I've always wanted to become an engineer, but I never knew what field I really wanted to go into. I wanted to design cars for a long time, but to get to that job would be next to impossible. But now, I know...
I present to you the elphel 353 and elphel cameras. They are currently small, open hardware and software source cameras that are pretty damn neat. What is so special about them? Well:
-Native 2592x1936 5mp sensor that can currently record its full resolution at 14fps, or can shoot any other dimensions (1920x1088, 1280x720) at higher frame rates (30/60, respectively). It's not limited to just those frame rates either, you can choose any value for the frame rates (30, 29.97, 24, 23.98, 12.12, 1.234, you see where this is going). Why? because of its open source software that runs the camera. It currently has a C-mount for using some easy-to-find lenses.
-This camera shoots RAW in a format called jp4. It's not 100% perfected, yet. Nothing about this camera is. You can convert the jp4 into DNG (aka adobe cinema DNG, which is the format of choice for many upcoming raw shooting video cameras)
-Its about the size of your palm. Limited hardware inside the camera allows data to be sent from the sensor, to the CPU, and then out to the sata port, usb, ethernet, or to an optional internal 1.8" HDD/CF cards. How the hell can they do it? well, when your footage doesn't need to be compressed at all, there is no need for more in camera hardware to process the data.
-The interface/controlling the camera is done through a software program called ElphelVision. Elphelvision is as cross platform java application that allows for monitoring, changing of all settings (gain, shutter speed, frame rate, WB), allows for scaling for focusing, and has a live histogram. here are some screenshots:
But I believe the neatest part of this camera is its potential. Because its open source, literally hundreds of people are working on this project to improve it and progress it at astonishing rates. The camera itself can be updated with newer parts (like sensors or faster cpu/output methods) rather than ditching it for a new model. There are a TON of sensors out on the market, and many are being tested and adapted to the system. The upcoming 373 is scheduled to have an APS-C sized sensor with a max 300 fps. Yes, this is going places for sure.
Now, you have to realize this camera is not done yet. Don't go sell your t2i for one. There are still bugs, kinks, and obvious workflow issues that need to be addressed. For one, you need a computer in the field to change all the settings. When in RAW mode, you lose the ability to monitor because the software still cannot decode the JP4 in real time. It still uses USB 1.1 for some connectivity. The current sensor is what is found in most consumer cameras, and has a 6x crop factor if you were to try and adapt your lenses to it. The RAW footage has a hard time converting still. Many of the programs are Linux based and therefore require a linux OS to run.
I know very little about linux/code languages/programming, but after seeing this camera and knowing its potential as a filmmaker, I'm so interested to learn more about it and help be a part of it. It's possible to turn this into one of the cheapest and best cinema cameras that will come out in the next couple of years. Keep your eyes peeled!