When I first started building camera lucidas in my garage back in 2005, the landscape was pretty barren. The only competition was another garage innovator and a UK-based company, both of which have since vanished. My mission has always been to build the best drawing tool possible, inspired by the time-tested technologies of the old masters. Today, as DrawLUCY has become a global name, it's worth pausing to compare it with other modern camera lucidas that have popped up.
A Reluctant Critique
Initially, I was reluctant to release a blog post like this. I respect anyone’s effort to innovate in a field I’m passionate about. Take NEOLUCIDA, for example. Their initial product was essentially a “prism on a stick.” It was affordable, even if not very effective. Post-Kickstarter, they outsourced to China and rolled out NEOLUCIDA XL, which appeared to mimic our LUCY flex. These moves, especially the inflated prices, prompted me to speak out to prevent people from getting fooled into buying inferior products.
By the Numbers
Let's talk about price vs. image size, a critical factor that determines the scope of your art. Here's a quick rundown:
In terms of size and other factors highlighted in the video, the LUCY pro is unparalleled. Cheaper might be okay if you're getting what you pay for, but be cautious of inferior products priced as if they're comparable. The NEOLUCIDA XL tries to position itself alongside the LUCY flex but falls way short. Even our smallest, most affordable model, the LUCY mini, outperforms both NEOLUCIDAs, while costing less.
DrawLUCY models are not only built in the USA with top-quality materials but also feature smart, well-thought-out designs. Each model offers adjustable brightness through optical filters: LUCY flex and LUCY pro have two filters for four levels, while LUCY mini has one for two levels. Plus, DrawLUCY devices use high-quality half-silvered mirrors for brighter images. As a bonus, the entire DrawLUCY line is compatible with the Photo Enlarger accessory, opening up a whole new world of creative possibilities.
Besides its small image, inflated price, and being made with cheap plastic, the NEOLUCIDA XL has a major design flaw: its open sides allow light to interfere with the image as you're drawing. Additionally, if you try to remove the filter to use it, the head falls apart. It also retains the same small, flimsy arm and clamp as the original NEOLUCIDA, which can't adequately support the larger head. The original NEOLUCIDA uses a historical prism design, but these prisms are difficult to use and the images hard to see, making it tough to draw from. Years ago, when I was experimenting in my garage, I found these prisms performed so poorly that I chose not to include them in my devices. Opting for a "prism on a stick" would have been cheaper, but that was a compromise I wasn't willing to make.
And NEOLUCIDA's problems are unfortunately getting worse rather than better with a new Kickstarter project launching the NEOLUCIDA PLUS. The NEOLUCIDA PLUS is a redesign of the original NEOLUCIDA that adds features addressing non-issues, while maintaining the tiny, nearly postcard-sized and difficult-to-use image. At now an even more inflated price than before.
In closing, I really do appreciate everyone's attempts at inventing or reinventing something. Everyone has something valuable to contribute. The only reason I've taken a more critical tone is that there's a line of camera lucidas positioning themselves as comparable to the DrawLUCY line when they clearly are not, and I don't think that's honest. NEOLUCIDA isn't transparent about the shortcomings of their devices; they don't even list the image size on their website. That's like a TV company not disclosing the screen size. So I picked up my camera to show everything side-by-side, aiming to give people the info they need to make the best choice for creating art with a tool rooted in the techniques of the old masters.
What do you think?
We would love to hear from anyone who has used both the LUCY and the NEOLUCIDA. Please tell us what you think in the comment section below.
Learn more about DrawLUCY camera lucidas HERE