Apertus – The Open Source Camera

The camera industry is moving quicker than the amount of people leaving London to get away from the Olympics! 🙂 We have the unknown quantity, the Blackmagic camera (still hoping to get a review one), and the Digital Bolex challenging the big boys. The big question is whether these cameras will be any good…because if they are, the big boys will have to respond. Very interesting times. Personally, I think it’s great. Although I have always said the camera is just a tool, it doesn’t stop me wanting cooler yet more affordable tools for all! This one looks pretty great. Here is Preston with more…

An Ever-Changing Industry – What’s To Come

By Preston Kanak

Things are changing fast in today’s camera industry. We, as consumers, are given new options for cameras ALMOST on a monthly basis! The adage of using the right camera for the right job still rings true but for the independent artist, that is not always an option. Many new filmmakers are forced to use what they own and attempt to make a living with this camera. I remember when I was buying my first camera. I spent over $12,000 which was ALOT of money at the time because I was still in University. Although I was able to pay it off through the work I was producing with it, that investment I made about five years ago is now sitting on the shelf collecting dust — and depreciating. It is the nature of the beast — one of the downfalls of being an independent filmmaker. I was lucky and was able to able pay it off. I have since upgraded. However, I personally know of a few people who have also made a substantial investment in gear with no real opportunity to make their money back.

I’ve been told by many people that you should only upgrade your kit IF there is a potential of increasing future earnings. I totally believe in this and at the moment would rather hire in gear for most projects than buy. Cameras are, for the most part, a huge investment and the decision to buy a camera must not be taken lightly. However, this is QUICKLY changing.

In the spring of 2006, the idea of creating a cinema camera based on an Elphel 333 was created by a member on the dvinfo forum. Fast forward to July 10th, 2012 and we have the Apertus Axiom — an OPEN SOURCE CAMERA using the Elphel body.

About the Project

“The goal of the Apertus project is to create a powerful, free (in terms of liberty) and open cinema camera that we as filmmakers love to use. The idea of using an Elphel camera for this particular purpose was born in 2006, found many followers over the years and ultimately resulted in this community driven project entitled “Apertus”.

The goal is to create a modular camera system consisting of several hardware and software modules around the Elphel free software and open hardware camera to add all cinema relevant features that are required for shooting in-the field. Some Apertus modules deal with mobile power supply, physical camera control, live video preview, etc”.

Mission Statement

“We intend on creating an affordable community driven free software (FLOSS) and open hardware cinematic HD camera for a professional production environment”.

Project History

“The idea of creating a cinema camera based on an Elphel 333 started in spring 2006 in the mind of a member of the dvinfo forum, who in March 2006 started a new thread called “High Definition with Elphel model 333 camera”. A lot of people got involved and the project grew and developed. As time passed this thread broke the 1.000 posts mark in 2009.

As the community gathered to create a website for the project the search for a unique project name was started. From several candidates “Apertus” – which stands for open; free; public; frank, clear in Latin – won the vote to be the project name from now on”.

What does this mean?

I will start first with a CASE STUDY before offering an opinion on what the development of this camera means.

OUYA is a new game console for the TV, powered by Android. With this console, developers will have access to OUYA’s open design so they can produce their games for the living room. The Ouya is intended to be open, and they welcome hackers – rooting it is easy, and won’t void your warranty.

Reps also claim that, “most creative gamemakers are focused on mobile and social games because those platforms are more developer-friendly“. Following this, they also state that, “[i]t’s time we brought back innovation, experimentation, and creativity to the big screen. Let’s make the games less expensive to make, and less expensive to buy. With all our technological advancements, shouldn’t costs be going down? Gaming could be cheaper!

A Closer Look at the OUYA

Now the question is, is their a demand for this? Are there people that are actually interested in the idea of an OPEN DESIGN? At the time of writing this post, the project has already raised $4 million and they are only 3 days into the campaign! This is extremely impressive and a sign that there is a desire for an OPEN DESIGN.

The Apertus

Although a different platform, I think the above CASE STUDY is a good sign that the move towards an OPEN SOURCE CAMERA is a great idea. This project’s importance is not necessarily in the product itself but it what it signifies. If this camera / OPEN SOURCE CONCEPT does see the day of light, I believe it will impact the strategy and direction for camera manufactures. I believe it will force companies to rethink marketing strategies as well as price points because as a filmmaker myself, even the notion of being able to purchase an upgradeable camera system for UNDER $10,000 is VERY attractive.

