Zollhof Tech Incubator Welcomes PONF to Their Roster

We say constantly that PONF is being brought to life with hundreds of hours of hard work, meetings, networking and more, and it’s paying off in huge, tangible ways. If you’ve been skeptical that this dream camera is only a dream, it’s time to reconsider! Development is picking up to double time.

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Here’s our latest big news: we are incredibly proud to announce that PONF has been selected to participate in the prestigious Zollhof Tech Incubator. Zollhof is a collective of incredibly talented entrepreneurs and innovators in Nürnberg who give resources and support to ambitious tech startups with big ideas. Through their internal resources and connections, they have helped many projects related to Internet of Things, Big Data, AI, and other forward thinking fields flourish and succeed. They say, “We take on the role of a company builder, we’re focused on your needs and will pave your road towards success.” PONF plans to take full advantage of all of it, as it means that we get to bring something better to the photography community, and faster.

What does this mean for our team? As of this official announcement, we’ll begin using the resources available at Zollhof and next steps are in the fast track: renderings, prototyping, and finally, the launch of our presale.

More importantly though, what does this mean for you, followers and friends of the PONF Fellowship? It means that we’re entering our critical pre-launch phase and we need and appreciate your support more than ever. Tell your friends and colleagues that the next greatest camera will be arriving before the end of the year. Share our blog posts, follow along on Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for our Newsletter. And, don’t forget to start planning how you’ll design your PONF Camera.

The hybrid future of analog and digital photography is here!

 

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Dear PONF Fellows: A Note From Founder Raffaello Palandri

By Raffaello Palandri

Dear Fellows,

Yes, you should know that you are my fellows in this journey. By this point, you might be wondering what it means to create a camera like the PONF Camera.

Usually one can see the final product of a company, but has no or very little understanding of what happens behind the curtains, behind the scenes.

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But as we’ve mentioned a few times before, PONF is different. We are not the typical company. Boldly, excitedly, we want you to know that we are not afraid to show the world how this camera is coming to life. Let it be an inspiration to every entrepreneur with a dream! 

PONF is currently in the prototyping phase. This means that we reached the first peak of our ascent. The path has not been easy. We encountered difficulties, delays, and we made mistakes. But we didn’t stop. Every single thing, even if negative, has something to be learned from. Arriving to a prototype means that you managed to pass through countless hours of meetings, drafts, documents, phone calls, travel.

Let’s look back at the last 3 months, the fastest paced period of the project until now.

We, the founders, moved here to Nürnberg in November 2017, after having established PONF GmbH in October. We from Scotland, as we considered Germany the best place to bring this camera to life from a business perspective.

From November 5th to today (roughly 110 days), we’ve attended more than 70 meetings, travelling throughout Germany to meet companies, institutions, Universities, banks, investors.

So far, we’ve met more than 500 people (I kept the business cards) and pitched the project 62 times.

We’ve prepared more than 2000 pages of documents, mainly project documents, to prepare the next phases with the partners such as an industrial designer to create our prototype, along with financial plans, to convince banks and investors to step into the project.

And the result? All this hard work has been rewarded. We have secured some great partnerships, with surely more to come as our organization and vision continue to expand.

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We’ve secured new technology components to use on the cameras from Sony. We will be developing new kinds of optical products with Gossen. The big photography players are paying attention. We have also started developing R&D projects for the cameras to come. We are going to build a system designed to last.

We also improved our business model. We want you to be sure that your camera will be made to the highest standards. We are getting three ISO certifications: ISO 9001 (quality management), ISO 14000 (environmental management), ISO 27001 (IT security).

We have met some amazing creatives through the PONF Fellowship already, and we want to meet many more. Your project – as this is not only ours, it’s yours too – is growing stronger and stronger. We are looking for participation instead of competition, inclusiveness instead of corporate walls, transparency instead of cold speak.

One last note on all of this: unlike some other young photography companies, we will not be running a crowdfunding campaign. We want to use every single cent to develop a better camera. We believe you deserve that.

