Frankencamera, the Open Source Camera by Stanford University.

Monday, September 7th, 2009 by Giuseppe Piersantelli

Stafonrd University professor Marc Levoy and graduate student Andrew Adams are working on a project aimed to prototype an open source digital camera which can be customized, configured and programmed according to the users’ needs and expectations.

The article published by CrunchGear explains the brilliant idea of the Staford researchers. According to the story:

Frankencamera uses essentially off-the-shelf parts: a TI system on a chip, Canon EF lenses, a generic LCD screen, and a Nokia N95’s photo sensor of all things. It’s ugly, bulky, and fragile, but that’s the way prototypes tend to be. [...] The setup they’ve created (it runs Linux) lets them control and program each aspect of the camera with precision. With a standard API they could release it into the wild with a few prototypes and hackers would be able to go to town on it. 

The world's first open source camera?

In the following video, the researchers tell more about the hardware and the software used to assembly this prototype and about the powerful computational photography features enabled.

The open source approach will help users to obtain outstanding results when taking photos and not with a complicated and time consuming post processing. As physorg observes:

Virtually all of the features of the Stanford camera – focus, exposure, shutter speed, flash, etc – are at the command of software that can be created by inspired programmers anywhere.

This means that the digital camera could be also associated to a dedicated app store populated by a miriad of digital imaging applications developed by firms independent programmers and aimed to take a complete control of the digital camera features in order to take better pictures and unleash photographers’ creativity.

In other words, an open source device can be the seed to grew a new ecosystem, based on a community of developers. It is not easy to predict if this innovative approach will succeed in a sort time and how the players involved in the digital imaging industry will react (compete? cooperate?); for the time being, the idea is quite impressive and exciting. We will see how it will be developed in the next month.

More information about the open source Frankecamera can be found in the following websites and blog:

By the way, Frankencamera is not the only open source camera project. Elphel camera, developed by Russian scientist Filippov, is described and explained in this paper.


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