A new Finnish startup business, Huhtikuu Yksi, offers software that unlocks advanced functionality in basic camera models and standardizes features from different brands. I interviewed the company's CEO, Harri Tyhmäläinen.
Over the last year, I have been learning Finnish through the app called Duolingo. That is partly because my wife is Finnish, and I should have learned it by now, but I also wanted to interview the Finnish computer engineer, inventor, and photographer Harri Tyhmäläinen. Between my poor Finnish and his far better English, we understood each other.
Harri Tyhmäläinen's idea for the software evolved from his annoyance when swapping between different cameras.
I was constantly frustrated. I would use a Canon at work, a Nikon in my home studio, and take my OM with me when I was skiing, hiking in the forest, or canoeing on the lake. Each was so different.
From Tiny Acorns, Oak Trees Grow
Like all great ideas, Harri's plan grew from humble beginnings. At first, the mode dials bothered him. So, he started producing a sticky label that would fit over the mode dial of his cameras. "A" for aperture priority and "S" for Shutter Speed would become "Av" and "Tv," respectively, like the Canon he used at work. There was a reasonable interest in this from his friends, so he started selling these stickers. Then, a chance conversation with one of his work colleagues took it further.
Hey. Everyone calls it continuous autofocus, but AI Servo? Come on!
- Harri's work colleague
Harri realized his friend was right. What if all cameras could use the same names as Canon? That cry of despair changed Harri's life.
He regularly swapped from one brand at work to another at home and then to another outside. Consequently, besides the mode dial differences, he had to change from using one camera's menu system to another. His solution was a simple one. He had previously rooted and then modified his Android phone to run off the open-source Mobian operating system, which is Linux-based. Linux was invented in Finland, so there is a wealth of knowledge there. Why not do the same with cameras?
So, his business, Huhtikuu Yksi, was born. He teamed up with software coders that were photographers. With crowdfunding, they created a system for cameras that had the working title of Herkkäuskoinen. As part of that, his team wrote menus for other brands that were like Canon's.
Changing the Way Cameras Behave
I had to be a bit careful to avoid a breach of Canon’s trademarks, so I called Continuous Autofocus "AI Turbo" instead of "AI Servo." Single Autofocus did not become "One Shot" but "One-Sh*t." The hybrid focusing modes we have deleted because nobody with any sense uses them anyway.
Not only did he change the menus, but he standardized the icons too. Now, other camera brands can have the same icons as Canon uses. For example, a plain, unfilled rectangle can represent center-weighted metering, and a rectangle with a big dark blob in the middle of the icon means the entire frame is metered.
It makes sense, right?
When asked whether cameras loaded with the new operating system would lose functionality, Harri went quiet for a moment before explaining:
It would be illegal for us to reverse-engineer some of the features, like subject detection, so we inputted data from another source. For example, the Finnish Ornithology Organisation (Lintuliitto Suomi) provided us with vast numbers of images of birds that we used as a learning tool for our AI. The internet is full of images of cats, so that was an easy one to program. We are still struggling with its ability to focus on humans. Again, we used the internet. The learning algorithm was left to search millions of images of people. However, we are still having difficulty getting the AI to focus on the face, so we are starting again with parental controls turned on to limit the search.
Unlocking Advanced Features in Basic Models
Harri also explained that one would not have to buy more expensive cameras because the software could unlock the advanced features in basic models. Some manufacturers produce a range of almost identical cameras on a sliding price scale, depending on the available features. The only real difference is contained in the software, and their features become unlocked as the cameras increase in price. Besides completely changing the menus, Herkkäuskoinen can also unlock features found in higher-end models, including faster shutter speeds, higher ISOs, and more focus points.
Giving Your Camera My Camera's Functionality
Being an OM System user, I asked about the computational features of my cameras and whether I would lose those if I installed the software. He smiled and explained that Herkkäuskoinen had an optional plugin allowing other cameras to have those features. Live Time, Live Composition, and using the image stabilization of the sensor to create high-resolution shots would be available to everyone, not just OM System owner. Similarly, the film simulations of Fujifilm cameras would now be accessible on other brands' models.
The obvious question, of course, was warranties and the manufacturer's willingness to repair the camera if the operating system had been changed. But, he explained how it would work. His software would download the existing camera's software to a PC or Mac and then overwrite the camera's ROM with his new OS. The process can be reversed at any time. In case of a power failure in the camera, Huhtikuu Yksi has a service center that will restore the data and forward it for repair.