So, we will soon start a pre-sales campaign. You will be able to select the camera with the finish and accessories you want, as well as configure the software and the functions of the camera, if you need it. We want to be bound by a sale contract with you even from the beginning, to let you know that we are bold and fearless even in our marketing and sales strategies.

Now, may I please ask for your help, dear Photo Enthusiasts? This is the time to show your support to the project. This is the time to share the news, to help us grow even faster. We will keep up the pace, don’t worry.

Help us. Donate to the PONF project. Even a small contribution will help keep our team running. Check the PONF Shop often, as we plan to keep adding products that you can buy to support the Foundation. You can also follow our news and updates on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to sign up for the PONF Newsletter.

Design in Mind: Meet Industrial Designer Vincent Bihler

In this interview, we meet Vincent Bihler, another creative with many talents to join the PONF team. Vincent is an award winning industrial designer who’s brought many products to life, all the way from concept to execution and looks forward to applying the many principles on form and function he’s learned along the way to the PONF Camera. He is currently building the first proof of concept for the first analog back of the PONF system.

He brings to the project plenty to experience with cameras as he’s been an avid film photographer since he was introduced to the medium at age 16, just before leaving home to study Industrial Design. Since then, he’s honed these two crafts equally, developing especially an impressive eye for photographic scale and space. When asked to name his favorite film and format, he quickly named several classic, photophile’s dream setups, so we are confident he will deliver nothing but excellence in the creation of the PONF Camera, a new classic standard in analog and digital photography! 

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

I am from France and grew up in Elsass, very close to the German and Swiss borders. I then moved to the region of Bordeaux, where the famous wine is produced. I also lived in north of France, in Sweden, then back in Paris, and now Lyon… So many places have built the person I am.

What is your earliest memory with photography?

I was offered my first camera at age 16, it all started from there. A little bit later, I found a beautiful Canon AE1 in a flea market, early in the morning. I could not stop shooting with these nice cameras!

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Describe your first encounter with digital photography.

Digital came later. I tried Fuji cameras at first to keep the film look, then I used Nikons for paid studio work. I think their versatility is king there.

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

Easy… Portra 400 and Rolleiflex 2.8F… Or Ilford Delta 100 and Leica M4 + Summicron 35 iv King of Bokeh… Or Trix and 21 Skopar f4 ? … Or Pentax 6×7 with whatever?!

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

I’ve been mostly working as a product and industrial designer. For 4 years I worked at a French tech company called Parrot. I developed some of their latest products to date from scratch: first drawings, ergonomical and usage considerations, shape intentions to the industrialisation with many trips to Hong-Kong Shenzhen for quality controls on the production line. I now have joined a product and industrial design firm (entreautre.com) where I am leading the development of several innovative projects.

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How did you decide to become an industrial designer? Can you say a little bit about what it’s like to follow all the steps in the process of creating a thing from idea to execution?

As long as I can remember, I’ve always been thinking of stuff I could build to fulfill my needs. I built a whole guitar at age 15, because I needed something versatile enough to play different kinds of music with a single instrument. That story actually is quite similar to PONF, right? During my studies (mechanical engineering) I had the opportunity to take several design courses which led me to a specialization in that field for my last year. I went to Sweden where I tried to catch this legendary Scandinavian influence… I was then hired at my first job as an industrial designer after the 2013 James Dyson Awards. I participated with a good friend and won the National 1st prize.

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How did you get involved with PONF?

I contacted Raffaello after having seen that they were looking for people that would like to get involved in the development of the PONF Camera. It was great timing! 😊

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

I’m in charge of industrial and mechanical design. We’re currently building a first proof of concept, which is a very simple mechanism that allows us to prove how practical the product will be.

Are you working on analog or digital components or both?

Right now, I am working on analog “mechanical” components. But these will be useful for the digital back also.

Have you always wanted to design a camera or have you ever designed a camera before? Can you talk a bit about what you’re taking into consideration?

