body with grip (long flange focal distance)  Mirrorless: 35mm small body (i.e. with flange focal distance shorter than rangefinder)  Rangefinder: 35mm mid body (flange focal distance shorter than SLRs)

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The digital back will be much more fully customizable for those who have greater technology needs, starting with the size of the sensor. For those unfamiliar, the larger the size of the sensor, the greater the area resolution of the photograph in its uncompressed form, which ultimately leads to a photograph of greater detail. It’s exactly the same as the difference between 35mm and medium format film. One isn’t superior, but does have objectively greater resolution.

Sensor Options: SONY APS-C SONY Full Frame Medium format 50MP (coming 2019!) Medium format 100MP (coming 2019!)

Along with resolution one will be able to determine the processing speed of their camera. A range of frames per second (FPS) will serve more professional and high speed shooters if one desires to use their camera this way.

FPS: APS-C Entry level 1 FPS Top Tier 3 FPS
FPS: Full Frame Entry level 1.5 FPS Top Tier 5 FPS

For other particular use cases, the custom functions might come from the software side rather than hardware. Say you plan to use your PONF digital back to digitize (scan) your negatives using a lightbox. We could create a program within the digital back to make sure an action easy, correcting exposure and perhaps even creating color profiles from within the digital back itself. Maybe you need your digital back (with its wifi capabilities) to be able to operate a drone. We can do this. Imagine the possibilities!

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So, no matter what you’ll use the camera for, we can help make it the best camera for the job, and something that’s built to last. What will you use your camera for? Comment below!

The Many of Uses For Cameras

By Katherine Phipps

Remember cameras?

Real cameras. Because our quest is to produce a camera for all, we at PONF spend a lot of time thinking about the uses of cameras. Before smartphones were packing imaging sensors as sophisticated as my first DSLR and making simulated bokeh, it seemed to be a lot more common that people every now and then would get themselves a new camera. Or maybe they’d get one handed down from their family. Cameras used to be built to last, silently clicking frames to freeze moments of time as it passed by.

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A Time Before Ubiquity

I remember an interesting intersection of time when people had all types of cameras. People had point and shoots of varying cool automatic capabilities. Pro photogs had cameras with big battery grips and lenses like soup cans, many elements of heavy glass, artsy photographers had beautiful view cameras and old, mechanical 35mm and medium format cameras that had silently witnessed the 60s and 70s. People had Polaroids, and didn’t say “that still exists?!” in amazement when you went to snap a photo.

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Enter the “camera phone” which seemed to for some period of time distract us from the wonders of having a dedicated camera, so much so that to “non-photographers” grow accustomed to shooting photos and now the people taking pictures who never had a dedicated camera perhaps outweighs the number of people who did have a “real camera” and carried it around for some period of their lives, and far less who do so on a regular basis today.

There’s a Million Reasons  To Carry A Camera

So here is a list of all of the uses for photography, in case you were wondering how you might use your new PONF camera. We are excited to help people remember cameras. Do you have another idea for a way to use a camera? Write us a comment with your own ideas below!

  1. Taking photos of your friends
  2. Taking photos of your family
  3. Taking photos of your dog or cat
  4. Taking photos of all the dogs
  5. Taking photos of beautiful light
  6. Wedding photography
  7. Art photography
  8. Landscape photography
  9. Travel photography
  10. News photography
  11. Documenting injustice
  12. Documenting kindness
  13. Documenting everything
  14. Sharing perspective
  15. Wildlife photography
  16. Astrophotography (photographs of the night sky)
  17. Photography for research
  18. Photography for forensics
  19. Photography for education (literally, pictures of Everything!)
  20. Photography for advertising
  21. Photos of products
  22. Food photography
  23. Stock photography
  24. Fashion photography
  25. Historical photographs (the moments are happening right now, folks!)
  26. Medical photography
  27. Architectural photography
  28. Industrial photography
  29. Interior photography
  30. Photo Booths
  31. Event Photography
  32. Concert Photography
  33. Album Art
  34. The Yearbook
  35. Personal photography (a record of your own intimate time and place)
  36. Look around. Tell us the next best use for your camera.

PONF is the Everything Camera.

So there you have it, folks. So many reasons to carry a camera, so many opportunities to look up and around, away from your smartphone. You’ll notice so much more of what’s happening around you, if you only open your eyes. The PONF Camera Systems seek to put all of the possibilities at your fingertips. No matter what your camera will witness on the day to day, we are here to build it perfectly for you.

Stock Photography sourced from Pexels.com

HIRING: PONF GmbH is seeking to grow!

Camera Lovers and Engineering Experts Wanted!

We are hiring! Attention all Engineers, makers, gurus, programmers and integration experts who love photography!

We are looking for several motivated individuals with a variety of different skill sets to occupy several critical development roles on the PONF team. If you have been wishing that a brand new camera company was going to come along and not only ask you how a camera should be made, but give you a good job on the team producing it…well, it’s your lucky day, because that’s literally what’s happening. It’s not too good to be true. The team at PONF works hard and is committed to supporting one another in order achieve the vision that has been called impossible, bringing a hybrid film and digital camera to life.

All serious applicants should be motivated, enthusiastic, dedicated, and available now, as we are planning to grow rapidly in Q2 and beyond. These positions will begin in the near future, but once accepted, individuals will have the opportunity to learn proprietary information, join internal discussions, and begin concepting immediately. A signing bonus of One PONF Camera will be offered. To apply, please email your resume and a short cover letter to Raffaello Palandri at Raffaello@ponfcamera.com and let us know, if unlimited by time and money you could have any roll of film, and camera, and any lens in the world, what would you choose and then what would you photograph with that roll? And, if that question does not apply to you (it might not, and you will still be a brilliant member of our team, see the job descriptions below) please let us know what you find inspiring, about something that you find inspiring. We are looking forward to meeting hearing from you!

