Over the years, many companies, from Lytro to Light, have tried to come up with small, funky cameras that use technology to pack DSLR punch into a small package. Invariably, all of these have more or less failed, but there’s one company that’s just sitting on a sleeping giant in this market: Apple.
While it’s true that Apple’s last foray into dedicated cameras, the Quicktake series in the ‘90s, didn’t set the world on fire. The early models looked like a projector and a set of binoculars had a baby, and all topped out at 640x480 resolution. But if the failed experiments by Lytro and the not quite world-beating Light L16 are any indication, someone, somewhere wants a camera that’s phone-sized, but significantly better than a phone.
Enter the iPod. Yes, it seems like the neglected child of Apple’s lineup. It has a lame camera and iPhone 7-ish internals. It has none of the trick photo modes that newer phones do, such as portrait mode or special lighting modes for night a la Google’s Pixel, even after a refresh a month ago.
But, it does have the guts and the software to get the job done, if just paired with the right camera, and there’s the rub: Does Apple even want to create something special like an iCamera?
Problems With Previous Pocket Power Cameras
It’s already a lost cause to get people to carry DSLRs today. The big cameras don’t connect easily to the Internet and getting a photo off and processed is difficult. Cameras like the original Lytro light-field camera and Light’s L16 try to use creative optics and processing to create DSLR-quality photos that can be refocused after the fact, but were dogged by a few issues. In Lytro’s case low resolution (1.2 megapixels in 2012, though the ill-fated Illum followup could hit 4) was a big issue, and so was the software which forced users to the cloud to process any photos. The Light L16 solved the resolution problem, but has a DSLR price tag and you still need desktop software to get the most out of its photos.
This is where Apple can (and should step in). They already have a great form factor that has great software (Look, Canon’s menus are great and easy to use, but can you load a photo onto Twitter directly from a 5D Mark IV?). The app ecosystem allows for even better cameras if you want, or the simple included one if you don’t. Everyone already knows how to use it.
What It Would Need
This is where Apple can beat the big camera companies at their own game. Apple, Google, Samsung, and other smartphone companies are way ahead of traditional camera manufacturers when it comes to computational imaging — smart software and technologies that allow a pocket-sized iPhone to produce DSLR-like images. Couple that with optics that give you some zoom and wide-angle capability, maybe even a macro (not unlike this device) and you’d have something that would be a force to be reckoned with. Heck, maybe even a one-inch sensor to seal the deal. If Ricoh can cram two one-inch sensors into a Theta Z1 360 camera, surely it can be done with an iPod-turned-camera.
Then you’d truly have a pocket camera that’s ready to take on the real cameras, after all of the false starts by other unknown companies in the past.
At the very least, it would make me buy an iPod again, so I can at least listen to music as I take pictures on the same device.
Would You Get It?
What do you think? Is this a crazy idea, or something you’d actually buy? How much would you pay for it?