Jon Stern

Jon Stern

Lives in United States Mountain View, CA, United States
Works as a Electronics Engineer
Joined on Apr 21, 2003

Comments

Total: 73, showing: 21 – 40
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In reply to:

markg26: It's a great concept, but they missed the boat by a few years. Most photographers from the film era have probably thrown away their film bodies by now, or they are so out-of-date with regard to autofocus and other features there's no point in using them.

This is a historical perspective. Silicon Film closed its doors in Sept 2001. There was a subsequent attempt to revive it, but that's the footnote.

Direct link | Posted on Aug 21, 2013 at 23:38 UTC
In reply to:

Roland Karlsson: For Jon Stern.

You have a long list of misunderstandings you want to put right in the posts below. Interesting to read maybe.

But, was not the biggest misunderstanding that this idea had any bearing at all? How come that you even tried it?

To me it was obvious the first time I heard about it that it was not a brilliant idea. Making a camera is much easier than making the digital film insert.

Making a full camera would have been easier, but when we started a DSLR cost around $40,000. What's more, those early DSLRs really weren't very good cameras. Certainly they were inferior to the film SLRs that many people already owed and loved.

It's easy in 2013 to sit here and throw stones at an idea whose time has largely passed, but try to look at it through turn of the century eyes.

Direct link | Posted on Aug 21, 2013 at 15:45 UTC
In reply to:

Jon Stern: Re: 7) several key employees on the EFS-1 project left SFI further hampering the development process

We were struggling towards the end. As mentioned above, the dot com bubble bursting had it close to impossible to get VC funding for tech companies (how ironic given that just a few years earlier we were being asked if we could see a way of putting a dot com angle on the business by some investors who would then have been interested). We had to downsize to preserve cash in Sping of 2001 (or thereabout). None of the people let go were deemed essential for the development process.

forpetessake, no. We actually struggled to get funding in the early days because we were NOT a dot com company. Everyone had jumped on the dot com bandwagon and few traditional VCs were interested in funding a hardware company. They were too busy chasing pretty internet baubles!

I specifically remember our first CEO in early '99 asking me if I could think of a dot com spin on what we were doing because he'd just got off the phone with an investor who had said, "I'd be interested in you can come up with a dot com angle", or words to that effect.

Direct link | Posted on Aug 21, 2013 at 01:45 UTC
In reply to:

Biowizard: The funny thing is, with today's technology (which of course has come a LONG way since then), this might be doable. Using low-energy WiFi or BlueTooth to connect/control the device while in-camera, for example. And of course, a full frame sensor. I'd love to get some more life out of my OM-1 and Contax S2 and film is such an expensive way to go these days ...

Brian

ET2, it's a pity that most of those criticisms are incorrect.

Direct link | Posted on Aug 20, 2013 at 22:34 UTC
In reply to:

(unknown member): The article states..."the lack of battery space, the need to open the camera to change ISO, White Balance or any other image setting, and the need to indicate a crop in the viewfinder if anything less than a full frame sensor is used, are all difficult to get around"..

Really, in 2013? One could not design the device to accept NFC inputs from a smartphone to adjust ISO,WB etc., and use the smartphone as a "review screen" via wi-fi? As for indicating crop factors, easy fix, since many of our film cameras have removable focus screens like the Nikon F1, etc.

It is a curse being smart and good looking, unfortunately, I am mostly broke financially...as MeaLoaf says..."Two outta three ain't bad....".

EFS-1 was to ship with a custom transfer made be Letraset than allowed crop marks to be added to the focusing screen. We even had a special holder that would correctly align the two.

Direct link | Posted on Aug 20, 2013 at 22:27 UTC
In reply to:

forpetessake: It was clear to even the most dimwitted individual with a science degree that this was an absolutely unworkable and stupid idea. The only reason for the existence of that project was to fleece the investors. Investing in such projects usually summarized as 3F: family, friends, and fools. Amazing how many investors are in the third category.

I have both a science degree and a Ph.D. in electronics and I can tell you that you don't know what you are talking about.

