On The Possibility Of An Apple Standalone Camera | iLounge Backstage

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On The Possibility Of An Apple Standalone Camera

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Thursday, May 31, 2012
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A few days ago, I mentioned that we’d heard claims—initially quite firm, and then not so firm—that Apple is working on a standalone digital camera, specifically a point-and-shoot model designed to deliver image quality and zoom functionality beyond what iPhones, iPads, and iPods can deliver in their thinning bodies.

Specifically, the claims from our source were as follows:

(a) Apple has been glad that the media and analysts are so focused on iTV, as it was able to work quietly on the camera.

(b) Just as with the iPhone, Apple wants to give users a powerful tool that can be used to produce awesome results without needing to understand technical details, jargon, or legacy controls.

(c) The idea of selling excellent little cameras as an accessory to go along with other Apple devices fits with Apple’s business model, and is a lot easier to stock in Apple Stores than huge television sets.

(d) The product is planned for after the release of the iTV, and would leverage iCloud for storage.

Our editors debated and researched the claims, noting a few interesting things along the way:

(1) We noted that Apple had many camera-related job openings posted, including a reference to cameras that were to be built into “standalone peripherals,” as distinguished from “laptops,” “desktops,” and “handhelds.” (See http://jobs.apple.com/index.ajs?BID=1&method=mExternal.showJob&RID=82844&CurrentPage=4)

(2) We found that Apple had re-trademarked iSight in April 2012, notably expanding beyond the prior iSight trademark’s reliance on “Computer hardware, namely, a camera requiring use of a personal computer for taking still and moving pictures” (see http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4002:jmubnt.2.4) to “Cameras; still and video cameras incorporated in computers and handheld mobile digital electronic devices” (see http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4002:jmubnt.2.1).

(3) We recalled that two books on the late Steve Jobs and Apple (Isaacson, Lashinsky) confirmed not only that Jobs named photography as one of three industries he had wanted to transform (behind textbooks and television), but also met with Lytro regarding an acquisition before his death. The textbook and television initiatives are already underway.

(4) We discussed the plausibility of a standalone camera in light of the iPhone’s tremendous success as a compromise camera, as measured by its popularity on Twitter, and Apple’s general trend towards convergence. The key reasons such a device made sense were that Apple employs serious photo and video lovers, traditionally creates products its employees want (rather than asking focus groups), and could go after a market for digital photography that’s worth $68-Billion annually. Add to that Jobs’ known enthusiasm for the subject, and there was every reason to believe it would be a priority for Apple. Why not do it? The answers largely came down to “why bother given the iPhone” and “they’re pretty busy already.”

Is it going to happen? For a variety of reasons—including our not well-established source softening his certainty on the specifics after we did the requisite probing—we are not going to say “yes.” It’s speculation at this point. But we made the case for how it could and likely would happen on pages 152-153 of The New iPad Buyers’ Guide. This isn’t gospel and sure isn’t something we’d put money on right now, but since it’s something we’re tracking, we wanted you to be aware of it, too.

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Comments

1

Well, the reason the iphone is so popular as a camera is neither because it’s made by apple, nor that it’s particularly good or even easy to use. It’s rather because the iphone is such a popular phone, so many people happen to carry it around. In other words, iphone success on twitter is no indication that a standalome camera will succeed.

Also, to make sense they would have to include social network connectivity in the camera, but then it will almost be a complete phone.

Posted by Nils on June 1, 2012 at 10:55 AM (PDT)

2

This report couldn’t have come at a more timely point for me.  I was working a professional video gig last night when a still photographer came up to me.  He had a 7D he was given to use and couldn’t figure the thing out.  I know the basics of photography because of my video knowledge, but I still couldn’t figure this 7D out.  It took me a while to find where the ISO was and to figure out how to change it.  I couldn’t find the shutter speed or F-stop functions at all, and the literally 12 menus it has are utterly ridiculous!  IF Apple were to come up with a compromise between professional features (F-stops, shutter speed, an actual zoom lens) and consumer features (simplified user interface ala AppleTV and even things like wifi and iCloud support) I would seriously consider it.  I loved using a Nikon a couple years ago, but that Canon last night was bulljunk!

Posted by Brianbobcat on June 1, 2012 at 12:33 PM (PDT)

3

The 7D’s shutter speed and f-stop (aperture) controls work exactly like all Canon SLRs and DSLRs for the last 20 years, which is also similar to the operation of all other non-manual SLRs and DSLRs, from any manufacturer. For ISO, there’s a button labeled “ISO” on the top of the camera. No menus are necessary for any of those functions. Simple and obvious to any amateur who’s used a modern SLR.