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Positions Available

Electronics Engineer:

Essential skills:

  • Electronic engineering expertise: you are able to rapidly and efficiently draw electronics and design boards from data-sheets
  • FPGA knowledge: you are able to select available off the shelf solutions or design and program a FPGA

Specialized Electronics Engineer:

Essential skills:

  • Specific Visual Electronic engineering expertise: you have a specific knowledge in vision sensors, i.e. cameras and scanners
  • LVDS and MIPI knowledge: you have a deep understanding of the two, and are able to design electronic solutions with both.

Integration Expert:

Essential skills:

  • Experience with Raspberry PI and/or Raspberry PI Compute Module 3: you are able to use, program, hack the board at easily and customize it with the intention of using it for specific functions

Programmer:

Essential skills:

  • Experience with driver stacks: you know the Linux device driver stack and you are able to write drivers to connect a visual imaging sensor to the Raspberry PI
  • You are able to compile Linux drivers and could make an embedded version for a camera

Programmer/ Photography Expert:

Essential skills:

  • Experience in image processing: you know the basic of raw images processing, the key algorithms to improve them

Mechatronics Expert:

Essential skills:

  • Experience working in mechatronics and electromechanical components: you will help in design and make the shutter of the camera.

The Man Behind the Camera: Meet PONF Founder Raffaello Palandri

In our interview series introducing the different members of the PONF team, you might have started to wonder who was the creator of this ambitious, innovative company. Rest assured, we didn’t forget about Raf, he has just been SO busy behind the scenes in thousands of hours of meetings, strategy development, and research, that we weren’t able to share this interview with you until now, but here it is! Without further ado: introducing PONF’s founder and director, Raffaello Palandri.

A lifelong user of film and digital cameras, Raffaello also brings to PONF many years of wisdom in leading large, complex IT projects. He applies this knowledge of quality, teams and systems to execute his vision and successfully create a camera that many others have talked about for years but never quite managed to bring fully to market. He is busily networking within the photography industry to create a new kind of camera company, one that is a friend and collaborator of all, to create a future for film photography that is sustainable and accessible to all.

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Where are you from, where did you grow up? Where are you living now?

I was born in Florence, Italy (its Italian name is Firenze), but I grew up mostly in Rome. When I started working on the idea of an innovative camera, I had the luck of finding in my best friend, my soulmate, Tiziana. To start the PONF Multiback Open Camera Project we moved to Dunfermline, Scotland, the old Capital of Scotland, before Edinburgh got the job. After the vote on Brexit, we decided to move to Germany, and after a few weeks in search of the perfect spot, we chose Nuremberg, Bavaria (and to be more precise in Middle Franconia).

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What is your earliest memory with photography?

I have memories of me keeping my mum’s Olympus Pen when I was probably only 4 years old. I still have that camera, and I love its silent shutter and the pleasant smell of the leather bag, that reminds me my family and my childhood.

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Describe your first encounter with digital photography.

My first digital camera has been the Konica Minolta Dynax (Maxxum in the USA) 5D. I still use as avatar a selfie taken with that camera. I was amazed by the technology, having always been the guy that disassembled everything he had on his hands. So, I started shooting both film and digital, never leaving film, though.

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What is your favorite film and camera or image making equipment/process?

Apart from PONF? I love 6×6 cameras and, being a collector, I developed a passion for TLRs (twin lens reflex). I love their design, the sound of their shutter.
For image making, 4×5 is a really lovable format. It generates fantastic images, and you can do everything at home, development and printing.

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What has your career been like? What are some of your favorite or most formative past projects or roles?

I had the luck of getting good experience in managing projects, including very large ones. I think I had many different roles on the same ladder. I have always worked in IT related jobs/projects, from really humble roles to managing ones. What I always loved about working in IT is the huge potential computers have in helping us, if we are able not to lose our humanity searching profit. I have been a quality manager, and from that role I have learned how to follow any process in detail, something that now is becoming essential in the development of our camera.

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How did you get involved with PONF?

I had the idea, I did the research, and I bootstrapped the company until now. I have been lucky in finding many people interested in the project, including the many companies and institutions which are supporting us in different ways. We are building up a team, and that’s important. I would like to find our project, in a five years time, deeply rooted in the photographic industry and development. We are investing to help people learn how to make better photographs, how to write with light.

 

Tell us about your role with the project, recent successes, in progress developments, etc.

Formally I am the director of the company that runs the project and the head of R&D. Using less official words, I am one of the team who is developing this amazing camera.
We are generating a lot of interest around the project, making every day steps forward, learning from our mistakes, considering them as opportunities to better learn. We are now teaming up with amazing companies, amazing institutions, amazing people. We can boldly say that we are small, but we are growing strong.

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What are you interested in besides photography?

Well, I am Curiosity with a capital C. I am an avid reader, and I usually read 150 books per year, in addition to those required by my job. I am a tinkerer, I like to touch things and learn how they work to improve them. I love calligraphy and collect writing instruments. Apart from that, I relax practicing meditation (one day I will come back to teach it) and ki development.

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Let’s end with your advice to another photographer but with a twist: Ten words or less or a Haiku.

Follow the light
the one outside you
the one inside

Great Haiku! Thanks Raf. You can drop Raf a line at raffaello@ponfcamera.com, and follow him at his website, Twitter, Instagram, and blog, as well as on the PONF Facebook, Instagram, and newsletter. So many ways to get in touch!