Kodak’s first consumer film camera came with the slogan “you push the button, we do the rest,” but a new company is taking that statement to the extreme — and for digital cameras. Relonch 291 is a self-described camera as a service — the user presses the button, the company’s artificial intelligence edits the best shots, discards the rest and even stores the fully edited shots.
Relonch takes the same “we’ll develop the photos for you” approach as Kodak’s first consumer film camera, editing RAW or digital negative files for the user as a service, though it is one powered by AI and not workers in a darkroom. The colorful leather-wrapped camera itself is simple — in fact, there is only a shutter button, power button, lens and a viewfinder. Relonch says the camera is designed for everyone who ha never had the time to learn how to use all the controls on their DSLR.
Once the user presses that single button, the image is uploaded to the service. The best shots — not all of them — are both selected and edited by the AI software, nicknamed Alfred, and sent back to the user at 9 a.m. the next day via the Relonch mobile app.
Pictured Technology is Relonch’s editing platform — the company says the program edits every object in the image independently. According to the company, the lighting conditions are factored into the photo edits, which helps Relonch achieve their goal of getting images that look as vibrant as the user actually remembers them.
“There’s nothing valuable about owning a camera that collects dust on the shelf or that you don’t know how to use,” said Yuri Motin, Relonch co-founder. “Our aim is to eliminate the countless complications associated with photography so we chose to create the camera as a service model rather than just hardware or software. Our service gives members the ability to solely focus on the experience, on the moment itself.”
Regarding the hardware, the Relonch 291 is more about what is not there then what is. There is the shutter release (the button that takes the picture) and the viewfinder, as well as a SIM card that automatically uploads the files. There is no LCD screen to see the shots, no flash or zoom — not even an SD card. The Relonch essentially strips down a Samsung NX mirrorless camera with a 30mm f/2 lens to the absolute musts.
Besides the fact that the Relonch strips the user of almost all control over the image except for composition and timing — including which images are delivered the next day — the service will cost users a pretty $99 a month. That cost includes the camera as well as the data use, app, and AI editing service.
Relonch’s camera service won’t launch until 2018 and as CNET points out, the company never released its last project, an iPhone camera grip. Whether consumers will readily adapt to the artificially intelligent single button platform as readily as they did to Kodak’s consumer camera is doubtful but the service is now allowing users to test the camera and service at their Palo Alto, California, showroom.