IKONOSKOP is back and with new investors - and a credible plan to move forward - the future is looking infinitely brighter than just a few months ago
2013 has been a difficult year for small camera manufacturers. Back in April Red Shark reported that Aaton, a company much loved by filmmakers around the world for their ergonomics-first “like a cat on the shoulder” camera design, announced that the company was entering bankruptcy proceedings.
Then back in early summer, rumors started spreading around the web about troubles at Ikonoskop. On June 24th the official word came out of Sweden:
“@Ikonoskop: @Ikonoskop has temporarily stopped production due to strained financial situation. We are working to find a solution.”
The news was met with dismay by camera owners and DPs. The Ikonoskop A-CAM DII was at the forefront of raw image motion picture recording, and had a reputation for being a favorite among DPs and anyone with an eye for the film aesthetic.
Not much was announced between June and October, until the 17th of October when Ikonoskop tweeted the enthusiastic words “We’re Back!” [As reported here].
I contacted Ikonoskop and had a chance to chat over e-mail with new co-owner Joachim Vansteelant about the changes at the company and their plans for the future. Squeezed by tight schedules, Joachim and I exchanged mails between New York and Sweden. Even through the somewhat detached medium of email, Joachim's passion shines through. You can feel the enthusiasm he has for the A-CAM DII and the dedication he has towards fellow camera's users.
Peter Haas (PH): Can you talk about your past relationship with Ikonoskop?
Joachim Vansteelant (JV): I received my first Ikonoskop A-Cam dII in 2011. The first time I held the camera there was something emotional about it. Something beyond its function as a tool. As with any camera, you can't experience it by just looking at a picture of it.
I started posting my test results on Vimeo, and I quickly got a lot of messages from people trying to find out more about the specifics of the camera and the workflow. Too many messages! That's when I decided, to write a blog about the A-Cam dII. I just wanted to create a helpful tool for dII owners and people interested in the camera.
About six months after I started the blog, Ikonoskop asked me to become a reseller for Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxemburg and France. That’s when I started selling cameras. In the meantime I had also started rental of my camera, because I just wanted to get the dII into the hands of as many filmmakers as possible. Rental got to a point that I didn't have a camera left to shoot my own stuff, so I quickly had to buy a second one... and then a third.
PH: In your opinion, what was it about the DII that made it so unique?
JV: I for one love the aesthetics of 16mm and I know many others do as well. It makes sense for documentary, for music videos, for fashion films, and it makes sense for a lot of fictional narrative as well. To me, the A-Cam dII is the only digital camera on the market that preserves the look of 16mm.
That's why every time people have called me to express interest in the camera, and they weren't too far to travel, I’ve always invited them to come check out the camera for themselves. There's something very appealing in the compact robustness. In the simplicity of design. Mount an Arriflex Zeiss S16mm Distagon on it and it's in perfect balance. When an experienced filmmaker holds it - you see this flicker of recognition in their eyes, and you know, he or she is hooked!
Beyond design, the image that the A-Cam dII produces is quite different. I like quality and I like unique. The way the fill-factor of the global shutter Kodak CCD has been implemented in the dII makes the color and spatial rendition of the images of extremely high quality, and extremely unique. For me, it was this image quality that really made the camera a true digital replacement for 16mm film.
PH: When did you start thinking about buying the company?
JV: Earlier this year, with interest in the camera and orders still growing, we got the extremely bad news, that Ikonoskop was in financial trouble. This is when I became interested in acquiring the company.
Actually, it was Pete Teo who ignited the thought of buying Ikonoskop’s assets and having me run the operational side of the company. Pete, is a fellow A-Cam dII owner, and one of many people I've gotten to know over the last two years while working with the camera. We have very similar visual and artistic taste and we also have very similar interests in our lives. We are good friends in real life - in fact we were introduced by the dII.
Pete has an unbelievable eye for detail and meticulously scrutinizes every venture he gets himself into. He was really the one that facilitated the purchase of Ikonoskop with me and an additional investor. It’s important to mention that we are not inexperienced when it comes to business ventures.
PH: Could you talk a little bit about that background?
JV: I have more than a decade of experience as a freelance Project Manager and Program Manager in many different industries and in projects spanning from HR, Change Management, Software Development, Interfacing, Product Development, Marketing and Infrastructure.
PH: What about the vision you and Pete have for Ikonoskop?
JV: Our vision for Ikonoskop is to champion the creativity of the filmmaker by offering tools that facilitate expression through quality and simplicity.
That means that one of our main ambitions in the short term is to become more than just a camera manufacturer.
We know, from our own experience, how puzzling and time consuming it can be to get the right camera setup for different jobs. A camera is just one piece of that puzzle. We want to offer filmmakers solutions for their entire setup, method, and workflow - in a way that achieves the best quality results, as simply as possible.
PH: What is the crucial part of that vision?
JV: The crucial part of this vision is that we are not about hype. We are about real solutions, not empty promises. The last couple of years have seen tools being promised followed by extensive delays in delivering them. We, as filmmakers, have experienced this period as quite disrespectful towards us as customers.
Therefore, we’ve decided that Ikonoskop will only announce new products and services to the public, when they are ready to ship.
PH: How do you plan on accomplishing that?
JV: Some of our other guiding principles are:
1. Respect: This is why early on we are mainly concentrate on existing customers and people that are already on our waiting list for a new dII. They are our ambassadors and deserve our utmost respect for sharing our philosophy.
2. Global: A camera system is complex and has to be of high quality to ensure reliability. Therefore, building such a system needs the best human talent, electronic components, and mechanical hardware parts, no matter where that talent lives and works, or the components and parts have to be manufactured to be competitive. Ikonoskop is now a Malaysian Holding with a first branch in Europe (Belgium). Our team already has people from 3 continents providing us with their expertise.
3. Proximity: The philosophy I've described above necessitates that we are as close as possible to our customers, in order to provide local representation and service. We are already working hard on this.
Many thanks to Joachim for is imput into this article
As stated in his e-mail to current camera owners, (and deeply inline with Joachim’s customer-oriented philosophy) the first part of Ikonoskop to be brought back online has been camera maintenance, with more updates regarding new camera sales coming in the near future.
As a fan of the A-CAM DII, I will be keeping a close eye on what will be coming out Ikonoskop!
Stunning IKONOSKOP video example after the break