Open Source Digital Cinema

Years in the making, Apertus has released 25 beta developer kits for AXIOM–their open source digital cinema camera. This isn’t your point-and-shoot digital camera. The original proof of concept from 2013 had a Zynq processor (a Zedboard), a super 35 4K image sensor, and a Nikon F-Mount.

The device today is modular with several options. For example, there is an HDMI output module, but  DisplayPort, 4K HDMI, and USB 3.0 options are in development. You can see several sample videos taken with the device, below.

The current device uses a Cmosis CMV12000 image module, although a Kodak KAC12040 and Cmosis CMV2000 module are in the works. You can find the complete specs online, but be aware that some of these specifications are forward-looking. On the other hand, the videos clearly show it is in a working state.

If you’ve been looking for an open source FPGA or microcontroller project to hook up with, this might be it. Like a lot of open source companies, they are trying to commercialize to keep the project healthy, but if you read their website, they seem to be committed to the open principles.

We’ve seen the astrophysics community doing similar things–maybe they should collaborate. We’ve also looked at the technology involved in image sensors if you want a refresher.

19 thoughts on “Open Source Digital Cinema

    1. The sensor alone is $3K so you might as well just buy a BackMagic, GH5, XC10 or the like instead. You get something reliable (some of them are workhorses), with warranty, most camera systems have a wide range of accessories (including 3rd party stuff) and what not.

      The sensor itself is only 12MP so that makes it a “video-only” camera. The other sensor (CMV2000) is “only” $500 but it’s only 2MP (1080p only, and completely useless for photos).

      I really wanted to like it, and I was looking forward to buy one… But there’s not much value for the money vs commercial offerings, and it’s useless for photos and that completely kills it for me. Sorry!

        1. Ya need all those mergapixuls! The more pixuls, the better the picshures!

          I thought the whole “MOAR MERGAPIXULS!” trend has ended back around 2010. I remember each end avery ad being 90% centered about how many megapixels a camera has. And when you did buy it, the photos still were shit, because the sensor was getting hot and noisy as balls. Or they were shit because the user wasn’t capable of taking a decent photo with any camera.

        2. It’s ok if you’re happy with pictures of lesser quality than a Canon 5D “Mark 1” from 2005 I guess, and quite possibly a *much* lower picture quality than any entry level DSLR or mirrorless camera… Doubly so when there’s no image stabilisation and no RAW format output (compatible with Lightroom or Camera Raw), and no fancy in-camera processing (sharpening/denoising and such) either. The passive lens mount won’t allow for lens auto-correction either (can’t tell what lens it is) nor any of the other stuff we’ve been taking for granted for ages by now. I guess the one good thing about it is that we can’t complain about its flash x-sync speed as it has no flash/lighting system at all!

          All in all, it’s all-around a truly awful camera for stills, and the resolution and overall image quality is probably on par with a Canon 450D/XSi from a decade ago (probably below that of some phones) — but for more money than a 5D Mark IV.

          I’d love a nice open-source camera system but this ain’t it. Even for videos it’s not impressive for its price point.

        3. The cameras I have used for studio work using digital backs have been 60-80MP, more recent ones I believe now go over 100MP.Static subjects would sometimes get a scanning back, which takes a long time but results in a substantially higher MP count. Sheet film in larger formats (8×10) provides gigapixel equivalency. It is cheaper long term than film and provides high quality results. 4MP is trash when blown up. 12MP is trash when blown up large. 80MP backs like I got to use allows taking and printing substantially large prints while not having so little detail that you notice pixels and noise if you lean in. It’s closer to film in that large sheets give big impressive prints with mind blowing detail, but is more economical long term.

          Also nobody needs more than 64k. Just because you can’t make use of 12MP doesn’t mean it’s unneeded for other people who demand good results.

          1. Right. Also, when you crop some in post (to improve composition) you quickly reach fairly low levels, and that’s assuming it was tack sharp to begin with (and without IS, it’s gonna be softer more often). Also, if you’re forward thinking at all, you’d think that 4K screens are becoming popular now (8MP per screen), multi-screen setups are quite affordable, and also 5K monitors are appearing (15MP per screen) and might be affordable in a not-too-distant future. It makes 12MP feel quite dated and limiting.

      1. Holy cow the sensor is 3k that is rediculous and I have to change my previous comment to now this is a lost cause. yes the like the the GH4 A6500 etc…. this is just crazy for a sensor.

  1. « If you’ve been looking for an open source FPGA or microcontroller project to hook up with » and you are more into fabricating things, the Smoothie project ( ) is also looking for contributors :p Oh and we’ll soon be playing with FPGAs too, so many parralels !

    1. My kingdom for a reasonably-priced digital back for my RB67. $14k from Mamiya? I don’t think so. I just want the digital equivalent of the traditional film back – give me a raw file and I’ll do the rest. I’ll take care of the focus, and the exposure. I like my 90 and 180mm lenses – they’re sharp, and they’re bright.

      Apropos of the the article – more about the lenses, please?

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