mobile photography technology, culture and community

What the 'smart camera' could mean for Apple, and Apple fans


What will the "smart camera" mean for Apple? Connect contributor Allan Hoffman imagines a few future scenarios.

There’s a looming dilemma for Apple, and also for photographers who are unabashed fans of the iPhone camera. 

The iPhone has transformed photography with its versatile ecosystem of photo editing and sharing apps and high-quality camera components, but a new development — the advent of so-called "smart cameras," with the same apps available on smartphones as well as connectivity capabilities — may threaten Apple’s role as a favorite choice of mobile photographers.

Here’s the issue in a nutshell: As the line blurs further between mobile phone and connected camera and even the most advanced professional cameras take on mobility features, will you be able to get Apple’s iOS — and all of your favorite iPhone photography apps, from AutoStitch to Hipstamatic — on your mobile camera device of the future? Or will you be forced to opt for an advanced camera (that is, one with an optical zoom lens and other controls desired by amateurs and pros) using a version of Google’s Android operating system (or an as-yet-uninvented app-friendly camera operating system)? 

It may not be a dilemma you need to confront next month, or even next year, but as apps make their way onto all cameras, and not just mobile ones — as they most certainly will — you’re likely to have to think about using an interface other than Apple’s. For iPhone devotees (and I count myself among them), that would mean buying all new apps — or Android versions of the ones you already own. It would mean managing your workflow with a different, unfamiliar system. It would mean learning a new mobile photography interface.

Here’s a look into my iPhone’s mix of photography apps (well, just a portion of them). 
I would not want to recreate this with another company’s operating system and interface. 

I’m not looking forward to this, but unless Apple surprises us — and I wouldn’t discount that (in fact, I’m rooting for it) — I’ll probably be in the market for an Android camera in the next two or three years. 

That’s because as apps move to traditional cameras, photographers are going to want — they’re going to expect — cameras with both apps and mobile connectivity. That’s already apparent in recently introduced Android-powered cameras such as the Nikon Coolpix S800c and the Samsung Galaxy Camera -- now even Polaroid has a model out. The trend is only going to accelerate in coming years.

The Samsung Galaxy Camera is powered by Android, as are similar cameras from both Nikon and Polaroid.

To put things another way: All photography will be mobile photography. All cameras will have Instagram, Photoshop Express and other apps. All cameras will let you blog and otherwise post your photos right from your camera, with a wi-fi, or mobile broadband, connection. Photographers have begun to expect mobility, and there’s no turning back.

Where will this leave Apple — and devotees of the iPhone camera? It’s not a question only for photography newbies. Fans of the iPhone camera include many professional photographers, including photojournalists whose work appears in The New York Times, Time magazine and other publications.

Photojournalist Ben Lowy shot this image with the iPhone camera and the Hipstamatic app.

What will Apple do?

Here are five scenarios:

1. Apple buys Nikon.

Well, maybe not Nikon, but a camera company — or one with camera technology — as a way to make a lasting mark in the world of photography. This, of course, seems highly unlikely. There’s no precedent for it in Apple’s recent history. Apple likes things simple, and it would be a big, complicated headache to deal with the “legacy” cameras and lenses under the umbrella of a Canon or Nikon.

If anything, Apple would be more likely to go after a smaller or niche player (Lytro? Leica?), but even that’s a stretch — and a considerable one. Then again, Apple’s chief designer, Jony Ive, is designing a one-of-a-kind Leica M. Perhaps there’s synergy in an acquisition. 

2. Apple gives the iPhone and iPod touch an optical zoom and other advanced photographic features.

It’s not out of the question that Apple would find a way to add a zoom lens to its flagship mobile devices. (A lot more control over shutter speed and aperture would help, too.) With these advances, fans of prosumer cameras might think twice about buying one, given what their phone would offer in terms of photographic capabilities. The only thing is, it’s not clear how Apple would integrate an optical zoom without increasing the heft of these devices — a development Apple surely wants to avoid.

3. Apple offers specialized versions of the iPhone and iPod touch — the iPhone Camera and the iPod touch Camera, let’s say.

This riff off the previous scenario would allow Apple to market a specialized — and pricier — version of the iPhone and iPod touch to consumers eager for a hyped-up camera on their mobile devices.

An Italian designer’s prototype for the iCam: what camera-centric iPhone or iPod touch might look like.

