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!

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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.

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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