Olympus is working on a Sony-style remote lens camera, too

It's been a year since Sony launched its range of lens cameras, WiFi-enabled zoom lenses that connect to your smartphone and offer far better pictures than your built-in snapper. For its second generation hardware, the company went one further and built the QX1, which enabled you to swap in any E-mount optic. I say all of this because Olympus has, perhaps belatedly, cottoned on to the idea that there might be something in this type of technology, which is why the company is showing off its Open Platform prototype here at Photokina.

If you're already familiar with the QX1, then you're already up to speed on what the Open Platform is designed to do. Broadly speaking, the hardware has a Micro Four Thirds sensor, digital signal processor, WiFi module, battery and, erm, that's it. It's designed to connect wirelessly to an Android or iOS smartphone, with the boxy hardware capable of taking any compatible lens from the company's range and, presumably, Panasonic's MFT lenses as well. The prototype was designed with MIT's Media Lab, and is part of a project to "expand the field of application for a huge variety of hardware." We'd take that to mean that the whole point of Open Platform is to democratize and open up the various uses of digital imaging in ways that go beyond just pointing a DSLR at things.

As we said before, the boxy unit has no screen of its own, and instead relies upon your phone to play the part of the viewfinder. You can, of course, shoot blindly without it, simply by pushing the silver shutter release button on the top of the device. The only other technical feature worth mentioning is the hot-shoe mount in the top corner, opening the device up to add even more accessories like flashes.

As a prototype, and one that was kept behind glass, there's more than a few uncertainties about the hows, whens and whys surrounding the Open Platform hardware. For instance, there's no word on a megapixel count, battery life or if we're likely to see Olympus come out with a consumer version of the device. As for the future, the company is going to be taking Open Platform on the road, asking the crowd at various idea, make and hack-a-thons to come up with innovative ways that a remote lens could be used -- and, presumably ignoring anyone who just whips out a QX1.

Steve Dent contributed to this report.