Last Updated on 06/13/2023 by Chris Gampat
Negative Supply, a company with a good reputation for delivering to its Kickstarter backers, is facing a critical problem. A reader contacted us on Tumblr to alert us of a problem around the Negative Supply LM1 Light meter. Announced back in 2021, it still hasn’t been delivered to the Kickstarter backers — who provided $222,218 for it to come to life. But why?
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The Negative Supply LM1 Light Meter
One might wonder why anyone cares about a handheld light meter when so many are already on the market. But it’s important to remember that not all of them are very convenient. Light meters for your phone often don’t have a dome covering that’s essential for consistent light metering. Further, not everyone knows how to do Sunny 16. What’s more, sometimes you just don’t want to bring your digital camera around with you. These are part of what made the Negative Supply LM1 so incredibly attractive.
Here are the tech specs from our previous coverage:
- Pocket-sized design. Measuring 44mm x 90mm (and just 15mm deep), the LM1 is only slightly larger than a roll of 120 film. Once it’s in your pocket, you’ll forget it’s there.
- Color Temperature sensor. Filmmakers, rejoice! Measuring the temperature of ambient light is now easier and more affordable than ever with the LM1. Photographers can also take advantage of this sensor when using daylight film with non-daylight illumination to confirm consistent color temperature with on-set lighting and to determine correct compensation filters.
- Built to last. The LM1 features an all-metal body, CNC-machined from aviation-grade aluminum or solid brass. Multiple scratch-resistant anodized color options (or, on brass models, a high-quality black finish that will age beautifully), custom aluminum buttons, and a custom-molded bulb, all add up to make the LM1 a mighty, small meter.
- Integrated, long-life battery. No more carrying spares: the LM1’s Lithium-ion battery charges in under 2-hours (via USB-C), and offers up to 2 weeks of use.
- Multiple color options. In addition to the standard black aluminum enclosure, LM1 is also available with special anodized finishes in 3 gorgeous colors: Satin Metallic Green, High Gloss Slate Grey, or Satin Metallic Silver.
- Backlit display. Our backlit, 144 x 168px resolution, reflective active-matrix TFT-LCD display is readable in the brightest sunlight and pitch-black night, while remaining incredibly power efficient. This is one screen you won’t mind looking at all day.
The Kickstarter project to get it funded was successfully completed during the middle of the pandemic, opening itself up to a slew of other issues. The billion-dollar companies had problems with meeting supply and demand. Some even discontinued various products. So how could a small business deal with it?
An anonymous reader reached out to us to give us the following message.
Negative supply promise to ship their light meter almost 2 years ago and still nothing has been shipped I am literally so shocked and terrified because everyone and their mother advertised this light meter and now a whole group of people have lost a total of 200k and no one is talking about it!
Our reader isn’t the only one that’s annoyed. A few days ago, backer Morgan Gilbert stated, “Why launch a Kickstarter campaign if you are not able to carry it out behind?” Morgan said. “There is no excuse! After almost 2 years the only conclusion we can draw is that you are incompetent and good talkers!”
This isn’t the only time that people have questioned a Kickstarter. The recent Peak Design campaign confused several photographers. In 2016, the Galaxy Paper company walked away with $70,000 of Kickstarter backing. It’s easy to see how due to the history of Kickstarters, that Negative Supply could be running away with someone’s money here.
So What’s Going On?
The Phoblographer has worked with Negative Supply on an official press relationship for many years. We’ve covered the announcement and review of their products in the past. In fact, we’re even still working on getting some of their products in for review.
“… it’s a tough project and the most complicated that we’ve ever undertaken,” states Brennan McKissick, the Business Development Manager for Negative Supply, to the Phoblographer. Brennan is also our PR rep. “We’ve learned a lot already and continue to learn daily.” Brennan states that he’s been providing monthly updates as some backers have requested but that the backers, who’ve been waiting for years, want more updates. He also states that he’s been very upfront about how long it has taken.
For Negative Supply, they feel this is the most complicated project they’ve undertaken. Compared to many other projects involving scanning and development, we see how that can be the case. “Large manufacturers have more programmers, hardware, and working capital to complete projects like this, whereas we are a small, niche company of about 15 people, and only 3-4 are working on the LM1 project in different capacities at any given time,” Brennan states. “We still have to continue to innovate in our space, and our other work can’t go on hold because the LM1 is delayed due to various reasons, some of which are outside our control.”
Brennan relayed the timeline of events to us as such:
- Negative Supply was working with a manufacturer who came into serious health issues. So they passed the project to another vendor. The communications with the second vendor faltered.
- Their programmer works on contract, and having their team and his schedule line up is proving difficult.
- Packaging is on the way, and cases from Justin at Tap & Dye are also being completed.
- Things have been moving quicker over the last 3 months since they’ve been able to work on software with beta units, even with the lackluster performance of the old PCBs.
Brennan states that in the latest update on Kickstarter, they told their backers that they’ve got another PCB manufacturer and software project manager. “Keep in mind, perpetual rising costs have continued to be an issue which we have had to absorb ourselves,” he tells us.
As the Editor in Chief of a website that oversaw a website redesign and the development of our own app during the pandemic, I can attest that software development was indeed tricky.
When Will It Be Delivered?
There are different schools of thought on delivery. Lots of folks really want their product. When we’ve talked to others in the analog community, it tends to vary. The Wright Brothers, who run CineStill, have often told me at the last Photokina that they trust other manufacturers and they want their products to be right. They’ve reasoned that the analog film photography community is small, and that not following up on your word can really hurt you. Indeed, that’s the truth — and we’ve seen lots of folks drop out of the film photography world over the years.
Brennan still doesn’t want to give a firm date just in case the expectations aren’t met again. “The complexity of creating a light meter this small with this many features has proven very challenging and sometimes more than we expected,” he states. “It’s also a project that’s required us to work with outside firms and vendors more than any project in the past. Previously, all design and R&D was handled internally, and the only time we have to work with outside vendors is for certain machined and assembly parts.” Negative Supply has to work with other vendors for each part of the project, which has surely slowed things down because they don’t have full control.
What Should You Do?
First off, photographers and backers can’t get a refund. This is well known as part of working with a third-party company like Kickstarter — as we had the same issue when we released Emulsion. So essentially, photographers just need to wait at this point and accept that their product will get to them later.
But if I were a backer, I’d surely be nervous. In today’s world, some other brands would probably find a way to do it cheaper and faster to undercut Negative Supply. In fact, something like that is totally possible — though it probably wouldn’t be to the same standards that Negative Supply could deliver. TTArtisan and others have made light meters, but they’re nothing like what Negative Supply is doing. The only other thing that was as exciting as this was from Lumu — and it used your iPhone and their unit to make it work.
If you’re waiting patiently, at least Negative Supply is telling you to have faith and that they’ll deliver soon. If you’re still angry, then this whole thing is probably a life lesson in not backing Kickstarters and giving into hype marketing. I remember when I backed the Yashica Y35 and absolutely hated it. Despite that, I’ve even continued to back certain Kickstarters — some of which I’ve been absolutely disappointed by.
In this situation, though, Negative Supply has a fairly stellar record of delivering other products. We hope that backers get their products before the end of the year.