5I’ve been thinking about something similar for a long time, but so far, the tech wasn’t ready. My considerations about this project: I don’t think we can fit everyone’s needs with a single object. This is a simple ergonomic rule. Designing a whole ecosystem that leads to strong products clearly different from one to another and that will fit a precise application is the key. I will make no compromise in that direction. We don’t want to see another Frankencamera that is too cumbersome for street photography, nor a Coolpix lacking flexibility for studio shooting…

What are you interested in besides photography?

Design! I love that. I have been playing guitar for a while now… Oh, and film photography rocks.

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

Less is more 😉

Thanks Vincent! To see more of Vincent’s work, visit his website or follow him on Instagram.

A Blossoming Community: The First PONF Partnerships

We have mentioned more than once that PONF is a new kind of camera company, but what does that really mean? One of the cornerstones to our vision of this company is that it not only be a company that makes cameras, but a company that builds bridges in the photography industry to truly serve photographers of all levels of interest and experience.

At PONF we are committed to never compete within the photography industry, but be a friend and collaborator to all who want to push the ability to the modern photographer forward. We are particularly dedicated to serving the international film community, as we believe that film photography should be preserved for the generations to come and this is dependent on companies that care more about the medium than the bottom line.

We are grateful for the established photography companies who already at the outset of this project have provided PONF with so much support and will allow us to use their expertly developed components to make our camera the best it can be. Sony will be providing us with APS-C and Full-Frame sensors and their new M-OLED electronic viewfinders. We are prepared to integrate them into the best digital workflow a DSLR can offer, fully customizable according to each person’s individual needs. Because the digital back is operated by the RaspberryPI Compute Module 3, it can be endlessly programmed for specific functions according to individual needs. But beyond that, the camera’s onboard operating system will also allow for cloud connection, drone operation, and more.

The German company Gossen made the first light meter in 1933 by taking advantage of the photoelectric characteristics of selenium which made it possible to develop a reliable instrument by means of which the photographer was able to measure light for his shots, instead of working with estimated values or tables. PONF Founder Raffaello Palandri always had a special appreciate for Gossen meters as he used one for his whole life, during his many years of shooting all kinds of analog cameras and processes. We are pleased to announce that Gossen light meters will be available to those who purchase PONF Cameras or join the PONF Fellowship at a special price.

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From a developmental perspective, PONF is pleased to announce the interest in our project of The Fraunhofer, the largest Research & Development institution in Germany. Specifically, Fraunhofer IZM is the branch that deals with the reliability and the microintegration of the electronic components. This means that they are specialized in making electronic components smaller and more reliable. The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS is one of the world’s leading application-oriented research institutions for microelectronic and IT system solutions and services. We are pleased to report that the Fraunhofer has invited the PONF developers to participate in their startup incubator program, which will begin very soon. It’s easy to see how the support of these renowned teams and superior equipment and mentorship will push the project forward.

Additionally, we are grateful to our institutional business partners they helped us to start and run the company: GTAI (German Trade and Invest), Berlin Partner, and Invest in Bavaria; and of course, the entire PONF team, all around the world! Check out previous blog posts to learn about our experts and their involvement in-depth. Remember, we have a big announcement coming February 15, so be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

What other companies should PONF collaborate with? We welcome your comments and suggestions, and if you work in a company within the photography industry and would like to get involved with the PONF Fellowship, drop a line to raffaello@ponfcamera.com

 

Some Basic Principles of Photography

At a Glance: Focusing on the basic fundamentals of light, chemistry, and mechanics which make analog and digital photography possible

What is a Photograph? What is a Camera?

Photography is the act of capturing an impression of light or the lack thereof on surfaces and landscapes. The meaning of photo is “light” and the meaning of graphy is “writing, literally “light-writing.” In its most rudimentary form, the act of taking a photograph is recording the light waves on a light sensitive plane through a relatively small, round opening in a completely dark chamber. This model is scalable to any size and can be complex or incredibly simple. A room can be a camera obscura, or a painted and taped up shoebox with no lens, just a pinhole (you don’t know anguish until your pinhole camera is stolen from the high school darkroom when you still hadn’t managed to make a decent enough exposure from it), or a beautiful metal analog camera lovingly handmade in the 1970s, or a complex array of lens elements and electronics and sensors which make up today’s digital cameras. These are all cameras.

pexels-photo-247807A view camera, which is simple in construction yet yields incredibly high resolution images from 4×5 sheet film.

