Canon Patents ‘Clip-On’ Smartphone Camera with Magnetic Lenses

Canon has filed a patent for a new “image pickup-up device and adjustment mechanism” that appears to be a high-powered clip-on-style telephoto camera accessory for smartphones.

It has a modular lens design that can allows multiple compact lenses to be swapped, and the lenses appear to be held together magnetically meaning there may even be the opportunity to mix, match, and add different combinations of lenses for varying effects including super-wide-angle lenses and macro.

The design for the patent were initially discovered by Canon News back in October of 2020, but the official publication of the patent application (JP,2019-235097) filed in Japan was published on July 15.

The patent overview describes an imaging device with a base capable of holding a smartphone and a lens barrel that can be rotated up to 270 degrees, with a gap in the base portion to accommodate (hide) the lens barrel when collapsed for travel. The camera unit is described as being able to be operated remotely (possibly by Bluetooth, WiFi, or a USB cable connection).

According to this proposed design, the purpose of this device is to provide a system that can operate on its own or enhance an existing smartphone’s camera capabilities while making it easy to transport when not in use. The document states the camera would leverage a CMOS sensor and a processor capable of adjusting the color space conversion, gamma conversion, white balance, AE, and flash correction, and photograph an image or video in 4:2:2 format. The camera would also be able to automatically re-orient the image based on the position of the camera and lenses to ensure images will always be upright.

The system would also have its own built-in storage for JPEG images and video files. As for how much storage and what focal lengths will be available, the patent does not specify. While external devices like this that can sync to your smartphone are not new, ones that have multiple focal lengths (lenses) that are compact and easy to carry are uncommon.

It seems that despite the odd design, Canon is attempting to make a new system that can significantly expand the functionality of smartphone cameras, making it easier to leave bulkier DSLR or mirrorless camera kits behind while traveling and location scouting. If such a device sounds exciting, temper expectations: even though a patent is filed, it can still take years for it to arrive in a finished capacity if it ever arrives at all.

If Canon were to develop this device, it would likely fall into Canon’s experimental, fringe camera line and join the likes of the PowerShot Zoom and the PowerShot Pick.

The full patent documentation can be read on J-PlatPat.