COLOGNE, Germany -- Apple's iPhone has played a leading role advancing mobile-phone photography, but a startup called Relonch Camera hopes its $500 accessory will push it yet farther.
The Relonch camera snaps onto an iPhone 5, 5S, or 6 to let people take easily shared photos with a high-end look, said Nikolay Babich, head of sales for the company. The company announced it here today at the Photokina show and said it's due to ship in fall 2015 starting in the US.
It's got a 50mm-equivalent f2.0 lens, an image sensor with the same APS-C size used in lower-end SLR cameras, and an image processor that automatically edits photos for nicer tonality. The device links to the iPhone using the Lightning connector so people can use an app to control the camera and immediately share shots. It's bulkier the iPhone itself, but its battery can extend the iPhone's, Babich said.
The images themselves are small -- only 1,024x1,024 pixels, or 1 megapixel, in the current engineering prototype. "In the final release the resolution may be better. It depends on Lightning's capacity," Relonch Chief Operating Officer Yuriy Motin said. It's important not to keep users waiting for their photos, he said. In any event, Instagram's 640x640 size has shown even small images can be successful.
"We speak not about the megapixels, but instead about the moment, about sharing on the spot," Babich said. For people who want to see shots on bigger screens or print them out, the company plans a larger file size option, too, he said.
At $500, the accessory is likely too expensive for the vast majority of budgets. But it's possible that the Relonch's punchy portraits will appeal to those unsatisfied with most phone cameras' snapshots, and the photography industry has a long history of catering to those willing to spend some money for the results they want.
The iPhone itself just can't create the look, Babich said. "Every day I try to do a portrait like this, but I cannot," he said.
Android is also on the agenda, but it's hard enough making a camera accessory that fits snugly with just the iPhone 5, 5S, and 6 sizes. The Relonch fits tightly so people can wear it on a lanyard around their neck without fear their iPhone will fall out and be smashed.
With Android, there are so many phones that the challenge is harder, he said. One possibility is a partnership to launch an Android model in conjunction with the launch of a new Android phone, he said.
Relonch started accepting preorders Tuesday.
Correction at 3:50 a.m. PT September 17: The prototype's resolution has been corrected. The company may offer higher resolution in the final product.