SMaL's ultra-thin digicam gets a major update
Michael R. Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Monday, February 3, 2003 - 08:00 EST)
SMaL Camera Technologies, the company behind the digital camera recognized by the Guinness World Records as the "Thinnest Camera" (the record is listed in the Science and Tech :: Gadgets category) has today announced a replacement for the record-holding camera design.
A digital camera based on SMaL's UltraPocket reference design was first commercialised by Fuji Japan as the AXIA eyeplate in March 2002, and subsequently Logitech, Radio Shack, Oregon Scientific and Creative Labs weighed in with their own versions. There's no questioning these cameras' portability, and many digital camera owners would doubtless like a second camera which sacrificed some of their high-end camera's features - but was small enough to go anywhere.
A few things have perhaps held SMaL's initial design back from more widespread ownership, though - resolution, storage and low-light capabilities. All four variants of the first-generation SMaL UltraPocket design were based around a VGA CMOS imager (Creative Labs unfortunately decided to advertise their camera as "1.3 megapixel" and don't mention the sensor resolution in their spec sheet, but look closely and you'll notice the word "interpolated" lurking in the specifications.) The new UltraPocket kit features a
1.3 megapixel CMOS imager, a better than four-fold increase in the total resolution. Where previously the UltraPocket was best suited to photos for the web and email, the new UltraPocket should offer owners the ability to make prints (the general concensus being that 1.3 megapixel should give a pretty good 3" x 5" print, or a fair 4" x 6" print). The lens optics have also been upgraded to match the higher resolution sensor, which will result in the new UltraPocket being slightly thicker than the previous version.
The next major change - and one that was certainly a necessary update considering the significant increase in resolution - is that of storage. The original UltraPocket design offered only 8MB of memory, and this was increased to 16MB in Logitech's version. Still, even 16MB would scarcely be enough, so SMaL's new design provides for a Secure Digital slot to allow for unlimited storage - or at least, limited only by the number of SD cards you purchase. ;)
Finally, SMaL's new UltraPocket design includes provision for a built-in strobe flash, answering the biggest remaining criticism - that when you'd most likely want to take a photo (in low light, say at a birthday party or candlelit dinner), you'd not have sufficient light for a useable exposure. Really, the only things the UltraPocket doesn't have now are those you'd never expect in a camera so small - a zoom lens, manual control, and an LCD screen for reviewing or framing your images. Certainly, the upgrade promises to make the UltraPocket a much more viable solution, and perhaps a worthy second camera for when you're too tired to carry several thousand dollars of digital SLR around your neck!
Photos of the front and back of the SMaL UltraPocket 1.3 Megapixel kit follow, and really show off what a good job SMaL's engineers have done packing an entire camera into the smallest possible space. Since SMaL doesn't sell directly to the public, we'll have to wait until the first partner is announced to find out details on pricing and availability, as well as what the camera body will look like. That said, SMaL says that the new camera will have "the same sleek credit card size of its predecessor, the Ultra-Pocket VGA, with only a slight increase in thickness due to higher resolution optics".
Images courtesy of SMaL, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins
SMaL Camera Technologies
Original Source Press Release:
SMaL Camera Technologies Announces the Availability of Next Generation Digital Imaging Kit to Enable World's Thinnest and Lightest 1.3-Megapixel Digital Cameras
Record Number of Shipments of SMaL Ultra-Pocket VGA Kits Delivered in 2002 Confirms Leadership and Momentum of Company
Cambridge, Mass., (February 3, 2003) - SMaL Camera Technologies, a developer of electronic imaging solutions and the creator of the award-winning 6mm thin Ultra-Pocket® VGA digital still camera, announced today the availability of its new Ultra-Pocket 1.3-Megapixel digital imaging kits, enabling consumer electronics manufacturers and specialty retailers to develop the world's thinnest, lightest and most convenient 1.3-megapixel digital still cameras. The new Ultra-Pocket 1.3-Megapixel kit includes SMaL's proprietary 1.3-megapixel CMOS imager with Autobrite®, ASIC controller, lithium-polymer rechargeable battery, taking lens, viewfinder, and complete camera reference design. SMaL also announced today that it delivered a record of more than half a million Ultra-Pocket VGA kits in 2002, enabling several leading brands to successfully release a SMaL-enabled credit card camera in 2002.
The Ultra-Pocket 1.3-Megapixel kit enables the same sleek credit card size of its predecessor, the Ultra-Pocket VGA, with only a slight increase in thickness due to higher resolution optics. It supports added functionality, including a strobe flash and an SD card for expanded memory storage. The kit features SMaL's proprietary low-power technology and lithium-polymer rechargeable battery. This unique combination allows consumers to take hundreds of pictures on a single charge and then recharge the battery automatically each time the camera is connected to a PC or Mac via USB cable. This added factor offers a significant advantage in convenience and cost-savings over existing digital still cameras that require frequent charges or battery replacements. In addition, the 1.3-megapixel resolution results in high quality photo prints as large as 5x7 inches.
"SMaL's Ultra-Pocket 1.3-Megapixel kit allows OEMs to produce the ideal mass-market digital camera in record time," says Maurizio Arienzo, president and CEO of SMaL Camera Technologies. "The remarkable success of our first generation Ultra-Pocket kit demonstrates the enormous worldwide demand for extremely slim, easy-to-use, high quality digital cameras for both first-time digital camera buyers as well as owners of bulky, more expensive models. And its unique combination of size, battery life, strobe flash and Autobrite technology ensures that consumers will never miss an opportunity to capture life's spontaneous moments."
The Ultra-Pocket 1.3-Megapixel kit features SMaL's proprietary Autobrite technology, which adapts to bright lighting conditions such as backlighting or glare, solving the dynamic range problem that exists with most other digital cameras. The kit also includes a user-friendly software photo album that consumers can use to manage and enjoy their digital photos. Kit samples are available immediately for qualified OEMs.
In addition to enabling existing and future lifestyle digital cameras and cameras in cell phones, SMaL's technology is being leveraged in the surveillance and automotive market. In the security and surveillance markets, SMaL's Ultra-Wide and Autobrite technologies enable video cameras that help security professionals increase safety and security with the display of wide-angle views and clear, crisp video content, regardless of extreme variations of brightness within the same scene. In the automotive market, SMaL's Autobrite technology provides high-quality video that will enable driver assistance applications in the near future.
About SMaL Camera Technologies (www.SMaLcamera.com)
SMaL Camera Technologies is an award-winning developer of electronic imaging solutions for the digital camera, security and surveillance, consumer electronics and automotive markets. SMaL's solutions are built around its proprietary CMOS image sensors, video processing ASICs and Autobrite® technology. These solutions provide previously unavailable benefits, revolutionizing the digital photo and video markets. With SMaL's consumer solutions, featuring low-power consumption and advanced imaging techniques, consumer electronics manufacturers can now offer convenient digital photography by producing the thinnest, most user-friendly digital cameras and mobile imaging devices in the world. SMaL's technology powers digital still cameras from leading consumer electronics companies. In the security & surveillance markets, SMaL's Autobrite technology enables video cameras that help security professionals increase safety and security with the display of clear and crisp video content, regardless of extreme variations of brightness within the same scene. In the automotive market, SMaL's Autobrite technology provides high-quality video that will enable driver assistance applications of the future. SMaL was co-founded and launched in 1999 by leading electronic imaging experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). SMaL is a privately held, venture-backed company headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
For more information on SMaL Camera Technologies and its products, visit the company's web site at http://www.SMaLcamera.com.
Ultra-Pocket® and Autobrite® are Registered Trademarks of SMaL Camera Technologies, Inc.
# # #