4. Apple develops an innovative memory card for cameras.

Imagine a new type of memory card — something like the Eye-Fi card with its ability to transfer photos straight to an iPhone — to make the experience of using another camera, such as a DSLR, almost akin to using the apps on your phone. With an iPhone in your pocket (or your backpack), the camera’s screen would mirror the iPhone screen. Or something like that. I’ll be honest: I have no idea how this would work. But a memory card, somehow, some way, could be a way to bring together the iPhone with cameras with more advanced features.

5. Apple introduces prosumer and DSLR cameras.

Yes, it’s not out of the question for Apple to develop its own cameras, running iOS. (Remember the Jony Ive and Leica connection; Steve Jobs loved photography, and so does Ive.)

Imagine a streamlined lineup: a prosumer model and a DSLR. Simple, yet new. Apple reinvented the phone, and now the camera. Of all of these Apple scenarios, this is my favorite — and also one that I think is actually within the realm of possibility.

The original Apple camera, the QuickTake, was 0.3 megapixels.

In fact, Apple tried this once before, in the early 1990s. The Apple QuickTake was one of the first digital cameras available to consumers in 1994. Two models were built by Kodak and a third by Fujifilm before the camera was discontinued in 1997. Today's Apple would likely go it alone in reinventing the camera, though it would probably only happen after the acquisition of a company (or several companies) with key photography know-how and technology.

What will other players do?

And what if Apple opts for none of the above? That’s certainly possible — even likely. In that case, the camera market would be left to the existing players, as well as new ones looking to make a mark in the age of smart cameras. Here are five possibilities for how that will shake out in the next five or 10 years:

1. Android becomes the standard OS for cameras.

I’d bet on this, though I wouldn’t like it. (Again, I don’t feel like abandoning that Apple ecosystem. It’s not perfect, but it’s my world, and I prefer to stick with it.) From the camera makers’ perspective, this would make sense: They would be able to retain some control, through customizations of Android, yet they would be able to offer photographers the camera apps available for Android. Could the growing number of Android-based connected cameras be the first indication that this trend has already begun?

2. Android becomes the leader in photography apps.

Well, that would happen as a result of the previous development. And the iPhone? New and innovative photography apps might end up on Android first, then on the iPhone — a reversal of the current situation. 

3. Google introduces a camera.

Why not? Google seems to have no fear in trending into new arenas, even if their efforts are abject failures. The company’s certainly shown an interest in photographers as it’s developed its Google+ networks. A Google camera doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. 

4. Microsoft makes a camera.

Microsoft recently introduced its first tablet, and it may be looking to expand its hardware business — even as it develops its operating system for mobile devices. The company could see a camera as a route to gaining traction for its mobile operating system.

5. Canon, Nikon and other camera makers develop specialized, app-friendly interfaces.

Camera interfaces can be awful, especially compared to those on phones. But it’s not out of the question that major camera makers will decide they should attempt to build their own app-friendly operating systems for cameras. That would fracture the market, and be a pain for consumers, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

Such fracturing of camera interfaces and apps seems almost inevitable, at least for the next several years. When each camera interface was its own island (without apps or Internet connectivity), that was not a problem, or not a big one; it didn’t matter so much if the interface on your Canon G9 didn’t match the one on your Nikon D5100. Yet we’re entering a new era of connected, app-savvy cameras, and it will be a hassle to manage a different set of camera apps on your smartphone, on your prosumer camera, and on your DSLR. The likely solution? I’m guessing we’ll be seeing many, many Android cameras, but I’m also hoping — really hoping! — Apple makes a move and decides to reinvent photography with an Apple camera.

Allan Hoffman is the technology columnist for The Star-Ledger and the author of "Create Great iPhone Photos." He misses the smell of fixer in the darkroom, but he loves having a darkroom (and camera) in his pocket with the iPhone. He blogs about iPhone photography at What I See Now.


Total comments: 61

Didn't Google and Apple go in together to buy Kodak's patents? I thought I read that somewhere.

Edited 11 seconds after posting

I've been shooting photos for 60 years and now own a Sony A55 with a Zeiss lens. Best camera I've ever owned. I wouldn't give it up for anything except a better DSLR. But I gotta tell you in regard to my Galaxy 3 phone camera, I'm impressed by the amount of quality it has, not by its lack of quality. It has been great fun to shoot with it. And the iPhone camera is certainly comparable.