Photography Basics

You may wonder, if it’s so simple, how then are photographs made? Whatever your type of camera, you have a chamber which allows the light sensitive plane to be protected in complete darkness, and an opening which is currently closed. When the opening opens, an exposure is made, and a photograph results. More light from the scene means a brighter photograph, and less light means a darker photograph. Photos can be both too bright or too dark, so using a light meter to get an idea of the “correct” exposure for the scene is very helpful, as some planes used for photography handle more or less exposure in different ways.

A mindful photographer bears in mind three aspects that control the light communicated from their subject/scene to their intended plane of capture:

  • Aperture
    • The aperture is the round, relatively small opening in the completely dark chamber. More specifically, the numeric value or f-stop assigned to the aperture describe its size, which among other things determines how much light passes through at a time. Small numbers (f/1.4) correspond to large openings and large values correspond to small openings (f/64)
  • Shutter Speed
    • Shutter speed is the amount of time the aperture is open for, usually a fraction of a second. For example, one fifteenth of a second is expressed as 1/15. One one-thousandth is written as 1/1000. This is a fast shutter speed. Exposures can also be very long, 8s or 8 seconds, or even thirty minutes!
  • ASA/ISO/Film Speed/Plane Sensitivity
    • Whether you’re using a film or digital camera, there is a fixed value which describes how sensitive the film or digital sensor is to light, and this is referred to by any number of the terms above.

Key Differences Between Film and Digital

Here’s the way I see it, and you don’t have to believe me. I present my case as a user of both formats and believer that they are different, necessary, and crucial to the amazing ecosystem of tools we have as modern photographers. The difference between film photography and digital photography in theory and practice, maybe not so different at first. A camera is still a camera and a photography is still a photograph. Exposure and color still remain critical, but can be adjusted later on so long as they were captured in a way that passes certain criteria. But in process and materials, which matter a whole lot to artists, which by definition are people who make images to express things, there is a whole world of difference.

pexels-photo-133070Color negative film, which is usually an amber-brown color once processed

Very basically, film is (usually) a transparent support coated with a light sensitive chemistry. When an exposure is made on the film, light brightness and the concept we call color affect areas of the film differently. The film must be kept in complete darkness before and after the exposure, until it is treated with a chemical process to reveal the latent image. In most photographic process, this produces a negative which is printed or scanned by passing light back through to create a final image. The areas that become white on a print (sky and clouds, for example), have more silver on the negative (more silver halide was activated), allowing less light to pass through the negative to the paper. The areas that would be dark on the print have less silver on the negative to allow more light to pass through to the paper. Each stage and aspect of this process are malleable, specifically so if one has proper knowledge of the physics at play. With proper storage and protection, most photographic processes available now yield a negative that will last forever, which can be reprinted or scanned again and again.

In digital photography, this capture process is relegated to a digital sensor which eliminates the need for chemistry and consumable materials completely. This should be noted as in some ways it provides an advantage to the historically finickey process of film photography, prone to damage by improper exposure, temperature, moisture, and dust and scratches. The digital sensor collects the light information of color and brightness as tiny points called pixels, millions of tiny, indistinguishable pixels forming a high-resolution image. The pixel information is stored as long strings of numerical data on memory cards and hard drives. The archivability of digital photographs is a nuanced topic indeed: while digital files are impervious to the elements in some ways, they are only as permanent on the media on which they are stored in their digital form.

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PONF Camera: Experience As Our Guide

The point is, while you don’t need anything fancy to make a photograph, here we are living in the cartoon space digital Postmodern age. In the relatively short history of photography, the tools and processes available to us as image makers have been advanced, developed, and refined continually to the point where they are nearly limitless. At this point in time, we have access to almost everything that came before and optical precision beyond Louis Daguerre’s WILDEST dreams is now completely ubiquitous, even on the personal level via smartphones. At PONF, we seek to make the epitome of cameras, to provide the very best experience possible to our fellow photographers. We’re combining analog and digital into one seamless, complete workflow, on one camera with interchangeable backs that we hope you’ll learn to use inside and out, as an extension of your vision.

