Aaton was founded by Eclair engineer Jean-Pierre Beauviala, whose efforts have been primarily focused on making quiet, portable motion picture hardware suitable for impromptu field use, such as for documentaries. A model for all motion picture cameras they have produced is the "cat-on-the-shoulder", a small, light, quiet motion picture camera.
In the late 60's Beauviala was working as a professor of electronics in the University of Grenoble. With the project to make a movie about the evolution of the city and of its architecture, but unable to find the proper tools, Beauviala decided to create the camera himself. Though the movie would eventually be abandoned this led to the creation of Aaton in 1971.
After several initial prototypes, the Aaton LTR 16 mm movie camera became available on the market in the late 1970s. It has been succeeded by several improved models, including the LTR, LTR 54, XTR, X0, XTRplus, and XTRProd.
Aaton also pioneered the linking of timecode to motion pictures in the acquisition stage. Aatoncode was one of the earliest schemes for encoding a timecode signal in the frame margins of 16mm film, allowing rigorous synchronization of audio and film in post-production.
As of January 2015, the currently available line of cameras offers the 16mm Xterà (along with its still used predecessors the XTR Prod), the A-Minima (a small camcorder-sized 16mm camera) and the 35mm Penelope (along with the still in use 35-III).
In 2004 Aaton introduced the Cantar-X, a multichannel digital audio recorder designed to be used on location.
In 2005/2006, the company started to test and exhibit the successor to the 35‑III, a quiet 35mm camera called Penelope. Specially designed with a native 2-perf camera system (with an optional kit to switch to 3-Perf), the Penelope eventually became available for purchase in October 2008.
During the 2010 NAB Show Jean-Pierre Beauviala and AbelCine officially announced Aaton's first digital camera, called Delta Penelope. A fully functional prototype was exhibited at the NAB Show two years later, with plans for a limited test run in 2012 and an eventual release in 2013. Evolving from a variation of the Penelope (with a digital mag) to a new concept, the camera most notably featured a "cat-on-the-shoulder" inspired design and a Dalsa Super-35 CCD sensor (with a native 3.5K resolution) mounted on a specially developed/patented mechanism designed to bring unprecedented image quality, closer to what film provides.
On April 26, 2013, an official statement was issued by founder Jean-Pierre Beauviala announcing that due to quality issues involving the Dalsa sensors for the planned Delta Penelope, the company had to declare bankruptcy so it could have time to find a new investor. In May 2013 Beauviala sent an e-mail detailing the situation of Aaton and explaining that despite the recent troubles the company was still functioning and mainly developing its next digital audio recorder (tentatively called Cantar-X+), and a digital-camera aiming at documentary-style filming (called D-Minima).
On June 18, 2013, Transvideo acquired Aaton through its holding company ITHAKI. Still based in Grenoble and with the same development team, the new company now named Aaton Digital was then focusing on the release of their new digital recorder (the Cantar-X3) and planning the release of a new "cat-on-the-shoulder" (sic).
On October 22, 2013, Jean-Pierre Beauviala left Aaton Digital/Transvideo where he was working as a consultant. This latest information engage only Jean-Pierre Beauviala as he never had any kind of formal cooperation with Aaton-Digital.
In March, 2014, Aaton Digital officially introduced the Cantar-X3, the next successor in their line of on-field digital audio recorder. In March 2015 the first commercial Cantar-X3 is delivered to the NoyzBoyz in Amsterdam, more than 100 products are in order confirming the fantastic interest of the audio community for this new sound machine and also the creativity of Aaton's engineers.7A (introduced in 1972)
LTR (introduced in late 1970s)
Penelope (introduced in October 2008)
Delta Penelope (discontinued)
Cantar-X (introduced in 2004)
Cantar-X3 (introduced in March 2014)