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I like to use my SLR, but there are many times when I leave it behind because I’m not sure whether it’ll be able to handle the conditions I plan to be using it in. LA-based hardware startup Outex is trying to make sure that photographers can use their cameras anywhere, without having to fork over north of $1,000 for environmental protection gear, and it’s taking to Kickstater to fund the latest piece in its product puzzle.
The Outex is a flexible casing for DSLR and other interchangeable lens cameras (it works with mirrorless systems, too) created by founder JR deSouza and his cousin Roberto Miglioli based on their shared love of photography, a hand-me-down from their grandfather, and a lack of good affordable options on the market for protecting cameras during use in harsh conditions. DeSouza told me in an interview that he and his cousin needed something that would work for surfing, kayaking, shooting around the pool, military applications and more, but that didn’t mean sacrificing portability or spending a mint to buy.
In a little over a year, the company has already managed to rack up some impressive customers, including photographers working for Red Bull, National Geographic, Outside Magazine and Vogue. The Outex is being used by a lot of videographers now, too, and the company wanted to build a solution into its product that better serves that market, while also opening up new possibilities for still photography. That’s what this Kickstarter project is about: funding the creation of the “Big O,” an LCD viewfinder window for the Outex.
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DeSouza says they came up with the window after first toying with the idea of adding some kind of external LCD monitor to the Outex, and then realizing that the simpler, better and more widely compatible solution would be to simply add a glass window to the case (which itself resembles a kind of camera wetsuit) that would allow the built-in monitors on cameras to be used in any circumstances. Being able to see the viewfinder while the camera was in the Outex was one of the most common customer requests, however, according to deSouza, so coming up with some kind of solution was necessary.
Seeking Kickstarter backing is a first for Outex, and deSouza explained that the reason it went the crowdfunding route this time around was actually the result of a combination of factors.
“I felt that Kickstarter would be a good opportunity to accelerate our development,” deSouza explained. “The key is to be genuine and to do Kickstarter for what it is, and it becomes a great opportunity to get the word out and discover other things[…] I really do think there’s value to the community and the discovery process that also comes along with Kickstarter.”
Outex isn’t meant to be hardcore scuba gear like the Ikelite protectors favored by professional photographers, but where those cost around $1,500, a $375 pledge gets you everything you need to outfit your SLR with protection for up to 10 meters of submersion, as well as a host of other environmental perils. With the cost of high-quality photo gear coming down, it’s only fitting that a hardware startup emerges to so challenge the price tag on some of the more expensive accessories, too.