Is This the Camera Platform of the Future?
by Ron Leach
Industry expositions like the recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show are exciting for consumers as well as for those of us on the "inside" because they often provide a venue for the unveiling of innovative hardware and software that we'll be testing and reporting on over the coming weeks and months. At the same time that our writers and editors are familiarizing themselves with all the new product introductions, however, they are also mindful of the longer view-asking themselves what new technologies and developments could shape the state of photography in the future.
One thought-provoking possibility is a concept camera under development byArtefact, a Seattle-based creative consultancy dedicated to synthesizing the latest research and design initiatives to arrive at innovative new products. Artefact has been working in collaboration with industrial designers at the University of Washington in the pursuit of a new camera platform that would offer photographers an enhanced user experience.
Artefact posed three basic questions for themselves in launching the endeavor: Why do cameras still look quite similar to those of 60 years ago? Why isn't it easier to take an image and share it immediately over a social network? Why are contemporary cameras not expandable with a variety of apps in the same way as are mobile phones? Artefact was less interested in a camera for the point-and-shoot or the professional market, but rather for "the rest of us."
What they came up with is a Wireless Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens (or "WVIL") design called "Camera Futura." Their proposed platform includes a camera architecture in which the lens and full-frame CMOS sensor is packaged into one unit that can be controlled wirelessly from the camera body. The integrated unit behaves likes a contemporary digital camera, but once you separate the lens/sensor module from the body interesting things begin to happen.
While today's camera makers speak in terms of pre-installed "firmware," Artifacts approach is more akin to that of a touch-screen smartphone that allows for the installation of whatever purpose-built apps are of interest to the user. And, of course, Camera Futura permits the direct sharing of just-captured images from the camera to social media services.
The Artefact project isn't the first such exercise, and clearly won't be the last, but they are doing some interesting work and you can read more about at www.artefactgroup.com/wvil.