Connected Cameras

A while back I wrote a short comment on an interview with an Olympus rep:

The dedicated camera manufacturers were so busy competing on their industry’s accepted selling points—image quality, speed of operation, focal length coverage—that they were completely blind to the way an always-connected device could transform photography.

Two things came out of the recent Photokina festival that caught my eye, because they represent two different takes on how a connected camera could work.

Zeiss ZX1

A fixed-lens, large-sensor camera with Adobe Lightroom built in.
Zeiss ZX1

A large-sensor, fixed-lens camera? This is the territory of the Ricoh GR-D/Fujifilm X100/Leica Q/Sony RX1 — niche, but definitely my niche. What’s different here is that Zeiss seems to have embraced the fact that image capture is just one part of the equation. Baking Lightroom and cloud connectivity directly into the camera — instead of setting up a Bluetooth + WiFi bridge to an app on your phone — feels like a step in the right direction. I have no idea whether it’ll be any good — it’s taken the X100 about four generations to reach maturity, for comparison — but I love that Zeiss is thinking about the entire process including editing and posting shots. It doesn’t appear that you can post straight to a social network like Instagram, tho, so I’m wondering if that’s just enough friction to call the whole concept into question.


A quirky, M-mount camera that’s connected to your smartphone.

This one takes a different approach — an M-mount camera with no screen that’s connected to your smartphone. I guess the lack of the screen isn’t that out of the ordinary (Leica’s upcoming M10-D doesn’t have one, either). I’m wondering how effective the smartphone pairing will be (having used the Bluetooth + WiFi feature on a number of different cameras, I can say that so far I haven’t seen anyone pull this off convincingly just yet). In some ways this modular approach might be more sustainable than the Zeiss all-in-one concept.

iOS Tethering

While I was checking these cameras out, I wondered if there wasn’t a slightly lower-tech approach. Studio photographers already make use of tethered shooting, why not explore wired tethering straight to a phone library? The recent shift to USB-C on the iPad Pro made me think that this could be an interesting possibility if the iPhone follows suit. I know, cords = hassle — but it might sidestep the software issues that I feel will hold both Zeiss and Pixii back with their first-generation products.