Android-Powered Polaroid Smart Camera With 3x Optical Zoom Introduced At CES

2012 PMA Featured iPhoneography News Point and Shoot

Android-Powered Polaroid Smart Camera With 3x Optical Zoom Introduced At CESOne of the most interesting announcements at CES this year was the Polaroid SC1630 Smart Camera. It’s an Android-powered 16-megapixel camera with a 3x 36-108mm (equivalent) optical zoom lens instead of the standard fixed wide-angle you get with most smart phones. The Polaroid SC1630 Smart Camera gives you a real lens and real camera functionality along with wireless connectivity and all the benefits of Google’s Android operating system, including over 400,000 available apps. In theory, that means better photos to start with before you hit them with Hipstamatic, Instagram or Photoshop Express and then upload to Facebook, Twitter or your other social network of choice.

16-megapixel Android-Powered Polaroid SC1630 Smart Camera

I’ve been a bit critical of the iPhoneography movement – mostly because the cameras in smart phones are so limited and I don’t like to compromise quality too much. The Polaroid SC1630 Smart Camera addresses current smart phone camera limitations by putting the camera first, with a better lens and better camera controls. To be fair, the Eye-Fi Mobile X2 SD memory card with corresponding smart phone app and a good point-and-shoot camera does the same thing and does it even better (our Eye-Fi Mobile X2 card review). But by including a real zoom lens in an Android device, the Polaroid SC1630 is a move in the right direction. The Polaroid’s lens quality and image quality are still unknown, too. Just having a 16-megapixel sensor doesn’t actually make it a better camera. In fact, in small sensor cameras and camera phones, higher resolution often means worse image quality. So we’ll have to see some real-world samples before we can say the Polaroid SC1630 is actually a better camera. But Polaroid’s Smart Phone concept is definitely a good one.

Here’s a hands-on video of the Polaroid SC1630 Smart Camera from the CES tradeshow, last week in Las Vegas:

Besides my concern about the Polaroid SC1630’s actual image quality, people who played with the SC1630 at CES said the reaction time was a bit slow. Apparently it’s running an older version of Android and that’s probably the culprit. Polaroid says they plan to update the operating system and hopefully that will make the camera quicker. Right now there are no wireless carrier deals for the Polaroid SC1630, either. So it remains to be seen who, if anyone, will provide mobile wireless service for the SC1630. Polaroid says they’re negotiating with US carriers right now but they haven’t said who might be providing service for the camera.

Pricing and availability for the Polaroid SC1630 Smart Camera haven’t been announce yet but it’s looking like it will probably be available in the US sometime in the spring of 2012.

Polaroid SC1630 Smart Camera Press Release >>

About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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  • francois says:

    Convergence is good! I like how they’re thinking and rethinking things.

  • Photo-John says:

    I agree. The next step for camera phones is a better lens. Or – we could maybe have a camera with a phone built in. Still, for me, the Eye-Fi card already gives me all that. The only cost is I have to carry a point-and-shoot camera as well as my phone and I have to take the extra step of transferring the photo from the camera to the phone. That’s a small price to pay for better photos, I think.

  • PAul says:

    Polaroid is a total surprise as I didn’t see them as a phone manufacturer (to get the 3G chipset and Android) and had pretty much written them off as a quality camera manufacturer.
    I can see where they’re coming from here, with their backgrond in instant photography, but they’re rather late to the game comparing with other cameras with WiFi functions already doing this (maybe at better quality).
    Bluetooth is rather power hungry and short range, WiFi the competitors already have, what surprises me is that 3G is an option, not standard. If they’re going to stand out from the competition it needs 3G, how many parties where you want to share images will have WiFi?

    I would far prefer this camera to have an 8MP sensor, not cramming more pixels into a small sensor. After all it leads Apple by having optical zoom, all it needs is RAW and Adobe colour space to be more than a toy camera :)
    Having said that, when I had my car accident the registrar in A&E took a photo with his iPhone for the consultant (in the operating theatre two floors away) to check and advise on treatment, likely surgery time and so on. So lower resolution is adequate until someone changes the game by producing higher resolution.

    What makes this different is the programmability, if only there is good support for an API for the camera, that is going to be the key thing in producing apps that make this a killer piece of technology. Without support for the developers to produce the software and services to make this useful, it will flop painfully.
    I’m intrigued at the possibility of a programmable camera, for applications like cataloging work in progress.

    But there is no mention here of phone capability, just smart camera.
    I thought that a version of the tilt screen Samsung would be the first phone/camera crossover with even halfway decent lens and sensor and yet still retaining phone functions.
    Any bets on who will make a decent camera/phone?

  • Photo-John says:

    “But there is no mention here of phone capability, just smart camera.”

    Yeah, Paul. As best as I can tell, the Polaroid SC1630 has no phone capability. I sent two e-mails and made two phone calls to their PR people to try to get some questions answered and got no response so I had to go ahead and publish without knowing about phone capabilities. It’s possible that they fudged in their press release because they don’t have any carrier deals yet, It seems to me that if it’s running the Android OS then it can also work as a phone. But maybe I don’t really understand mobile phone tech well. Right now, all I know is that I don’t know :-)

    As far as what this specific device is or isn’t, can or can’t do – to some extent, that’s beside the point. Polaroid is moving things in the right direction with this device. Personally, I don’t think I’d buy a digital camera or a mobile device from Polaroid. But kudos to them for taking the logical next step.

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