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2009.08.08

Nikon just launched the Coolpix S1000pj and 4 new ultra-compact digital cameras. At the base, this is a 12 megapixels camera with 5X wide-angle optical zoom and a 2.7″ LCD screen. The unique feature of the S1000pj is the inclusion of a built-in projector. This is micro-projector that sends a VGA-resolution image up to 40″ wide as far as 6′ 6″ (2m), for up to one hour on a single battery charge.

The integration of such a projector in a camera which is under 1″ thick is quite a technical achievement. This is going to be the one of the most unique and talked-about camera for a while. At, the same time, it does open up many questions, at least for me:

  • What is the expected use case?
  • Did they really have that much free space in the camera?
  • Could they have made a camera and projector bundle instead?

The Nikon teaser shows the camera projecting images from memory onto a flat wall-like surface. That is cool but when is it the case that right images just happen to be in the camera? Taking pictures and projecting them immediately seems like a party trick which may get tired quite fast. In general, people show images from previous events, to share with those not orginally present. In such case, most likely the desired images are not in the camera. Even if there are, a set of images is best shared after cutting the number down to a compact set of quality images. It’s going to be like preparing a memory-card for a digital photo-frame.

Ultra-compact cameras are already quite small but they have not been getting any smaller. Micro-projectors are quite small too but comparable to an ultra-compact camera. It makes me wonder what could have gone there instead that is of a more photographic nature. At least having a larger battery would have helped the 220-shot battery-life of the Nikon Coolpix S1000pf. A few years back there were ultra-compact cameras that could shoot more than 550 pictures on a single charge. They don’t make them like they used to! Other possibilities include more processing power to improve operational speed, focus and white-balance accuracy. Kodak once used extra space for a second lens and sensor in their Easyshare V570.

Now since the pictures to project generally have to be prepared separately, why not make the projector detachable from the camera? They could still share battery and memory but would make the camera much lighter and smaller. That’s a lot of questions… but ultimately buyers will decide on the usefulness and value of the innovative Nikon Coolpix S1000pf.

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