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  • The Perfect Camera is the One You Have With You

    2012 - 01.15

    For a long time now, smartphone cameras have been eating up the camera market for pocketable cameras. It’s easy to see why; smartphone cameras are ‘good enough’ for most people, and why carry around a possibly redundant second thing in your pocket? This week in gadget nerd news, I see that Polaroid will soon be introducing an android-powered camera. This is flirting with a dream object of mine: the awesome compact camera that so happens to have a phone built into it.

    For a long time now we’ve seen thousands of high-quality smartphones… that happen to have a decent camera on them. But there still does not yet exist a high-quality camera… that also happens to have a decent smartphone in it! It’s so obvious. Why has no one does this? For serious guys. It’s a photo nuts dream machine. Slam. Dunk.

    There’s even companies who already make excellent smartphones AND excellent cameras, like Samsung or Sony. Man. How hard can it be to combine these things? Apparently, impossible.

    There have been a few halfhearted attempts, like the Samsung sch-w880 (Asia only, and not Android), or the Panasonic Lumix Phone 101P (shown above) which is Japan only, but it IS Android. That lumix comes the closest to what I’m wishing for. You could probably import one, for like a thousand dollars. That’s so sad. This new Polaroid SC1630 is actually nothing more than a rebrand of a phone that’s been on the market in Asia for a long time now, called the Altek Leo. I was kind of excited by the Polaroid phone until I figured that out.

    While all these phones are interesting, I would still posit that none of them are doing it RIGHT. All of them are still trying to compete with phones on slimness and not offering the features that would make the photo geeks salivate. By that I mean no product exists that offers a serious high quality lens with a phone… in a fat body which barely fits in a tight jeans pocket, one that is brazenly and unapologetically a still a camera first and foremost.

    And so, just for fun, I’ve decided to make a fake advertisement for cameraphone of my dreams that would cater to the hardcore photo niche. If you know what “Av” stands for, and have level 10 Photoshop skillz, this is for you. Since Kodak has been in the news lately for their almost-bankruptcy, I’m imagining it as a comeback product for them: a sexy vintage rangefinder that could steal people away from the Fuji x100 AND the ‘Droid-of-the-week in one fell swoop!  And one that relied heavily on advanced knowledge of what made film so beautiful.  (If this website is slow, the same file is also hosted at Flickr here)

    Maybe I’ll clarify a couple things: I envision the camera and the Android section as essentially independent entities. They both use the same SD card, and they both use the same Android set of buttons, but with different functions depending on the position of the camera/android switch. Also observe that there is an AUTO setting on the ISO dial… this means you could set it to Av, pick your aperture, and have the camera autoselect your shutter speed AND your ISO. That would be super duper nice, to help avoid camera shake. When distracted, I get caught by slow shutter speeds in Av mode all the time, it happens easily.

    A few final thoughts: the body isn’t exactly what I wish it could be, as I was limited by my ability to find a rangefinder camera that had high resolution photos taken of it from the front, top, and back. Given the boring backsides of many film cameras, finding the back image was surprisingly tough. It would definitely be two-tone though. No question there. Another limitation was my own Photoshop ability and how much time I wanted to invest getting an idea across. If I were sketching this thing from scratch, I would’ve probably laid out the controls slightly different, but this conveys all the features I wanted, maybe just not in the exact right positions. I thought a edited photo would be a lot more enticing than a sketch though, so I went that route.

    For anyone who’s curious, what’s here is a touched up version of a Zorki-4, an old Soviet rangefinder. I also used the spun dials from my old Marantz amp, a photo of the screen on my Droid X, and the camera/play switch from my old Canon A60 (that switch always felt so sure and right under my finger, with a satisfying click into each position). There’s a few things that did get left out; I would’ve liked to add a neat looking lens cap that tethered to the body with a small cord to stop it from getting lost. Also I would’ve liked to mock up pictures of the accessories, but it would’ve taken a lot of time. It’s hard to translate something in your mind to something visual.

    Last thing I’ll add is that it’s sort of wild that Kodak is even in the position it is… I learned on Wikipedia that in 1976 Kodak had a 90% market share of photographic film sales in the United States.  That’s a lot.  Maybe they should draw on that colossal expertise and build a camera like this one, instead of inkjet printers and digital picture frames.  It’d be cool to see them turn it around and make incredible gear.

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    2 Responses to “The Perfect Camera is the One You Have With You”

    1. Sheilaa stylie says:

      This is quite the exercise in McWoooorrrld! I liked the “Ding” feature. And does the T3i have a special astrophotography setting, or is that just a wet dream?

      • Haha, yes, this IS a gigantic exercise in hypotheticals! “McWorrrrrrld!” indeed.

        Typically digital SLRs are modifed to do astrophotography. The modification consists of removing an infrared filter that blocks that part of the spectra from the camera’s sensor. The same idea is used to modify DSLRs to take infrared photos: they swap out the IR-blocking filter for one that blocks visible light instead and lets the IR pass. So it’s all just filters in front of the sensor. When the Fujifilm X100 came out, I saw that they had an *internal* neutral density filter, which is a brilliant idea. But it also got me thinking; hey wait, so you can just put a retractable filter in front of the sensor like that, internally?? Well why don’t we run with that idea? Why not incorporate those IR or non-IR filters, why not add star filters, or soft focus or whatever? Then you’d always have them with you, and also it brings a sweet toolkit for videos. Look no further than those awesome Krasno solos with the star filter…

        To answer your question, no camera out there does this, that I know of. But, as far as I can see, there’s no reason it can’t be done. A filter wheel could house a variety of options. Multiple wheels could even allow you to stack certain combinations. All of this is totally possible.

        In the reading I’ve done about telescope-mounted CCD cameras, it blew me away to learn that you can effectively exchange image size for exposure time using “pixel binning”. That is to say, you could take a picture with 800×800 resolution at 30 seconds, or you could take a lower-res version with *the exact same apparent brightness* with 400×400 resolution at 15 seconds. When I saw that I was like omfg, I wish my DSLR could do that. Out of everything I listed, I think that would be the biggest thing that today’s cameras are negelecting. Idunno, there’s a lot of ideas in here which are sort of, WHY, oh WHY is no one trying this? I don’t think *anything* I suggested is impossible, just overlooked. Somehow. I have no idea how.

        It’s like… my cheap $150 casio camera from 2007 that can shoot 240fps super slow-motion video at SD resolution… why the &%*^ can my $600 modern Canon SLR not do that? There’s no good reason why!! All this technology exists, just scattered in separate packages. Aaaaand that’s my soapbox, lol!