Posted by Dan on June 1, 2012 at 1:51 PM (PDT)

4

The more I think about it the more I know it’s gonna happen. Before buying my P&S Lumix camera two years ago I googled the possibility of Apple getting to this market. Two years later I’m not surprised seeing this speculation.

You ask why would they? Well, because they can make things better for the P&S market and price it reasonably (300-500 USD) and it goes well with their ecosystem. Even one of the latest popular Lumix P&S camera (lumix dmc-zs20) can get much better and user friendly. They already have a lot of expertise in the subject and it just increased throughout the years as can be seen in the SW and HW features Apple add to the iDevices’ cameras. .

Is the iPhone camera makes P&S cameras redundant? No. I don’t need to explain you that. Take zoom as one of the main difference.

What to expect there? Fully touch screen, geotagging, 12x zoom and and even more, integration with iDevice via wifi and/or BT (like I do these days using eye-fi SD card), integration to iPhoto and the rumored iCloud gallery and above all the Apple touch of simplicity - most cameras today are hard to operate for a lot of people that want their cameras to do the job without reading the manuals. Take baby boomers for instance, the same folks that bought the iPhone and love it.

Posted by Yaniv on June 1, 2012 at 2:04 PM (PDT)

5

It makes sense that Apple might make a device focused on high quality, or otherwise innovative photos (i.e., Lytro), but I would assume such camera would also have at least the functionality of ipod touch, or even an iphone.  Why?  Because the attraction of having just one device to carry and to access is wildly compelling.  An iphone-c?

Posted by David on June 3, 2012 at 11:12 AM (PDT)

6

A point and shoot camera, especially an innovative lightfield camera would fit perfectly to Apple.

Just a short question concerning your uspto-links: I just blogged mentioning some uspto-aspects in your article. But when checking your uspto-links, I found out that they are broken. What were your search queries in the uspto-database?

Posted by Adam on June 4, 2012 at 3:50 PM (PDT)

7

Nonsense

If you’re Apple your first question is to the why you would make such a product. There are many point and shots with super simple user modes (everything automated) and great image quality - basically, the whole purpose for the point & shoot segment - no point competing there unless Apple can improve a specific area which I’m not sure exists.

On the other spectrum you have the semi-pro and pro gear which is typically bulkier due to the need of a large sensor. Do I see Apple going into the semi-pro category against m4/3, Nikon, Samsung, Sony, etc.? Probably not.

Apple could fit in with a semi-pro camera (something like a Canon G11) that’s running iOS whereby the iOS photo apps can leverage the superior optics. But the camera would also need WiFi and then what you really have is a bulky iPod touch.

But hey, here’s an idea: why not just create semi-pro optics as a sleeve for iPhones and iPod touches? Nahhh.. then you have to bring two pieces - not very elegant.

Where does that leave the camera? Well, it’s already there in the iPod touch which has been significantly limited in its Photo taking ability. What if Apple would release an iPod touch with a much improved camera system? We know that Nokia has been very successful with its latest camera system (44 mega pixels etc.).

thoughts?

Posted by Urs Gubser on June 5, 2012 at 9:30 AM (PDT)

8

I like the idea…...

I use a D3 and D800 for my semi pro shooting, I need very fast speed and often need to cope with low light in the early morning or late afternoon.  So here I go carrying around a pack full of expensive lenses and bodies which is fine for a big outing, but what about casual shooting when I don’t want to take all the gear?

Now if Apple gave me the following:

Speed selectable to 8000
Aperture 1.4 to 16
Lens of ~24-105
ISO 100 to 64K
16M pixels (no higher because I need quality at low light)

Add to this a slick icon based touch interface like the iPhone where I could have programmed icons for my preferred shooting situation.  And for people that don’t know how these features interact, put in a graph with a slider so that you can see how changing one variable has an effect on another, do this visually and people new to photography will love it…..

I am so all over it!!!

I do try to use the Cannon D12 and others like it but they have far more of what I don’t need and not nearly enough of the basic functions that I do need.  Further I don’t want to have to go through complex menus, create a custom shot and then not be able to save it for easy access as I can on my pro gear.

I guess I want it all, but hey were talking Apple here and….soooo yes I do want it all wink

Posted by Talung tue on June 5, 2012 at 10:44 PM (PDT)

9

Oh…and one more thing

I need a GPS marker for all my shots (take that D4!)

And

I want an auto upload to the cloud, dropbox etc.

smile

Posted by Talung Tue on June 5, 2012 at 10:48 PM (PDT)

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