The Swedish company teaching Hollywood a ting or two with the A-Cam, the smallest 16mm cinema camera in the world.
Ikonoskop’s offices in the Södra Hammarbyhamnen neighbourhood of Stockholm wouldn’t look out of place on the set of a late-1970s Michael Winner film. When Monocle visited there was something filmic about the rain-soaked streets, the red brick warehouses and the sparsely furnished industrial interiors. We got the feeling that Ikonoskop’s creators, Göran Olsson and Daniel “Dino” Jonsäter, had somehow arranged for this fitting cinematic first impression.
The pair met six years ago when Olsson, a documentary film-maker, began directing commercials for the Swedish agency Acne. “We would all sit back bouncing silly ideas around, and one of them actually stuck. We wanted to produce the smallest film camera in the world, something users could carry with them all the time,” says Olsson. Money started rolling in from lucrative commercials work, and with the help of Acne they began developing a prototype for what would become the Ikonoskop A-Cam SP-16 – the smallest and lightest 16mm cinema camera on the market.
Olsson remembers the moment in early 2001 when he decided it was time to get going. “I was on holiday swimming in Israel with my daughter when it struck me. Let’s just do it.” But where to start? “None of us had any industrial design or engineering background; we didn’t know blueprints, we only understood cameras from a consumer’s point of view.” Undeterred, they began their R&D, enlisting a mechanical engineer, an industrial designer and Acne as consultants.
They began with the body of the camera. “Both Acne and ourselves worked on the housing: we wanted this to be just as much an aesthetic product as a utilitarian one,” says Jonsäter. In developing the body they discovered that recycled aircraft aluminium was the most suitable casing: “When you design a body you either choose to build a skeleton or a shell. We opted for both, and the only material with the least tension was recycled and then carved-out aircraft aluminium – possibly the most expensive technique.”
They worked closely with French optical engineers and Swedish electronics experts to furnish the body with the requisite components, spending hours, and a wad of kroner, on the project. Olsson smiles, “Oh, we worked double shifts, and we probably could have bought a flat in Kensington, a small one at least, for the money we spent.”
All manufacture took place in various workshops around Stockholm, as it still does today, and after months of development the prototype was A-graded and then exhibited at the ICA for the OneDotZero event in 2003, to great acclaim. Each camera takes over two weeks to manufacture, and it is this level of handcrafting that attracts buyers. Orders began to pour in – MTV regular Michel Gondry was one of their first patrons. “We ended up targeting music video directors and artists with Ikonoskop, and then higher-end film-makers adopted it to produce never-before-seen image effects. Mel Gibson recently used our cameras on Apocalypto. We have Ikonoskops in Hollywood that directors can hire.”
But that’s not the wrap. Olsson and Jonsäter have hired a CEO, Leif Byström, and are developing a more commercial digital version for the mass market: “As with Ikonoskop, we are taking this project one step at a time. But we do know that the new camera will have certain consumer appeal. Where the Ikonoskop has no viewfinder to reduce weight, we will add one, and we will make it for roughly the same price,” says Olsson.
Monocle’s is on pre-order, a snip at €5,200 for a piece of beautifully crafted, cinema-quality industrial design.