CES 2013: Polaroid’s Android Interchangeable Lens Camera

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LAS VEGAS—This time last year Polaroid displayed the SC1630, an Android-powered point-and-shoot that never reached the hands of consumers. When I met with a Polaroid representative to discuss company’s 2013 Android CES camera—an interchangeable lens model with a twist—the first question I asked is “Is this coming to market?” I was assured that there is a retail partner in place, although Polaroid is not yet ready to disclose who that partner may be.

Set to sell for $399, the iM1836 is actually manufactured by Sakar International, a company known for inexpensive toy cameras branded with Hello Kitty, Disney, and other popular licenses. In terms of design, the camera looks a lot like the Nikon J1—down to a similar 10-30mm f/3-5.6 zoom lens. It doesn’t feel anything like the well-built J1—in order to sell at such an aggressive price point the camera’s construction is largely plastic.

The twist mentioned above? The 18-megapixel image sensor is not in the camera—it’s built into the lens. Polaroid explained that, at this price point, it’s an appealing camera to customers who are not used to taking care of a digital camera with interchangeable lenses. There’s no danger of dust getting on the image sensor, and likewise no need to clean anything but the front element of the lens—something that anyone can do safely assuming that a modicum amount of care is taken.

Ricoh took a similar approach in designing its modular GXR system. That camera was aimed solidly at photographic enthusiasts, however—a market which Polaroid has no aspirations of reaching with its take on the sensor-in-lens concept.

The iM1836 runs Android 4.1 Jellybean, and will be able to upgraded to future versions of Android as they become available. It includes the Google Play app store, and is bundled with some software—including a video editing application. The rear LCD is 3.5 inches in size and features a capacitive touch interface. There are no physical control to speak of other than a top-mounted Mode dial—despite giving you the ability to change lenses, this is a camera designed with point-and-shoot in mind.

It promises to deliver a number of automatic features to help even the most inexperienced photographer capture better images. It has automatic blink detection, and when you use the pop-up flash it optimizes exposure using face detection, so your family snapshots will be properly illuminated. As it’s an Android device, sharing is just as easy as you’d expect it to be—connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot and you can send photos to your favorite social networking site; if Wi-Fi isn’t avaiable, you can transfer photos directly to your smartphone via Bluetooth. There is no 4G connectivity built into the camera, as there is with the Samsung Galaxy Camera.

Polaroid iM1232If Android isn’t your thing, or if $400 is simply a bit of a budgetary stretch for a camera, there are two lesser models available—but neither run Android. The iM1232 is $349 and includes the same 10-30mm lens, but trades the touch-screen for a flip-up 3.5-inch LCD. It has Wi-Fi for photo sharing, and offers blink detection and a panoramic mode. There’s also a model without Wi-Fi—the $299 iM1030.

Polaroid promises that more lenses are coming, as is an adapter that will allow you to use Micro Four Thirds lenses with the camera. Further details are not available at this time. The company also announced a standard point-and-shoot camera in a bridge style body. The iS2433 features a 16-megapixel Sony BSI CMOS sensor, a 24x (25-600mm) zoom lens, and a 3-inch rear LCD; it’s priced at $199. There is also a new camcorder, the iD975 captures 1080p video and features a 10x zoom lens; it can also capture 16-megapixel still images.

By Jim Fisher, PCMag


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