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Concept cameras: Digital photography’s craziest pipe dreams

giant cameraTurns out Lytro isn’t the only one that wants to change the camera industry. There are a veritable slew of concept devices out there that may someday show up on store shelves. While these cameras all have innovative designs and eye-catching features, the possibility them of ever making it into consumers’ hands varies widely.

throwableThrowable panoramic ball camera

First things first: The team behind this patent-pending technology will need to find a better name for the device. But aside from the lack of a catchy title, this toy-meets-camera is upping the ante when it comes to panorama shots. The camera itself uses 36 fixed-focus 2-megapixel camera phone modules and includes the ability to measure launch acceleration. This is housed in a foam ball so when you throw it in the air, exposure is triggered once it reaches its highest point.

So if you thought sweep-panorama technology was an upgrade, the ability to capture full spherical images will blow your mind. Not to mention the fact that tossing a camera in the air is part of the process. You’ll literally be able to shoot from a place impossible for a human photographer to get to: Mid-air. Check out this video of the device in action.

The-Multi-ballNikon’s Multi-ball

The Throwable panoramic ball camera wasn’t the first to encase a camera in a circular object, however. Industry veteran Nikon grazed that territory earlier this year with its Multi-ball concept camera. The idea behind the Multi-ball is the same: Shooting multiple viewpoints at once to more entirely capture the atmosphere of your setting. Of course, this device isn’t quite as pliable as the previous, and just from looking at it we can tell you tossing this thing is out of the question. That automatically makes it less fun. 


Allow us to introduce you to the WVIL, or the Wireless Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens camera. This concept device from the Artefact collective turned a few heads at last year’s CES, even though (and let us reiterate this once more) it is not a real product.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The WVIL takes cues from the increasingly popular micro-four-thirds and interchangeable lens lineups and molds them with the efficiency of the smartphone camera. “It is the inevitable solution for photographers who expect the power of modern mobile devices but who also demand uncompromised quality,” the design team explains.

And in a very mobile move, the ICL camera uses multi-touch input and includes Instragram-inspired filters for automatically editing your photos. Fittingly, all of the features you would expect from a smartphone are also available with the WVIL. Really, it’s just the inverse of what we’re growing more and more accustomed to: Phones that three-fourths phone, one-fourth camera. Flip that around, and you’ve got the WVIL.

Rotor digital camera

rotor camWe could write an ode to the mode dial: It’s one of the view features that has persisted from the beginning of SLR cameras. While it’s been moved and minimized, reimagined and rebuilt, any camera worth its weight includes a model dial (or two). Well the Rotor digital camera has eight. Instead of a flat backside panel with a clock-face mode dial and button controls, the Rotor features a stack of dials, ridding the camera of buttons and switches altogether (save one tiny power control).

Disorienting? Sure. Interesting? Absolutely. It gives the camera and unified look and feel: Instead of working horizontally on top and vertically on the back panel, it seems like the camera would offer a consistent way to manipulate your settings. Now whether or not the Rotor is practical, we’re not so sure. Muscle memory would make for some pretty difficult habits to break.

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Molly McHugh
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Before coming to Digital Trends, Molly worked as a freelance writer, occasional photographer, and general technical lackey…
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