Sunday, January 25, 2009

Polaroid is back-in digital INTRODUCING PoGo !!!

A strange little ritual used to go along with Polaroid cameras. The shooter would grab the print as it came out of the camera and wave it in the air, as if that would stimulate the chemicals and make the picture appear faster. It didn't. Yet, it felt dumb to just stand there, waiting for the picture to develop.

Polaroid stopped making film packs last year, so this little piece of tech culture will soon be just memory. But just as the film-based Polaroid camera is fading away, along comes its digital replacement.

At the recent International Consumer Electronics Show, the company introduced a digital camera which produces prints right on the spot. You can even call them "instant" prints, but they take nearly a minute to appear, so they're only as "instant" as the old film prints.

The US$200 (RM715) PoGo has a built-in colour printer. It produces two-by-three-inch photos by selectively heating spots on specially treated paper. It has nothing to do with the old chemical Polaroid process, but the prints convey some of the same Pop Art charm. They are grainy and the colours are slightly off, with faces having a deathly blue-green tint.

The camera is successor to a standalone printer Polaroid put out last summer, designed to connect to camera phones and digital cameras. It was noted that if Polaroid combined the printer with an image sensor and an LCD screen, it would be a resurrection of the instant camera. It turned out that's exactly what Polaroid was working on.

Unfortunately, you;ll have to wait to get your hands on the camera. Polaroid says it will go on sale in late March or early April.

The camera is a fun product, and people who have been lamenting the death of the Polaroid will find solace in ti, its print can be peeled apart to reveal a sticky back, which makes them easy to paste on fridges, doors, books, computers, cell phones and other surfaces you want to personalise. For a colleague's going-away party, this writer took a photo of him, printed out a couple of copies and pasted them on soda cans for an instant "commemorative edition".

The PoGo also has crucial advantages over the old film cameras. You can look at what you shot on the LCD screen, then choose whether you want to print it. You can produce multiple prints of an image, or print something you shot sometime ago.

The standalone printer and the new camera use the same paper, which costs US$5 for a 10-pack, or US$13 for a 30-pack. It's expensive compared to inkjet paper, but about a third of the price of Polaroid film (there are still stocks in stores.) No ink or toner is needed.

Despite its high points, the PoGo has the feel of a first-generation product, with noteworthy shortcomings.

As a camera, it's primitive. It doesn't have auto-focus, just a swith for infinity or close-up shots. The resolution is five megapixels, far below that of these things matter much for the quality of the prints, which are small and of low resolution anyway, but hey do matter if you want to use the digital captures for other purposes.

Like some other cheap digital cameras, there is a substantial lag from the time you press the shutter to when the picture is actually taken, making it nearly impossible to capture action or fleeting expressions.

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