Polaroid x530 recalled!|
(Friday, April 15, 2005 - 11:04 EDT)
We just received an email from an anonymous reader telling us that the Polaroid x530 digital camera has been recalled in the United Kingdom.
Although sold under the Polaroid brand, the x530 is actually manufactured by Hong Kong-based World Wide Licenses Ltd (WWL). During Polaroid's bankruptcy proceedings in 2002, the company gave WWL an exclusive license to sell Polaroid-branded digital cameras. Amongst a number of cameras WWL sells under the agreement, the x530 is particularly interesting because it is the first point-and-shoot model to be based on a Foveon X3 CMOS image sensor.
Unlike most image sensors which employ a patterned filter over the imager to allow it to capture one color value for each pixel location (either red, green or blue), Foveon's X3 sensors are capable of detecting values for all three colors at every pixel location. Further background information on X3 image sensors can be found in our coverage of the technology announcement.
A phone call to the UK office of World Wide Licenses Ltd. confirmed that the camera is being recalled. Our anonymous reader told us that the company explained the recall was due to "image quality problems"; WWL told us simply that there was a "firmware issue". The camera has been withdrawn from retailers in the UK, and customers who have already received an x530 are being asked to return it to the retailer for a refund. We were told that the x530 will be re-released, but WWL could not give a firm date as to when this would happen.
The news honestly isn't very surprising; we noted ourselves on seeing the first samples from the camera that image quality was subpar. It is likely that the recall is intended to address the problems with noise and/or color problems we noted in these early samples. The camera's firmware will play a large part in determining both variables. WWL can hopefully reign in the noise without adversely affecting image sharpness, and fix the color casts some images seemed to show in highlight / shadow areas.
It seems unlikely, however, that anything can / will be done in firmware to address the lens-related problems we noted in the samples, including significant barrel distortion, purple fringing and vignetting. (Techniques do exist to combat such problems in firmware, but they'd need to be designed into the camera from day one, and given reports we've heard of the x530 being slow to operate, it seems unlikely the necessary processor power is available to take on any extra tasks).
The Polaroid x530 was first announced in February 2004, and originally planned to ship in June 2004. The first cameras finally began shipping a few days ago, after eight months of delays. The x530 is somewhat controversial for the fact that its manufacturer (and indeed Foveon, which manufactures the image sensor) describe it as having a resolution of 4.5 megapixels - even though the sensor itself records only 1.5 megapixels of luminance resolution (and indeed, the product manual apparently states that the optimum image resolution for prints is 1.5 megapixels - not the interpolated 4.5 megapixel resolution).