Stay tuned for a big announcement regarding the PONF Camera on February 15th! Until then, you can follow us on Instagram or Facebook, and be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

A Weekly Update – Big Things Ahead!

Hello from the team at PONF! We hope everyone is doing great, and that you’re shooting lots of photographs, wherever you are in the world. We have a lot going on behind the scenes right now, and lots of exciting developments to the camera which are right around the corner, so grab a cup of tea and prepare to get excited about the best camera ever, coming to life very soon!

How soon, you may ask? Well, we are pleased to tell you that the very first PONF Camera will be on the market in mid 2018, with presales opening sometime in the second quarter. This means that this year, directly from the PONF website, you’ll be able to exactly customize your camera, making it unique and personal to your needs with our configurator tool. We’ve got plans for both SLR and Rangefinder PONF Cameras…let us know below in the comments which you’d like to see first.

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As you probably know, PONF is Photography On Film. We have no shortage of ideas for ways our beloved camera will be adaptable for the different films you love. 35mm is just the beginning; by 2019 we plan to create backs to accommodate instant film, 120 film, and large format sheet film. The fearless PONF Camera will allow you to seamlessly shoot multiple formats, making the most of an analog shooting experience.

On the digital side, the PONF camera takes full advantage of sleek, state of the art tech. The digital back will be powered by the powerful, endlessly customizable RaspberryPI Compute Module 3, and will feature Sony sensors, your choice of APS-C or Full-Frame. By 2020 the system will also have a 6×6 digital back, for mind blowing detail made possible by the medium format sensor. We are also developing high quality optics, based on our favorite legacy optics from the years, lenses made with image lovers in mind. This complete system is made to work with your images in a complete workflow, from the snap of the shutter to the scan of your negative and everything in between.

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What is possibly more exciting than the hardware of the PONF camera though, is what we’re planning to do with it. The customization of the digital back will allow each photographer to set up the critical functions of the camera in the way that suits them best, including creating extra accessibility where it’s needed. The camera can even be programmed to connect to and control drones, audio equipment, and more. With integration into the Internet of Things, the camera will have the capability to sharing and backing up directly to the cloud. Video and digital stills are effortless and intuitive because of all of this. There are huge technological and usage implications in this brilliant marriage of expert IT and a deep love for photography in its essence.

Ok, I get it. It sounds fantastic, and perhaps too good to be true. You’ve maybe heard about projects like PONF before, proposing a mythical, modular future for photography but a camera never coming to fruition. We are promising that this is different, the beginning of a new kind of camera company.

We are founding the PONF Fellowship and Foundation for Photographic Education, in which we will feature original courses, lessons, photography exercises (from basic analog to advanced digital to alternative processes and beyond!) made by our partners, photographers working both in the field and in academia. PONF strives to be a happy exchange of knowledge and expertise to invigorate photography and inspire the generations of photographers in the future. We are looking for a community that share the same values and dreams.

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Tirelessly in literally hundreds of hours in meetings, we are now working on the creation of a community of companies, individuals, universities, R&D institutions to improve the knowledge about photography available and improve the quality of the projects we work on. It’s about cooperation, not competition. Our team is made of experts with nearly a combined century of experience and spanning generations, all with a love of this medium which spans a time nearly half the life of photography itself. That’s how you know it’s serious. We are here to make something meaningful.

Like I said, a lot is happening behind the scenes, it’s happening really fast and we are all very excited to report that the progress on this project is steady and very positive. Sign up for the newsletter, tell your friends, write your favorite journalists, let us know your feedback. Our next big announcement comes February 15, but we have more awesome content planned before that. Thanks for reading. Now, go take pictures and don’t forget to label your film rolls.

Katherine

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