California start-up gambles on $99 a month camera as a service offering
Not since the Pentak K-01, almost five years ago, have I seen anything quite as bizarre as the Relonch 291 camera; a $99 a month camera. But in this day and age being bizarre is not necessarily an indicator of guaranteed failure. As we know only too well from this year, it’s been difficult to predict winners, no matter how bizarre. However, the Pentax K-01 was both bizarre and a failure.
But back to the camera, or should that be the service? If you go for the Relonch 291 you will be, in one way, getting the camera for free. Instead you will be paying $99 per month for the service that the camera is entirely dependent on. That service is called Pictured Technology. It receives all your photos via an LTE (4G) mobile data connection. It then automatically massages them into shape digitally. In theory, you get an online portfolio of perfect photos without going anywhere near image processing software. To manage your account and view your photos you will use a Relonch app.
Pictured Technology image processing is, we’re told, clever enough to convert camera images like that on the left into results like that on the right
Simplicity is the name of the game here. The camera, appears to be a re-purposed Samsung Galaxy NX disguised in a stitched leather jacket. It has only one button; the shutter release, apart from the power switch. There is no rear screen (one of the more striking features of the Galaxy NX which had a massive 4.8 inch LCD). Thankfully, there is an electronic viewfinder and, if our hunch is correct, like the Samsung Galaxy NX, it will be an SVGA 800×600 pixel affair, which isn’t really cutting edge any more. The Galaxy NX also sported a 20 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor which is, presumably, shared with the Relonch 291.
A noticeable aspect of the launch news is the dearth of technical information about the hardware. It may be that Relonch aren’t keen to dwell on a set of specifications that betrays the camera’s three year old bones. That word, ‘bones’, is pretty apt, too, since the Galaxy NX was a commercial failure. Samsung, itself, killed off its camera division two years later. It doesn’t look like you can change lenses, which you could with the NX. In fact without any obvious controls it also appears that the Relonch 291 doesn’t even have a zoom lens.
Clearly, Relonch are gambling on the 291 becoming a must-have style accessory, a high-tech-low-tech fashion icon. The target audience has been identified as those who would like good photos but not have to think about the technical side of making them good. What we have here is a camera that should deliver much better quality photos than a smartphone, with even more simplicity. In many ways it will work like a smartphone camera, sending images to the cloud but your $99 a month pays for the premium photo processing service that Pictured Technology is being portrayed as being. Whether or not the extreme simplicity of the camera itself will be a hindrance or not remains to be seen. But Relonch have really taken ‘point-and-shoot” to its extreme.
Tell us what you think of the Relonch 291 and if it could tempt you to sign up for $99 a month.