Leica i9 concept design: An iPhone in Leica's clothing?

A concept design combining an iPhone 4 with a Leica camera has gadget freaks drooling, but is it really all that?
Written by Janice Chen, Inactive on

Is it me, or am I the only one who doesn't think Black Design Associates' new Leica i9 concept design is the best idea since sliced bread? Sure, I suppose it would be quite the novelty to be able to pop your iPhone 4 into a case and miraculously turn it into a net-connected, high-end Leica camera (with a touchscreen to boot).  Back here in reality, though, it's highly unlikely for a unit as compact as the concept design would have to be (to accommodate the iPhone) to achieve image quality that would justify the estimated $900 to $1,200 price tag if the camera were to go into production.

I mean, seriously, if you're prepared to drop that kind of coin, you're going to be looking for image quality along the lines of a Leica X1 or M9 (or Fujifilm FinePix X100 for that matter) which have SLR-sized sensors and therefore superior image quality. If you're fine with the tiny sensors typically found in compact cameras, you'd be better off buying a Canon PowerShot S95 or G12, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5, or even a Leica D-Lux 5 (if you must have that red logo) and adding on an Eye-Fi wireless SD card for less than $80. And if Black DA has really come up with some miraculous way of cramming a big sensor into a super-slim package, the company would be better off building it into a real camera, not an iPhone accessory.

Seems like it is just me, though, if you read the glowing reports from around the interwebs:

"Really, this is one of the best concepts I've clapped eyes on..."

"There's no sign that the i9 will even reach the prototype phase, but nobody is going to stop the high-end camera's designer from dreaming -- especially when said dreams make us weak at the knees."

"We think it’s an amazing idea and would love to see these put into production."

"Black Design Associates combined the connectivity and usability of the iPhone 4 with the timeless design and quality of the Leica M9 to create an affordable high quality and high tech camera."

Call me a skeptic, but I can't believe how many folks are so taken with the idea -- and not a single snarky comment about how the company's "Compliment without Compromise" tagline (plastered all over the concept site and press release) should have read "complement" not "compliment." Well, until now, I guess.

What do you think? Is this a concept worth pursuing, or is it just an over-grown iPhone case trying to trade on looks and branding (and in need of a copyeditor)? Comment in the TalkBack section and let me know.

For more information, read the press release »

Compliment without Compromise

The Leica i9 Concept for iPhone4 exhibits a new way to combine your camera and smart phone.

EL SEGUNDO, CA, April 25th, 2011 – Black Design Associates, LLC announces the Leica i9 Concept Camera for Apple iPhone4.

A better camera phone designed for photographers. The Leica i9 concept offers the unmatched brilliance of Leica's professional CMOS image sensor and lens, made specifically for the unparalleled processing, display and sharing capabilities of Apple's iPhone4.

The i9 was designed with a "Compliment without Compromise" philosophy. If the best camera is the one that you have on you, then the better camera is the Leica i9 concept. The i9 is the only professional camera that's also an iPhone4 case. The goal was to create a camera system that inspires photographers to shoot and share their photos and videos at anytime and anywhere.

The i9 offers an independent professional camera system with an ultra-compact body that doubles as a rugged protective case for your iPhone4. The i9 is a true ready-to-shoot camera with Leica's superior range finder and a 0.3 second start-up. Photos or videos are stored on the i9's internal flash memory (expandable with SD) and then uploaded onto your iPhone4 once the Leica app has launched.

The i9 is the ultimate point-and-shoot camera combining the high performance of a Leica (CMOS image sensor with effective 12.1 MP, professional lens with 8x optical zoom and 35 equivalent focal lengths and ready-to-shoot operation) with iPhone4 (retina display, multi-touch interface, extended storage capacity and mobile/wireless connectivity). Beyond camera features, the i9 and iPhone4 can share their independent batteries for extended operation.

The i9 takes professional photos and videos and allows you to easily compress and share your content to Email, MMS, Flickr, Facebook and/or YouTube directly from the Leica app.

To compliment Leica's timeless design, the i9 includes an interchangeable backing for future generation iPhones. With upgradeable software and a growing list of iPhone features, the possibilities are limitless including a remote voice activated shutter control that as easy as saying, "Cheese!"

About BLACK Design Associates, LLC:

BLACK Design Associates, LLC is a product development, incubation, and retail marketing strategy consultancy based in El Segundo, California. Our team of creative strategists, designers, and engineers, specialize in new market-disrupting products that have maximum impact in the marketplace. Working with new products constantly pressures us to find customer audiences in new and creative ways. Our clients include: InStyler, Mattel, Jakks Pacific, Dial Corporation, Plantronics, Epson and Disney.

©2011 BLACK DESIGN ASSOCIATES, LLC, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. BLACK Design Associates, LLC is an independent consultancy with no affiliations and/or pre-existing relationships with Leica Camera AG or Apple, Inc. Leica and the Leica logo are registered trademarks of Leica Camera AG, Apple and iPhone are registered trademarks of Apple, Inc.

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