Monday, June 23, 2008

Moto and Kodak cooperate on cam-phone

Motorola and Kodak have developed a co-branded 5-megapixel cameraphone that they contend will encourage some consumers to quit using a separate digital still camera. The bar-type ZN5, due in the US by the end of the year, “is a fully functional high-quality Kodak camera,” a Kodak spokeswoman said. “This will more than satisfy many consumers who currently carry two devices.”

The quad-band GSM/EDGE phone delivers picture quality that “surpasses the quality of some digital cameras,” added Roger Jellicoe, Motorola’s VP of multimedia products. Compared to other-brand cameraphones, including SonyEricsson’s Cyber-shot series of cameraphones, “We really believe this is a very superior imaging experience from the standpoints of quality of image, user interface, and ease of sharing,” he contended.

The ZN5 is the first product in what the companies expect to be a series of co-branded cameraphones resulting from a 10-year alliance announced a couple of years ago. US pricing wasn’t revealed, nor would Motorola divulge whether the phone would be marketed through carrier channels or sold direct to retailers as an unsubsidized unlocked phone. The device will launch first in China, followed by a global launch.

The cameraphone, Jellicoe contended, overcomes the three major sources of consumer dissatisfaction with cameraphones: picture quality, ease of use, and photo sharing.

To overcome quality challenges, Motorola and Kodak incorporated multiple technologies, including proprietary Kodak Processing Smart algorithms that adjust white balance, reduce noise, etc. Kodak Perfect Touch software embedded in the camera pulls detail out of the shadows to deliver a brighter picture without overexposing the picture. Motorola reduced the size of phone components enough to make room for a Xenon-type flash used in traditional digital still cameras. “Most other cameraphones use super-bright LEDs for flashes, but they are not as bright as Xenon flashes, so the picture is blurry if your hand shakes because a long exposure time is needed,” Jellicoe explained.

The ZN5 has a digital zoom but not optical zoom.

To overcome ease-of-use challenges, the companies developed a fast autofocus feature that operates in less than a second to reduce shutter lag. When the phone is held horizontally, the shutter button appears on the top right of the device in the same location as a traditional digital camera, with the zoom button appearing on the left. When the lens cover is opened, the LCD screen on the other side of the phone turns into a viewfinder, phone-related keys go dark, and camera-dedicated keys light up.

In another ease-of-use development, the companies will bundle Kodak Easy Share software, which automatically launches on a PC when it detects that the phone has been connected to the PC via USB. The software then automatically pulls pictures off the camera and organizes them.

Also to simplify use, the cameraphone sports a dedicated Kodak Gallery button, enabling one-touch uploading of photos via cellular EDGE technology or embedded Wi-Fi to the Kodak Gallery on-line photo sharing site. Users can also post pictures to other photo-sharing sites.

Also to enable photo sharing, the ZN5 uses Bluetooth to transmit photos to Kodak printers and to Kodak’s 90,000 photo kiosk worldwide, more than half of which are in US retail stores. The phone also connects via USB to Kodak digital picture frames, which automatically detect the cameraphone and begins displaying the phone’s photos automatically. A 3.5mm stereo headphone jack doubles as a TV output to display pictures on a TV to the accompaniment of stored music. That feature, if available on other cameraphones, is not widely available in the US, Jellicoe said. An included adapter cable connects the phone to a TV’s AV inputs.

The ZN5 is Motorola’s first 5-megapixel camera, and other-brand cameraphones with equivalent or higher resolution are not widely available in the US, Jellicoe added. Other features include extensive on-device photo-editing tools, music player software, 350MB of embedded memory, and microSD slot that accepts cards up to 4GB. (info from TWICE)
This is a preview, not a review.

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