The Future of Mirrorless Cameras? Alice Camera - Interview with CEO Vishal Kumar
Alice Camera 3.jpg

Alice Camera is a new concept of a smartphone connected device with a large image sensor (Micro Four Thirds) that is used to run a successful campaign on Indiegogo. We spoke to Vishal Kumar, CEO of UK based startup photogram.ai, which is behind the Alice Camera.

I wrote about the Alice camera back in October 2020 when the team behind it started promoting it on social media. The Alice Camera was developed by a small British startup photogram and went live on Indiegogo in early February 2021. When more technical details became known, I wrote about it again. The makers of Alice Camera have raised over £ 100,000 since then, which has certainly piqued interest. Nino interviewed photogram.ai CEO Vishal Kumar to learn more about the Alice Camera concept. Let's summarize what we've been told.

Alice Camera, the future of mirrorless cameras?

As we learned, Vishal Kumar has a background as both a data scientist and a content creator. Vishal's colleague and CTO of photogram.ai Dr. Liam Donovan is an electronics engineer with experience in photography and building AI-embedded hardware systems.

Alice camera. Source: Alice Camera

As Vishal points out, there is currently no choice in computer photography and larger sensor cameras. The smartphone manufacturers have been doing this for at least five years. Traditional camera companies have largely stayed away from AI and computer photography, so Vishal and his team see this as an opportunity for Alice Camera.

In many ways, Vishal says traditional camera manufacturers use mechanical solutions that are bulky and expensive to develop. An example could be IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization). He says that electronic stabilization with a gyroscope that Alice Camera will use saves space and cost, and can achieve similar results.

Alice camera module. Source: Alice Camera

All AI processing takes place in the Alice camera. The smartphone is only used to monitor, control and share content. Alice has a Linux-based CPU and Google's Edge TPU. The camera should learn from the photos it has taken. Because of this, the team claims that automatic features like autofocus and auto exposure get significantly better over time.

Important technical data of the Alice camera

  • Image sensor: Sony IMX294 10.7MP Quad-Bayer Dual-Native ISO 4/3 ″
  • Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Video resolution: Up to 4K 30fps, 1080p 60fps in H.264 or H.265
  • CPU: Google Edge TPU chip
  • Smarphone support: Both iOS and Android from 6.42 cm to 7.81 cm
  • Audio input: 3.5 mm jack for microphone
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, IEEE 802.11ac 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz WiFi with speeds of up to 500 Mbit / s
  • Battery: Non-removable 5,200 mAh lithium-ion device with USB-C fast charge
  • Storage: 32 GB internal eMMC storage and a microSD card slot
  • Housing: 1/4 "tripod thread, attachment points for the strap and front-facing LED light for recording
  • Physical: Weight 350-375 g (0.77-0.83 lbs) and dimensions 107 x 80 x 35 mm (4.2 x 3.1 x 1.4 inches)

Similarity to other cameras

Regarding the similarity with other cameras, Nino mentioned the ZEISS ZX1 – a full-frame camera with a fixed 35mm 1: 2 lens, a large touchscreen and an Android operating system with integrated Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC. We first saw the camera when it was launched at Photokina 2018. It took some time (over two years) but the ZX1 was pre-ordered in October 2020 and now appears to be in stock at B&H.

ZEISS ZX1. Source: ZEISS

The ZEISS ZX1 is a different camera, of course, in that it's an all-in-one and it comes at a premium price of $ 6,000. As Vishal told us, he and his team initially thought of making a standalone camera with a screen on the back and a smartphone operating system. Then they gave up on the idea and focused on using existing smartphones to prevent the wheel from being reinvented, so to speak.

Cameras attached to smartphones – Sony QX1 and DXO One. Source: Sony / DXO

The idea of ​​a smartphone-connected camera module with a larger sensor is also not new. Two examples of earlier devices can be Sony's QX line (QX100, QX30, QX10 and QX1) or the DXO One. Neither of these devices really became very popular, but the Alice camera will hit a different market at a different time than the previous cameras with smartphone connection. Cell phones have become more powerful and have better screens. At the same time, the demand for fast content sharing has increased since then, so I think the Alice camera could face a better fortune

Current development phase of Alice Camera

The camera is currently in the development phase, so the photogram.ai team does not yet have a working prototype. That being said, they seem to be getting a lot of things right, and as Vishal told us, they have every intention of bringing the project to a successful conclusion and delivering the camera. The photogram.ai team started a beta program in November 2020, in which a group of people now provides valuable information about which functions are important and desirable for the camera.

Alice camera app. Source: Alice Camera

Another important aspect is that photogram.ai has received a grant from Innovate UK, a UK government funding platform with strict requirements for funded projects. The Alice Camera project has been checked for feasibility and, according to Vishal, the funds from Innovate UK will undoubtedly help ensure that the project is successful.

When it comes to an upcoming timeframe, the Indiegogo campaign ends on March 11, 2021. In spring 2021, the team will further develop the camera's hardware and software and create the smartphone app. Beta customers should receive a first practical test of the Alice camera around May 2021. The delivery of the camera is planned for October 2021.

Price and availability

The price for the Alice camera currently starts at £ 600 with the early bird offer. There is also an option to purchase two pieces for £ 1000 (£ 500 each). Please note that shipping costs and taxes are not included in the price. As mentioned earlier, shipping is expected to start in October 2021. The planned full sale price is £ 750.

While the team behind the Alice camera seems to be getting many things right, we feel obliged to say this at the end of every crowdfunding article: Please be aware of the risks involved in supporting a project on a crowdfunding platform. Please read the Indiegogo Terms of Use – especially the "Support a Campaign" section. Note that there may be significant delays in the delivery of the product. Some products are not delivered at all.

What do you think of the Alice camera so far? Do you think this is the future of mirrorless cameras? Let us know in the comments section below the article.

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