The approach was very workable thanks to the efforts of a team of very smart individuals. One of these individuals kept one of the prototypes and used it regularly for several years until he bought a DSLR to replace it.

Direct link | Posted on Aug 20, 2013 at 22:19 UTC
In reply to:

sigala1: The cheapest entry-level DSLR is going to be a lot more practical than the most expensive "professional" film DSLR with this insert.

That is true today, but it wasn't back then. When Silicon Film started, a DSLR was about US$40,000!

Direct link | Posted on Aug 20, 2013 at 22:17 UTC
In reply to:

Uitwaaien13: A good friend of mine spoke with the developper of this idea on the Photokina long long ago. When he returned he was flabbergasted about the idea and over the problems that had to be solved.
The biggest problem that had to be tackled was money. May be Lomography could pick this up with a fund raisong project?

Which year was that? In '98 there were two people on the "Imagek" booth. I was one of them.

Direct link | Posted on Aug 20, 2013 at 22:15 UTC

The "6 models" were all the same until the very final step of the assembly process, when the distance between the "film can" and the sensor was locked down. It was all achieved by simply cutting the sensor flex cable to the length required for a particular model, sticking it down and applying the top metal "flag" cover. Oh, we also had a different-colored vinyl label that was applied to the "film can" for each of the six variants. Interestingly, most of the major SLRs were covered by just three of these configurations.

This approach allowed close to complete production and inventorying of the EFS-1. When orders for different models came in we would have been quickly able to configure them (in a few minutes); perform final test; package; and then ship.

I won't say much about "Silicon Film EFS10-SF", as I had little involvement after the closure on 9/14/2001. I don't really consider that to be part of the real Silicon Film history.

Direct link | Posted on Aug 20, 2013 at 22:06 UTC as 41st comment

Re: 8) William Patton never accepted the position of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of SFI. In a nutshell it was not going to work for the time. Plus Silicon Film saw that they needed to create 6 different models to cover most of the cameras available. Everything was looking bad for the EFS-1.

The William Patton ("General" Patton, as we called him) incident was a funny one. The staff was introduced to him and never saw him again. This was not long before we finally ran out of cash and closed our doors (the week of the 9/11 attacks). I don't think this affected the outcome, it's just a strange footnote in the history.

Direct link | Posted on Aug 20, 2013 at 22:06 UTC as 42nd comment

Re: 7) several key employees on the EFS-1 project left SFI further hampering the development process

We were struggling towards the end. As mentioned above, the dot com bubble bursting had it close to impossible to get VC funding for tech companies (how ironic given that just a few years earlier we were being asked if we could see a way of putting a dot com angle on the business by some investors who would then have been interested). We had to downsize to preserve cash in Sping of 2001 (or thereabout). None of the people let go were deemed essential for the development process.

Direct link | Posted on Aug 20, 2013 at 22:05 UTC as 43rd comment | 2 replies

Re: 6) SFI and ISC had scrapped the initial design of the EFS-1 and were scrambling to develop a new prototype

False. The orignal ~3x factor in EFS-1 was known to have limited market appeal. I was already leading the development of the next version to address this and enable a larger market acceptance. We already had functional sensors of a 4MP, ~29mm x 19mm sensor for the next product running in the lab.

I'm laughing at this one because somehow a positive (that we were working on a better gen. 2 product) has been perverted in to us scrapping EFS-1.

Direct link | Posted on Aug 20, 2013 at 22:05 UTC as 44th comment

Re: 5) EFS-1 technology presented potential patent conflicts with those already registered by Kodak

False. Kodak's patent had a later filing date than ours, and while it included some claims we didn't have, they were not useful (we didn't need to infringe on them).

Incidentally, we had an extremely good relationship with Kodak. In large part thanks to one of our board members, Tom Kelly, having formerly been a senior manager at Kodak (he led the team that developed what was marketed as the "Apple Quicktake"), and our CEO Ken Fey having been responsible for setting up Kodak's point-and-shoot production in China.