Fasten your seat belts folks. The rest of this decade is going to be a wild ride in Smart Phone Cameraland. And who cares what company provides the transportation.

The next step is branded lenses on phone cameras. A Nokia phone already has a Zeiss lens. Those little Zeiss and Leica lenses used by Sony and Panasonic for p&s cameras are terrific, and similar branded lenses will find a home on phones.

Then we will have branded camera apps. You'll have a Canon camera and a Nikon camera on your phone.

The fun has begun.

Edited 2 minutes after posting

We're in an already-but-not-yet state right now with this. For most applications, an SD card with ad-hoc WiFi capabilities already gives us the editing and sharing benefits of “smart” devices. There are considerable benefits to this two device scheme as well:
1. Each device can be dedicated to it's particular task.
2. Battery life is shared across devices. A D800 can have backup batteries.

So what would a smart camera get us:

Computational Photography during the light capture phase (e.g. light field photography, multi-viewpoint panorama assist, etc.).



In Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, he mentions that Steve Jobs wanted to revolutionize 3 industries: textbooks, TV AND *photography*.

Maybe this just meant incrementally improved iPhones, but here's to hoping for regular and pro versions of an iOS based camera. The latter likely wouldn't be a DSLR, though. At one point it sounded like there might be a partnership with Sony (their NEX line of cameras are among the best in the electronic viewfinder, interchangeable lens category). Hopefully the flange distance would be shallow enough that mechanical adapters for Nikon, Leica, Canon, etc. lenses could be made. This would hook the pros with lots of money invested in glass. Then Apple could upsell to their brand lenses, which would probably have API controlled aperture, zooming, focusing, etc.

Photography seems about ready to take a leap forward in terms of technology. Likely it'll be years before great work is made with it, as with any revolutionary tech.


Edited 21 seconds after posting

Get over it people. A smartphone is with you 24/7. You are NOT going to have some camera thingy with a lens that is 2 inches long in your purse or pocket.

So Smartphones are the way and only way to go. They will get better every generation.

1 upvote

Yes and no. Every tool has its use—and every job has its tools.

1 upvote
By (unknown member) (Feb 3, 2013)

A cameraphone is just another type of camera, that's all. It appeals in two ways: it's always with you and it connects to the internet. This means it will appeal to people who don't care all that much about a good picture and to those who are more involved in social media. There will always be overlap between market segments, but camera phones as they exist don't have some things even the cheapest camera has. Yeah, any camera is better than no camera, but changing technology doesn't imply the destruction of more established devices. Sony just stopped making the MiniDisc this week. What's a minidisc you ask? Exactly.
The point is you may take pictures with your smarthphone that you otherwise would not have taken, but if you know you'll need a camera you'll take one.....just like back in the day. There are always people who always carry a camera and those who don't see why anyone would take a picture of anything. If those people finally have a camera phone, great for them.

Edited 2 minutes after posting

Ummm, some of us don't have cellphones (gasp!!) but do have cameras.

1 upvote

iOS is a closed system. To wish for ios cameras right after wishing for compatibility is to contradict yourself. I think you need to let go of the fact you bought into the most propriety system, rather than wishing to pull the entire industry in with you.

Also, you're assuming smart cameras are a threat to smart phones. I don't believe this is true. Smartphones are a threat to cameras, not the other way around. This is simply because (a) camera phones in recent years have been closing the quality gap. (b) you don't have to carry a camera if your phone has one.

Connectivity and apps are extremely important and changing the world, I don't doubt that. I just don't think adding it to cameras is going to be a threat to smartphones.

To compete with something you need to do something more enticing. The quality angle is diminishing year on year, phones will always be more portable, and phones already have the apps and connectivity.

The main edge cameras have are optical zooms, but I think consumers are starting to realise they don't need that for typical situations, and like you say, it's quite possible for optical zoom to be added. For example, Apple could simply add another camera to the opposite corner which has a longer focal length. This wouldn't add as much bulk as the solutions we've seen from Nokia.


Well yes, an Apple Smart Camera. Sounds great! And yes, I would definitely be interested. But where is it? Has Apple, to anyone's knowledge, been actively researching such a device? I mean, to produce a smart phone is one thing but producing an innovative camera takes years and years of development. Samsung is finding it difficult and only now is Sony coming up with some seriously competitive products. Where is the photographic know-how and innovation at Apple?


