Conran re-imagines the camera … with a big hole


May 8, 2013

The hole in the Conran camera is surrounded by an array of somewhere between 10 and 20 small image sensors (Photo: Darren Russell)

The hole in the Conran camera is surrounded by an array of somewhere between 10 and 20 small image sensors (Photo: Darren Russell)

Image Gallery (4 images)

The Conran design firm was recently asked to re-imagine an everyday item by BBC Future. Its designers picked the digital camera, and the resulting concept certainly is different. The Conran camera does away with the typical protruding lens and instead features a large hole through the middle, surrounded by an array of small camera sensors. It also lacks an LCD monitor and is instead designed to wirelessly connect to a smartphone.

Jared Mankelow, Senior Product Designer for Conran and Partners, says one of the core ideas behind his design for the camera was that it shouldn't act as a barrier between photographer and subject. As such, he decided there should be a large aperture through the center of the camera for framing shots in a more natural (although potentially less accurate) way.

This hole is then surrounded by an array of somewhere between 10 and 20 small image sensors – like those used in mobile phones – which would work together, allowing the camera to "resolve images with incredible clarity." Around the sensor array, there's a ring flash (always popular with macro and fashion photographers) which would allow for lighting close-up subjects.

The fact that there's a big hole in the camera also means there's no practical space for an LCD monitor on the rear. But, according to the designer, that's not a problem because we all already carry around high-resolution screens on our mobile phones and tablets … and screens are power-hungry anyway. The Conran camera would instead be able connect via Bluetooth and transmit images to your smart device instantly.

Alternatively, it could also be used more like a film camera, with shots remaining a mystery until you get home. “We love the idea of not viewing your images right away. It brings back some of the excitement of taking your film to the lab, and having to wait to find out what’s on it,” said Mankelow ... who apparently doesn't like to know if everyone in a group-shot has got their eyes open!

It's not just the lack of instant gratification which sees the proposed future of cameras hark back to film cameras. Mankelow has drawn from SLRs when it comes to the manual controls, which are located at the top of the camera's rear. All of the manual settings can be controlled by physical controls, rather than the screen-based menus in which they are nowadays often hidden. The bottom two-thirds of the camera have been left as a point-and-shoot with minimal settings.

Obviously, concept cameras – like the smartphone/interchangeable-lens WIVL and the Timeless Capture – rarely make it to store shelves. But occasionally they can (we're still waiting on the Socialmatic). If this concept was to make it into the real world, would it be enough to lure you away from more traditional cameras, and possibly more importantly from your smartphone camera? Let us know in the comments section.

Here's a quick video from Conran about the concept camera.

Source: Conran

About the Author
Simon Crisp Simon is a journalist and photographer who has spent the last ten years working for national UK newspapers - but has never hacked a mobile phone - and specializes in writing about weird products and photography technology. When not writing for Gizmag, Simon is often found playing with LEGO and drinking far too much coffee. All articles by Simon Crisp

What a great idea! It should go on Kickstarter.

They could even do a mini version for fast pointing and shooting for example at parties, which would make viewing the pictures later even more interesting. Alternatively, you could share the pictures with your friends at the party by just using sending the pictures to their phone. Brilliant!


Love it! Instant sharing is great, as mentioned by WEasdown, but I also like the true manual controls.

I can't afford a DSLR, so I don't know how they work, but I wanted a camera with manual controls. What I didn't realize is that using those options is ten times more complicated than the SLR, such that I never bother with them, and would be better off with a sturdy little point and shoot.

Harriet Russell

This discussion is moot till we can see some sample images. A camera is a functional tool, not a fashion accessory. It doesn't matter how cool it looks if the images are terrible. I would imagine that the large hole in the middle will present some serious challenges with optical design.

Siegfried Gust

Cool design in many respects, but I think seeing what the camera is going to do to your image as you are framing it is one of the big advantages to a digital. And the "excitement" of waiting for pictures was a byproduct, not a feature!


Resolving one image from several sensors will be very difficult since each individual image will be taken from a different angle. The should have included a photographer on the design team.

Roy Murray

The camera manufacturers that want to survive will have to add the ability to make phone calls and simultaneously connect to the internet via cell network or wifi to their products. That's the new standard.

William Lanteigne

To add to Roy's point, this would by necessity seem to be a "single focal length" type of design - and likely a pretty wide angle view at that - very likely only suitable for snapshots at parties (that is, soccer-mom wouldn't be able to take shots of her kids with this kind of thing) - and given that, what's the value over a relatively high-res single-chip camera already found in phones today?

But as a concept, it's pretty different.


it looks great and I think I would love to have one. But it doesn't mention price. What range are we talking about 200 to 800 dollars. It would be nice if we knew.

Jerry Hyer

The most important aspect of a camera is the pleasure derived from using it. This camera looks like a lot of fun to use.

I imagine that they will have to make it very wide to ensure that everything remains in focus without adjustment. That would suit me fine.

As long as the price isn't outrageous, I would get one.

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