Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Dust Donut

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined by Tyler Sterbentz creator of the Dust Donut!  He’s here to talk about his project and his wonderful product, thank you for joining us today Tyler!

Thank you for having me!

Can you explain your product to those who aren’t the greatest camera enthusiasts?  Mainly because I think most who see your product and are camera enthusiasts immediately grasp how head slappingly awesome this product is.

The Dust Donut is simply a rubber seal that fits onto the connecting end of a camera’s lens and its purpose is to keep unwanted and harmful dust and moisture from making its way into the camera’s sensitive internals. When dust makes its way into a cameras internals it can collect on the camera’s sensor or film which can reduce the sensor/ films ability to absorb or “see” the light it needs to make a photo which can negatively affect your photos and cause dark spots. Moisture is even worse when it makes its way into a camera’s internals as it can cause corrosion on the camera and lenses electrical contact points and can even become trapped inside of the lens, allowing fungus to grow in between the glass of the lens which leads to “hazy” photos and reduces the re sale value of the lens. The Dust Donut allows photographers to give their camera and lenses a fighting chance against keeping these unwanted elements out of their photography equipment.

This product is so simple, yet is useful for so many photographers why hasn’t it been done before?  Why bring it to Kickstarter aren’t there tons of camera accessory makers you could have sold this to?  

I think that no one has done this before because most camera accessory companies like to create products that are already proven to sell in high numbers as this minimizes the risk for the company. Things like; straps, cases, bags, screen protectors, tripods, and the rest of the common photography accessories are all things that your average photographer is familiar with and doesn’t think twice about purchasing. When a company tries to create a product that has never been done before its much more of a gamble because most photographers think that if they’ve never heard of it it’s probably something they don’t need and because of this they need more convincing to make the purchase.

 I chose to launch the Dust Donut on Kickstarter because of how much I love the idea of crowdfunding and because of the originality of the products funded there. I felt that because the Dust Donut was created by a photographer it should be launched by photographers as well. I am very happy with the decision I made as I am thoroughly enjoying the direct feedback and interaction I am getting with fellow photographers who are excited about using the Dust Donut. This experience has allowed me to come in contact with some individuals that I look up to and respect and opened doors that wouldn’t otherwise be open if I had simply sold the idea to a company. I have a passion for photography and videography that I would rather pursue on my own even it means making less money in the long run.

How hard is the Dust Donut to Install?  Do I have to use any tools to take apart my entire camera?

Installing a Dust Donut is very simple. You first remove your lens and slip the Dust Donut around the lens's mount then re install your lens on your camera and you now have a combination with improved resistance to dust and moisture.

My folks instilled in me a love of photography and since they are still active photographers (if not more so now) I asked them for some questions and here are the two I could use.  (They don’t get Kickstarter so there’s some general “where can I buy it” questions I get to answer for you.)

Will the Dust Donut fit on all Canons, even older models? Will it work on non-digital cameras since we still have film based Canon cameras?

Yes, the Dust Donut works with all Canon EF Camera bodies including film bodies. The only aspect that restricts the Dust Donut is that not all of Canon’s EF lenses are supported, however, the vast majority of them are. You can find a list of all of the Dust Donut Compatible Lenses on the kickstarter page.

Since the current Donut is only designed for EF mount lenses and you’ve successfully reached your Kickstarter goal do you plan on creating donuts for other lens mounts?  The Micro four thirds system from Olympus and Panasonic comes to mind, and of course  there’s the Nikon standard mounts.  

Absolutely, I am thrilled that I will have extra funding and I plan on re investing all of it into creating new versions of the Dust Donut for other camera systems. I am currently exploring the feasibility of a Nikon version as well as a Pentax and M4/3rds versions as anyone who uses an interchangeable lens camera can benefit from a weather seal accessory like the Dust Donut regardless of the Camera brand and system. I hope to have new versions ready in the months following the close of the Canon version kickstarter campaign.

Since you’ve already met your goal have you already pulled the trigger on your production runs?  

 I am very close to doing just that, but because I have not yet placed a large quantity order with my manufacturer I have to wait until the funds go through to have the production run produced. I have visited the facility where the Dust Donut is made many times during development and am amazed each time at just how many rubber products fly out of there on a daily basis so I know that my order will be produced quickly and I am on track to fulfill backers orders right on time!

With around thirty days to go on your campaign you’ve already made about five times your goal!  Do you have any stretch goals in mind to continue things along?  

It is amazing to see how well received the Dust Donut has been. I am currently working on offering Colored versions of the Dust Donut which I am very excited about as there is a lack of customization available for photographers. I feel that Colored Dust Donuts will offer a very subtle yet noticeable way for photographers to make their Lenses more unique without being overly distracting. I hope to offer a bonus type stretch goal and include more Dust Donuts with each pledge if my manufacturer can lower its prices for a higher quantity order!

A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

 I have much planned for future updates. I recently announced that I will have a “How a Dust Donut is Made” type of video posted soon to give both potential backers and current backers insight into exactly how much effort and skill is involved in taking the Dust Donut from an idea on a piece of paper to a functioning weather seal on your lens. I am also working on interviews with some of the photographers who I have had field testing the Dust Donut and should have those up as well.

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?  

 I have received an impressive amount of attention through all sorts of avenues. Facebook is as always a huge promoter of kickstarters and the Dust Donut has been featured in over a dozen blog posts, Photo review sites, tech sites and forums. I have seen Kicktraq as a valuable tool in keeping up with my projects progress as well. I am working to expand the media coverage of the Dust Donut daily and hope to keep the interest up throughout the remainder of the campaign.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

I would say if you have an idea that you believe in you should ignore what others say and just go for it, you have nothing to lose and much to gain. I would also emphasize good promotion as it is key to attracting backers and don't stop even when your project is doing well.

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

 Thank you for having me here on this wonderful site! I encourage everyone who uses an interchangeable lens camera or knows someone who does to check out the Dust Donut kickstarter page and share it with your friends. Thank you!

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

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