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Apple interested in swappable iPhone camera lenses

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
A new concept for an improved iPhone camera system would allow users to reconfigure or even replace the lens for optimal pictures.

The details of Apple's proposed invention were revealed in a new patent filing discovered by AppleInsider and published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday. The application, entitled "Back Panel for a Portable Electronic Device with Different Camera Lens Options," includes illustrations of an iPhone-like device with the camera located in the same top-left-corner location.

The filing notes that as the quality of digital images taken with highly compact devices increases, users seek even more sophisticated features typically only found with high-end digital cameras, such as digital single reflex (DSLR) cameras. Features such as supplementary lenses and filters, optical zoom, and optical image stabilization are not typically found in multifunction devices that include a camera.

Devices like the iPhone currently come with a pre-assembled digital imaging subsystem that allows them to be highly compact, but does not allow for replaceable lenses. In addition, they do not include a mount for filters or additional lenses.

"It would be desirable to provide a structure for a compact device that allows the end user to reconfigure the optical arrangement of the device while retaining the benefits of assembling the device using a pre-assembled digital imaging subsystem," the filing reads.

Apple's solution is a portable device, like an iPhone, that includes a digital imaging subsystem with a lens that has an optical axis. The device would feature a removable back panel that, when removed, would expose the digital imaging subsystem.

Patent 1


Both the digital imaging subsystem and the removable panel would be held in precise alignment by the iPhone case, which would negate the need for a direct connection between the camera's optical component and the subsystem. This would allow the user to reconfigure the optics of the camera on a highly compact portable device.

Normally, an iPhone camera system would include a near-infrared cut filter to prevent infrared light from reaching the image sensor and distorting the colors of a picture. Apple's system would include the IR-cut filter on the removable panel, which would allow photographers to remove it and capture black-and-white images at very low light levels.

Patent 2


In another potential use, the optical component on an iPhone would feature a close-up lens that would reduce the focal distance and allow for extreme close-up photography. Still another example provided is a lens baffle that could be used with a supplementary lens to increase the focal length of the subsystem and reduce the field of view of an image.

This week's new patent filing is of particular note because Apple co-founder Steve Jobs highlighted photography as one market he wished to reinvent before he passed away late last year. Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson that he wanted to push more change with cameras, a market where the convenience and quality of iPhone picture taking has already shaken up the digital camera industry.

The proposed invention, published this week, was originally filed by Apple in December of 2010. It is credited to Richard Tsai.
post #2 of 20

Can't wait to see what apple comes up with!! Currently I carry around 3 different lenses with me that let me do fish-eye, wide-angle and macro photos; would be nice to ditch those and have something built into the device :)

post #3 of 20
It's hard to see going this route. Personally, I think I'd use my camera more often if their was some sort of L-shaped sensor soni hold it in portrait and take landscape photos and images without a decrease in quality.

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post #4 of 20

This might be the only logical reason I could see for the whole two tone back kind of bit. The top would be a part you could remove for this lens trick and the bottom would be for your antennas to have a 'safe' zone for reception. 

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post #5 of 20
Interesting, Let's also know apple has a patent to disable cameras on signal. Not a good idea to integrate this.

Alo if apple cn do this, I have a novel idea, Removable and swapable batteries. Lots of us miss this!
post #6 of 20

Can the "Swiss Army iPhone" be far behind???

post #7 of 20
Had to navigate past yet another FB trap to reply! OMG now AI wants to be part if fracking FaceBook!

I can't even remember what I was going to say now ....
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post #8 of 20

Well, Steve said that he wanted to "reinvent" the digital photography market.  I bet Apple will do something unique here. 

 

1) A digital camera that is an accessory of the iPhone.  Connects to it and allows high-quality pictures that are then sent to iCloud via the phone.  Has a bigger sensor, zoom lens (or interchangeable lenses), built-in filters, adjustable shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.  Like current mirrorless cameras, but with iPhone connectivity so that pictures can be sent to iCloud.

 

2) Or, a separate digital camera with built-in 3G/4G.

 

This is the perfect market for Apple to disrupt.  High volumes.  Worldwide market.  Small in size so that they can be sold through Apple stores (unlike a TV set).  Can be another iDevice.  Apple can use its software expertise to make it very easy to use compared to current cameras.

post #9 of 20

Okay, I am so into this.  I'd pay "consumer prices" for an add-on with quality glass and respectable zoom options.  I have an 8X zoom lens now, but the lens is crappy.

post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleGreen View Post

Well, Steve said that he wanted to "reinvent" the digital photography market.  I bet Apple will do something unique here. 

