Since posting the Holga.D concept on my website, I have received a huge amount of positive feedback and inquiries about the camera. I want to thank everyone for their support!
Thrilled and happy by the widespread interest in the camera, I thought I’d like to share with you my initial thoughts behind it.
This is going to be a relatively long post, so here is the gist :
I would like to see Holga.D is as an open-source camera platform, co-developed by like minded enthusiasts and professionals from all related fields. At the end of it’s initial development the hardware design (the schematics, bill of materials, PCB layout data etc), as well as the software/firmware source code would be available for anyone to produce, distribute and modify under open-source license.
This kind of open-source product license would open up a lot of new possibilities; for example, manufacturers would be able to produce lightweight and cheap plastic camera as well as more expensive and rugged metal body based on the same design. The manufacturers would also be able to develop simple or complex accessories like lens adapters for current or old lenses from other brands, lenses, viewfinders etc. Likewise, on the software/firmware side, the open source code would also open up new possibilities.
The development of Holga.D is not just about the toy camera but it’s a culmination of several ideas that has led me to work on this project. Above all, I wanted to address the concept to two ongoing phenomenons in the society: Open-source consumer product development and Homebrew softwares.
1. Open-source consumer product development
In the past few years there has been many successful open-source software projects (Mozilla, WordPress and many others…) which have gained mass popularity and have become part of our daily life.
What about open source consumer products then? Well, that isn’t a new thing either: there has been many initiatives for open source projects (Bug-labs, Open-source Rapid prototyping and CNC machines and so on). However, all of them have focused towards a very small niche.
What about open-source products which are desirable by the mass and seen as a viable alternatives to commercial products?
There are some strong advantages in the open-source model: While most commercial products are limited to a fixed set of features imposed to the end users, the open-source products would be totally adaptive and flexible. It would provide the users the right to customize based on what they need.
2. Homebrew softwares
For the past few years we are seeing a tremendous popularity of ‘homebrew’ softwares and firmwares. iPhones get ‘jail-broken’ in no time after each OS update is released. PSPs got custom firmware so that homebrew and iso-games saved on the memory stick can be played in PSP. Eventhough Sony tried its best prevent it from happening by updating the firmwares and later the hardware, they all got unlocked sooner or later.
CHDK (Canon Hack Development Kit) is another example where an unofficial firmware is enhancing the feature-set of cheaper Canon cameras to such an extent that some of these custom firmware features (such as ISO and focus bracketing, 64 to 1/10,000? shutter speed, motion-detection triggered photography and so on) does not even exist in the high end models of Canon.
There are plenty of similar examples…
What about having a platform where all these potential could be channelized to create great products instead of suppressing them?
Why does Holga.D have the possibility to become a popular and desirable open-source consumer product for the masses?
I believe, Holga D could be (perhaps the first) viable, desirable and popular open-source product for the masses. Here are few reasons why:
There are a lot of people who would like to use Holga or similar toy cameras but are inhibited by the cost and complexity of development, availability of film etc. For them, the digital version, Holga.D, would be a much more convenient and economically viable option, yet true to its origins.
Holga is already a known brand and has a significant number of fan-following who would like to have it for the ‘brand-name’ only.
3. Realistic expectations
The expectations are not very high: the cameras in the mainstream market are expensive (although you can get SLRs for as cheap as 450USD) because they need to deliver certain image quality. But Holga is known and loved for it’s vignetting, chromatic aberrations, barrel distortions and and so on! So it’s much easier to reach these ‘expectations’ with low cost.
4. Shared software development
Because it’s open-source, the independent software developers would be able to create the firmwares/softwares much more easily. The communities such as CHDK can come in for help.
5. Potential of future growth
It could gradually evolve into a higher end product with even larger mass appeal beyond the toy camera users.
With it’s basic plastic lens the quality of the photographs might not be good enough for everyone’s taste but as it evolves, it would be able to have better lenses cheaply manufactured by small companies. And of course, with simple adapters it can use most of the existing lenses from other brands and all the old lenses available on Ebay for dirt cheap price. That is why it has a detachable lens and a plastic-but-SLR-like lens mount (which can also be replaced by a metal ones) and SLR-like shutter speed range.
Because it’s a camera with large sensor (full frame or 1.5x crop frame), one may want to put a rangefinder-type of viewfinder (I didn’t put it in the accessory list of Holga.D page in order to keep things simple and close to the original Holga) into its accessory port. This would be a lucrative solution for those who want to use rangefinder-like cameras but often inhibited by the price of cameras presently available in the market.
*I was still brewing the above thoughts in my head and was not prepared to write about it so early, but now that the camera is out and seems to be resonating with many people out there, I thought it’s a good idea to talk about it while this topic is still hot.
I would like to know your thoughts, ideas, constructive feedback about the proposal of making Holga D as an open source camera. I would also like to know what do you think would be the other opportunities if a camera like Holga.D becomes reality, the possible challenges for it (and if possible, the suggestions to overcome those challenges) and how do you think we should take this forward from here.
Most importantly, it would be great if you guys could spread the word and pull in people who you think would be able to contribute to the development of Holga.D.
For my part, I am ready and willing to provide my expertise as an industrial designer for it’s development. I would do everything I can to make this camera a reality, but it would take all your contribution to make it a real product so that we all can have Holga.D soon!
July 18 2010 12:43 am | Concepts