Apples next move is into the lounge room, not the camera studio. They're building upon Apple tv with additional content and gaming.

They already know they're killing the compact camera market, it wouldn't make sense to release a compact and send the message that compacts have a future.

Edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote

Nah. The biggest problem with the thought of Android dominating cameras is that age-old photography adage: the best camera is the one you carry with you.

The reason the iPhone is such a dominant camera is that you always carry your iPhone with you. You never leave it at home.

The Android smart camera is NOT a cell phone. Thus it is an option not a need to carry. It also is another thing to lug around one's pocket or purse. It adds complexity to a camera. The iPhone on the other hand is dead simple to use as a camera - anyone can use it. Android smart cameras also take a LONG-TIME to start up. They are not that handy when trying to take spontaneous pictures.

Nah. The iPhone (and other iOS devices) will continue to dominate particularly as Apple improves their optics. Imagine having a zoom camera on the iPhone with a bended light path (like used on Sony T-series pocket cameras). That would kill whatever is left of the small camera market.

1 upvote
Allan Hoffman

Interesting thoughts, and yes, I think the trend where people shun their point-and-shoot cameras will continue to accelerate, but I also think that we're going to see more and more apps (often Android apps and an Android OS) on point-and-shoot cameras.


I completely agree about the bent light path technology leveraged to add optical zoom to smartphones. But I'd bet on Sony to first introduce such a thing (maybe in their Xperia line). That addition has implications for their already established compact camera line, but their very latest Xperia models look good. They also don't have a shrinking smartphone market share to worry about. ;)


"The Android smart camera is NOT a cell phone"
As long as it has a mic and a speaker it can function as a Phone. In fact i use my Ipod Touch as my mobile phone, text messenger, PDA and Camera. It combines enough functions to justify carrying it anywhere i go. Despite that i still prefer a dedicated camera when i know i'll be taking pictures.
iPhones also have big lags when taking pictures if the iOS is flooded with other activities. The iPhone is a mobile computer with a prioritized phone function.


That's a very interesting article.

I agree it's somewhat unlikely that they would actually put a dSLR on the market. That's not a product that would fit in their philosophy of design. Or let me put this another way: that's not what Jobs would have wanted.

I don't see them implementing optical zoom into iPhones, at least not until that technology gets a lot more compact. The option of getting a Nokia Pureview kind of system seems more viable.

The scenario that seems most likely to me is that they invest a lot of R&D into sensor-design and camera unit performance and try to expand the quality of iPhonography.


buying Nikon :)
"everything is not for sale" versus "1000x more would be" :)

Realy Samsung will be first and it is a pity his break with Pentax and their K mount lens system (now Pentax is stronger with a Ricoh and with his GXR modular system, but they don't have knowlidge about Android + processors like Exynos octa etc. ... what a pity!) ... it would seem be the best improving of innovations in the smart camera market.

Edited 3 times; latest 2 minutes since posting

Funny - I always thought great lenses on a good body on a nice and bright day would heighten the chance of me taking a great pic or two and at the same time teach me a thing or two about myself and my abilities.

Why I should use a crappy camphone without a viewfinder and a less than stellar chip and lens is beyond me. Let alone why should I care if its Linux, ios etc. I is not adding to the experience. A and M Mode are.

Why should I buy a cam from Apple - a company very apt in making shortlived tupperware with a little bit of this and that and catering to less than mediocre sheeple that are trained to push buttons and not think at the same time..

It takes half a century of company building and r&d for Nikon and Canon to come up with breathtakingly good cams.

I doubt Apple has that much time and steam left.


The writer and I disagree about how "serious" a photographic tool Apple products have been thus far. On the other hand, a great photographer can use any tool (shoebox pinhole, Holga, disc, 110, 126, Polaroid, etc.) to create great images within the limitations of the medium.

I believe the next great development related to photography is going to abandon the tradition control paradigm and create a completely UI and process for recording. I don't what that is yet to you would all be reading about my great new invention. Still working on it!


A big consideration when choosing to embed a popular OS into a product is that the OS must be able to be customized. For that reason, I would not expect to see iOS running on any product not designed by Apple itself.