1) A digital camera that is an accessory of the iPhone.  Connects to it and allows high-quality pictures that are then sent to iCloud via the phone.  Has a bigger sensor, zoom lens (or interchangeable lenses), built-in filters, adjustable shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.  Like current mirrorless cameras, but with iPhone connectivity so that pictures can be sent to iCloud.

2) Or, a separate digital camera with built-in 3G/4G.

This is the perfect market for Apple to disrupt.  High volumes.  Worldwide market.  Small in size so that they can be sold through Apple stores (unlike a TV set).  Can be another iDevice.  Apple can use its software expertise to make it very easy to use compared to current cameras.

I'm sure you are right. However, I bet Apple are already disrupting the camera market big time. The sales of small digital cameras must be being impacted surely. Not too many of them have auto HDR let alone cloud services. I'll still hang on to my Canon T3i DSLR for now though.
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post #11 of 20

Why cant they just put a small thread on the back camera part. This way you can screw on another lens to the phone?

post #12 of 20
The secret to all this, IMO, is to make "the camera you always have with you" as good, or better, than the one you didn't bring along...

That said, i don't think I want to be in the in the middle of an elaborate setup and have to answer a call -- hold the iPhone to my ear with a 5 lb lens and tripod dangling from it.
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post #13 of 20
I would LOVE LOVE LOVE an Apple camera.

Traditional cameras have horrible user interfaces; Apple could easily fix that.
post #14 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger View Post

I would LOVE LOVE LOVE an Apple camera.

191

Actually, here's something modern: The worst design ever, the worst font ever, the worst idea ever, and the worst execution ever… come together in one camera.
post #15 of 20

Apple didn't design the QuickTakes, they were just rebranded much like the printers were.  The were made by Kodak (100 & 150) and FujiFilm (200).  While I doubt Apple makes a camera, they could go along way in the accessories arena, because there aren't a lot of good solutions thus far.

post #16 of 20

Although I would not be interested in swappable lenses on any phone - I have DSLRs and lenses for that - I would be interested in a DSLR to iPhone/iPod/iPad wired tether + app combination that would allow me to bring my photos online faster. Sure there are wifi/bt solutions out there, even cameras that have wifi built-in, but from what I've seen, none are very fast, robust, reliable, or hassle free to use. DSLRs have usb connections that allow tethering control and have mass storage status - wish someone would put these together into a commercial (and professional) product.

post #17 of 20

Ok, found a serious contender, but not exactly what I had in mind - it's more for remote control of the camera (cinema purposes):

 

http://vimeo.com/13287420

 

Looks impressive though.

post #18 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


191
Actually, here's something modern: The worst design ever, the worst font ever, the worst idea ever, and the worst execution ever… come together in one camera.

 

The "camera" at that link - despite all the graphic design software love and "promotional" copy devoted to it is probably the least Apple-like design I can imagine, running pretty much counter to the whole design aesthetic of the corporation.  Angular, thick-looking, gimmicky, hinged rotatable screens.  Sheesh!

 apple_quicktake.jpg

 

I keep looking at the now frumpy iPod Touch (remember those?  the trade press seems to have forgotten their existence.) with its respectable but declining sales and thinking if they just put that in an iPhone size (or so) enclosure, using all the room now given to phone electronics for camera kit that can't be stuffed into today's iPhones, could be a killer little true zoom cam with numerous innovative features.  Without giving up all the apps, its appeal as a hand gaming machine, media player, wi-fi web-surfer, iCloud PhotoStream, AirPlay, AirDrop, etc.  Still smaller than most P&S cams - with features they can't dream of.

But apparently I'm a voice in the wilderness, even tho' I think it could re-invigorate the line.  The one thing I do know is that you'll never see anything like the above being announced by Apple.

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post #19 of 20
I wouldn't consider optional lenses revolutionizing photography, so this doesn't thrill me.
The Galaxy S2 has a lot of really nice camera options and settings. More than the casual user needs but I use them often.
Does anyone make a simple camera holder that attaches to a standard tripod mount?
post #20 of 20

It's very ironic that Samsung and Sony, being camera makers, have not taken a substantial lead in phone camera technology.
 

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