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’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 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! 

So It Begins: Industrial Design Partner Selected!

As promised we have something to tell you today. The excitement behind the scenes is mounting at PONF as we move closer and closer to our camera coming to life. The wait just got a little bit shorter and we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are thrilled to announce that we’ve selected an industrial design partner!

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After some meetings and careful consideration, the decision has been made. A great project like PONF needs a great partner for the industrial design, the team which will help to optimize the UX (user experience) and UI (user interface), to create a camera which is truly universally functional. We were searching for a team that shared our passion for this project, and, according to Raffaello Palandri, the founder of PONF, “We nailed it!”

We sincerely hope that our partner will grow with us,  transforming our big ideas for the integration of analog and digital photography into amazing, iconic products.

As the business end of things is still being finalized, we will wait until their proper instruction is prepared before we announce the name and impressive portfolio of the firm, but trust us when we say that in the fluid nature of this project which moves evermore quickly to completion, we are in good hands of these designers! 😉

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Here are a few more hints to keep you excited:

  • They have about ten years of experience creating products in all categories, from home appliances, to personal electronics, to wearables, fitness gear, and more
  • They won several design prizes, including a 2018 German Design Award
  • They are an amazingly creative and innovative team
  • They have worked for companies of all sizes, all around the world.

The other reasons that we chose this particular firm were a bit closer to the heart of the project. We share the same values, the same vision. We want to create a visual narrative that will be bold and modular. We are thinking not only about making a product, but both ourselves and the designers want to create something that will last, like true friendship.

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Stay tuned, as we will shortly reveal the first official renderings of the PONF Camera. Make sure you’re following along on Instagram and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletter.

Focused on Photographs: Meet Gregg McNeill

In this interview, we meet photographer, filmmaker, and educator Gregg McNeill, who joins the PONF team as our key tester of the prototype of the PONF Camera, and leader in the PONF Foundation for Photographic Education, which will provide resources to Fellowship members.  He is currently based in Scotland, but was born in the United States and has lived all over the world, working as a director of photography and photographer on TV and film documentary projects including the acclaimed “Outside The Wire” for The Red, White, And Blue Project, the heartfelt story of soldiers working to make the lives of children better in climate of war in Afghanistan. He has also worked on many other commercial and personal projects. Because of his love of all types of picture-making, from digital filmmaking to traditional (or alternative) photographic processes such as wet plate collodion, we think he is an excellent resource for all of us in the PONF community and his test images are certain to be beautiful. Without further ado, we are pleased to introduce Gregg.

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

Gregg McNeill: I was born in Michigan, grew up in Ohio, moved to Virginia and currently live in Scotland with my wife and daughter.

What is your earliest memory with photography? 

My mother used to take snapshots with a Kodak Instamatic. The ubiquitous form factor of that little camera has stuck with me. It used the blue flashcubes. There were always a few stashed in a drawer in the living room.

Describe your first encounter with digital photography.

I was shooting for a company in Virginia and they had bought a digital camera that I was asked to become proficient in using. It was an early Nikon (I don’t remember the model number).  I was a fairly late adopter of digital photography. This wasn’t intentional, it was just that my personal work wasn’t calling for it. After using several digital cameras, I understood digital’s place in both my professional life as well as my personal work.

Several years ago I was shooting a documentary in Afghanistan. I was shooting both video and stills. There would have been no way to do that job with film. I was a one-man band, with all of my gear carried on my person. In addition to the video gear, I had a Canon 40D (that had just been released), a kit lens, a Nifty-50 and a 35mm 1.4 prime. I shot some of my best portraits with that set-up. Digital was definitely the right tool for that job.

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I feel like in the last 5 or so years, we’ve gotten beyond the Film VS. Digital debate and that is a good thing for the photographic community in general. Both mediums have their place and we need to remember that. Analogue photography is becoming what it was always meant to be, an artistic medium that can be practiced by anyone. It’s not as cheap as it used to be, but any artistic pursuits never are.

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

That is a tough one.

I have a great affection for the Pentax K-1000. It was my first camera. Its shutter clack has always been comforting to me. The K-1000 is in my opinion the very best student camera ever made. It’s very sturdy and has an accurate meter. The 50mm 1.8 lens that came with mine is a great piece of glass. To this day I still shoot with it.  I love the quality of image this camera and lens produce. When coupled with TMAX 3200 and a high acutance developer. The sandy granularity of the images brings to mind the classic looks of old-school street photography from the 40’s and 50’s.

The Original Holga is right up there. At one time I had 5 of them. Each one had a different personality, photographically. I shot exclusively with them for about 5 years. The removal of the inserts meant that I was framing and exposing to the edge of the film itself, often including the edge numbers of the film in the final image. The focus fall off and vignetting combined with the 6×6 format made this a wonderfully challenging camera to shoot with. It’s tough plastic construction meant that they could sit in the bottom of my bag all the time. 2 or 3 Holgas were my constant companions for many years.

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The Bronica ETR always felt really great in my hands. The 2¼ frame was a really nice format for framing objects and people. The tack sharp lens and rectangular frame was a nice compliment to working with the Holga.

Where the Holga taught me to let go and embrace the unknown, The 4×5 Graflex Press Camera brought me back to a place where I had to really slow down with my images and concentrate on the components of the frame again.

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When I took up Wet Plate Collodion, I bought a Vageeswari 10×12, my current favourite. It’s the most simple and honest camera I have ever used. The process of Wet Plate Collodion is the most challenging, frustrating, amazing and fascinating process I have ever done. I constantly feel challenged and right at the edge of my comfort zone. I haven’t been this excited about photography since the first time I got excited about photography over 30 years ago.

