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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I met these guys at Photokina 2018. They seemed decent and genuine. I’d trust them with my money. But producing a camera that does all they claim it will, and for less than $150K? That is where I think the problem is. They’d need at least 10 or 20 times that.
Oh boy, where to begin, Why oh why didn’t Reflex make just a mechanical SLR with shutter speeds up to 1/2000 of a second with centre weighted metering? I wonder if the collective brains behind this project were spitballing ideas onto the wall (interchangeable backs and bluetooth cabablity) without considering what the market really wanted, which was, you guessed it, a sturdy mechanical SLR available in a couple of different lens mounts so people could use their legacy glass, how hard could that be to figure out. The more complex the design, the more that can go wroing in the intial prototype process and even more so down the road after the Reflex sees the light of day and requires repair. Will any of remaining repair people want to touch this camera when it comes into their shop?
I echo your sentiments.
Perhaps if they tried to build a simpler SLR they would not have run into this kind of difficulty (I do admit I am using 20/20 hindsight, but suspect it would have been simpler & many SLR user – as well as potential users – would have preferred it).
So far, they produced nothing but sketches and low res pictures of obvioulsy 3D printed mockups of the camera. Why don’t they show real parts, that according to their progress reports, must exist by now? They want to make a shutter themselves, a high precision device, and again all we are shown is a 3D print mockup, then silence. The budget they have is by far insufficient to pay for the required engineering (multiple teams without oversight?, they all work for free?), the testing, the tooling required for all the parts, and to actually produce the camera.
To believe that this product will ever come on the market is incredibly naive.
Kickstarter is hard. I wish these sorts of things weren’t common, but they are. And I just learn to expect it. I actually missed backing their campaign which is a shame because I believe in what they are trying to do and would like to help back the project (though I’d imaigne if they tried to raise more funds via say Indie GoGo it would raise some flags for folks). Really hope they manage to sort it out. I go into these things basically knowing deadlines are going to be missed. Par for the course – I just hope at the end of the journey is a new kick-ass film camera (and shutter system – arguably the most important thing in my opinion).
“Backers have been kept well-updated by the Reflex team over the past two years”
They really haven’t. Reflex has repeatedly made extremely dubious promises followed by months of silence and then offered weak excuses with no signs of progress.
Oh man, just start bringing the money in, and Prove to the market that it’s worth the wait – if the 40mm is ready to go, they got adapters for it? If so then start shipping, send it out to reviewers, get folks excited with something they can physically hold and assess from the company. Don’t get hung up on the Holy Grail body that’s been hit by self-inflicted setbacks – You’d think they’d had enough of precious diva behaviour by now.
I backed them, and I hope they can deliver. Slightly peeved they went off on a tangent and developed a lens, which wasn’t part of the Kickstarter campaign. I also have to ask, if they could see the train wreck that was unfolding, why didn’t they do something before it all went to s***e? Still, I’m on the outside looking and don’t know all the facts.
@Ray__Goodwin, answers the question you posed last week.