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CES 2013: Polaroid's Android-driven interchangeable lens camera

This time last year Polaroid showcased the SC1630, an Android-based point-and-shoot camera that never became available to consumers. When I met with a Polaroid representative to discuss the company's 2013 Android CES camera - an interchangeable lens model with a twist - the first question I asked was, "Is this coming to market?" I was assured that there is a retail partner in place, although Polaroid is not yet ready to disclose who that partner is.

Set to sell for $399 (£249), the iM1836 (above) is actually manufactured by Sakar International, a company known for inexpensive toy cameras branded with Hello Kitty, Disney, and other popular licences. In terms of design, the camera looks a lot like the Nikon J1 right down to a similar 10-30mm f/3-5.6 zoom lens. It doesn't feel anything like the well-built J1, and its mainly plastic construction helps explain its aggressive price point.

As for the twist mentioned earlier? Well, the 18-megapixel image sensor is not in the camera; it's built into the lens. Polaroid explained that, at this price point, it's an appealing camera to customers who are not used to taking care of a digital camera with interchangeable lenses. There's no danger of dust getting on the image sensor, and no need to clean anything but the front element of the lens, something that anyone can do safely with care.

Ricoh took a similar approach in designing its modular GXR system. That camera was aimed solidly at photographic enthusiasts, a market that Polaroid has no aspirations of reaching with its take on the sensor-in-lens concept.

The iM1836 runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and will be upgraded to future versions of the OS as they become available. It includes the Google Play app store and is bundled with some software, including a video editing application.

The rear 3.5in LCD features a capacitive touch interface. There are no physical controls to speak of other than a top-mounted Mode dial. Despite giving you the ability to change lenses, this is a camera designed with point-and-shoot in mind.

It promises to deliver a number of automatic features to help even the most inexperienced photographer capture better images. It has automatic blink detection, and when you use the pop-up flash it optimises exposure using face detection, so your family snapshots will be properly illuminated.

As it's an Android device, sharing is just as easy as you'd expect it to be - connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot and you can send photos to your favourite social networking site. If Wi-Fi isn't available, you can transfer photos directly to your smartphone via Bluetooth. There is no 4G connectivity built into the camera, as there is with the Android Samsung Galaxy Camera EK-GC-100.

The iM1232 (pictured) is $349 (£218) and includes the same 10-30mm lens, but trades the touchscreen for a flip-up 3.5in LCD. It has Wi-Fi for photo-sharing, and offers blink detection and a panoramic mode. There's also a model without Wi-Fi - the $299 (£187) iM1030.

Polaroid promises that more lenses are coming, as is an adapter that will allow you to use Micro Four Thirds lenses with the camera. Further details are not available at this time. The company also announced a standard point-and-shoot camera in a bridge style body. The iS2433 features a 16-megapixel Sony BSI CMOS sensor, a 24x (25-600mm) zoom lens, and a 3in rear LCD; it's priced at $199 (£124). There is also a new camcorder, the iD975, which captures 1080p video and features a 10x zoom lens. It can also capture 16-megapixel still images.