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A new Nikon COOLPIX compact digital camera is the first digital camera in the world to feature a built-in miniature projector. This innovative camera represents the advent of a new type of video tool for viewing and sharing photo images via a compact, lightweight camera body. From their individual viewpoints, the project manager and personnel in charge of engineering and the GUI talk about the development of this particular product.

Katsura Komiyama
Marketing (Consumer Products), Marketing Department, Marketing Headquarters, Imaging Company
Involved for many years with cameras and imaging work, Mr. Komiyama joined Nikon in 2006. The COOLPIX S1000pj is his first camera project with Nikon. As a product manager, he is engaged in total management from product conceptualization to budgets, workflow, sales and marketing. Since his hobby is taking and viewing photos, he doubles as an ardent tester of new products when he is out in the field.
Takao Goto
Design 2, 3rd Designing Department, Development Headquarters, Imaging Company
Mr. Goto has been engaged in the design of compact cameras since joining Nikon in 1995. He has mainly been involved with Nikon's more innovative products, such as the Nuvis S during the age of film and COOLPIX models 5200, 8800, and P1 in the digital age. Mr. Goto is an avid photographer and on days off heads to the mountains and other destinations to take photos of his favorite scenery.
Yuya Adachi
Graphic Design, Industrial Design Department, Imaging Company
After joining Nikon in 2006, Adachi has been involved with designing the touch-panel GUI (graphical user interface) of the COOLPIX S60 that was released last year. He was in charge of the GUI for the rear LCD of the S1000pj and was particularly involved in slideshow production. In his free time, Mr. Adachi likes shopping and is particularly adept at discovering things he likes no matter where he is.

Proposing a revolutionary compact digital camera that also acts as a communications tool

The world's first compact camera with a built-in projector has just been released. First tell us about its features.

Mr. Komiyama describes product concepts and how they can be enjoyed.


The projector function on the camera is of course its biggest feature. Until now, Nikon has focused on how to take photos, but we have recently moved one step further to focus our attention on how to enjoy the photos that are taken with the camera. This started when someone came to us with a suggestion about allowing many people to view photos from one camera. Normally, it's only possible for one or two people to view photos on the camera's LCD, so we developed a camera with a projector that would allow photos to be shared by lots of people.

How is the projector actually used?


The camera has a dedicated projector button, so just pressing the button switches the camera to Projector Mode. The photos can then be projected on a white wall or on a mini-screen sold separately. The camera projects not only still photos but also videos. The projected image size ranges between 5 and 40 inches. A simple stand comes with the camera, so you can mount the camera on the stand and use the remote control to operate the camera from a distance. We put a lot of effort into the user interface.

What sorts of situations did you have in mind for the projector feature to be used?


We based this feature on the “anywhere, anytime” concept, so it can be used in a variety of situations such as a living room at home or while traveling. If you're traveling with your family, for instance, you could enjoy the photos you took that day on the wall of your hotel room. You could also show them at events or parties. You could even project them on the ceiling as a sort of bedtime story for children. Since you can also add effects such as music or characters, you could make a slideshow to show in what could become your personal cinema. Other ideas - more unusual ones - would be to check the performance of players after a sports game or to project your favorite photos as part of your home interior. People can use the projector feature in virtually any way they like. Our aim has been to let people enjoy more communication with friends and acquaintances or their children and family.

Mr. Goto talks about how the projector was designed and his team's attention to detail.

That's wonderful. The vision simply expands with the imagination. What prompted you to make a product like this?


We can't expect any further major growth in the compact camera market, so we decided that, as a company, we needed to come up with something new. When we sent out an internal questionnaire to find ideas for new products, we received a query about whether it would be possible for photos to be projected by the camera as soon as they were taken. At first we thought it would be pretty difficult, but after looking into it, we discovered that miniature projectors were already being developed, so we decided to make a product out of it.

Before you made a product, didn't you first have to do some planning and development concerning whether a projector could fit into a camera?


Yes. The first thing we did was to make a projector unit, but we started with a size that didn't fit into a camera at all. Nikon has expertise in projectors but no projector products, so we started with basic technology.

Free-form lens concept to overcome the hurdles of producing a projector camera

Mr. Goto, you oversaw the engineering of this camera. How did you actually proceed with it?


First of all, we wanted this product to be the same size as a normal compact camera. Since the projector had to fit into the camera, this determined what size the projector needed to be. Next came our target for brightness, which we assumed to be 10 lumens. This level of brightness enables images projected at about 10 inches in size to be viewed in the room of an average house at night with the light on. Another aim was to achieve up to an hour of continuous projection. To clear these three hurdles, we realized that we had to address issues such as the power that would be consumed and the performance required of the lens, so we developed a host of prototypes one after another to find the right balance.

What area gave you the most trouble?


The brightness of images invariably suffered when we got the projector small enough to fit into a camera body. We put a lot of effort into the optics to solve this problem. To project with a brightness of 10 lumens, we needed to efficiently use the light emanating from the white LED light source. We had a lot of trouble designing those optical parts.

Are there any similarities between the optics of a projector and those of a camera lens?

Mr. Adachi, in charge of the GUI, worked hard to produce slideshow animations.


Yes, there are similarities, but as we progressed, we realized we had to completely change our approach in order to use the light more efficiently. In the end, we had to use a special lens that was completely different from the camera lens. In the structure of the projector, the light from the white LED first passes through a condensing lens and is reflected off a reflective LC panel. The reflected light then passes through the projector lens for imaging and the result is projected onto the screen surface. Since the brightness of the LED light source could not be changed, we developed a free-form lens for the condensing lens so that we could use the light more efficiently.

What sort of lens is a condensing lens?


This lens is neither spherical nor aspherical but has a special shape that looks like ripples. At first we used an aspherical lens that normal cameras use, but we were not able to achieve 10 lumens of brightness. So we decided to find out what would happen if we drastically changed the shape of the lens. After making repeated simulations on a computer, we arrived at a free-form shape that considerably improved light condensation, and after making two or three prototypes, we finally found a way to make it into a product. I think our success in developing this lens was the breakthrough that led to the advent of our projector camera.