AMITIAE - Tuesday 1 April 2014

Cassandra: Attachable Camera Lenses for the iPhone - Patent Awarded to Apple

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


The iPhone is a series of compromises done rather well. The size suits most people, battery life is reasonable unless everything is turned on, the touch screen works (better than some competitors) and the camera produces some fairly good images from its limited construction (4mm focal length lens, small image sensor).

Some of the limitations cry out for solutions, so there are several battery pack types to help those who might run out of power during the working day; there may be thousands of cases to protect and enhance (debatable here); and a couple of companies have produced lens attachments.

Perhaps the best known of these is the nicely made olloclip set of macro, fisheye and wide-angle to which they have now added a second macro lens. I had these for my iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. I was extremely happy with the way they fitted snugly onto the body and with the results I was able to produce. The design excellence was also a limit as when I changed to the iPhone 5s, the olloclip no longer fitted, but I already had a solution from a Kickstarter project.

The design of the olloclip limited it to specific devices but some users have more than one (iPhone, iPad) while there are other smartphone makers. One solution was the Mobi-Lens system that I first saw as a Kickstarter project. I invested some cash and in return when the project was running, I was sent the lenses which clip over the body of a device using a solution like a clothes peg.

Mobi lens

There are also telephoto lenses for the iPhone. One from Photojojo at $35 for a 12x performance with a (necessary) tripod and another more modest x2 lens from olloclip.

The olloclip 3 (or 4) lens solution is elegant, Mobi-Lens is an odd compromise, while the x12 telephoto lens looks too outrageous to me. I never considered this because of the way it looks.

Things may look a little different in the future as Apple has been granted a patent for a bayonet system for attaching lenses. This is described in an article by Jack Purcher on Patently Apple.

I am normally wary of postings on 1 April, but this article also has information on two design patents granted on "the iPhone's graphical user interface layout with apps" (patent D701,868), and "iPhone retail packaging" (Patent D701,757). There is also a link to the original filing of the patent that was reported on 13 March this year by Jack Purcher.

Patently Apple image
Camera Lens Attachment - Image by Patently Apple

The description of the attachment method details the way the bayonet locking mechanism works as the lens is attached and also explains the method by which serious damage is avoided in a drop situation with a quick-release mechanism as part of the bayonet design.

The image here comes from the 13 March article and I am grateful to Patently Apple for the use of this.

Article Links

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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