Today I am going to tell all my respected readers about 9 unusual cameras with amazing and innovative features. A side grip, an understandable form factor, a preview screen, and one lens – affordable digital cameras appeared at the turn of the 20th-21st centuries, and, it seems, everything is clear with them. Or is it still not? There were and still are exceptions. These are very far from the usual appearance of the camera. I collected for you nine cameras that are not like everyone else.
1. Apple QuickTake
Of course, the iPhone was not the first smartphone, the Apple Watch was not the first smartwatch on the market, and AirPods were not the first wireless headphones. However, the Californian company makes products that change the game in the market. Apple also tried to enter the field of photography, but not very successfully.
In 1994, with the support of Kodak, Apple launched the first consumer digital camera on the market. The camera’s body resembled binoculars, and the characteristics can now only cause a smile: 24-bit color, 0.3 MP resolution, f/2.0 aperture, shutter speed 1/30 per second, powered by three AAA batteries. On 1 MB of built-in memory, eight pictures storage in the original resolution (640×480), or thirty-two in half (320×200). The camera cost $749, but few people were interested to buy such a miracle of technology.
In 1997, the company released the second version of its camera, the Quicktake 200. The latter was more like a familiar compact camera: an LCD screen appeared on the back panel, a choice of modes and the ability to control aperture and shutter speed appeared. However, this also did not help the gadget become popular.
In parallel with this, other market players figured out where to move, and Apple could no longer keep up with the growing competition. Returning to the company, Steve Jobs turned this direction in 1997.
You can now find special third-party programs for the latest smartphones with a portrait mode that help you shift focus to another subject after shooting. Considering the artistic blurring of the background in post-production by the hardware itself, this becomes possible.
Even before the era of smartphones with multiple cameras, this was possible in the world of photography. In 2011, the American company Lytro introduced the first film-optical camera to the market. The camera’s main feature is the ability to post-focus on objects when the photo has already been taken.
In addition to the great function even now, ten years later, the camera has an equally futuristic look. Outwardly, it looks like a rectangular bar made of metal and plastic.
Lytro uses an array of microlenses to analyze and capture information about light patterns in all four dimensions. Given this fact, the camera has a resolution characteristic, not in megapixels but mega rays.
The Lytro of the first model can capture and analyze 11 million rays in space. This factor allows you to work with the direction of focus and transfer it when the photo has already been taken.
A few years later, the company restarted the startup and introduced the new Lytro Illum model. The novelty is much more reminiscent of a familiar camera, and it has a fast f/2 lens and a focal length range of 30-250mm. The resolution has also improved, now it is as much as 40 Megarays, and this marvel of technology is still almost the only post-focus camera on the market.
3. Fujifilm Finepix Real 3D
As the name implies, this tiny soapbox can take photos and videos in 3D. All thanks to two lenses at once and two matrices inside. The company launched the stereoscopic device in the wake of the mass appearance of 3D televisions and the boom in 3D movies. The effect itself is obtained by software overlaying photos from different lenses.
The screen is covered with a unique film and allows you to view three-dimensional images without special glasses. The third version of the model has been released in a lightweight body and with improved characteristics.
4. Leica DMR
The premium German brand Leica, specializing in rangefinder cameras, also released the R SLR system. At the dawn of the 2000s and the advent of digital photography, the company released an even lesser-known device today – a digital back for its R series cameras. The back was placed in the film slot and turned the film camera into a digital one.
The device was presented at the Photokina exhibition in 2004 and had the following characteristics: 10 megapixel CCD sensor, pixel size of 6.8 microns, and dimensions of the effective area of the sensor were 26.4×17.6 mm.
Thus, the German brand has made the Leica R a working tool for both 35mm film and digital photography with just one back. Maybe such a device did not receive a distribution, but it marked a significant milestone on the transition path from film to digital.
Later digital backs for Mamiya, Hasselblad, and other medium format cameras appeared on the market.
