Let’s face it, either as a hobby or vocation, photography has an ableist tilt. And while there are plenty of assists available for creators with physical disabilities that prevent them from holding heavy gear or manipulating tiny knobs and button, the concept of giving sight to those who don’t see the world clearly has been, to date, a concept best left for Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Sony is hoping to change that with its new Retinal Projection Camera Kit(Opens in a new window), a Frankenstein device that affixes the QD Laser’s Retissa Neoviewer to its HX99 point-and-shoot camera. The Neoviewer sends an image directly to your retina using a safe, low-power laser, and offering a clearer view of an image than folks with visual impairments enjoy without assistants.
Retinal Projection for Low Vision Users
It sounds a little sci-fi for certain, but creators with low vision who have tried the Neoviewer are already singing its praises. I spoke to Chris Gampat, editor-in-chief at The Phoblographer(Opens in a new window), who has long enjoyed picture making, despite being legally blind himself. He suffers from keratoconus, a condition that impacts daily life. He’s not able to drive, even with corrective lenses, to say nothing of photography. In day-to-day life, he sees the world with a bit of fuzziness, not unlike an impressionist painting or smudged writing on a chalkboard.
Chris tells me that the Neoviewer is a different matter entirely. He doesn’t need to fiddle with diopter adjustments to get a clear view of the frame. The Retissa Neoviewer takes a signal from the camera sensor and beams it into his optic nerve, for a clear view. I asked Chris if it was anything like having 20/20 eyesight, but he’s just not sure, telling me he’s “forgot what that’s like.” Make sure to read his report(Opens in a new window) for more on the camera from his unique perspective.
Even if the results fall shy of picture perfect vision, we’re happy to see a deeper push toward accessibility. The Retinal Projection Camera Kit gives creators with visual impairments a new way to make images. The HX99 itself is a capable compact, with a 30x zoom lens that’s good for everything from landscapes to wildlife, and support for Raw photos, in addition to ready-to-share JPG snaps.
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Pricing and Availability
And in another favorable mark for accessibility, the Retinal Projection Camera Kit is priced affordably, so visually impaired creators can find room for it in their budgets. Sony is approaching this one as a limited production run, but is pricing it at just $600(Opens in a new window), not much higher than the current $475 sticker price for the HX99. The kit will go on sale this summer. Sony also plans on collaborating with American and Japanese schools for the blind in order to get cameras in the hands of those who will benefit from its bleeding edge display tech.
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