Frankencamera: Linux-Based Digital Camera from Stanford

Sep 07, 2009

The goal of a group of photo researchers and developers at Stanford University is to build a camera that runs on Linux and whose open source software is programmable down to the lowest hardware level.

The Stanford University News site features a report from professor Marc Levoy's team on the first functioning version of the Camera 2.0. The built-in software allows programmers to set details such as focus, exposure and shutter speed independently of manufacturer limitations and make significantly better use of the camera hardware.

A demo video on the website shows an example of shifting the dynamic range algorithm in the camera software with considerable improvement to the original photo. The device can automatically sense lighting imbalances on both sides of the frame and automatically compensate for them. Numerous other features are planned to be communicated in the computer or automatically from Web photo services.

The so-called Frankencamera is not just a hideous monster cobbled together from spare parts. If all goes well, it should become a lucrative platform for interested photographers and developers. It combines a system-on-a-chip from Texas Instruments running Linux with a small LCD screen, an imaging chip borrowed from the Nokia N95 smartphone and standard Canon lenses. The team has support from firms such as Nokia, Adobe, Kodak, HP and Walt Disney. Levoy hopes to produce the devices for under $1,000 in a year's time and provide them at cost to colleagues and students at other universities.

Further details on the Camera 2.0 are on the Stanford project webpage.

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