Early Exposure: 7 Cool Camera Kickstarters

A motorized level, 360-degree video, and a handcrafted medium-format lens are just the beginning.

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Although celebrity filmmakers have been working hard to corrupt its carefully cultivated image of independent grassroots innovation, Kickstarter still is the hothouse of choice for many indie inventors with quirky ideas.

Thanks to the growing accessibility of high-quality cameras, action cams, smartphones, DIY filmmaking tools, and photo-sharing services, cameras and photography gadgets enjoy a huge presence on the world's most popular crowdfunding site. Regardless of what or how you shoot, there's probably a Kickstarter project out there aimed at you, so join us as we take a look at some of the coolest camera ideas on Kickstarter today.

Use Your iPhone as a Hasselblad Digital Back

Name: Hasselnuts
Price: $249
Funded? Yes

These days, there are a lot of fancy old cameras out there gathering dust thanks to your shiny new smartphones and digital SLRs. Enthusiasts with $17,000 to spend can make Hasselblad medium format film cameras relevant again by buying a digital back, but for the rest of us, the Hasselnuts (yes, that's seriously what it's called) will have to do.

For $249, the Hasselnuts lets you use your iPhone as the Hasselblad's digital back, by lining up the iPhone's camera sensor with the medium-format camera's lens aperture. It's definitely a jury-rigged system that still lacks features you might want—variable shutter speed and, y'know, a better sensor—but this system will get that old medium format body back in your hands.

A 3D-Printed Pinhole Camera

Name: Pinhole, Printed
Price: $50
Funded? Yes

Making a pinhole camera out of a cookie tin or oatmeal canister is a fun way to experiment with photography—especially for kids first learning to use film. To get its unique aesthetic, pinhole photography usually requires a more hands-on process, with substantial trial and error in the field and darkroom.

This Kickstater project is 1,176% funded (yowzah!) and it's really no surprise. At just $50 bucks a pop, you can get your own 3D printed pinhole camera that takes some of the guesswork out of the process. Using a lot of testing, the guys behind this Kickstarter were able to produce accurate exposure charts, which are included along with an ND filter. True tech geeks who already have a 3D printer can buy the STL files and print their own.

Stabilizer, Tripod, Crane, Dolly, Slider All in One

Name: Morpheus Stabilizer
Price: $125
Funded? Yes; 3 days remaining

Already doubling its financing goal with a few days left to go, the Morpheus Stabilizer brings steadicam capability to smartphones and small cameras. Though we obviously haven't haven't touched one, it seems that it's not just your typical gimbal-and-weight mechanism. Besides stabilization, the Morpheus claims to work as a tripod, crane, dolly, and slider—though you'll need to buy the wheels kit, the suction cup kit, and the rails kit to take full advantage of these added features.

Morpheus seems like a effective cure for the annoying shake that afflicts many smaller cameras, and if you pledge $125 before time expires on the Kickstarter, you'll get one when it finishes funding in a few days. If it turns out to be as good as advertised, we'd love to see a DSLR version.

Automatic Camera Leveler

Name: OhSoh ELi
Price: NZ$250
Funded? No; 17 days to go

The OhSoh ELi is a motorized leveling system for your camera, designed to guarantee a flat horizon every time you shoot. You just place it on a surface or screw it onto a tripod, press a button, and boom!: the camera is level. It might seem like overkill—especially since many modern DSLRs and high-end compacts feature electronic levels—but this device could still be a useful tool for hardcore landscape photographers.

The OhSoh ELi has 17 days to go with just under 30% funding, so it's anybody's guess whether it'll come to fruition. We have to admit we're slightly dubious at its usefulness when a $10 mini-tripod and a little patience can get the job done for a fraction of the cost. But if it sounds like something you'd be into, you should definitely get over to the Kickstarter page and contribute.

360° Video

Name: EyeMirror GP360
Price: £120 ($197)
Funded? Almost; 25 days to go

Fisheye lenses are great for seeing the big picture, but they have a natural limit of a 180-degree field of view (in most cases). The EyeMirror GP360 bypasses this limitation by screwing a curved mirror onto your DSLR or camcorder lens. The resulting image covers nearly 360 degrees, capturing almost every angle from a single point of view—the only exceptions being the portions of the scene directly above and below the lens. But while this enormous coverage is cool, that's not even the best part.

If you upload the videos you create to the EyeMirror website, their video player will convert the 360-degree fisheye clips into conventional movies that you can pan and tilt by clicking and dragging. Since this kind of functionality is particularly useful for outdoor and underwater footage, EyeMirror has produced a custom GoPro-style underwater housing and customized firmware for the GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition that enables 3040x3040 shooting at 22 frames per second.

This is a product that's easier to explain in images than in words, so if your interest is piqued, you should definitely watch the video above and head on over to EyeMirror's Kickstarter page for more demos.

An Affordable High-Speed Camera

Name: Edgertronic
Price: $5,000
Funded? Yes

Kickstarter is an ideal platform for inventors looking to build momentum for their quirky innovations, but it can also be a great way to move cost-prohibitive technology closer to mass-consumption. Just look at Sansaire's sous vide project if you need an example.

Though you're probably used to seeing super-slow-mo footage on the Discovery Channel, the enormous cost of high-speed cameras has kept this technology out of the hands of students, independent filmmakers, and other curious amateurs. The Edgertronic isn't anyone's idea of a stocking-stuffer, but an asking price of $5,000 should be well within the budget of a science department, independent film production, or well-to-do hobbyist.

One thing's for sure: We can't wait to see the crazy YouTube videos that'll come out of this thing.

Fine Art Medium-Format Portrait Lens

Petzvar
[Credit: Kickstarter/Petzvar] View Larger

Name: Petzvar f/3.8 120mm Medium Format Petzval Portrait Lens
Price: $400
Funded? No; 19 days remaining

People don't usually make lenses in their spare time. Lens design presents incredible engineering challenges, and polishing individual elements by hand is tedious, painstaking work. But that hasn't stopped Denys Ivanichek, who is trying to get funding to mass-produce his custom-made medium format portrait lens.

The lens is based on the designs of Joseph Petzval, who improved portrait lens speeds to f/3.6 in 1840, way back in photography's infancy. This modern take on the Petzvar updates the classic brass design to black plastic, but the lens still produces vintage-looking images with intense vignetting and circular, some might say hypnotic bokeh. Though the Petzvar is designed for medium-format cameras, it can be mounted on many 35mm and DSLR cameras using simple mechanical adapters.

[Hero image: Wikimedia Commons, Bill Ebbesen]

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