mobile photography technology, culture and community

Connected cameras of the future: Crossover solutions

Crossover solutions blending camera and smartphone could be the connected cameras of the future. (via SonyAlpha Rumors)

As camera manufacturers attempt to counter the onslaught of a smartphone-in-every-pocket mobile photography movement taking the place of point-and-shoot cameras, some solutions seek to combine the two devices. Thanks in part to crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, smaller companies and individuals are also proposing crossover gadgets that integrate mobile and traditional cameras.

We pulled together a handful of these ideas — now in production or still in development — for your interest (and, possibly, amusement). Are these technological wonders that you'll spend your hard-earned cash for, or are they destined for the recycle bin?

Fitting smartphones to cameras

Badass Cameras' Smartphone "digital back" for medium format cameras.

There's still no sign of Badass Cameras' promised Kickstarter campaign, but the company (which doesn't have a website but, instead, posts on its Facebook page) has started testing its smartphone "digital back."

A studio, a model and a Badass Cameras smartphone "digital back" in action.

There's not much to it as far as we can see other than an adapter that attaches your smartphone to a medium format film camera so you can preview/capture digitally what you're shooting on film. Love it or hate it, the device is being tested in studio, so the Kickstarter can't be far behind, right?

This hacked hard shell case allows an HTC Android smartphone to be attached to the eyepiece of a 35mm SLR. It's not pretty but it works.

Along the same lines, photographer Michael Amos hacked a hard shell case for his HTC Android smartphone to fit onto the viewfinder of his Canon 35mm SLR. You can read more about his smartphone/SLR adapter here. Click here to get a closer look at the device and see some of the images he's shot with this DIY film-to-digital adapter. 

If your tiny, smartphone accessory lenses aren't enough, bring out the big guns with this lens-to-smartphone adapter.

The Turtleback SLR jacket, which we reviewed here, is an adapter that allows you to mount a Nikon or Canon SLR lens (or a Lensbaby) to a smartphone. Basically, you put your iPhone into a case, attach the DOF adapter and you're almost good to go. It looks a little unwieldy but you'll have to read Aimee Baldridge's review to find out the details about this $249 accessory.

The smartwatch

The 41-megapixel Hyetis Crossbow watch offers a zoom, microphone and, surprisingly, a ring flash.

This 41-megapixel camera watch from Swiss company Hyetis does it all: takes pictures, shoots video, is equipped with an optical zoom and ring flash, records the temperature (and other data such as GPS, altitude and biometric information) and more. Oh, yeah, it tells time, too.  

Images can be transferred to iOS, Android or Windows Phone 8 smartphones using WiFi, Bluetooth or NFC (near field communication). Although the company's not yet taking orders for this smartwatch, it's estimated to set you back $1,300 when it's ready to ship.  For more information, check out our write-up here. Dick Tracy would be jealous. 

Blending smartphones and compacts, with a zoom

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom may be the most accurate representation of a camera/smartphone mashup on the market today.

Samsung recently released the Galaxy S4 Zoom, perhaps the most functional camera/smartphone available today. Built around a 16-megapixel sensor, the S4 Zoom is outfitted with a 10x (24-240mm equivalent) image-stabilized optical zoom, a built-in Xenon flash and a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display. Photocentric features such as scene modes and adjustable ISO (100-3200) add to its camera-like personality. Running on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, you'll be connected as you run through the S4 Zoom's photo functions. But is the S4 Zoom too much like a point-and-shoot camera and not enough like a smartphone, especially given its bulky design and lens?

SonyAlpha Rumors has been posting pretty convincing leaked images of the rumored Sony interchangeable sensor/lenses for smartphones.

We've been hearing plenty of rumors about Sony's supposedly soon-to-be-released interchangeable sensor/lenses for smartphones, which, if true, would provide a serious boost for mobile photographers. 

If the reports pan out, these smartphone add-ons would include a built-in sensor, Bionz processor, WiFi, NFC and an SD card slot. Two versions are supposedly in the works, one with a 10x zoom and the other with a 3.6x zoom. Both would clip onto iOS and Android smartphones, which would control the lens via Wi-Fi. Sony Alpha Rumors has posted more specs here, which they claim were taken from the lens' manual.

The WVIL — wireless viewfinder interchangeable lens — concept camera.

When compact interchangeable lens cameras first appeared, no one was certain what to call them, maybe EVIL (electronic viewfinder interchangeable lens cameras)? Turns out that wasn't exactly the marketing angle manufacturers were looking for.

But it seems that we weren't the only ones thinking along those lines, at least in terms of acronyms. The WVIL (wireless viewfinder interchangeable lens) is a concept camera developed by  Artefact Group, a technology product design company that prides itself on thinking outside of the box. It seems this concept has been around for a while (they did a faux "launch" at CES 2011). Given the rumors about Sony's lens cameras for smartphones, Artefact Group's concept camera may not be too far off with the lens' built-in sensor. Visit the Artefact Group's site for WVIL's impressive, albeit imaginary, specs.

Let's hear from you: What direction should future camera/smartphone hybrids take? 


Total comments: 25

Zoom & flash are probably the biggest differentiators between smartphones & dedicated cameras, but the Samsung with zoom seems to compromise the phone too much -- how many want a point & shoot-class camera in their phone badly enough to sway them away from a proper, more elegant, compact smartphone? This said, the idea of directly addressing the most glaring shortcomings of smartphone cameras is fairly sound.

The Sony is probably the only of the other ideas that is somewhat interesting, though it doesn't appear to have a decent flash. I also wonder how laggy the phone's display will be.


If anything, these large gadgets for smartphones with their ridiculously small sensors and plastic optic only serve to remind people that you may as well get a real camera.

