Interview: The PONF 25MP Open-Source Camera System
When the team at PhotoBite HQ caught wind of a new independent camera manufacturer, promising development of a multi-back, open-source camera, with two interchangeable backs: one 35mm film and one full-frame digital, we were rather excited to learn more. Happily, Raffaello Palandri, a Director of the business behind the PONF Camera project, obliged us with a short interview. We’ve also posted the team’s short film at the foot of this piece, where you can see some of the early workings of the new system
Simon Skinner: Can you give us some insight into your journey with the PONF Camera project so far; just what is it that has led you to the point of developing such an unusual camera?
Raffaello Palandri: The idea of this camera comes from two main considerations: The name ‘PONF’ is an acronym for Photography on Film and fostering the use of film is one of the key elements of our project, without giving up all the good stuff that digital photography can offer a photographer. We are also keen to demonstrate that photography and IT no longer exist in parallel worlds, with different languages. The choice will now be built into a smart camera, which will allow the user to create their own photos in the way she/he prefers, and with the medium that they choose. We have started to prototype our first models, and our goal is to be able to test the cameras within a couple of months.
SS: What has been your personal relationship with photography up to this point?
RP: I have always been into photography, ever since I used my first camera, an Olympus Pen when I was just six years old. Since then photography has been my passion, and as I am a very curious person, I have always disassembled and reassembled cameras; repairing them when needed.
SS: Can you please explain a little about the project, the co-op/open source nature, and where you see the project developing?
RP: The PONF Multiback Camera Project has had its own HQ in Nuremberg, Germany since September this year, and chose to base ourselves in the EU after the Brexit vote. We are developing a camera that has interchangeable 35mm film as well as full frame and APS-C digital backs. The whole point of the project is to be completely open-source and in keeping with this, the camera has an M42 mount so it can accept virtually any lens, due to its short flange distance. The digital back is based on the RaspberryPI Computer Module 3, so it’s a small computer itself and is built around [25MP] Sony sensors. The camera is an open platform for everyone wanting to collaborate and help improving the concept and we are open to everyone: Universities, Academias, Private or Public R&D Institutions, Companies and of course individuals. A part of the software of the camera, that is Linux based, will be open to every user and developer, as well.
SS: Who would you say is your target customer with the PONF Camera?
RP: Anyone with an interest in photography and/or IT could be a user of the new camera. We are creating a community of users, made of people who appreciate the project, its concept, and its openness. This is the camera that everyone with a passion for photography, IT or even hacking, deserves to have, and is the camera for anyone who wants to assert her/his individuality and creativity.
“We want to offer our customers the photographic experience they deserve” – Raffaello Palandri, Director, PONF Cameras
SS: Are you looking to drive the camera system into the retail channel or will you be the only source of supply?
RP: We intend to be the only supplier of the camera, as the camera itself will be partially hand assembled according to the users’ requirements. We want to offer our customers the photographic experience they deserve.
SS: Any ideas of price points and dates for availability?
RP: The price tag will be a surprise announcement, but it will be highly competitive. The camera will be available within the first half of 2018 and I invite everyone to follow our project to prepare for our pre-sales campaign that will be launched at the end of this year.
Keep abreast of any updates with this intriguing project by following HERE