Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Polaroid Says Goodbye to Instant Camera, Hello to Pocket Prints

Polaroid says that it will stop making instant cameras, and many are calling the move "the end of an era".

The industry has very obviously "gone digital", and the infamous instant cams are officially now nostalgia pieces. If you've got one, keep hold of it: you can bet that it'll be considered a collector's item soon enough.

Looking back, there was, and always will be, something neat about having an image emerge out of your camera immediately, shaking it for a minute or so, and seeing the results occur right before your eyes. In some ways, this capability really hasn't been duplicated in modern times.

Think about it: we can now do amazing things like take countless images, erase them on the fly, and make fixes in the camera so that the digital photos are 100% perfect. But the images still remain in the camera until we hook the device up to a PC or portable device and download them; or order prints through a retail service provider. There is no immediate solution to get a physical print the way you could with Polaroid's instant cameras; short of using one of those nifty new portable printers.

Of course the instant cameras of yester-year weren't nearly as lightweight and compact as the digicams we have today. Sure, you were able to see a physical copy of your image right away, but you had to lug around this big contraption to get it. Will we ever see a pocketable digicam that can run out a photo like a Polaroid instant cam could do?

Actually, it's quite possible. Polaroid has come up with the "next best thing" with a pocket-sized printer that can connect to any PictBridge-enabled digicam via USB or to a compatible camera phone via Bluetooth and spit out a 2 x 3" print on sticky-back paper in about a minute. The neat part about it is that no ink is required: the printer uses patented Zink-based paper that has yellow, magenta and cyan dye crystals embedded into it.

Kudos to Polaroid for moving forward with technology, while still attempting to maintain the same convenience that was afforded by the product for which the company was best known. It might not elicit the same feeling one received when watching a photo magically appear before his eyes; but if you ask me, a printer the size of a deck of cards is pretty darned cool.

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