Interview with Scott McDonald, Creator of iPhone-meets-Super-8 Lumenati CS1

by Hugh BrownstoneLeave a Comment

Retro is so hot right now. Meet Scott McDonald, the man behind the Lumenati CS1, “the world’s first cinematic Smartcase” – and a Kickstarter success with more than 150% of its goal already pledged.

You’ve probably heard about or seen by now the Lumenati CS1, a Super-8-movie-camera-that-isn’t: although looking for all the world like a ‘70’s era camera, it is in fact designed to use the iPhone’s digital sensor as a replacement for film.

But that’s not all.

We sat down for a quick chat with Colorado native Scott (he was born in New York, but hey – he and his family arrived in Colorado when he was four, OK?) to get a clearer idea of what the CS1 is, and isn’t.

The Viewfinder

The first thing we touched on was the viewfinder: how does it actually work?

It turns out their software casts a small preview window on the iPhone display flipped backward, so that the CS1 can then use a set of mirrors to bounce the image the right way into your eye via a magnified portion of the iPhone screen.


The good news is that you can now see the screen in bright daylight and have that additional contact point to steady the camera; the bad news is this is NOT like a smallHD Sidefinder — the full screen image is reduced to something perhaps 1/10 actual size, with a corresponding drop in resolution.

Sure enough, “some people say this is great, awesome, WYSWIG; others want true, full HD resolution,” Scott says. “We’re thinking about something like the Sidefinder in a future release. But in this first edition we want to see if people are interested in this thing — and it turns out, they are.”

Lumenati CS1 Image


The CS1 will have interchangeable lenses, but this begs the question: “what kind?”

“When we first started the project,” Scott continues, “we wanted to explore Bolex lenses — we were looking at a pure throwback thing. It turns out the optical engineering around Bolex lenses is much more complicated than we ever thought. It has to do mainly with bending the path — you can’t just put it up to your eye like an auxiliary lens. It was going to be way too expensive.”

What about Canon [B&H | Amazon] or Nikon [B&H | Amazon] lenses, I ask. “Also too expensive,” Scott replies, “and again, we wouldn’t be able to use them straight out of the box. But we are working on adapters.”

In the meantime, traditional video auxiliary lenses, like those for Sony HD video cams are readily available and are pretty inexpensive. What Scott and the team have done is to reconfigure them in a larger form factor in order to maintain the proportions of a real Super-8 camera. The better news? Scott promises less distortion than what exists in smaller diameter lenses.

“We’ll have 2x and .45 wide at the start,” he says, “but you can explore other lenses as well.”

They considered going to a longer lens, but decided to hold off. “We think it’s a personal preference,” Scott says. “We see this as being a social camera – home movies, friends — not catering to long telephoto shots.

A waterproof version is being considered for the future, too.


The Team

When he’s not focused on Kickstarter, Scott’s day job at Lumenati is filmmaker, animator, branding, and identity guy.

“I’m lucky to be partnered with a great advertising man – Alex Bogursky. We have a community at Lumenati, but we’re not a traditional agency, more a collective.”

“Lucky for me, I had a team surrounding me at all times these last eight months as we’ve gotten the CS1 off the ground.”


Scott has had the prototypes made in U.S., and is exploring idea of making it in the U.S. – if he can. He’s partnering with a  manufacturer in California that has plants in China.

Boulder as the Next Silicon Valley?
“Boulder is becoming a small Silicon Valley,” Scott says. He has connected with venture capitalists here, and there is a robust startup community with companies like Lyft and Chewy. Scott also does a good amount of production work for Boomtown Boulder, an incubator which Scott just happens to call Lumenati’s home office.

To learn more, visit their Kickstarter campaign page. As this post was being written, 891 backers had pledged more than $180,000 of the $75,000 goal.

We wish Scott all the best, and look forward to seeing a CS1 for ourselves!


Lumenati CS1: The World's First Cinematic Smartcase


Via Kickstarter:

What is the Cinematic Smartcase?

The Lumenati CS1 combines the technological features of a digital device (film-free shooting, instant sharing and an editing app) with the cool design, ergonomic ease and natural narrative that the lo-fi classic camera is known for.

Cinematographers simply pop their device into the Lumenati CS1 just as grandpa would load an 8mm film cartridge. The lightweight, portable unit allows anyone to frame and film a steady, stable shot with the pull of an intuitive trigger. A cold shoe allows filmmakers to attach lights, microphones and extra handles for sport shooting. The real-time viewfinder allows WYSIWYG capabilities even in bright light, a feature that is elusive to modern mobile devices. Lenses can be swapped to shoot in wide angle, fisheye and telephoto.

Lumenati CS1 GIF Lumenati CS1 JPG


The Lumenati CS1 is currently compatible with the iPhone 6 model. However, backers will have the option of being delivered either the iPhone 6 model or the iPhone 6s model (releases October). We hope to offer options for all sizes and smartphones if we are successful in fundraising.

Learn more about Lumenati CS1 in their Kickstarter page

(cover photo credit: snap from Kickstarter)

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