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.

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!