Polaroid x530: Samples, previews (UPDATED)|
(Wednesday, April 13, 2005 - 00:03 EDT)
The Japanese Impress DC Watch website has today posted sample photos from the Polaroid x530 digital camera.
Actually manufactured by Hong Kong-based World Wide Licenses Ltd. and sold under the Polaroid brandname as part of an agreement formed during Polaroid's bankruptcy in 2002, the x530 is significant because it is the first point-and-shoot digital camera to be based on Foveon's X3 image sensor technology. Originally planned to ship in June 2004 at a price of $399, prototype cameras coupled the Foveon imager with a Ricoh zoom lens. The camera that Impress DC Watch tested (presumably itself still a prototype since there's no serial number in the product photos) now has no lens branding. As of the last we heard, the camera is expected to be available imminently, with pricing set at around $299.
Image quality in Impress DC Watch's samples is quite frankly rather poor - even the ISO 100 images have fairly visible noise, and at ISO 200 this has progressed to noticeable specks throughout much of the image. The lens used seems to be a problem as well, with significant purple fringing, barrel distortion, vignetting and what seems to be color casts in highlights / shadows displayed in the samples. Part of the problem seems to be the decision to offer interpolated images in the camera, implying that it has a much higher luminance resolution than the sensor actually offers. For more on this, see our earlier coverage of the announcement.
Bear in mind that, as noted above, this is likely still a prototype camera and image quality could improve in later models. We also don't know under what conditions the photos were taken. Still, given how much more aggressive digital camera pricing has become in the almost one year period since the camera was supposed to have reached the market, it is hard to see it selling in volume, unless image quality is equal to or better than that from well-established competitors such as Canon, Kodak, Nikon, Olympus, Sony and others. Foveon and World Wide Licenses would appear to have their work cut out for them...
UPDATED 2005-04-13 07:51ET: More details are appearing on the x530, with two previews in English now available. Both are rather vague as to whether they're based on pre-production or production cameras, but have some initial info on how the camera handles. It sounds like the camera is slow to operate, but offers a fair range of features. Probably the best point is the inclusion of what's apparently simply a rebadged version of that bundled with the Sigma SD9 / SD10 digital SLRs, which from experience we can confirm is pretty capable.
Both reviews have sample photos, with more apparently on the way. The photos look to confirm what we saw from Japan's Impress DC Watch website, although they don't look quite as bad. Noise still looks to be a problem, particularly in interpolated images, and there are some strange color effects in some of the images.
Most interesting though, given that Polaroid and Foveon persist in describing the camera and sensor as being 4.5 megapixels (despite the fact that they capture only 1.5 megapixels of luminance resolution), is the fact that the camera manual apparently states that the default, optimal resolution for printing is the 1.5 megapixel resolution - confirming what we're seeing from the sample images. The in-camera interpolation seems to be useful only for boosting spec sheets, providing little advantage over interpolation in your computer.
For more on this, look at the two previews - one from DigiCamReview.co.uk, and one posted on the personal website of a photographer known only by the alias 'Skaliwag'. ;)