Edited 21 seconds after posting

The phone camera is what it is and does what it does. For any other purpose a real camera with a well integrated wifi will do.


Most of these ideas are pretty silly, maybe the sony has some merit, i don't see the obsession with integrating camera with phone though.
The future of photography is better cameras, better lenses, cheaper prices.

One device that does it all will end up doing everything but nothing really well, honestly, how hard is it to carry a mob ph and a compact camera???


the lens/sensor combo + smartphone is certainly the future of photography. time to get onboard.


Made by Foxconn in China again?

1 upvote

Just put cellphone to RX100.

1 upvote

The NFC/Wifi implementation in recent Sony/Panasonic compacts and M43s is all I really need... Easy pairing (just tap), good remote capabilities, excellent photo browsing from the phone's bigger display (where it's easier to share with other apps anyway). What more do you want? Those Sony sensor/lens units are interesting but not very practical.

None of the hybrid or crossover designs really give me a reason to diverge from either carrying just my phone or my phone plus a solid but well connected camera (whether it's a DSLR, M43, w/e). Samsung's Android based cameras hold some promise but unless they open them up and release some API they're throwing much of the potential from Android away.

1 upvote

As I've mentioned before, I'd like to see a lot of bridge-style cameras, or MILCs (EVILs), or even DSLR cameras, with onboard Android OS. Think of the huge amount of increased control and features you'd have with all of the currently available, as well as yet to be developed, apps. It would be a huge boon to creative photography.

While they're at it, they could add a phone chip, 4G LTE connectivity, and you could make bluetooth phone calls (although I'd prefer a 3.5mm jack for a proper wired headset).

Edited 23 seconds after posting

These are all absurd. All lack portability.

I just need my camera to have connectivity to sync with my phone or device. I have a 5dii and was surprised canon didn't add wifi to the mark3.

The powershot N is a good example of a camera that can have all the connectivity you need.


Like the Lumina-1020 but wish it had a way of having a SUPER-Zoom capability {even if only Digital ) --- it has the Optional-Back {w/ Grip and a pod-receptacle for the JOBY-Series of flexible-tripods designed to grasp a Smartphone.
...AND, I can definitely see an app for a tablet that will allow FULL-Control {thru NFC), of ALL the Lumina-1020's capabilities; ...and if you want to stick that configuration on a Telephone-Pole in the 'End-Zone' ...well {4-next post)


Only gimmicks except for the samsung and even that's impractical.


Why not put 3,5,7 or 57 phone camera units on the back of a phone and integrate the pictures in various ways? There seems to be no problem with doing this with sequential photos so why not with multiple simultaneous photos. Multiple small sensors would give greater resolution/ dynamic range/depth of focus effects and so on without adding greatly to the thickness of the phone/digicam. Any opinions?

My other suggestion would be 64 phone cam units on the back of an iPad equipped with tripod socket and built-in black cloth, call it the f64Pad.


What about samsung galaxy nx? Big and bulky, but very connected and with interchangeable lenses.

Felix E Klee

Most phones have unused surface area on the back much larger than a full frame sensor. The problem is lens technology. I wonder if someone is working on making lenses really flat, possibly using unconventional optics based for example on a Fresnel lens, or on micro lenses. Approaches that have not been feasible in the past may be feasible today, due to digitization and computational power.


Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom seems like most sensible solution and is really pocketable. If they made lenses changeable and couple of bright primes I would buy it for everyday use no questions asked.


Sony's concept might be interesting if they provide a way to quickly change settings (aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation etc.) on the lens itself.
Something like Samsung's iFn button on their NX cameras, plus a ring.

M Jesper

They should have included a grip on that thing one way or another. Using the resources of your smartphone (quite powerful these days) is a smart idea, but its execution is way too awkward.


The camera makers don't see the obvious reason for the Smartphone takeover: the larger display. It's a real mystery that we yet can't buy a real camera with a 4" or 5" display (or more). If there was a good iPad size camera I would buy one tomorrow.


none of the above..
Those silly ideas of attaching lens to a mediocre camera phone with sensor smaller than a pinhead are worthless.

Also, attaching a lens bigger than a phone itself defeats the purpose of mobility.

I'd rather see more travelzoom or bridge cam with WIFI or 4G capabilities than make my self look like a dork with a slippery brick in one hand and another hand holding the lens.


It's not often that I agree totally with an opinion on these comments.
But I do now. All of this (except for a real camera but with connectivity) looks just silly.
And there is no way that it will yield GOOD results.
"Interesting" (as in "weird"): yes maybe. But GOOD, no.


The Sony thing is not a big lens that uses the small sensor in the phone. If the rumors are true (and they seem pretty likely), the lens has its *own* sensor--the thing is a complete camera--the only role the phone plays is touch-screen interface to control the camera, and storage device for the photos. The Sony will supposedly have a 1" sensor, much larger than the sensors in most compact cameras, and vastly larger than the sensor in any smartphone. So yes, the results could actually be "good" (Though of course that's a relative term--as good as a D800? No. As good as a Nikon 1 V2? Probably yes.)

Edited 3 minutes after posting

Maybe instead of converting a smart phone into a camera, the approach should be taken a proven camera and converting to a phone. Imagine the RX100 as a phone. Mmmm.


"Also, attaching a lens bigger than a phone itself defeats the purpose of mobility."

It doesn't when you look at the alternative (talking about the Sony system), which is, taking your phone along AS WELL AS an entire RX100. Surely that is even bigger.

Sure, if you *only* look at mobility nothing will ever beat "just a smartphone with its built-in lens", but then you're simply un-asking the question.

1 upvote

The RX100 is smaller than many phones. That is why I thought of it; that and its superior image quality. If it is still too thick then think more along the lines of an S95 by Canon.

1 upvote
Total comments: 25
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