Cameras for Free Software

Figure 1:  Cameras that shoot formats for free software

In an article I posted on my video miscellany . wordpress.com blog,  I made mention of my idea to find and use only the cameras that can enable the use of free software (as  in GPL, etc, and not free as in no cost).

I started a table to list the cameras that can shoot (stills or movies, but preferably both) in free formats.    I’m re-defining “free” as “no-longer-encumbered,”  – as in the use of JPEG and MJPEG for stills and video, respectively.  This probably does not meet a very strict definition of “free formats.”       Almost all cameras these days can export stills in the JPEG format, including those in table 1, below.

Bridge cameras:

Camera Make Price Example Zoom Level Sensor Size Raw MJPEG MP4
Panasonic FZ1000 < ~$800 16X ~1.0 yes-only stills AVCHD instead yes
FujiFilm S8600 < ~$200 36X ~ .5 no yes no
Panasonic FZ70 < ~$275 60X ~ .5 yes-stills only AVCHD instead yes
Nikon P900 < ~$700 83X ~ .5 no no MOV instead
Canon SX-60 < ~$475 60X ~ .5 yes-stills only no yes
Panasonic LZ30 < ~$300 35X ~ .5 no yes no

Table 1: Some cameras for JPEG, some for MJPEG, some for both

Table one lists what may be considered (by some person’s definition) to be bridge cameras.  A bridge camera is one that is placed by marketing, price, and feature targets between the point-n-shoot camera and the DSLR camera.  A recent addition to this mix is the so-called mirror-less camera, which is more properly compared with the DLSR class of camera.

The following table list some DSLR and mirrorless cameras that may be able to shoot “free” formats. Note that most cameras can shoot stills in the JPEG format, which I tend to put in the free camp, in spite of it’s once being proprietary, because the patents have expired. So, most cameras can shoot at least one (sort of, free) format.

DSLR and Mirrorless cameras:

Camera Make Price Example Zoom Level Sensor Size Raw MJPEG MP4
Pentax K5 II < ~$1200 (new) Any, with req lens ~1.0 yes-only stills MJPEG – Yes no
Canon 5D Mark IV < ~$3000 (new) Any, with req lens ~1.37 yes-only stills MJPEG – Yes Full HD only
Sigma Quatro < ~$900 (new) Any, with req lens ~1 yes-only stills MJPEG – NA NA

Fujifilm, Canon, Panasonic, and Pentax all have cameras that can shoot *both* stills and video in free formats.  But, the model numbers of these cameras count as being part of minority product lines for all but Canon, which provides the free format capability in their flagship camera, the 5D Mark IV. It shoots MJPEG in 4k and (I think) HD, and Full HD in the mp4 format. The Mark IV is a full frame sensor camera (1.37 inches is 35 millimeters).

Using the Pentax K5 II camera is an excellent way to shoot DSLR quality stills and video in free formats. It shoots high quality raw stills, JPEG stills, and MJPEG video in both fractional HD and Full HD formats, all free.

As I find additional cameras to add, I’ll put them on the list, even if they are not recently released models (since the whole “free” thing is so important). For example, the Pentax K5 II is a 2013 release.

I really like the Sigma Quatro camera, because it does IR without any retrofit, and I’m thinking guessing that the type of sensor it uses will allow deeper IR penetration (maybe even to mid IR, but I don’t know).   It doesn’t do any video, so that doesn’t disqualify it in terms of free software enablement.  It *does* do JPEG, so has a (sort of) free format for stills.

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Fujifilm, Canon, Panasonic, and Pentax, Ricoh, Nikon, Sigma and all other brands mentioned on this page are owned by their respective companies, and this author and site has no affiliation with them.

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