That's why there are television sets running custom Linux variants, copy machines running Windows CE variants, and car stereos, set top boxes, and cameras running Android variants.

There will definitely be many more cameras running Android variants in future. Apple has a lot of things on their plate, and an iCam may not be one of them. They may decide to throw more effort into holding onto market share of existing products than into exploring new markets. Set top boxes may be an exception I've heard.


Fantastic read and I have long believed the camera phone is the death bell for point and shoot cameras & is exciting to image how this device will expand photography and the limitless possiblities ... It would b super smart for apple to come up with such a device .. For those that say they don't own an apple product , So what ? , good for u and no one cares ... The same old farts said many similar things when auto focus when it came out and when digital 1st appeared. ... So come on


An excellent article and I think it's telling that such engaging writing and futurism is more to be found In the realm of mobile photography than in it's more traditional cousin.

I too am an Apple fan so share the same longing for their wondeful interfaces in a camera. The smart camera is coming, it can't be stopped and I do hope it does away with the clunky interfaces we are faced with now.

Just a usable, controllable HDR mode would be enough for me, though. The iPhone apps do this better than any camera I've used so I expect given the processing power and softwear, large sensor cameras could be even better.

Allan Hoffman

Good point about the clunky interfaces. I agree that as more and more are used to the easy interfaces on their phones, they're going to look at today's existing camera interfaces -- typically very complex -- and want/demand something a lot better. Let's hope companies deliver that.


Does anyone remember "Digita" ?
It was an operating system that some manufacturers used to give more flexibility to cameras. For some reason it never took off.
Phil Askey said this:
"Digita: All cameras should be this flexible and easy to upgrade"
I wonder if it should be resurrected.


I'm thinking this is a silly article. Why should Apple respond at all?
The iPhone is a phone that takes pictures. Do Apple respond everytime a new camera is released?

PS. Only Apple product I own is a couple of iPods.

1 upvote

Steve Jobs said during the introduction of the first iphone that it was a multifunction mobile device whose killer app was to make phone calls. In other words its a mobile computer with a phone and other integrated secondary peripherals such as a camera. Apple is in a position where they can further diversify their iOS platform with photo and video as its main killer App. Apple already does this somehow with iPodTouch(music), Ipad (read and web browsing) but you can make phone calls too in any of these. There is AppleTV running iOS as well with emphasis on (TV) but is not a mobile device.An iCamera device makes sense to me.

Edited 8 minutes after posting
1 upvote

Mr. Hoffman managed to write an article where the deductible sub-text is actually more prominent than the direct-read text.

It's almost hypnotic...Witnessing "eco-cult-systems" apostles seeing their temples implode, while trying to "philosoph" about it all.


Edited 2 times; latest 1 minute since posting

I meant "deducible", not "deductible".


A little homework by the author would have revealed that Sony has already launched the ability to download and install custom apps to select models of their NEX line of mirrorless cameras. Not quite the robust iOS ecosystem (it's not open to 3rd parties at the moment) it's still a major first step.

See the apps at:

Allan Hoffman

I just checked that out, and that custom app idea from Sony is very, very interesting. (And yes, you're right, it would've been great to include in the article.) But here's the thing: It's just what I fear -- namely, that all of the camera makers will have their own app systems. Do we really want that? I don't think so. It'll lead to confusion camera owners, hassles for camera owners, and it will also mean that developers will then have to create apps for all different sorts of systems (and lots of developers will just focus on iOS or Android and forget about dedicated camera apps). Doesn't make sense and won't work in the long run.


I guess I'm old school. I just want a digital camera that allows me to take good pictures in an intuitive way - as far as processing goes, I prefer to do that at home on a large screen where I can see details, not on a viewfinder. I don't want apps on my camera because that will distract me from seeing and seeing with clarity is the role of a view finder. I also have no desire to use my camera as a telephone or an email reader. I have a smartphone that performs those roles very well and I enjoy the apps I have on the phone. 'But then you'd only have to carry one device'. I'd rather have two devices each with a clearly defined role. I do use the smartphone camera to make records of various sorts and I appreciate its handiness. But when I'm ready to do photography I take out my camera which incidentally is the same size as the smartphone. .

Edited 2 times; latest 45 seconds since posting

Well said.
If I have to nail a spike I use a hammer. If I have to screw in something I reach for a screwdriver. Too much tool mismatch doesn't lead to best usability.
But you create one more single point of failure!


