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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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.

The Many of Uses For Cameras

By Katherine Phipps

Remember cameras?

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

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A Time Before Ubiquity

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

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

There’s a Million Reasons  To Carry A Camera

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

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

PONF is the Everything Camera.

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

Stock Photography sourced from Pexels.com

Raffaello Palandri Describes His First Encounter with Digital Photography

An Essay and Photography by Raffaello Palandri

I have always been curious. I have always loved computers, technology, and learning new things, constantly using, disassembling and understanding everything. So, could I have avoided an early contact with digital photography? I can still remember my first encounter with this new technology in 1998, when I met the mighty Sony Cybershot DSC-MD1.

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A friend of mine got the camera from his father, who was returning from Japan. He probably got the camera from a store in Akihabara, the famous electronics district in Tokyo. I was lucky to be present when my friend opened the box for the first time.
A sort of squared silver object with a lens came out of the box. The lens was covered by a plastic cap, hooked to the wrist strap, something that I found funny in such a technological beauty. How could it be that such a camera could have a lens cap that… normal?

I almost had to fight with my friend to be able to handle the camera. The feeling was unique: it had a good weight (cannot remember, somewhat more than half a kilo) and it was full of nice buttons and dials, with labels in ideograms and Japanese. Having small hands, I appreciated the relatively small size: it was no more than, let’s say 9 x 12 cm.

It was a sort of Holy Grail, and I had it in my hands! When I managed to find the button to turn it on, the magic started. The MD disc started to spin, and with a soft buzzing noise, the menu appeared on the tilt (!) display… again in Japanese.3195722457_d70012cc3b_zThe camera was never intended for other markets and had no way to change the language on the menu. I found the position of the shutter button weird, on a sort of ridge on the usual right side of the camera, but inclined like in a German Praktica PL Nova or similar. The second weird thing was the lack of a finder. I looked for it but nothing. To shoot, you needed to take the camera at eye level, aiming with some sort of hopeful luck and then shooting, hoping not to shake the body too much. 

3162180783_3ba65590c4_zI  sadly had to give the camera back to my friend. But in that very moment, digital photography genuinely captured my curiosity. From that moment on, I continued shooting film and digital.

I have always found with digital I bring a different mind set to my photos. With film I had a sort of meditative approach, partially because I also used 4×5 and 8×10 cameras. I looked, pictured in my mind the photo, then I pressed the shutter button. It was a physical and mental process. You had to wait for the result. With digital all this was gone. I could directly take a photo, or better, several photos, with different settings and then improve, delete, re-take. The whole process become more oriented to getting the photo as quickly as possible. If you didn’t like it, you could delete it.

To this day, I cannot decide if I prefer digital or film. I like them both. 🙂 

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