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 is a Micro Four Thirds camera that attaches on the back of smartphones. It has been developed for over 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.
Originally announced in September of 2020, the camera arrived on IndieGoGo in February of 2021 and raised $167,314 with an anticipated ship date of October of that year.
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. Backers have not received the camera. 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 the move to the Qualcomm chip was an important step up from what the Alice Camera could do.
This single Snapdragon chip replaced five parts from the original design. It has also significantly simplified our supply chain in this terrible 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 states that this is not what Alice Camera expected or desired.
We’ve kept our customers informed via email every step of the journey and are extremely grateful to them for their patience and support throughout.
The Alice Camera Team is Getting Close
This past June, Alice Camera held a pop up store at London’s BOXPARK. Kumar said that the event was a chance to give the camera to customers who could attend.
“We had a great reception because people had not seen a product like this on the market before,” he says.
Kumar posted a summary of the event along with some samples taken using the latest version 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