Scientists attempt to make open source camera

Imagine being able to download applications to your camera, just as you can to your smartphone. Reports indicate that researchers at Stanford University are attempting to create an open source camera. Stanford is no stranger to photographic technology as last year researchers were developing a 3-D camera with 12,616 lenses!

Presently, the features of a camera are dictated by preinstalled manufacturer software. Marc Levoy, professor of Computer Science at Stanford says that all of the features (focus, exposure, flash, etc) are capable of being controlled by software.

This new camera is composed of a Texas Instrument's "system on a chip" operating with Linux coupled with image and general processors and an LCD screen. The imaging chip is that of the Nokia N95 and the lenses are stock Canon lenses. The lenses are combined with actuators which permit the fine-tuned software control.

Dubbed the "Frankencamera", some of the most exciting possibilities for such a platform include built-in HDR (High Dynamic Range) capabilities and internet connectivity. While some HDR features exist today, the new platform could see this process streamlined and make accessible to all photographers. It is also expected that such a camera will carry just a $1,000 price tag.

Most interesting is perhaps the possibility of video enhancement. The researchers have toyed with the idea of being able to enhance video resolution using high resolution still images. The camera would be capturing low-res video and capture high res still images periodically, being able to use the information from the still image to improve the video.

At this point, the average consumer might wonder what such a creation brings to them. Levoy states:

"Some cameras have software development kits that let you hook up a camera with a USB cable and tell it to set the exposure to this, the shutter speed to that, and take a picture, but that's not what we're talking about... What we're talking about is, tell it what to do on the next microsecond in a metering algorithm or an auto-focusing algorithm, or fire the flash, focus a little differently and then fire the flash again — things you can't program a commercial camera to do."

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

How 136 file sharers became 7 million

Next Story

Xbox 360 is statistically least reliable console

13 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

I guess you can do most of what they are seeking here using CHDK, for Canon cameras only. It is an open source project, with multidevelopers, that can storm out hundreds of features, almost whatever you wish to do with your camera.

see more at http://chdk.wikia.com/.

wow, just wow!.

Now i wish i can have the same but for video cameras, for example to allow native 24p in a canon hv30 (so virtually converting in a hv40).

This sounds especially interesting as it will put competitive pressure on commercial brands.

I mean, they can do so much in software on those cameras via firmware updates such as built-in HDR support, but they don't, to save such features for upcoming models.

Think of the stupid limitations sometimes cameras bring like:
- videos cannot be longer than 1 minute
- no manual exposure while filming
- no manual focus while filming
- no saving pictures directly on your computer via USB (I love timelapses...)
- can't use flash while in macro mode
- bracketing limited to X photos
- ...

If you need those things then you simply buy a camera (or perhaps video camera?) that does do those things - there are plenty on the market that do. My cheap camera which is over 3 years old and only cost £150 at the time does everything you put on your list baring manual exposure during filming and bracketing is limited to 9 pictures I believe - but if you generally need more than that you should probably be buying a more specialised camera.

mmck said,
If you need those things then you simply buy a camera (or perhaps video camera?) that does do those things - there are plenty on the market that do. My cheap camera which is over 3 years old and only cost £150 at the time does everything you put on your list baring manual exposure during filming and bracketing is limited to 9 pictures I believe - but if you generally need more than that you should probably be buying a more specialised camera.

It never ceases to amaze me when people champion the status quo for no reason other than it is the status quo. New technology like the camera mentioned in the video gives the consumer more control over their possessions, which is a good thing in my opinion. Why buy two cameras when you can buy one that does exactly what you want it to do, without paying double?

Kam1kaz3 said,
Think of the stupid limitations sometimes cameras bring like:
- videos cannot be longer than 1 minute
- no manual exposure while filming
- no manual focus while filming
- no saving pictures directly on your computer via USB (I love timelapses...)
- can't use flash while in macro mode
- bracketing limited to X photos
- ...

How about a simple one like not all cameras outputting in RAW format...

This is interesting but it's just IDK. I have a camera that takes pictures. Then I have photoshop or picasa that I can modify it on. Yeah it would be nice for the camera to do that but wouldn't then the camera have to have higher memory, processing power, etc.? Which would just increase the price of the camera?

I'm guessing this is more for the professional crowd and their cameras are already in the $1,000.

Again interesting idea.

...I don't think this will really take off. Photographers like to take pictures not program. Furthermore, a lot of this could be accomplished on a closed platform by giving building a more modular camera with a higher degree of control on the software side. I'm thinking that this will end up much like the open source video card or open source phone.