This is definitely a project I will be keeping an eye on. On their site, they note that they will be starting their own kickstarter campaign later this year.

To find out more, check out their website.


  1. Wow this really is a vision of perfection. It basically ticks every box (except 4k, which I think is unnecessary). Love the minimalist design.

    1. Even if you only want a full HD output image, a 4K sensor allows for an image to be produced without debayering (like the C300). This should make for better noise control and color rendition. Since this is an open source project it’s quite likely that this camera will take advantage of such possibilities. I’m very curious to see where this goes.

  2. That’s the future of cameras, the big guys may resist for a while, but sooner or later they’ll have to give in.
    Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Sony, etc… should start thinking about developing their own camera operating systems, so 3rd party developers can write apps for them. It’s ridiculous that we need to beg Canon for years for features as simple as a 2.35 mask, and in fact they don’t even need to include such specific features, all they have to do is give 3rd party developers proper access, and the community will sort it out. We need full access to the hardware we buy, and sooner or later they’ll have to give it to us, or somebody else will. With proper support and SDK, what the Magic Lantern guys and Vitaliy are struggling to do with hacking the firmware could be an easy walk in the park, and they could spend their skills and resources developing serious camera software additions. Let’s hope they wake up soon rather than late.

    1. I agree, I think it is silly that Canon and other companies are essentially holding back innovations and trickling them out. For example an intervalometer should be standard on any Canon camera. In camera HDR processing is another one.

  3. This could be really cool and really bring the cost down for independent features. Still most excited about the Digital Bolex. The genius of the camera is that it allows you to use great s16 lenses that you can get for nothing on ebay. 2K is good enough for me and just about anyone on this planet. Also agree with the point that now users may drive the camera manufacturing industry to be more accommodating to the consumer.

  4. I hate to be the sole nay sayer, but I reall feel compelled to comment.

    While I have no doubt that the developers’ hearts are in the right place, this “camera” really seems like total vapor ware. They have a pretty digital rendering of their proposed product, and a list of desirable technical specs all at a price that would be truly revolutionary. But if you watch the video and visit their web site and the web site of the camera that actuall manufacturers the underlying camera hardware, the fantasy falls apart.

    First and foremost, the claim that their camera has a super 35 sized sensor is clearly false. The camera was designed for machine vision applications and employs a tiny (roughly 5mm x 7mm) CCD sensor. I encourage folks to read the specs on the Elphel website.

    Second, the resolution and frame rate claims are directly contradicted by the claims on the Elphel website.

    Third, this product has been in development for six years. I would posit that if after six years you can’t deliver a finished camera then it ain’t ever gonna happen.

    I respect and admire Philip Bloom as an artist and technician, but I really don’t understand why he his publicizing what seems to be a rather half baked product.

    1. Hi Jeremy

      I actually tried to not get too involved with all the discussion after the announcement but you are mixing up so many things that I I feel like I need to clarify them 😉

      The Elphel camera is a general purpose open hardware/free software camera with a small CMOS sensor. Elphel provides this technology not only to us but also for the Google Street View rigs, the Google book scan project or NASA for their near space drones.

      But Axiom has nothing to do with the Elphel camera!

      Apertus is the community project to develop free and open tools for film makers, in the last years we primarily worked with Elphel hardware, with all the things we learned and all the experience we gained we (not Elphel) are now advancing our commitment by creating an open digital cinema camera from scratch: Apertus AXIOM

      Regards Sebastian

  5. I had the FS-700 for 3 weeks now and I have to say it’s the answer to all my prayers. The latitude, the cinegamma settings, the sensor size and of course the slow motion are hands down amazing. And the future 4K compressed RAW update?
    Incredible. I feel this camera will last for a while.
    But I wish the developers success because nothing is better than a creative competition for the big guys.
    As for making the money back: I have learned over the years that my skills as a business person are as important as my creative talent. Being responsible with your business and putting a lot of effort and time into it will eventually support your creative vision and will free you from the restrictions of financial pressure. It’s important to sit down and make those cold calls, as painful as they are. Because in the end, you will be able to buy all the cameras you want – just like you Philip.

  6. Thank you for the awesome share.

    I am a big fan of open source. If you check out Blender.org and watch their demo reel you will see some impressive work made on a free open source piece of software.

    I actually believe Blender has more features and a bigger community than most other professional and expensive tools.

    Thank you and I will be looking forward to seeing this camera in action.

Leave a Reply