As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from

Huge lenses on smartphones: Silly concept or a stroke of genius?

Out of the blue, Xiaomi offered a prototype model of its flagship 12S Ultra smartphone with an outlandish M-Mount fitted to a $,6000 Leica lens. The Chinese language model will not be the primary to attempt the idea, which looks as if an awesome concept at first, however failed on multiple event as we’ll seein this text.


Eureka second (or not)

Again when smartphones had been nonetheless kinda new, and most smartphones nonetheless had sub-10 megapixels sensors—and really small ones at that—with out all of the AI that we discover these days. A few digital camera manufacturers determined that one of the best ways to enhance cell pictures was to slap an everyday digital camera system lens right into a smartphone.

Though it’s (VERY) area of interest, most likely the best-known instance of this transient fad was the Sony Alpha QX1. Because the identify implied, it was a part of the Japanese model Alpha line of cameras with interchangeable lenses. In QX1’s case, it was the E-mount system, nonetheless used as we speak on each APS-C and full-frame digital camera our bodies.

Sony Alpha QX1
The QX1 may very well be connected to an iPhone or Android cell with a clip-on mount (Xperia Z1 pictured) / © Sony

In reality, the QX1 digital camera may even be used with outdated A-mount (Minolta) lenses with an adapter, and possibly may use an enormous assortment of different lenses with unofficial adapters. For these with no appropriate lens, Sony supplied a package with the SELP1650 compact energy zoom lens, nonetheless bought with some cameras nowadays.

Launched in September 2014, the ILCE-QX1 may very well be doubtlessly used as a stand-alone digital camera, because it included a battery (the identical NP-FW50 mannequin utilized in dozens of Sony cameras), shutter button, reminiscence card slot (microSD and Reminiscence Stick Micro appropriate), and tripod thread.

Because it did not function a display, nonetheless, customers would use the included clip-on accent to mount the QX1 to an iPhone or Android system and management it utilizing the PlayMemories/Imaging Edge app. Communication duties had been dealt with by a Wi-Fi connection that may very well be established utilizing NFC.

Anybody who has used Imaging Edge with any supported Sony digital camera could already see why it did not survive for too lengthy, despite initial sales surpassing expectations. The pairing course of will not be at all times seamless, and the connection was nonetheless unreliable. Even so, the fixed-lens fashions DSC-QX managed to final some time longer available in the market.

A brand new challenger seems

Sony’s primary rival within the early mirrorless cameras days, Olympus, didn’t wait to see if the QX idea would catch and shortly launched its Air 01. Launched in February 2015, Olympus clip-on digital camera adopted the identical general design because the Sony Alpha digital camera lens, with a battery, microSD slot, shutter, and tripod thread.

The primary variations between the Air 01 and the QX1 are how the Olympus mannequin makes use of the micro four-thirds lens system—on the time with an even bigger number of lenses— as an alternative of the E-mount, and that it additionally included Bluetooth for faster pairing.

Olympus Air 01
Each Sony and Olympus highlighted the inventive potentialities of separating the show from the digital camera physique / © Olympus

Again to the similarities, identical to the Sony QX1, the Olympus Air line did not see a second mannequin. However the Japanese corporations’ lack of success did not cease different corporations from toying with the concept.

The assault of the residing lifeless

A few different comparable fashions had been introduced however apparently stayed within the vaporware class. One was the Yongnuo YN43, which because the identify suggests, has a four-thirds-sized sensor, however paired to what seems to be prefer to be a Canon SLR mount.

The opposite one was a vaporware combo from Sakar Worldwide, which concerned not one, however two historic “zombie manufacturers”. After failing to launch the proprietary mount iM1836 digital camera below the Polaroid model due to striking similarities to the Nikon 1 J1 model which led to a lawsuit, the corporate introduced the IU680 clip-on digital camera system below the Vivitar model utilizing the identical lens mount (and flash module).

Polaroid iM1836, Vivicam IU680
Plenty of logos: After being banned from promoting the Polaroid iM1836 (left), the holding firm recycled the lens mount for the Vivitar IU860 (do not thoughts the Zeiss branding there) / © Sakar Worldwide

As with the Polaroid digital camera, the Vivicam IU680 quietly disappeared after being proven off at commerce conferences…

A brand new hope

In 2020, a British startup determined that it was time to revamp the formulation. Though utilizing a tried and true micro four-thirds mount, the Alice Digicam tried to deliver one thing new to the desk: AI & computational pictures options. Initially deliberate for October 2021, the Alice Digicam—like all optimistic crowdfunded initiatives—is late.

Total, the accent works in an analogous strategy to the clip-on cameras from Sony and Olympus, however with a beefier hand grip which ought to assist with ergonomics whereas dropping among the inventive potentialities by having to clip the digital camera to the smartphone.

As with all crowdfunded initiatives full of buzzwords, it’s most likely greatest to attend for opinions and the primary manufacturing batch to roll out earlier than inserting a pre-order for one…


Regardless that Xiaomi offered its mannequin as an idea telephone, the prototype Xiaomi 12S Extremely would face comparable challenges to those confronted by Sony and Olympus—and even different unique fashions just like the Panasonic DMC-GM1, the Samsung Galaxy Digicam, or the Hasselblad module for the Moto G line.

The primary one is the ergonomics, with fanatics (particularly these with M-mount lenses) that most likely worth issues present in rangefinder cameras such because the 2-stage shutter button, dials, and that candy candy purple dot that (for them) is price greater than any bitten fruit.

The second is the load, even when M-mount lenses are compact by default, having to make use of an adapter for the flange focal distance (FFD) provides bulk to the system, regardless of having to cowl a smaller sensor space as an alternative of the unique full body/35mm the lenses had been designed for. And that exacerbates the ergonomics challenge.

The QX cameras, the Air 01, and even the fixed-lens Kodak Pixpro SL line had tripod threads to make it simpler to succeed in (non-tactile) buttons, one thing that the M-mount adapter does not appear to supply.

Leica M System
All of the lenses above may most likely purchase you a ticket to house. / © Leica

And worse, if it got here to cabinets, the Xiaomi 12S Extremely would face an much more area of interest market, working with a smaller number of far more costly lenses than those discovered within the micro four-thirds and E mounts.

Anyway, regardless of all this pessimism, it’s nice to see smartphone corporations nonetheless pondering exterior the field. particularly after we are seeing fewer and fewer improvements every year. And with the present alternate options being restricted to low-quality lenses mounted on high of the common cameras present in our mobiles.

What about you? Are you happy with the present progress in computational pictures or additionally get excited when an outlandish prototype is revealed? Share your favourite ideas and fashions within the feedback under!

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Digital Market Pl8ace
Enable registration in settings - general
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Shopping cart