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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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.

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! 

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.