I can't be alone in thinking that your iPhone screen there looks akin to that presentation speaker, who connects his laptop to the projector and then the audience is at mercy to his terrible and cluttered desktop. iOS is stale.

Apple don't want to give control to the end-user. That's why there is no such thing as a simple file management system on iOS. iOS needs addressing, before it could ever become viable for photo shoots. Apple don't like SD cards either, so there's another "no". RAW files in the cloud?

I cannot even begin to estimate the cost of any Apple-made camera or attachment, as they overcharge on everything. They are where they are today, due to enormous profit margins. I see people complaining about the price of a regular mirrorless camera lenses... an iLens would be crazy.

Android's open nature makes it ideal for companies and consumers alike. Apple's walled garden is all good and fun, but I suggest having a proper peak over that wall. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Edited 4 minutes after posting
By (unknown member) (Jan 31, 2013)

Here's what Apple haters should understand about anyone who uses an Apple product: there are times when complete control is more trouble than its worth. I love having control over my PC (although Microsoft is the same devil as Apple just in a different form....I bet people think one politician is better than another just because he's not as huge a liar). My phone or my mp3 player or my tablet are not things I need ultimate control over. Those are devices that I use so incredibly often that they need to be extremely stable and extremely easy to control....and extremely intuitive. If you have the patience for an OS that changes from device to device or you want to root your hardware, great for you. Balance between fucntionality and blending into the background, blending seemlessly into my life, is what I paid for with my iPhone. Updates are predictable and in control of a single source....a source that usually works out the big bugs. Some consumers don't want open, they want good

Edited 2 times; latest 3 minutes since posting
1 upvote
By (unknown member) (Jan 31, 2013)

The whole "you're a moron if you like Apple" attitude makes me think that Android users are all egocentric. You're a moron if you think everyone does or should have the same priorities as you. I had a friend who hated iOS, wasn't happy about Android, and thought Windows Phone would be the ultimate OS. He said about five years ago he'd wait for a good version of WP to get a smartphone. It may not suck like it used to (when he got 7.5, doh!) but thinking that any OS is perfect for everyone is foolish. It's also foolish to think that we've never tried Android and that's why we don't like it. Funny that many people who think that have never tried iOS and still don't like it. Having very few devices with one OS is a huge advantage for developers and accessory makers and consumers alike. An OS like Android is perfect for making cheap phones. Apple pays for their iOS development, everyone gets Android for free...unless you consider what Google is getting out of that deal.

1 upvote

Too bad the Apple vs Whomever war still rages on. Get over it. These are all tools and you choose the tool that works best for you. It's not religion. And it seems that all the Android evangelists ever point to is the "lack of accessible file system". So what! I can't say I've ever felt that I was deprived on my iPhone because it doesn't have one. I can find everything and have never lost anything on my iPhone.

Regarding the "this post is silly" opinions, pundits are supposed to get silly from time to time, it's in their job description. If you don't have people musing about what could be then we would never have the pace of change we have. It's about ideas people! And you don't get good ideas if you don't put a bunch out there to see what other think.

Edited 1 minute after posting

Thanks for all of the replies, guys.

>howardroark Well, I was a long-time iOS user, from its inception to just last year. I used Macs for the simplicity you mention, and mainly because of the lack of viruses. Plus, my work buys them for me.

I certainly don't think we should all be doing the same, but this article is so far up Apple's bottom it hurts.

>kdaphoto that was just an example, off the top of my head. I rarely use the file system on Android. What I do like, is its freedom. An open system like Android would let you live in ignorance as you do with iOS, quite happily. It would also let nerds like me tinker and play around with it. That's why we like different things :)

1 upvote
By (unknown member) (Feb 1, 2013)

Martin, I understand your perspective, but looking at the point and shoot market is not the same as serious cameras. Serious photography might benefit from RAW files, but how many people who use a point and shoot even know what RAW is? Putting JPEG files into the cloud from a camera attachment is a no brainer, and it even makes sense for the phone since a lot of profit comes from buying the model with more memory. The article may be very Apple-centric, but when somebody creates a device with an OS, WiFi, and LTE and a real camera with a real lens and real flash built into the phone maybe I'll updgrade my 4S. As for iOS being each his own. Android might have its advantages, but it's also the victim of its own design philosophy. It is the dumping ground for gimmicks and horrible apps, although I think most apps for any OS are worse than trash.

