On 20th October 2014, The Intrepid Camera Co. launched their crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Their goal was to raise £27,000 to enable them to redesign the tried and tested 4×5 large format camera to produce a modern camera that would be affordable, simple to use, lightweight and compact. Most of all they wanted to produce a great tool that would get new photographers passionate about large format photography.
The photography community worldwide bought in to the dream. By 22nd October 2014, less than forty eight hours from launch, the project had reached its target. Three days later it was £10,000 over target and by the time the Kickstarter ended on 19 Nov pledges had reached a grand total of £63,158.
I chipped in with my pledge of £129 on 30th October 2014. Backer number 367. My pledge wasn’t a purchase order for a camera. I was making some sort of investment in a start-up business devoted to photography, the thing that I’ve enjoyed as a hobby since I was eight years old. The return on my investment, should the business succeed, would be the reward of one of the cameras once developed and in production. First deliveries of rewards to backers was estimated for March 2015.
It has been interesting as a backer to follow the progress updates as they’ve been posted on Kickstarter. From the excitement of making my choice of bellows colour back in January 2015 to the realisation in May 2015 that planned shipping dates would inevitably slip as the niggles, design tweaks and unexpected hurdles large and small cropped up. Max, The Intrepid Camera Co.’s founder and his team have strived for transparency with their backers throughout the project and it has been encouraging to see the team’s response to the challenges and how the camera has been developed as the project progressed.
Throughout the summer and into autumn of 2015 updates were posted on Kickstarter with photographs and videos of components being manufactured and tested. Reports were made on the challenges and problem solving that sometimes required innovative solutions. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a very small team working out of what amounted to a lock-up and, weather permitting to varnish the wooden components, the lane that led to it. The team were scaling up production from one-off prototypes to full-scale production of hundreds of hand-built cameras. Of course the schedule would slip!
It wasn’t until October that a preliminary delivery schedule specifically referring to a range of backer numbers was posted. So now I had a date. I should expect to receive my reward in early December. My level of excitement rose to another level!
Only a month later there was bad news. The computer that controlled the laser cutter and CNC machine crashed and production came to a halt. The computer had to be replaced and by the time production was restarted the preliminary shipping schedule was being re-scheduled outwards, again. As if to compensate for the bad news, feedback and stunning photography was being received from the Arctic where an early Intrepid Camera supplied to photographer and artist Kathy Akey to test on expedition was meeting and surviving the challenges of Arctic exploration. Stirring stuff to keep the anticipation high!
The first batch of cameras was shipped out to backers in time for Christmas 2015 with an expectation of the remainder to follow over the first two months of 2016. I guessed I would see mine sometime in early February 2016.
By mid-January over a hundred Intrepid cameras were out in the hands of the early project backers. Max and the team were getting good positive feedback on the design with suggestions for tweaks and generally all was going well. Some months previously, alongside starting the production run for backers, the website from which cameras would be sold had been launched and now Max gave backers a sneak preview of design work for one of the additional products that he was working on. We were invited to guess what it was from some drawings and I was excited to learn that it was the design for an accessory housing to enable the camera to be used as an enlarger. The perfect accessory for bathroom darkroom warriors like myself! My level of excitement rose to giddy heights in anticipation of the ‘system’ that my camera might become just a part of!
By early March it was clear that for all their best intentions, the time taken to assemble each camera meant the shipping schedule was out of the window. Plans were in place for the team to move to a new workspace and to take on more staff but cameras for the Kickstarter backers were still being produced. Further delay was inevitable while the move took place and things were set up again. However it was clear from the photographs that the new workspace would be far more conducive to efficient production and no doubt be a considerably better place in which to design and develop new product ideas that will ensure continued success for the business.
By Mid-May 2016 there were just two batches to be completed, one big one (including #367!) and a final smaller one. What could go wrong? – Well, there’s a saying that if it can go wrong, it will. And it did. The workshop suffered a flood due to a blocked drain following heavy rain. Then having cleared up, restarted production and given dates for commencement of final shipping, a problem with the ground glass screens was discovered resulting in them having to be re-made.
It is now mid-July 2016 and I have just received my shipping email, six hundred and twenty three days since I backed the project. My reward, an Intrepid Camera of my very own is on it’s way at last and should be here next week. I am Super Excited!
The final batch of cameras for the remaining backers is well underway and the website has been re-opened to take orders for a batch of two hundred new cameras which will be ready for shipment in about eight weeks time. Indeed, such is the interest in this camera that all two hundred have sold out in less than twelve hours.
I’m looking forward to receiving my camera and I intend to blog my adventures with it. Meantime, I congratulate Max and the team at The Intrepid Camera Co. for what they have achieved and for their devotion to photography. My best wishes to them for a long and successful future. Click on the link for their story of the camera’s design, manufacture and early adventures. There is a wealth of informative photographs and videos about what goes into this very special camera.