The Relonch camera is a fascinating concept in photography that deserves a closer look. A visit to the location in Palo Alto, California was a worthwhile venture. Co-founder Yuriy Motin was more than helpful explaining the concept of its Camera-As-a-Service.
Who the Relonch Camera Is For
To start I’ll explain who the camera is NOT for. If you are comfortable or reasonably competent using the settings and controls of a DSLR or mirrorless, the Relonch is not for you. If you enjoy adjusting your cameras controls for maximum performance and further enhancing your photos in the digital darkroom, forget Relonch.
However, if you would rather just aim the camera and shoot without bothering with aperture, shutter speed, ISO or anything else, the Relonch 291 may be the camera for you. But my phone or the auto setting on my camera does the same thing. Why should I carry a stripped down, one-button camera that is just a simplified point-and-shoot?
Good question. The reason is the artificial intelligence processing that is the essential element of the Relonch service. Because there is no monitor on the camera, you don’t see your photos until the Raw files are uploaded, enhanced and returned to you the next day as jpegs. These are viewable on your smartphone, tablet or computer. The AI processed images are significantly better than most photos that come straight out of any digital camera unenhanced.
Does It Work?
The Relonch Palo Alto store displays several prints of the cameras images. A loop of photos runs on a large screen monitor that shows what the AI processing can do. The results are impressive. These are photos shot by amateurs, some even by children. But the lighting, color, contrast and everything about the photo has been adjusted to maximum effect.
Even the most mundane subjects appear special and have an almost professional look. This doesn’t mean that a poorly composed, badly photographed subject will look as if shot by Avedon. But any halfway decent photo will benefit greatly from the AI processing provided.
Anyone with Photoshop or Lightroom experience could probably achieve the same results on the computer. But doing that with dozens or hundreds of photos from a day of shooting would take many hours in the digital darkroom. Relonch does it overnight.
This is a new product and process so the details are changing from the first articles and information provided in the previous blog. Instead of $100 per month as reported, you now pay an initial fee. You can review your process photos and pay $1 for every image you wish to download from their server and keep. The ones you don’t buy are discarded. This makes you edit your shots to only the good ones you wish to purchase.
As explained to me, the initial cost is $1000 which pays for 1000 downloaded images. But there is a trade-in offer involved. Relonch wants to rid you of your complex, multi-function camera. They will take your current camera in trade and, depending on its value, will credit you with an amount toward the initial fee.
One dollar per photo may seem a bit much but not if you value the enhancement and improvement that the AI processing provides. And it is more or less in line with the film and processing costs one would pay back in the old days.
The Relonch concept is to provide a minimal camera with no controls or accessories. No flash attachment or even a tripod socket—nothing to take your attention away from shooting the events of your everyday life as they happen. The idea is to have the camera with you and shoot as the spirit moves. Relonch processes the images into something fabulous that you review and purchase only the ones you want to keep. It is a new approach to photography and time will tell if it takes.
As said before, the Relonch 291 is not for anyone used to a DSLR and digital image processing. It’s certainly not for someone interested in long exposure photography requiring a tripod or alternative like HandlePod. But after seeing the processed photographs that were so much better than anything straight out of the camera,
I would be very interested in uploading Raw files to Relonch for AI processing. I asked but unfortunately this is not going to be part of their service. It is their camera, their server, and their processing, at least for now. But if someone offers a digital darkroom service that offers better results in less time than I can accomplish in Photoshop or Lightroom I would love to see it.