Photo Freak Show: A Dozen Oddball Cameras

A camera exists for practically any particular task--and some tasks require designs from another planet. Here are some unique cameras that let their freak flag fly.

Peculiar but Practical

Choosing a new camera can involve more than a decision between a DSLR and a point-and-shoot. These days, you can find specialty cameras and accessories for everything from underwater photography to hands-free skydiving videos. Of course, a specialty camera requires a design customized for the task at hand; and as a result, some of them look as though they were teleported in from another dimension. Here are some of the oddest-looking cameras we've seen lately--but bear in mind that "odd" isn't always a bad thing. These weirdos just do it differently, and we respect that. Updated 9/1/2011 to add a brand-new oddball camera, the Samsung MV800.

Sony DEV-5 and DEV-3 Digital Recording Binoculars

The days of furiously switching between your binos and your camera while bird-watching or shooting a sporting event from the cheap seats are over. Sony is touting its DEV line as the "first digital binoculars with HD video recording capability." On both the Dev-5 and Dev-3 models, two low-light-optimized CMOS sensors are tucked behind twin optically stabilized 10X-zoom lenses that record 1080p video at 60 or 24 frames per second; the binoculars also capture 3D content and 7-megapixel still images. In addition, the DEV-5 offers in-bino GPS and an extended digital zoom--the main differences between the two models.

Nikon Coolpix S1100pj

The Nikon Coolpix S1100pj looks fairly normal from the outside, until you realize that the circular cut-out on the front-and-center of it isn't a lens. It's a projector. The Coolpix S1100pj lets you to project images and video on a wall, thanks to a built-in pico projector that has a 14-lumen brightness rating. You can also use its touchscreen to draw over projected images like a telestrator while mimicking John Madden. BOOM!

Casio Tryx

The pretzel-like Casio Tryx offers both a rotating frame and a swiveling screen. Used in combination, they let you prop up the Tryx for hands-free shooting, hang it on a hook, or hold it the way you would a standard camcorder--lefty or righty. Its unique offerings go beyond that, too, thanks to its super-high-speed shooting modes, an "HDR Art" mode that causes photos to look like paintings, and a motion-activated hands-free shutter mode that makes all of those gymnastics a lot more useful.

Samsung MV800

What you're looking at is a touchscreen camera unlike any we've seen before. The entire back plate of the Samsung MV800 has a hinge along its top, and this feature allows it to swing upward a full 180 degrees to let whomever is in front of the lens see how they look. You can position the MV800's screen at 90-degree angles to help with overhead and low-angle shots, and you can switch to a secondary shutter button hidden under the back panel when the screen is tilted upward.

Crayola Kidz 2.1-Megapixel Digital Camera

It's never a bad idea to throw handles on something designed to be used by kids. This Crayola Kidz camera looks like a flying saucer's steering wheel, and it will probably be used as such by many imagination-driven 3-year-olds. But if you look closer, its core specs are better than the camera found in the iPad 2: a 2.1-megapixel sensor, an SD Card slot, and Color Genie Photo Editing software that lets you make puppets. That's right: Puppets. Game-changer.

iPhone SLR Mount

According to PCWorld Labs' tests, the iPhone 4 already captures good-looking photos. But if you want the optical zoom, aperture, and manual focus controls of a typical DSLR lens, you can purportedly boost the phone's photography chops even further with the iPhone SLR Mount from Photojojo. For $250, you can choose between a Canon EF-mount and a Nikon F-mount, turning your smartphone camera into an interchangeable-lens behemoth.

Looxcie 2

Bluetooth headsets are getting smaller and smaller, to the extent that it's getting hard to tell whether pasing strangers are talking on the phone or holding a maniacal conversation with their invisible acquaintances. Looxcie has solved that problem with this larger-than-normal Bluetooth headset, which also throws in a little something extra: The Looxcie 2 headset records 640-by-480 video, and you can use your iPhone or Android phone to remote-control and -view your video capture by using its corresponding mobile app.

Minox Trail Camera DTC 500

If you ever wondered what HAL 9000 might look like in army fatigues, here you go. This hunting camera from Minox is packed with an infrared flash for snooping on animals while they're foraging in the dark. It snaps color photos in the daytime, captures black-and-white photos in the nighttime, and creeps us out all the live-long day.

Olympus PEN Macro Arm Lights

Illuminating up-close subjects perfectly is an art unto itself, and that's where Olympus Macro Arm Lights come in. These adjustable, tentacle-inspired LED lights work with the company's PEN line of interchangeable-lens cameras to light up tiny objects, flowers, and bugs for well-exposed macro shots. In fact, the bugs will probably feel more comfortable on camera due to the antennae-like design, so you'll get a slightly more intimate insect photo shoot, if you catch my drift.

Ricoh GXR System

Most interchangeable-lens cameras make only the lens itself interchangeable. But Ricoh's GXR system cameras let you swap the entire trinity of lens, sensor, and processing engine, by sliding different modules into the camera body. According to Ricoh, each lens-and-sensor combo is designed to work perfectly together, and the camera body is about 1.5 inches deep. Regrettably, the camera does not accept old Atari cartridges.

Seitz 6X17 Digital Camera

The 160-megapixel (yep) Seitz 6X17 digital camera probably isn't the best option for casual one-handed snapshots. The body is meant to be gripped with two hands, as it's about a foot wide and weighs 4 pounds. Likewise it isn't the best option for anyone who doesn't have roughly $48,000 to spend on a new camera. The "16X7" in its name refers to the image aspect ratio: It's designed for wide-format photography and high-resolution panoramic images.

Holga 120-3D Stereo Camera

Hey, it's the Siamese twins of the photography world. The Holga 120-3D Stereo Camera is a film camera, and you'll need to track down medium-format 120 slide film and purchase the 3D slide viewer (sold separately) to use it as designed. Pressing the shutter button takes a single photo with side-by-side images captured through each lens. From there, you get the slides developed, cut them out, and insert them in a special frame that's designed to work with the 3D viewer. Sure, it may be expensive and require a bit of manual labor, but according to this YouTube review the results are well worth the extra effort.

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