Alice Camera has experienced some serious delays but has shared a set of photos taken with its unique camera system which gives an idea of what kind of quality can be expected from the unusual camera system.
The Alice Camera, a Micro Four Thirds system that attaches to the back of a smartphone, has been in development for nearly two years. The concept for the device is simple: an interchangeable lens camera system that attaches to a smartphone, with the idea that it would finally be a perfect bridge between computational photography and professional-quality optics and a larger sensor.
Alice Camera did not hit its original ship date estimate and up to this point, the company has not publicly acknowledged the issues in its updates on IndieGoGo. The camera has still not been delivered to backers. That said, backers who reached out to the company were provided a new timeline as recently as four months ago, which one backer shared in the comments:
This development roadmap was created in April and points to the global chip shortage as the main reason why Alice Camera hasn’t shipped finished products to backers yet. That timeline has changed again, as explained by Alice Camera’s Co-Founder and CEO Vishal Kumar, speaking to PetaPixel.
“When we pitched Alice Camera v1 on Indiegogo in Feb/March 2021, one of the core electronics components for image/video processing was an FPGA chip. But this chip alongside the CPU and Wi-Fi modules we sourced were massively affected by the chip shortage, and delivery times went from six weeks to 60 weeks around May 2021. Obviously this was not feasible, so around July/August 2021 we instead decided to consolidate our stack around a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip,” Kumar explains.
Kumar says that the shift to the Qualcomm chip was a big step-up as far as what the Alice Camera was going to be able to do.
“This single Snapdragon chip has replaced five components from the original design, quite remarkably simplifying our supply chain during this horrid chip shortage. The Snapdragon ecosystem also allows us to much easily leverage our custom Linux-based Alice Camera Operating System software,” he says.
“We knew this move was a great long-term investment for our customers, but there was a lot of testing we had to do. At the same time, we were also improving the ergonomics of the camera. With all these new changes, in September we launched Alice Camera v2 and ordered all the core components.”
Kumar says that the chip shortage was, and still is, causing delays but the first components started to arrive in February of 2022. By April, he says that 90% of the components were on hand, but the company is still waiting for a set of small “but vital” chips to arrive from Shenzhen and Shanghai to allow them to move forward with pre-production manufacturing and testing.
“But then the Shanghai lockdowns between March and July threw another huge spanner in the works which meant that we didn’t actually get these components until July/August 2022,” he says.
“The good news is that we now have all the components and the product is currently going through final consumer electronics and regulatory testing before we go into production manufacturing. We will start shipping production units to backers from October 2022; this is around the same time we will launch our latest sales campaign. We have also worked hard with our suppliers to confirm availability of components for 2023.”
Kumar says that, obviously, this was not the outcome Alice Camera wanted nor expected.
“We’ve been keeping our customers updated via email at every step along the way and we’re extremely impressed and grateful for their support and patience throughout our journey,” he adds.
The Alice Camera is Getting Close
This past June, the Alice Camera team did a pop-up store in London at the BOXPARK in Shoreditch. Kumar says that it was an opportunity to get the camera into the hands of customers who were able to attend.
“We had a great reception because people had not seen a product like this on the market before,” he says.
After that pop-up, Kumar published a video summarizing the event and also shared some sample photos taken with the current iteration of the Alice Camera.
Kumar shared the full-resolution samples (10.2-megapixels) showcased in this video with PetaPixel, which can be seen below:
The company also recently published a demo video that dives into the pre-production version of the iOS/Android app in detail, seen below:
While the Alice Camera has seen some rather significant delays that have worried some of its backers, the company appears to be doing its best to communicate the issues that it has experienced and also appears close to finally being able to deliver a finished camera, even if it is a year later than the original goal.
Image credits: Alice Camera