Open Source Digital Camera


Those brainy folks over at Stanford are working on an open source digital camera. This is an effort to advance what they call “computational photography”. Basically they’re looking to combine some of the functionality of Photoshop or Gimp right into the camera. One example they discuss is utilizing an algorithm to even out the light levels from one side of the picture to the other. Another trick they’ve already accomplished in the lab is increasing the resolution of full motion video. They take a full resolution photo once every few frames and use the computing power of the camera to incorporate that information into the low-res frames around it.

We like the idea of being able to get at the firmware that runs on our digital cameras. Going with open source would certainly provide that access, but cost will be an issue. The Stanford team hopes to produce a model of what they now call Frankencamera that sells for “less than $1000”.

[via crave]

25 thoughts on “Open Source Digital Camera

  1. this is bullshit all the materials are already available for making an open source totally interchangable digital camera thats not over 6k (red cameras) but instead theyre dicking around with firmware and bullshit filters , good photograp-hers dont need this elaborate firmware. when i can stick a 10 dollar tv lens off ebay onto a 3 cent ccd for less than 10thousand bucks ill be satisfied.

  2. I’m glad to see any type of open hardware; however, there is nothing intrinsically new about this hardware device. Essentially it is a commercial CCD or CMOS imager hooked up to an embedded Linux machine (such as a Beagle Board). Something that would be much more exciting would be an open hardware initiative to build “computational cameras” — such as ones that employ assorted pixel masks for high dynamic range or actuated imaging elements to produce flexible depth of field.

    If you’re into the idea of “computational cameras”, there was a really cool plenary talk at a conference earlier this year — check out some coverage at

    I’ve heard rumors that this camera is a first step in the “computational camera” direction — namely towards cameras that have more advanced physical features and are more amenable to hacking

  3. Mildly interesting. Is there a link to more substantial details? A college newspaper article is OK for the most general gist of the project, but is a bit lacking for purposes of most on here.

    I’ve been wanting an open source hardware and software camera ever since I found a form of suicide battery in my consumer camera that died on me. This isn’t what I was looking for(consumer camera vs. research platform), but it seems a step in the right direction.

  4. How’s the picture quality?

    My digicam is very, very old, only 1.4 megapixels and can only take 8mb smartmedia cards, but it’s an Olympus (true) SLR which takes very good pictures for it’s resolution, ideal for web pics I find.

    Whenever I see a news/gadget site I regularly read reivew a new digital camera I always take a look at the unaltered images the camera produces and have to say most of the time I’m unimpressed because they almost always look like the camera has done some image processing to ‘enhance’ the sharpness of the image, the telltale signs are halos around sharp edges (something the Star Wars Episode 1 DVD was heavily slated for), whereas my digicam doesn’t do that.

    So when I get round to buying a new, decent digicam I’ll only do so after countless hours of web searching for reviews and ultimately looking at the straight-from-the-camera example images to select the camera I like, which is what I did with my Olympus and wasn’t let down by it’s image quality at all.

  5. When taking photo’s I like to concentrate on composition rather than image correction/adjustment. There’s 3 things I want from a camera, and I can’t really see this helping – more pixels, less noise and greater dynamic range. I’m happy to sit at home finishing my images, rather than waste time in the field.

  6. I use my canon 450d for astronomy mainly, raw images @ ISO400/800, and unless that opensource motherboard packs a 3Ghz dual core cpu on it and 2gb of ram there’s not a lot that I would want it to do for me.

    If it was designed to allow coldfinger + peltier mods it’d be more interesting. Then again, getting into those realms I’d be better off buying something that isn’t open source as it will be cheaper and do what I want :)

  7. I think this is a rather neat idea, and thinking of this as a camera with build in Photoshop, or even as a simple open platform is rather missing the point.

    By making the low-level hardware details available, you can hopefully make new techniques available. A professional photographer might well be able to do fantastic things with careful control of exposure, but point-and-shoot high dynamic range for the rest of us would be really cool.

    It needn’t be about on-the-fly post-processing, but can become about how the photograph is actually taken. Think of it as software radio for photography.

  8. noo i understand the camera is mainly geared toward your average run of the mill stamford imaging researcher however theyre using proprietary hardware on a camera theyre saying is open source. like im saying its open source in the sense that like in the sense that anything is opensource ie its not open source and is completely inaccessible and will cost the exact same amount as a proprietary camera. i wonder what camera was used to shoot all the marketing material for theyre open source camera. and “cameralammadingdong”? learn to spell n3wbl3tt3 BBB))))

  9. ” Another trick they’ve already accomplished in the lab is increasing the resolution of full motion video. They take a full resolution photo once every few frames and use the computing power of the camera to incorporate that information into the low-res frames around it” – my university has a patent on this. should they be worried?

  10. They used a OMAP3530 EVM (Evaluation Module) which does not come cheap in my opinion. Instead they could have used a LeopardBoard ( This is comparable to a beagleboard, but instead uses a DaVinci DSP DM355 (with an ARM)… and it comes with changeable CCD’s (from VGA, 1.5M to 5M). It could do the same computational photography as the OMAP3. And it is open sourced…

  11. I’m not sure what the position would be on that. If an open-source setup used the same technology/technique to do something as closed source and protected method, im not sure how any legal proceedings would begin – no-one is exploiting it for cash and a patent doesnt stop people experimenting/researching with the protected material, it only stops commercial exploitation. So a competitor can’t take it and use it, just as they can’t without the open source project.

  12. This would be the answer to my dreams. I’m fed up of being tied to the whims of the various manufacturers (well Canon in my case). Certainly it has occured to me that implementing graduated filters and the like software should not be be rocket science.

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