Alice AI-accelerated computational camera launches on Indiegogo
Back in September 2020, we featured a London startup's interchangeable lens Micro Four Thirds camera prototype that used a smartphone as a controller and live viewfinder. Now the Alice Camera is making a production bid over on Indiegogo.
"Today’s announcement comes after 18 months of liaising with over a thousand content creators, taking part in extensive accelerator programmes and building prototype Alice camera," said Photogram's CEO and co-founder, Vishal Kumar. "We are so pleased that we can bring to market a product that has been built from the ground up by creators for creators."
The basic idea here is to combine the best bits of smartphone convenience with DSLR image quality and interchangeable lens capabilities. A smartphone is wirelessly connected to the main camera unit and the framing up, settings adjustments and so on are undertaken using an app, with the resulting photo still or video captured by Alice's Micro Four Thirds (MFT) image sensor and lens.
The smartphone can be mounted directly to the back of the Alice's CNC-machined aluminum body for a compact camera-like experience – including a physical two-level shutter button and rotary encoder adjustment wheel – or content creators can set up the main unit and control everything remotely on the smartphone screen. The smartphone can even be flipped around in the universal phone mount so that part of its display peeks out at the side to frame up selfies.
The wireless connection between the Alice unit and the smartphone is via 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0 caters for wireless headphones. The main unit also rocks a cold-shoe mount for attaching external hardware such as microphones, which can be plugged into the 3.5-mm jack or paired over Bluetooth, as well as a tripod mound thread and strap accessory connector.
At the heart of the Alice Camera is a 10.7-megapixel back-illuminated 4/3 Sony image sensor that's eight times bigger than those typically found in a smartphone, meaning better low light performance, higher dynamic range and low noise. As well as stills photography, Alice is capable of recording up to 4K/30p video with H.264, H.265, Cinema4K and MJPEG encoding.
The 107 x 80 x 35-mm (4.2 x 3.1 x 1.3-in) unit is compatible with MFT lenses, with support for autofocus, aperture adjustment and lens stabilization, but can also accept other mounts using an adapter. The body is home to 32 GB of internal eMMC storage and a microSD card slot too, and a 5.2-Ah Li-ion battery that can be fast charged over USB-C.
Users can look forward to automated scene capture and enhanced image processing thanks to the computational photography chops of the integrated proprietary AI chip, with such things as end-to-end deep learning for autofocus, auto-exposure and color balancing also on the spec sheet, together with automated retouching, HDR imaging, low light enhancement electronic video stabilization and rolling shutter correction.
The camera runs an open-source Linux-based operating system, with an open-source SDK allowing for custom feature development and user mods. And the company is promising regular firmware updates, meaning new features and performance tweaks can be had without investing in additional hardware.
Alice will carry a recommended retail price of £750 (about US$1,030) when it's released later this year, but Photogram has today launched an Indiegogo for those who want to pre-order and benefit from early bird savings. Backers will need to stump up at least £550 for the Alice Camera (you'll need to supply your own smartphone), and if all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in October. The video below has more.