Though image quality of digital camera's has greatly improved since the first iterations in the 1950's, freedom of use and control over the device have declined at an inversely proportional rate, says Sebastian Pichelhofer. That's why he and and a team of film makers are working on AXIOM Beta the world's first FOSS & open hardware cinema digital camera.

AXIOM Beta came out of the Apertus project, a platform where people collaborate to make open technology for professional film making a reality. The effort to build an open cinema camera started in 2006 when a group of people started modifying an open source modular camera made by the company Elphel. Elphel brought the first open hardware camera's to the market but when it became clear that Elphel devices could not meet the requirements for professional film making, the Apertus people decided to build a camera from scratch. And after the AXIOM Alpha, there is now the Beta version.

To provide as much freedom as possible, the AXIOM Beta is set up as modular hardware. There is a dedicated audio module, a viewfinder module, a storage module and so on. Giving the user the freedom to replace or modify specific functions independently. There is also a template design module so people can add there own functions. The modules, including the template one, aren't treated as add-ons but integrate with the camera natively.

The modular design also extends to the front of the camera with a modular lens mount, filter mount and an image sensor module. “Just as you used to be able to swap film stock in old camera's, you can now swap the image sensor”, said Pichelhofer during the AXIOM Alpha presentation at the EHSM open hardware festival in Hamburg last June.

After years of work the team is now running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise money for development. The reward for backers who put down money now for development is a huge discounts once the AXIOM Beta is ready for sale. For instance, someone who supports the project now with €350 can buy the Axiom Beta Super35, which is expected to ship in the spring of 2015, for €2300 instead of the estimated retail price of €5990. The pledge does not oblige backers to buy the camera, should they change their mind as time progresses. For those who wish to support the endeavor but aren't in the market for a camera, rewards like stickers and T-shirts offer a way to contribute with smaller amounts.

The camera has 4k resolution, Full HD 4:4:4 via three independent HDMI ports at max 60 FPS. It can capture 4K RAW still images internally. It is capable of real time image processing on FPGA. It runs a custum Linux O.S. based on ArchLinux and Raspian. All camera functions can be remote controlled over a wired or wireless connection.

For more on how the AXIOM Beta is built here's a presentation by two of the developers Sebastian Pichelhofer and Herbert Poetzl at the EHSM open hardware festival.