As a frequent contributor to the element14 community, Enrico Miglino (aka balearicdynamics ) understands the benefits of providing a public platform when developing a new tech project. That’s why open-sourcing has been placed at the heart of his latest initiative with business partner Raffaello Palandri. PONF aims to be the world’s first Multiback Open Camera, uniting analogue and digital in a single intelligent model.
The project is a labour of love for Miglino and Palandri, both of whom have backgrounds in photography. Having grown up using traditional film and subsequently embraced the possibilities of digital, they aim to provide a complete user experience for both mediums with the PONF camera.
The core of the PONF’s architecture is a Linux Embedded Pi Compute Module, opening up the camera to a vast range of potential applications that would ordinarily require the use of a separate computer. Two interchangeable backs will allow the user to shoot in 35mm film or full frame APS-C Digital. An M42 lens mount allows photographers to mount any M42 lens, and can easily be adapted for other lens types.
“The project was initiated around 18 months ago” explains Palandri, director of PONF GmbH, the Nuremberg-based company that is leading the Multi-Back Open Camera Project. “Having worked with both analogue and digital cameras in the past, I started thinking about the advantages of creating a sort of hybrid that could offer the best of both worlds.”
In addition to providing professional quality imaging incorporating all of the features commonly found in high-end digital and analogue cameras, the core of the PONF allows the complete cycle of image production to be handled on a single device. Because this device is also capable of communicating with other devices, there is potential for a wide variety of IoT and app-based functionalities to be introduced.
“Our primary audience is of course photographers” explains Miglino, who takes the role of Chief Technology Officer for the initiative, “but we are also hoping to market the device to the maker market – people who love devices that can be hacked and repurposed to fit all kinds of different needs.”
“The goal is to create a stronger link between different skills and specialisations. A maker may improve a device, but he wouldn’t usually speak with a photographer. If you have an object that sits in the middle of these two disciplines, it creates a bridge of communication that can foster improvements to the camera itself and a self-evolving eco-system that develops around it.
A large part of creating this eco system concerns open sourcing, a movement that Miglino is extremely passionate about. “It’s a knowledge-first approach that allows anyone who’s interested to participate and ‘join the team’” he explains. “This is not an original idea, but a reflection of something that’s happening across the industry. In developing PONF, we’ve found that a number of major companies are already beginning to understand that the major solutions of the future are going to come about as a result of shared knowledge.”
“I do a lot of work on element14 around road testing and design challenges, and I consider them to be one of the best resources for sharing knowledge with the other engineers and makers who make up this online community” Miglino explains.
The PONF project is currently in the prototyping phase, and as the team prepares to start testing the first models, they’re also looking to the future. Within 12 months they hope to have their product on the market and to be in a position to start working on evolutions of the initial design.
“From a commercial point of view, we don’t have any real competition” explains Palandri. “We’ve conducted extensive market research, and nobody is making a camera quite like ours. Our goal is to secure a strong position in the market, and, when competition does begin to emerge, to be able to leverage our position at the head of this new type of camera design to remain one step ahead of the market. It’s an ambitious project, but you have to dream big to win big...”