Newly published Nikon patents show hybrid smartphone camera, 1-series superzoom lens and more

by Felix Esser

posted Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 5:03 PM EDT

Nikon Rumors has spotted a number of interesting patents filed by Nikon and published by Egami and IPWatchdog. Among these, there's what appears to be a camera case for smartphones, a hotshoe-mounted add-on EVF that comes with a second accessory hot-shoe, a superzoom lens for the 1 system, as well as a technology for a combined 2D/3D display.

First up is a patent for what appears to be some sort of camera case for a smartphone. According to the machine-translated patent description as published by Egami, the full device consists of a camera part and a smartphone part that can be used either attached to each other or as two separate units, in which case the smartphone part will act as a remote control for the camera unit.

Since the camera part of the device doesn't come with its own display and only sports the lens, sensor and presumably image processor and other electronics, the smartphone part is used to operate the camera both when the two parts are attached to each other and when they are not. It is unclear, however, whether the actual Nikon product is just the camera part -- in which case it might be something like a camera case for smartphones made by other manufacturers -- or whether Nikon would also make the accompanying smartphone.

The idea reminds us a bit of the Ricoh GXR with its modular design, or Sony's QX add-on lenses with the difference that Nikons's concept would probably look much more like a classic camera compared to the Sony QX modules. The concept also reminds us of the Relonch camera case for iPhone that was presented at this year's Photokina fair in Cologne, Germany, which is basically a normal focal length lens with large sensor in a case that fits an iPhone.

While the above Nikon smartphone camera is rather unlikely to see the light of day anytime soon, what we'd definitely like to see not only from Nikon but from other manufacturers as well is the add-on EVF with a second flash hot shoe that Nikon patented. So far, with accessory viewfinders that attach to the camera's hot shoe, one is limited to using either the EVF or a flash in most cases. With the device patented by Nikon, both would be possible simultaneously as the EVF would sport a second hot shoe on top of it.

For its mirrorless 1 system, Nikon has filed a patent for a 9-135mm f/3.5-5.6 superzoom lens. With an equivalent focal length range of approx. 24-365mm, the lens would feature a zoom factor of 14x, which would make it one of the highest-magnification zoom lenses for mirrorless cameras. With a size of between 107 and 162 mm, the lens would still be relatively compact thanks to the small size of the 1-inch sensor.

The patent description that Egami published also mentions that the optical construction of the lens consists of 20 elements in 14 groups, of which 5 are aspherical elements. Egami also mentions that the lens uses ED glass elements, but it is unclear from the machine translation whether it's just one ED element or multiple.

Another Nikon patent that was mentioned at IPWatchdog sketches a screen technology that is capable of displaying 2D and 3D images simultaneously. Such a technology would make the most sense in a 3D camera, but also in a smartphone or tablet with 3D photo or video recording capabilities. Whether or not Nikon has any plans to release such a camera in the near future is entirely unclear.

As always, these patents are to be taken as concepts that Nikon wants protected by copyright. Their publication doesn't mean that Nikon is actually working on any of the products mentioned, although we wouldn't mind to see a couple of them realized some time in the future.

(via Nikon Rumors)