Nikon's never-released DL18-50. Did Nikon abandon this series of 1-inch sensor compacts in order to focus on creating a full-frame mirrorless camera?

A new Nikon lens patent is causing quite a stir in the photo world today, but it's not because of the lens itself. Instead, the patent has people excited because it describes a lens that is made for a curved full-frame sensor, possibly inside a mirrorless camera.

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The latter bit is pure speculation—as Nikon Rumors points out, "the patent does not provide sufficient technical information to determine if this is a mirrorless or a DSLR lens," especially since Nikon has patented curved sensors in the past—but the 35mm F2.0 lens described is definitely made to work with a full-frame curved sensor.

It's possible this camera could be a fixed-lens system, bypassing the need to design multiple lenses or figure out how to make zoom lenses work on a curved sensor. For that matter, it's also possible this design never makes it to market. But the fact that Nikon is dabbling in patents here, spending R&D time and money on some real innovation, is at least mildly heartening.

With multiple curved sensor patents and prototypes out in the wild, the correct question now seems to be "when" rather than "if" this technology will make it to the general public. Well, "when" and "who will get there first?"

You can see more diagrams from this patent here: P2017-125904A. And, of course, feel free to speculate your heart out in the comments.