5. Photomask Liquid Image Explorer
Even in such a narrow direction as photo diving, there were some craftsmen! The Chinese company Liquid Image is engaged in producing diving masks combined with a camera. No more needing to keep your hands busy with equipment in bulky waterproof cases: everything in this device is sharpened for comfortable shooting.
Outwardly, the mask looks like a classic accessory for diving underwater; only an integrated camera lens is placed in the forehead with a third eye. Volumetric buttons for shutter release and switching functions are located on the mask body.
Specifications: 3264×2448 resolution, 74° lens, F/2.8 f=8.5mm, ISO 100, shutter speed from 1/15 to 1/1000 sec, immersion depth up to 20 meters. Photos and videos are recorded on a micro SD card, and the mask also has a USB 2.0 output.
6. Ricoh GXR Modular Camera
In 2011, the Japanese company Ricoh, known for its ultra-compact street camera, entered the ranks of mirrorless camera manufacturers. Only the Japanese did it in a highly unusual way.
The GXR system is a modular construction camera. Instead of the usually interchangeable lenses for a carcass, you can buy full-fledged modules that include a lens and a matrix at once.
The concept of such a camera is based on the convenient selection of a pair of matrix + lenses based on a particular genre. So, for example, portrait photography requires a larger matrix than architectural photography, as the manufacturer notes. In general, the idea is based on the ratio of the resolution of the lens to the size of the matrix.
Ricoh emphasizes that separate modules prevent moisture and dust from entering the sensor and the lens glass space.
At the moment, among the modules are: A16 24-85 mm/3.5-5.5 (16.2 MP, APS-C 23.6×15.7), A12 Leica M with interchangeable lenses for Leica M lenses (12.3 MP APS -C 23.6×15.7), A12 50mm/2.5 Macro (12.3MP 23.6×15.7), A12 28mm/2.5 (12.3MP 23.6×15.7), S10 24-72 mm/2.5-4.4 (10 MP 7.60×5.70), P10 28-300 mm/2.5-5.6 (10 MP 6.16×4.62).
In 2017, Google announced a 360-degree camera co-developed with China’s Yi Technology. The model, which looks more like a modest UFO, has 17 cameras and allows you to record video in 8K resolution. The camera was designed specifically for creating spherical videos and is aimed primarily at professionals, hence the cost of one and a half million. Video merging occurs due to a program specially developed by Google.
Ready output videos can be watched even on a regular computer and uploaded to Youtube. The finished video can be scrolled in any direction, as in the street view mode on the maps. It turns out to be something incredible!
8. Camera Telescope Kowa TD-1
If you omit some features, you get something ordinary: 1/2.5-inch matrix with a resolution of 3.14 MP, a lens with a triple optical zoom f/2.8-4.0, manual autofocus, LCD display, and even shooting only in jpeg. Such a marginal mid-range camera. Now add to that a 450-1350mm non-replaceable lens, a 55mm front lens diameter, and a total weight of 2.4kg! It is the Kowa TD-1.
An object at a distance of 1 km from this giant will be evident in the frame. The mega-telephoto fully justifies the extremely modest resolution. Watching the stars, exploring mountain peaks, and taking first prizes in National Geographic photo contests – for all this, the Kowa TD-1 will come in handy.
9. Bellami HD-1
The last one on the list is not quite a camera, but definitely a noteworthy device. In 2010, the Japanese brand Chinon brought the classic back into the game. The die-cast metal body and grip of the HD-1 camcorder are almost identical to the traditional Super 8 camcorder from the 70s.
However, the iron was pumped to the last level: a 21-megapixel matrix that can shoot in 2K and a frequency of 30 frames per second – support for D-mount, C-mount, CS-mount, and M42-mount lenses. The standard lens for the Japanese brainchild is Chinon 4mm/1.2. The camera supports SD, SDHC, SDXC cards, is powered by two batteries, and has USB, HDMI, and 3.5 audio output ports.