The exoplanet revolution is well underway. The last decade has seen order-of-magnitude increases in the number of known planets beyond the Solar system. Detailed characterization of exoplanetary atmospheres provide the best means for distinguishing the makeup of their outer layers, and the only hope for understanding the interplay between initial composition chemistry, temperature-pressure atmospheric profiles, dynamics and circulation. While pioneering work on the observational side has produced the first important detections of atmospheric molecules for the class of transiting exoplanets, important limitations are still present due to the lack of systematic, repeated measurements with optimized instrumentation at both visible (VIS) and near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths. It is thus of fundamental importance to explore quantitatively possible avenues for improvements. In this paper we report initial results of a feasibility study for the prototype of a versatile multi-band imaging system for very high-precision differential photometry that exploits the choice of specifically selected narrow-band filters and novel ideas for the execution of simultaneous VIS and NIR measurements. Starting from the fundamental system requirements driven by the science case at hand, we describe a set of three opto-mechanical solutions for the instrument prototype: 1) a radial distribution of the optical flux using dichroic filters for the wavelength separation and narrow-band filters or liquid crystal filters for the observations; 2) a tree distribution of the optical flux (implying 2 separate foci), with the same technique used for the beam separation and filtering; 3) an 'exotic' solution consisting of the study of a complete optical system (i.e. a brand new telescope) that exploits the chromatic errors of a reflecting surface for directing the different wavelengths at different foci. In this paper we present the first results of the study phase for the three solutions, as well as the results of two laboratory prototypes (related to the first two options), that simulate the most critical aspects of the future instrument.