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I have been pleased with the iPhone camera because of its programmability; apps change the way we take photographs, from timers to autobracketing. So, why can't we have a fancier DSLR or mirrorless camera that is easily programmable and connected to an app market?

This article details some possible reasons why this option is not widely available and shows us the Frankencamera: http://graphics.stanford.edu/papers/camera20/levoy-platforms-cga10.pdf
- Barriers to entry by new companies caused by cross-licenses existing only between major manufacturers
- Disinterest by established companies who view software as a necessary part of hardware, rather than as a platform
- Concern that wider platforms will damage brands through the presence of bad third-party applications
- Research is still in early phases because of the lack of a programmable camera for researchers to experiment with (the authors then go on to explain how they hope that Stanford's Frankencamera will change this)

More info on Stanford's open-source Frankencamera:
http://graphics.stanford.edu/papers/camera20/
http://graphics.stanford.edu/projects/camera-2.0/
http://graphics.stanford.edu/papers/fcam/

Is this something that Samsung is considering? Maybe, or maybe it would only be available in consumer-grade cameras?
http://www.engadget.com/2012/03/14/samsung-researching-android-based-digital-camera/

Polaroid is getting started with a consumer-grade one: http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/16/technology/polaroid_android/index.htm (thanks +David Federlein for sharing the link!)

Even a camera with its own constrained programming mode would be fantastic (I remember that my old TI83 calculator, for example, had that type of programming mode.) Either way, a programmable camera would surely increase innovation in photographic technique.
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What programmable aspects would you like to see in swappable lens cameras?
 
Thanks +David Federlein! I'll add that to the list. I had a programmable higher-grade camera in mind, but that is good!
 
+Eric Hansen: everything. Start with programs available on other cameras, like time lapse video creation, HDR, etc., and continue into crazy combinations of exposures, colors, whatever you can imagine.
 
Here's my take on a better lens and sensor. Both of those things would be nice, but to get an appreciable increase in quality, you would need to make the phone a lot thicker. You can make the sensor bigger, it'll gather more light and have less noise at high ISO, but it'll pull more battery.

The lens is even harder. It will have to telescope in some way. It could come out the back like that polaroid, but start-up time for those is pretty long. With that design, though, you could have a pretty big sensor. Alternatively, you could do a folded system. The objective lens is backed by a mirror or prism that bends the image through 90 degrees. The zooming element moves vertically in the body of the camera and the image sensor is on the bottom facing up. This wouldn't add as much thickness, and it would not appreciably increase start-up time, but the thickness of the phone limits the size of the sensor.

Either way, a nice camera + full smart phone is going to be thicker than I would want to carry daily in my pocket. That is my personal preference, though.
 
Imagine a pretty darn nice camera (take the Sony NEX-7, for example), but then imagine that you can add whatever programs you want to it. For example, let's say that instead of HDR you want something that combines layers of colors instead of layers of exposures. It would automatically take a photograph with a high blue tone curve, then a high red tone curve, etc., and combine them all into one image where the colors are bursting out. I don't have the skill to say whether it would produce anything, but I'd like to try, and I'd like to do it all in a great camera with every other feature I've ever wanted. Why not?
 
I think resistance from professional and advanced photographers would form a strong barrier against what you're proposing. They want hardware and software that works without a lot of cruft. This is the demographic that complains about video capability in DSLR's and facial recognition in Aperture; imagine the hell they'd raise over "app-capable" cameras.

And, even though I don't completely endorse such conservatism, I understand it. Time and money spent on extraneous features such as an app platform could take away from improving optics and workflow. Besides which, most "Instagrammy" iPhone photos are junk. A professional would have no interest in that kind of thing.
 
+Christa Laser All that can be accomplished with better results by shooting raw and then post processing on a PC.
 
Christa, this is a fascinating topic--one that I frequently contemplate. Thanks for the article link! My opinion is that the traditional makers of quality optics and imaging electronics rely today on product segmentation based on software-defined feature sets. I also think they are hidebound and change-averse, reflexively fearful about losing control of the platform. Younger, scrappier competitors will emerge. Combining inferior optics and electronics with ingenious software, they will rival and eclipse what the old guard can do. In five or ten years, Canon and Nikon may be compelled by market forces to join the open ecosystem party.
 
The iPhone is a superb computing platform (for its form factor) with a a subpar camera made much better by software run on said platform. A DSLR would have to incorporate a similar amount of computing power to achieve what you imagine. While Android makes it easier for camera manufacturers to harness such power, as the Samsung and Polaroid prototypes suggest, we must not forget that they are not computer companies. Therefore, it will take them a while longer to reach the goal.

In conclusion, you'll have your computerized DSLR; just don't be impatient.
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