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Innovation

Stanford's open-source camera lets the public choose camera features

Stanford University photo scientists have created an open-source camera cobbled together from a Nokia N95 cell phone's imaging chip, off-the-shelf Canon lenses, and other parts. Aptly dubbed the Frankencamera by its creators, the camera opens up a world of opportunity for would-be camera designers.
Written by Janice Chen, Inactive on

Stanford University photo scientists have created an open-source camera cobbled together from a Nokia N95 cell phone's imaging chip, off-the-shelf Canon lenses, and other parts. Aptly dubbed the Frankencamera by its creators, the camera opens up a world of opportunity for would-be camera designers.

While it's relatively easy to understand what open source has done for software -- think Linux and Firefox -- it's harder to grasp the ramifications an open-source camera could have on the camera industry.  Until now, we've been at the mercy of the competitive cycles of camera manufacturers when it comes to what features we can get and when. But is it just me that wants to shout "I want this new feature, not that, and for god sakes don't make me pay for low-light noise and the extra megapixels it rode in on!"

Of course we can't all be camera programmers and designers, open source or no open source. But the Frankencamera and its ilk open up new possibilities for those who would be -- and just might shake up the market now dominated by the Canons and Nikons of the world.

Stanford graduate student Andrew Adams, who helped design the Frankencamera, suggests the technology could give rise to iPhone-esque app stores where consumers could pick and choose applications to download to their open-source cameras. This may sound far-fetched now, but the project has been supported by big names like Nokia, Adobe Systems, Kodak, and Hewlett-Packard, and Stanford computer science professor Marc Levoy is shooting to have an outside manufacturer produce open-source cameras in quantity for less than $1,000 each (and the operating software made public) within a year.

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