Chinese manufacturer Yongnuo appears to be working on a modular mirrorless camera. Per Lighting Rumours, Yongnuo has filed a patent for a device combining a 'mobile terminal' and an external lens assembly.

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The mobile terminal appears to be similar to a smartphone in its shape and form factor. The device has a large display and a central, exposed image sensor. There aren't specifics about the sensor, but it's worth considering that Yongnuo joined the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) System Standard in February of this year. Further, the company's Android-powered mirrorless camera, the YN450, includes a 16MP 4/3 image sensor.

On the left you can see a mobile terminal and to the right is the external lens apparatus. The patent outlines how the terminal, which includes a large display and an image sensor, attaches to the external lens element.

The external lens assembly appears to incorporate a lens mount although it's unclear what kind of lens mount, a grip and a locking mechanism. Lighting Rumours speculates that you may be able to use the mobile terminal as a standalone phone device, provided that Yongnuo supplies a cap to cover the exposed image sensor when it is not attached to the external lens assembly. Further, the patent illustration shows a retractable zoom lens but mentions possible prime lenses and lenses with image stabilization.

Originally filed by Shenzen Yongnuo Photographic Equipment Co., Ltd. in April and published last month, the patent also outlines why a modular device would be advantageous. It argues that the lenses built into smartphones lack the performance and versatility users demand, which has given rise to external lens solutions. However, Yongnuo claims that these external lens solutions come up short. The patent claims that external lenses can be impractical, flimsy, and not offer high-quality performance. In order to deal with these issues, Yongnuo's new system, including the external lens assembly and mobile terminal, are more convenient to use, fit together precisely, and offer superior performance.

Of course, companies file patents regularly and many patents never result in a commercially viable product. That may be the case here as well, but it's certainly an interesting patent. It's clear what such a product may offer over a traditional smartphone camera design, but it's not necessarily obvious what such a product offers users relative to a standalone compact camera.

In terms of new products, in case you missed it, Yongnuo announced a new full-frame autofocus lens for Sony mirrorless cameras in late October. You can learn more about the new lens and Yongnuo's other products, such as flashes, triggers and more, by visiting Yongnuo USA.

If you're interested in another modular camera concept, you can refer to a modular Fujifilm GFX concept Fujifilm showed off last year. It's quite a different take on a modular camera than what Yongnuo's patent shows.

(Via Lighting Rumours)