Direct link | Posted on Aug 20, 2013 at 22:05 UTC as 45th comment

Re: 4) an internal design review was conducted in May, 2001 with all the top officers of SFI, ISC and all of the suppliers for the EFS-1 that were owed millions of dollars. [Snip due to DPReview character limits]

There's some fairness in this. We were short of ceramics for the sensor package, but already had prototypes for a lower-cost, more easily sourced design. Supply would have been limited until we could ramp that up fully.

We were not taking orders because we were not ready to ship. Our approach was to slowly ramp, in large part because money was tight in 2001 after the dot com crash. We were running on our cash reserves and pre-MP funding was almost impossible to find in a technology-hostile investment climate. The strategy set out by the executive team was to get to limited, volume mass production and product launch, knowing that raising funding for MP ramp would them be much easier.

Direct link | Posted on Aug 20, 2013 at 22:04 UTC as 46th comment

Re: 3) the current design of the EFS-1 was extremely difficult to produce. Specifically, it took hundreds of engineering hours to produce one unit with a success rate of about one unit in three working;

We were hand-building the prototypes without the final mass production tooling and it was slow (I don't know where hundred of engineering hours comes from!) and we had a low yield. This was of concern to me, but mostly from the perspective of MP schedule and ramp.

Anyone who has been involved in real mass production knows that assembly cycle time and yield go through a steep, early learning curve. There were no fundamental issues with our assembly process, which was a lot simpler than DSLRs of the time.

Direct link | Posted on Aug 20, 2013 at 22:03 UTC as 47th comment | 1 reply

Re: 2) these design problems would prevent the unit from passing the required FCC and CE certifications necessary to publicly release the product

I love how that rumor with a grain of truth became an internet fact.

We did have some issue with some of our FCC pre-screens at one point (anyone who has ever done this kind of work knows how frustrating that process can be). This was when downloading from the (e)port to a PC over USB. We modified some of the filters on the board, but still we were having intermittent fails. Eventually we found that we only failed when using a USB cable without a ferrite chock. Switching over to that type of cable resolved this issue.

As for CE, the first version of our firmware would have failed CE testing because it didn't have a safe recovery from a crash (that required removal of the batteries). This was not a fundamental issue though. It just needed some new code that the executive management decided to de-prioritize until after the US launch.

Direct link | Posted on Aug 20, 2013 at 22:02 UTC as 48th comment

It's always interesting to read outsider's views on Silicon Film (especially those that quote me). Typically there are a number of errors.

Re: 1) the EFS-1 suffered from serious and insurmountable technical design flaws

Not true. There were many challenges that others could not forsee ways of over-coming (that included Canon's engineers when they reviewed the idea back in ~99). However, we had a really talented group of engineers and by a mixture of creative thinking and clever engineering, we managed to over-come all of these "insurmountable" flaws.

If Oliver Duong cares to list all of these flaws, I'd be happy to address them line by line.

Direct link | Posted on Aug 20, 2013 at 22:01 UTC as 49th comment
On Is this the new Leica 'Mini M'? article (369 comments in total)

Whatever happened to DPReview's policy of not re-printing rumors? Was this abandoned because it was seen as having become an irrelevant gesture, or because there was a realization that rumors are good for site traffic, advertising revenue, and visits to the Gear Shop?

Direct link | Posted on May 29, 2013 at 19:58 UTC as 149th comment | 1 reply
On Just Posted: Fujifilm X100S first-look preview article (146 comments in total)
In reply to:

starwolfy: Sure that sounds like an amazing re-born for the X100, now called X100S for Steroid.
Too bad Fuji didn't agree fixing my sticky aperture problem that occured with my X100...for free.

They fixed mine for free too. I didn't even bother to show proof of warranty I just checked the box on the form.

Direct link | Posted on Jan 8, 2013 at 20:25 UTC
On Just Posted: Fujifilm X100S first-look preview article (146 comments in total)
In reply to:

princewolf: As a black x-100 owner, I'm crazy jaleous!!

I fail to see what your ethnicity has to do with it!

I'm a white X100 owner and I'm still jealous.

;-)

Direct link | Posted on Jan 8, 2013 at 20:23 UTC
Total: 73, showing: 21 – 40
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