WVIL concept: Digital SLR meets mobile phone, with an ingenious twist
By Paul Ridden
April 28, 2011
By throwing a whole lot of camera wants into a pot, Seattle design house the Artefact Group has come up with a groundbreaking concept that combines all the connected usefulness of a smartphone with the interchangeable lens capabilities of a digital SLR. There's also a novel approach to using wireless technology for communication between the combined lens and sensor and the main body.
Given the suitable moniker of Camera Futura by its designers, the concept camera pivots around a patent-pending technology that the Artefact Group has called the Wireless Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens (WIVL) system. WIVL sees the camera benefiting from the same operating platform and connectivity as a smartphone – with the same access to a world of application development – but with the image processing power of a digital camera. A natural (and no doubt welcome) progression in the evolution of the digital camera, you might say, but perhaps not too much of a surprise.
Things take a more interesting turn, however, with the way that the designers propose connecting the interchangeable lenses with the main body. When a lens is physically attached to the outer frame of the body via the included mount, the camera would behave just like those we are familiar with today. The focus and zoom would be undertaken using the lens ring and such things as aperture and shutter speed would be adjusted using buttons and dials on the body.
When unmounted, though, the lens and 31 megapixel full frame CMOS sensor module uses wireless technology to communicate with the 5-inch AMOLED, high definition touchscreen display docked in the outer frame of the body. This would allow the display to behave as a wireless viewfinder for the lens/sensor, offering a virtual onscreen representation of the lens control ring and other processes and possibly leading to all sorts of previously unavailable unique and interesting photo opportunities.
The aluminum and magnesium alloy outer frame plays host to the lens locking mount, physical control buttons, wireless antennas (for WLAN, Bluetooth, GPS and so on), micro-SDHC storage and contains a battery pack. As the touchscreen display itself would have its own battery, it needn't necessarily be docked at all to control the functions of the lens/sensor.
The Artefact Group suggests that the device be powered by a Cortex-A15 ARM Multi-Core processor, have onboard flash memory and be capable of shooting full 1080p video with stereo sound, but the actual specs don't really matter too much at this point. It's the vast potential offered by the overall concept that provides the fuel for thought.
The modular possibilities of this concept are simply mind-boggling. Different image quality and budget requirements could all be embraced by producing a number of lens/sensor modules of varying specifications. Adapters compatible with existing lens mounts - like Nikon F, Canon EF and Leica M - would allow users to use favored setups and having the camera run on a mobile operating system platform rather than firmware could open up a world of promise.
While combining an actual smartphone with a quality digital camera interface is also an interesting proposition - like the Leica/iPhone chimera suggested by the Black Design Group recently - personally, I think that Camera Futura is a much more exciting exploration of a possible future direction for digital camera development.
The Artefact Group is currently working on developing the concept further and says that it would welcome comments and suggestions.