While there are physical limitations to lens apertures, through the use of adapters, photographers can seemingly bypass the laws of physics and make very, very fast glass.
One such adapter is the F-Zero Camera, launching on Kickstarter on May 30. As seen on ISO 1200, the F-Zero Camera uses specialized optics to “capture images which are physically impossible to achieve with any other method.”
“What if we could get around the laws of physics? What if we could capture the impossible?” asks F-Zero Camera.
The F-Zero Camera allows photographers to shoot from the f/0.3 to f/0.6 range.
“Images take on a three-dimensional quality, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. The F-Zero Camera opens up entirely new ways to tell stories, and the results are pure magic,” F-Zero explains.
The F-Zero Camera uses the same principle as a depth-of-field adapter. It is constructed using an aircraft-grade alloy and has been CNC-machined. It comprises an objective lens inside a carrier frame, a sensor assembly, and a second carrier frame that users attach their personal camera and lens to, all of which go on a tripod and slider rail. The user’s camera captures the image that’s projected through the objective lens onto the F-Zero’s sensor assembly. Bellows cover the distance between the objective lens and taking camera.
The system’s objective lens is nominally a 500mm f/4.5 lens; if it were mounted directly to a camera, that’s what it would behave like. However, the lens projects an image circle much larger than the size of a camera’s sensor.
“By projecting that image onto our intermediate sensor, we retain the super-shallow depth of field but create a much wider field of view. The result is an effective 65mm f/0.6. We then capture that image using a taking camera at the back of the system, and that taking camera can be anything,” F-Zero explains.
The F-Zero Camera system works with a wide range of cameras, including smartphones and GoPro action cams, all the way up to DSLR, mirrorless, and studio cinema cameras. The designers say that the camera, which includes a rail mount, is ready to be mounted on a tripod, tabletop, or even placed directly on the ground.
In designing the F-Zero Camera, the team was inspired by a pair of one-off products, “The Impossible Lens Experimental Camera” created by Media Division and DIYPerks‘ 35mm f/0.4 equivalent custom lens.
These special projects show that despite f/0.5 being the physical limit of maximum apertures, a lens can be made to be equivalent to an aperture faster than that, at least concerning depth of field. “Ignoring” the laws of physics relies upon additional optics and the idea of a crop factor.
In the case of the F-Zero Camera, the crop factor is 0.13x because the lens is a 500mm f/4.5 that behaves like a 65mm f/0.6.
While bokeh and depth of field depend on many factors, including focal length, sensor size, distance to the subject, how far away the background is, optical construction, and more, the important factor to think about is that while a lens’ light-gathering capabilities are limited by physics, pairing a lens with additional optics can deliver a narrower depth of field and a blurrier background than what’s physically possible using a single lens.
Although the Kickstarter campaign launches on May 30, users can lock in early bid pricing with a $1 reservation on F-Zero’s website. The early bird price will be $949 for the “full camera kit,” a $1,050 savings compared to the $1,999 retail price. If users want all the metal components but none of the optics, a “DIY bundle” starts at $379, with the retail price set to be $699.
While the F-Zero Camera comes with a custom hard case and rail mount, users must supply their own rail. Full technical information is detailed on the F-Zero Camera FAQ page.
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Image credits: F-Zero Camera