Gear Tech

5 of photography’s quirkiest cameras

We take a look at some of the more weird and wonderful cameras that have come to market over the years…

Today’s cameras are packed with cutting edge features to deliver sky high resolution, accurate autofocus and high definition video. However, it takes a lot for a camera to stand out from the crowd and over the years, manufacturers have pushed the envelope, trying all manner of approaches to deliver innovation to photographers. Some of these attempts have been more quirky than others, so we’re taking a look back at five cameras that, rightly or wrongly, will live long in the memory…

Pentax Q

There’s compact cameras and then there’s the Pentax Q. By far and away, the smallest compact system camera series, the Pentax Q made other tiny ranges like the Olympus Pen or Canon M system look like giants. Launched way back in 2011, the Pentax Q (and later the Q7, Q10) attracted a cult following and offered a crazy 5.53x crop factor thanks to the tiny 1/2.3″ sensor, which turned a 100mm lens into a 553mm optic, enabling long focal lengths from an ultra lightweight camera. The Pentax Q included IBIS many years before bigger brands adopted the technology and served up 12-megapixels of resolution while tipping the scales at just 180g (body only).

Q users even had a fairly decent selection of lenses to select from, with eight native Q-mount optics in total, including the fisheye 3.2mm (which gave an effective focal length of 18mm) and a 15-45mm zoom which offered 83-249mm thanks to that 5.53x crop factor. Photographers using the Q also had access to an adaptor that enabled them to use Pentax’s K-mount lenses on the tiny Q, further extending lens choice. The last incarnation from the Q series was the Q-S1, which was launched in 2014 and featured a larger 1/1.7″ sensor.


The Q10 version of the Pentax Q.

Insta 360 One R

What happens when you combine a 360 camera with an action camera? The answer is you get the Insta 360 One R – essentially a hybrid modular system that can capture both 4K video and 360-degree video thanks to a 5.3K 1-inch sensor. To ramp up the versatility even further, an aerial module enables the camera to be attached to a drone to capture 360- degree video from the skies and features a IPX8 rating so it can be used underwater.

Samsung Galaxy Camera 2

Talk about brave innovation; the Galaxy Camera 2 was a forward-thinking compact camera that ran on an Android play from. Was it a computer that took pictures or a camera that contained a computer? Who cases, because it enabled users to snap a cool shot and then immediately check their emails or access other apps. Launched back in 2015, the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 features 16-megapixels of resolution from its 1/2.3″ BSI-CMOS sensor and 4.1-86.1mm lens that gave an effective focal length of 23-483mm – that’s an incredible 21x zoom.

A further indication of the computer/camera hybrid nature of the Samsung, was that it offered 2GB of RAM and enabled upload of images to social media apps well ahead of competitors.

Light L16

If you’ve never heard of the Light L16, this may take a bit of explaining. While you may have been holding one L16 in your hand, what you were actually holding was 16 separate camera modules, consisting of five 35mm lenses, five 70mm lenses and six 120mm lenses – all of which captured 13-megapixel images. When the shutter was clicked the L16 shot 10 photos before merging them together to create a 52-megapixel file.

The idea being that, with the L16, there’s no need to carry around a bag of different cameras and lenses. A true collision of science and image-making, it would be great to see a spiritual successor to the L16 in the future.

Sigma DP2 Quattro

Where to start with the DP2 Quattro? Well, on paper, it’s a compact camera with a fixed 35mm lens and a APS-C size sensor. So far, so normal, right? But when you see the unconventional design of the camera, it suddenly becomes clear why this camera made our quirky shortlist. The fast 35mm f/2.8 lens offered an effective focal length of 45mm, but it was the thin profile and oversize asymmetric handgrip that really caught the eye.

What’s more, there was plenty unusual inside as well as outside about the DP2 Quattro too, as Sigma squeezed in a Foveon direct image sensor which utilises three stacked layers to deliver impressive image quality.