Edited 6 minutes after posting

No mention of the iPad mini? That's a technically easy place for Apple to add the bulk and weight of a zoom lens and larger sensor.

No way that Apple will buy a camera company. Synergy? Apple can buy sensors and lenses themselves. Anybody working in User Experience at a camera company would be worse than useless at Apple. It is fun to imagine the entire user interface department at Nikon working on the line assembling iPhones in China. That would be their best and highest use within Apple.

As small camera modules keep getting better and better, and Apple's model range keeps growing, I don't think the potential problem you are taking about will ever manifest itself.

Maklike Tier

Apple is a mass market player of lifestyle items. They're moving well away from prosumer and pro products, so an iDSLR or iCSC I think does not fit their business, so I'd be very surprised if anything like that would come out.

I am kinda surprised nobody has come out with camera that the iPhone clips to, but then again in this wireless world, it seems a hassle to be beholden to Apples design peccadillos.

Apple historically doesn't do partnerships - and now even makes their own chips - so I can't see them adopting anyone elses standards. They don't need to buy anyone to inherit technology, they'd just make it themselves like they did with the iPhone.

So really, all we're really left with is incremental changes to the camera already in the iPhone. Apple has a shockingly stupid (IMHO as a designer) obsession with 'minimal elegance' that would eliminate the possibility of an extending zoom lens, so I don't think we'd see that, either.

Allan Hoffman

Well, I disagree with the "shockingly stupid" part of what you say, but I think you make a reasonable point -- that what may be most likely is Apple making "incremental changes to the camera already in the iPhone."

That said, I keep thinking maybe they'll find a way, somehow, to bring a "real" zoom lens to it and, at the same time, keeping the streamlined/minimal form factor of the iPhone.


Good article, tho' this is opinion, not fact:

"The iPhone has transformed photography with its versatile ecosystem of photo editing and sharing apps and high-quality camera components."

But you identify the truth here:

"All photography will be mobile photography...photographers have begun to expect mobility, and there’s no turning back."

Not the complete truth, as many photographers aren't thinking in "connect" terms...but it will be the future.

Edited 49 seconds after posting
Allan Hoffman

True, there are plenty of photographers/camera owners who haven't used apps, but more and more people are experiencing that via their smartphones -- and liking all of the possibilities of having this sort of magical camera-and-darkroom combo right on the phone (along with the ability to publish instantly).

Ten years from now (or sooner), that'll be the norm in cameras -- i.e., apps and publishing capabilities.


And you missed one very important possibility:

Apple designs a camera dock for the iPhone. Just picture it:

A mirror-less type of body with fixed zoom or better yet interchangeable lens that uses the iPhone as the brains (handling apps and processing). The dock might have it's own camera sensor or might use the sensor in the iphone (both plausible designs)

You would plug (slide in, enclose etc.) your iphone inside the camera dock with the iphone screen becoming your rear LCD. If the design is clever enough it can even be a rotating LCD.

You get full functionality of iPhone with touch focus etc. and a power of a better camera. How do you like them apples :)

Allan Hoffman

Hey Cosmo, I like this idea, esp. the part about the iPhone sliding into a camera. I can't quite picture it, but it's neat to think that the iPhone would provide the interface and the apps and there would be this other device that's the camera. Really intriguing.

1 upvote

LOL...hard to come up with an original idea these days. Of course this is a far cry from having something designed by Apple that may actually turn the iPhone into a better camera rather then a fashion accessory.

But this does give one and idea of what such device may look like and function. Although I would prefer that the camera itself provide a "real" sensor and lenses and the iPhone serve as an interface.

Also I would aim to make the iPhone enclosure at least rotate up/down similar to say nex-5R or oly pen e-pl5 for angle and self-portraits.

Also a must is an SD card dock. You gotta to go beyond the internal storage of the iPhone. If Apple wants to do it, it can all be done but would they :)


The speculation is useless unless it somehow drops Apple stock prices (so I can buy more!...).

The scenarios are -- I'm being lenient -- comical but at the end of the day, it's a living I suppose.

Nothing else going on?