Steampunk Charlie - Half-Plate Clear Glass Ambrotype

Favourite film is easy: Medium Format Tri-X Pan ASA320. The tonal gradation and grain structure of that film was always second to none.

What has your career been like? 

I’ve been making images since I was a teenager. My photographic journey has taken me through many film formats (Minox, 35mm, 120mm, Polaroid, Pinhole, LomoKino, 4×5, 8×10, 10×12). I am currently obsessed with the Victorian wetplate Collodion process. I split my time between Corporate Video and Documentary work and Wetplate.

What are some of your favorite or most formative past projects or roles?

My first University photography teacher (whose name has been long since lost in my memory) had a tremendous influence on me in ways I didn’t realize at the time. She instilled in me, among other things, the maxim of framing in camera. So that we couldn’t crop our shots in the darkroom, our first assignment was to hand cut our 35mm negative carriers out of matt board so that the whole frame of our printed work was presented within the grindy uneven frame of the carrier, sometimes showing portions of the sprockets. (I kept that negative carrier and when I later moved to Medium Format, I cut another neg carrier, this time in 6×6, for that very purpose.)

Church Mescal, AZ

This idea of framing in the viewfinder had an enormous effect on my work. It kept me looking at the frame as well as objects within in the frame, moving a step here or there to keep things out of the frame or move things into the frame.

Knowing that whatever I saw would be included in the final print, made me very aware of my subject and it’s relationship to the other objects in the frame.

Another incidental effect this would have on my work was that the edge of the negative carrier and the film frame itself worked as another frame for the image, allowing me to let highlights blow-out on the edges of an image, not having to worry about detail in a bright sky or a streetlamp, to save more important detail in the darker parts of the image. A side effect of this is that the neg carrier became part of the image itself. This would also tune me into experimentation with frames within a frame (the jagged neg carrier would become the frame of the frames within the frames.).

I was working for a media firm in Alexandria, VA. One of their clients, a group that certified sustainable forests, needed images for a new campaign and website. My boss VC1had seen my work on Flickr and asked me to shoot some images of old growth forests and executives in those forests. He told me that he liked the “old-timey” look of my work.

When I started to explain what I would like to do, he stopped me and said, “I don’t understand a word of what you’re saying. Just do whatever you need to do and show me when it’s done.” The only stipulation he added was that he wanted me to take the digital Nikon to shoot backup images of the portraits, just in case. I walked away from that conversation knowing I had the Holy Grail of assignments. It would be one of the best photo experiences of my professional photographic life. The Film tally of that project was: 120mm Tmax 400, 120mm Ilford Delta 3200, 120mm Portra 400 NC, 120mm Portra 400 VC, Polaroid 690, Polaroid 3000 BW , Minox 400 colour, Minox 400 BW, 35mm Portra 400 NC, 35mm Tmax 400, 35mm Tmax 3200. Cameras used: Canon A-1 (28mm 2.8, 50mm 1.4), Canon T-90 (wide zoom), Pentax K-1000 (with a screw-mount East German 400mm f5.6 lens for portraits), Minox B, Holga, Holga fitted with a pinhole, Polaroid 200 Land Camera fitted with a pinhole, Nikon Digital (kit lens)

The first leg of the trip was to Shenandoah National forest. I was awestruck by the size of some of the trees. I came back with several amazing images. I had them scanned by another photographer I knew. This was one of my first experiences with a hybrid process (capturing on film and finishing digitally).

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The second leg of that trip would be to a National Forest outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. Words fail to describe the beauty I captured there. For the post on this series of images I purchased an Epson Perfection V750 scanner and a wet-scanning kit, as well as several film holders and ANR (anti-newton ring) glass. The library of images for this job was as vast as it was varied. I loved using the different formats and films within the same project and the results were great.

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How did you get involved with PONF? 

I contacted Rafaello through Instagram when I saw one of his first posts about the project. I told him that I wanted to talk to him about what he was doing and that I’d like to test the camera and help him refine it. We met at a café in Edinburgh for a ‘quick chat’ that ended up being a 2½ hour in-depth conversation about what we loved about film photography, cameras and lenses.

Priory Ruin!

Tell us about your role with the project.

I will be one of the very first testers of the camera, sharing my work along the way, and also will play a key role in the PONF Foundation with a focus (pun intended) on education. I will be co-writing educational materials and leading courses on photography available to members of the PONF Fellowship.

I am very excited to introduce this camera into the world and I’m looking forward to helping new photographers make the most of the PONF system. My personal goals for this project are to get more people shooting and help young photographers to gain enough experience to be able to shoot with intention.

What I mean by this is to visualize the image that you are after and using your knowledge of what your camera, film (or sensor) and chemistry can do, and more importantly they can’t do.  With this level of understanding of your tools, you can more easily make the images you want rather than hoping for something amazing to happen.

John Brewer - Half-Plate Clear Glass Ambrotype

What are you interested in besides photography?

As a filmmaker and photographer, my vocation and my hobby have joined forces to destroy me.

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

Know All Of Your Tools

Always Shoot With Intention

Go! Make Images

Thanks Gregg! To follow Gregg’s work, you can check out his wet plate website, Dark Box Images, his commercial photo/video website, Blue Box Images, or you can follow him on Flickr or Instagram. Stay tuned to learn more about the team here at PONF, and the development of the world’s first multi-back 35mm film and digital camera.

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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