The team behind the Reflex film camera took to Kickstarter today with troubling news of further setbacks and an uncertain future for the project.
First announced on November 7th 2017, Reflex with its “Reflex I” promised a brand new 35mm SLR film camera system encompassing options to use multiple lens systems, a built-in LED flash/continuous light source, BlueTooth connectivity with a companion app as well as a host of future options built in-house and/or through a “modder community”.
Critically, the team wanted to offer the camera at the same ticket price as consumer film SLRs of yesteryear, hitting their earlybird sweet spot of $350. The campaign was funded by 464 backers who pledged a total of £131,964.
Reflex’s most recent update makes for dire reading in part. Talking specifically about their failure to meet their deadline for this year’s PhotoPlus in New York (October 24-26):
“…a mismatch between the hardware and firmware departments caused a substantial setback on the electronics DFM*1. A combination of poor HR judgement (due to a lack of experience on our end) and a set of wrong decisions, caused one team to underdeliver and another team to consequentially walk out. On top of that, we suffered an unfortunate setback in project management, causing even more delays.”
*1 DFM = Design For Manufacturability
As the update states, the most recent issue is rooted in “incompatible departments”, or as the team put it:
“Incompatible to such an extent that it was almost surreal to witness at times. This entire episode set us back in a way that the day of the deadline felt like the day we started, two months prior.”
Backers have been kept well-updated by the Reflex team over the past two years since the campaign was first launched and while it may seem on the face of things that the project has suffered nothing but delays, it is important to remember the team sits under the lens of public crowdfunding, so these issues have a habit of being amplified in part.
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So what’s next for Reflex? First and foremost on the agenda will be the need to find a new EE team to pick up where the last team left off. The Reflex team remains determined to push past the setback and HR/project management problems aside for a moment, they do have a working (and tested) 40mm lens ready for launch, a “Mk II” camera slowly being pieced together, the updated shutter they promised and a raft of other updates and news waiting in the pipeline.
“…the 40mm lens is tested and ready, and waiting to start generating income. However, we want to show a working Reflex camera as part of the launch campaign, so in the weeks to come we will focus on finishing what we started for PhotoPlus. This way we can showcase a working and production ready camera. When we get to this stage we will start putting out the before-mentioned test samples and contact those who want to be involved in the testing.”
There’s no word on the ReflexLab, “Lens-Based Scanner”, “Field Notes and Metadata” app mentioned in Kickstarter update #13 but from the perspective of this industry observer, I’m confident that the team will persevere and at the very least will produce a camera, as was their original goal.
I strongly advise everyone reading this article to read the update in its entirety (at least twice, please). There’s a lot to unpack. As I’ve recently stated on a couple of podcasts, the Reflex team are trying to achieve something that has not been done since legacy camera manufacturers first started making modern SLRs with complex shutters and functionality like the Nikon F. Unlike those companies, they are literally starting from scratch.
Pause and consider that virtually every single new 35mm film camera made today utilises shutter, metering, aperture linkage and film transport technology significantly older and less complex than the Nikon F and similar SLRs from other manufacturers at the time. When you think about it that way, the work the Relfex team are doing and their potential to shake up film camera hardware could mean a lot for our industry and community as a whole.
Fingers crossed and good luck to them.
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