I represent a suffering minority of photographers who would love to play the game of in-camera processing of photos with resident apps -- but who have no use, and no cash, for a full-service phone contract to support an iPhone. It's heartening to see some of the speculative options that Allan Hoffman has laid out here, with a divorce from the telephone.

I haven't yet bought a Galaxy camera, as I'm willing to suffer a bit longer, waiting to see what similar products come along.

Allan Hoffman

Certainly waiting to see what smartcameras come along makes sense at this point. I think we're really just at the beginning of this trend, and we're going to see a lot of exciting options in the next couple of years.


interesting , it looks like a trend : people who started their photography life , shooting with smartphones , to "grow up" (not cynic ) and to demand lens and hand grip attached to the device , just like someone , who started with P\S camera , to look for RAW editing with DSLR


Maybe Apple launches a zoom lens / viewer / sensor pocket unit wirelessly connected to iPhone for image storing...
Or maybe they revive the Origami optical system and solve all problems within 7 mm of phone thickness...
Or maybe they use internal mirrors instead of lenses and manage to fit a zigzagging 20-2000 milimeters equivalent into the current housing...
Or maybe they find out they live quite well without all that additonal trouble anyway...

Joe Ogiba

A zigzagging 20-2000mm eqiv mirror lens ? Right, how about a camera that could fly you to the moon ?

Allan Hoffman

As you say, OldArrow: maybe Apple just decides they're doing quite well w/o the hassle of doing more with cameras. That's certainly a possibility. I just hope they try to make even more of a mark on photography.


I still can't see higher end photography done with in-camera processing apps. So I can't see an "iDSLR" being really very attractive. I think allowing advanced control from a phone or tablet would be more attractive, so maybe app integration from Canon, et al, could be a future trend.

On phones, any serious attempt to turn them into real cameras diminishes their portability and usability as a phone. Do you really want to carry around a phone with even a pancake prime on it? That's not going to be pocket friendly. And how long would a traditional telescoping zoom lens last being bounced around in a purse/pocket 24.7 like a phone does. So we aren't really going to be able to get much better than we have now in terms of a camera phone. It's always going to be smallish sensor and a prime.

I think the trend that is already started will continue. That is nice compacts that have android and iphone apps for instantly importing and sharing your images via your phone.

By (unknown member) (Jan 30, 2013)

Take a look at the teardown of the iPhone 5 on ifixit. Then take a look at the teardown of slim cameras like the Sony T1 (they're behind on their camera guides). If you compare the size of the lens/sensor module with the thickness of the camera, not to mention the age of that technology, it isn't a stretch to imagine a 15mm thick iPhone with a real, honest to God camera onboard. Perhaps that wouldn't include a 5X lens, maybe only 3X and with a 1/2.3" sensor. That still isn't exactly a serious point and shoot, but it is a lot more serious than a camera phone of today. The Canon S110 has a 1/1.7" sensor with a 5X lens and it's only 1" thick. The phone battery could be thickened and given a smaller footprint to make room for the camera module while maintaining life. I'd also love for the 7DMkII to have wifi and a great app like the 6D....great combination. The improved camera would mean a quicker death to the battery plus another upgrade path for companies to pursue.

Edited 2 minutes after posting
Allan Hoffman

In a way, there is already connectivity with cameras through things like the Eye-Fi card, which let your photos appear on a tablet or phone straight from a camera. But that's pretty clunky compared to doing it all on one device, which is what many photographers are getting used to with the iPhone and iPhone photography apps.


Agree. Apple tend to dumb-down the experience rather than allow a heavy amount of tinkering. For example, there is no file system on iOS which the user has access to.

By (unknown member) (Jan 31, 2013)

If the success of Apple has proven one thing it is that seemless, smooth, stable operation is a huge component in selling a metric sh*tton of products. Go look up studies on how one-click operation can make you a millionaire and using two clicks for the same process makes people never want to use a device or service. I'd love to use the EyeFi card, but there isn't a CF version for my 7D. There also isn't any ability to control the camera...the 6D and app is the closest thing to seemless integration between phone and camera right now.
To Martin, I'm a relatively intelligent human being and I'll say that I don't want my phone to be a computer with a file system. Having an app that can control the flow of data is just fine.

Edited 24 seconds after posting

An Android Ricoh GXR body would inherit the 5 existing "lens modules": compact or APSC sensors - zooms, macro and Leica M-mount lenses.


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