Finding a Pronounceable Name
I said that Herkkäuskoinen was a bit of a tongue twister for non-Finnish speakers, and Harri was aware of that and said the product would be launched later this year under the shorter name of Pöhkö.
If the product proves successful, it will be a game-changer for the photographic industry. Harri has internationally enforced patents protecting the idea of rewriting the camera's software.
I asked Harri whether he had any other plans in the pipeline. Another project he is working on involves drones, GPS, Google Earth, Amazon Alexa, and PhotoPills.
Imagine you want a sunrise shot at four in the morning, with the sun coming up behind your favorite landmark. You can instruct Alexa to send the drone off to a particular spot in time to take the picture at the correct height at exactly the right time. And you don’t even have to wake up. Do you want star trails? Tell it to land on a rooftop or up a remote hill and take a multiple-hour-long exposure while you are tucked up in bed. It's a long way off yet, but it will get there.
He is also considering producing camera body adaptions, including installing new sensors and processors into older camera bodies. That would give the customer significant cost savings and be more environmentally sound.
We contemplated changing the bayonet mount of Nikons, so other lenses could be mounted on the camera with a clockwise twist. But [we] concluded the demand would be too small. However, we are considering adapting other brand lenses to fit E-mounts, so Sony users can access more affordable glass.
Pöhkö will be available as a subscription with free updates as new features are added. Each new subscription will include two free mode dial stickers. You can find out more by clicking here. As they say in Finnish, "Aprillipila!"
Very nice story. Happy first of April 😉
Had written the software like that for my kitchen blender: hated the switch between Moulinex and Rowenta.
Can I unlock the advanced features of a 7Artisans lens to turn it into a Leica lens?
Yes, you can. Just look out for another article coming out today!
This is a good joke - almost as good as selling a handle (the way ancient cars needed to start up) to start up ones DSLR.
Why?? April 1st is gotta be the worst day for comedy. J
I guess the title had Sony users grabbing their keyboards. Hauska!
I own a Sony but would never call myself a Sony user. I’m a photographer.
Agree, in the end cameras are just tools
I'm behind the sentiment, but GAK! Standardizing on CANON nomenclature? Ugh!
I would not like it either, that's why I chose it!
Sony would sue over this. After all the work they’ve done and then to allow the toy camera brands like Canon and Nikon have a free ride.
It's actually the opposite of what you say. People wish their Sony cameras would work like Canon cameras, so this company has developed a way for that to happen.
Sony would not sue because the product encourages people to buy Sony cameras instead of Canon cameras. Canon is the one who would sue because it is their ideas that are being "borrowed".
Did you really misunderstand the entire premise of the article and the product being offered?
EDIT: If this whole article is an April Fool's joke, then I am the one who missed the entire premise. But I surely hope that Ivor would not stoop so low. I come to Fstoppers for serious photography discussion, not humor. There are many places in life to enjoy humor and jokes, but photography websites are not one of them.
Tom, there were plenty of clues, especially as it got more ridiculous and unfeasible as it went along. Others enjoyed it. However, it did discuss some real points, like the ludicrous differences in nomenclature, the feasibility of upgrading old cameras with new sensors and processors that would be kinder to the planet, and the software-only restrictions some manufacturers put on similar cameras.
😮💨Imaging getting this in your inbox after April 1st with your guards down. Funny! But disappointing.
Jerome, open Google translate, set it from Finnish to English, and translate Aprillipila.
I'd rather have another stupid Sony design issue fixed. Something it seems no one cares about and it baffles me how..
My previous Canon SLR's showed full screen over exposure alarm on playback view.
On my Sony (a73) this is not possible and that extremely annoying.
On most cases i work with external flash. These Godox AD200's don't have reliable TTL, so i choose power manual just a bit under over exposure. This takes a few test shots (first set camera for desired ambient exposure, and then the flash power). I can only judge this in a mode with a very tiny image and the rest of space shows levels.
The thing is; i don't make the same photo over and over. Sometimes the position of light of model changes, or the ambient light. I don't want to step out of the communication proces with the model all the time. This breaks the flow. I want to see in 1 view; the general feel of the photo, the models pose, AND the light without having to scroll trough the different playback modes all the time!
After all these years Sony still didn't fix this and i don't get how i'm the only one caring..