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RED is working on a ‘pro camera version’ of the Hydrogen One

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RED is ‘radically changing the Hydrogen program’

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

RED is working on a new “pro camera version” of its Hydrogen One smartphone, after the original model fell short in a number of ways. RED founder Jim Jannard revealed some basic details last night in a forum post, writing that for this new model, RED’s camera team will be “fully in charge” of the camera system.

It’s a move that makes a ton of sense. RED’s biggest strength has always been cameras, and it was downright odd that the original model used off-the-shelf components that lacked the power and image quality that the RED brand is known for. A fresh start could be a really interesting upgrade, one with a more focused professional model that better leverages RED’s hardware prowess and drops the gimmicky “holographic 4V” nonsense in favor of actually shooting RED-quality photos and videos on a smartphone. Plus, new hardware would also give RED the chance to update some of the Hydrogen One’s more dated specs, like the Snapdragon 835 processor.

RED’s prototype modular camera attachment
Photo: Dieter Bohn / The Verge

Where the new device leaves current Hydrogen One owners is a little more unclear. RED had originally promised that this kind of professional level photography would be coming to the phone through a modular attachment system that would have included a larger, RED-made sensor and a lens mount with support for real camera lenses.

But the RED website has been scrubbed of any mention of the module system (along with the accompanying illustrations), and Jannard’s post regarding the changes to the Hydrogen program doesn’t make any mention of whether that module — or any of the other promised modules, like those for storage or extra battery life — will still be planned for release.

Jannard seems to be hinting that Hydrogen One owners will have to swap out their phone to get photography upgrades. His forum post references RED’s “obsolescence obsolete” motto, which Jannard has used in the past to refer to what essentially amounts to a trade-in program, where RED camera owners have been able to trade in their current cameras and have the value put toward a new model.

Given the prevalence of similar sorts of trade-in policies for smartphones from companies like Apple, Samsung, and most major carriers, it’s possible that RED will simply be offering existing users a similarly discounted upgrade for the new, pro camera model whenever it does arrive instead of developing modules to update the increasingly outdated Hydrogen One.