WEEKEND UPDATE: Polaroid digital 'instant film' camera

Polaroid plans to roll out digital cameras with new features in the coming months, including a combination digital camera-MP3 player and a high-resolution digital camera with instant film, company executives said. The yet-unnamed MP3-digital camera, aimed at young consumers, is slated for launch by the end of the year. It comes with 16M bytes of flash memory, enough capacity to store about forty 640-x-480 dpi (dots per inch) resolution photos, or maybe four song in the MP3 digital music format, the company said. The camera will cost around £200, according to Gary DiCamillo, Polaroid chief executive officer. Polaroid has been targeting young customers with its recent products, for instance, the company's disposable mass-market I-Zone Instant Pocket cameras. The camera produces thumbnail-sized photographs on adhesive paper. "We're doing much better since we launched this camera," said Herbert "Skip" Colcord, a Polaroid spokesman. "We think we're going after a niche no one else is." Products like an MP3 player-camera are another example of Polaroid's attempts to reach the teenage market, said Ron Glaz, a digital camera industry analyst with International Data Corp (IDC) in the US. "Polaroid is big with the teen to early-twenty, cyber-savvy users," he added. However, at current prices of £1.25 to £1.50 a megabyte for extra memory, upgrading the combination device to a useful level for playing MP3 songs may add significantly to the camera's real price, Glaz said. At the higher end of the market, Polaroid intends to come out with a new digital camera which will allow a photographer to print a digital image on the spot using the company's silver-halide instant film. The photographic process converts the digital image to light, to which the film is then exposed. The digital printing camera is expected to be priced around £500, out of reach for most consumers and aimed firmly at the commercial market. IDC's Glaz said he was skeptical about the camera's appeal. "It's interesting technology," he said. "It's not one of those things that hits me as something people want." Combining instant developing with enabling users to select the better pictures they've taken for printing, the new camera effectively will also cut into the cost of film, said Timothy Palmer, a Polaroid vice president for consumer and business imaging. He and other company executives added that Polaroid hopes to combine its strength in instant photography with emerging technology, particularly wireless and portable technology. Palmer displayed a prototype camera with a modem and phone cord that will allow the instant download of photos to the Internet. He also discussed the development of a digital photo printer, which will use wireless technology to print and transfer images. The devices are currently scheduled for release in the second half of this year. "We expect a tenfold increase in the commercial use of digital images in three years," said Polaroid's DiCamillo, noting the need for online auction traders, real estate agents and insurance adjusters to display their wares online. IDC is a subsidiary of International Data Group, the parent company of Digit magazine.

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