The Conran design firm was recently asked to re-imagine an everyday item by BBC Future. Its designers picked the digital camera, and the resulting concept certainly is different. The Conran camera does away with the typical protruding lens and instead features a large hole through the middle, surrounded by an array of small camera sensors. It also lacks an LCD monitor and is instead designed to wirelessly connect to a smartphone.
Jared Mankelow, Senior Product Designer for Conran and Partners, says one of the core ideas behind his design for the camera was that it shouldn't act as a barrier between photographer and subject. As such, he decided there should be a large aperture through the center of the camera for framing shots in a more natural (although potentially less accurate) way.
This hole is then surrounded by an array of somewhere between 10 and 20 small image sensors – like those used in mobile phones – which would work together, allowing the camera to "resolve images with incredible clarity." Around the sensor array, there's a ring flash (always popular with macro and fashion photographers) which would allow for lighting close-up subjects.
The fact that there's a big hole in the camera also means there's no practical space for an LCD monitor on the rear. But, according to the designer, that's not a problem because we all already carry around high-resolution screens on our mobile phones and tablets … and screens are power-hungry anyway. The Conran camera would instead be able connect via Bluetooth and transmit images to your smart device instantly.
Alternatively, it could also be used more like a film camera, with shots remaining a mystery until you get home. “We love the idea of not viewing your images right away. It brings back some of the excitement of taking your film to the lab, and having to wait to find out what’s on it,” said Mankelow ... who apparently doesn't like to know if everyone in a group-shot has got their eyes open!
It's not just the lack of instant gratification which sees the proposed future of cameras hark back to film cameras. Mankelow has drawn from SLRs when it comes to the manual controls, which are located at the top of the camera's rear. All of the manual settings can be controlled by physical controls, rather than the screen-based menus in which they are nowadays often hidden. The bottom two-thirds of the camera have been left as a point-and-shoot with minimal settings.
Obviously, concept cameras – like the smartphone/interchangeable-lens WIVL and the Timeless Capture – rarely make it to store shelves. But occasionally they can (we're still waiting on the Socialmatic). If this concept was to make it into the real world, would it be enough to lure you away from more traditional cameras, and possibly more importantly from your smartphone camera? Let us know in the comments section.
Here's a quick video from Conran about the concept camera.
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