It is well known that since the proliferation of digital photography the amount of images being printed has decreased substantially. This should no longer surprise anyone, especially if you shoot a lot of film and get those stacks of prints back, when all you needed was a decent contact sheet (not an “index print”).
So here comes Canon with an interesting attempt to get people printing something: ClipChip. The site is in Japanese, but on the front page runs a flash movie which should give you an idea how it works.
Canon has been maintaining an interactive website called Image Gateway for quite a while. I remember registering for it when buying my PowerShot G2 way back in 2001. You can upload your images and produce the usual array of prints, calendars, books and of course the obligatory Japanese greeting cards for all occasions like summer and new year. Once ordered results will arrive in the mail a few days later.
ClipChip has its own dedicated website. The output is a deck of business card sized prints that can be inserted into a small plastic holder (the supplied clip) holding around two dozens of cards. Here is a PDF which explains it, again in Japanese but with lots of photos and diagrams. It is delivered in two flat sheets with the cards pre-cut for easy removal. The cost is ¥430 for a set plus postage (within Japan only, obviously). Print quality is good printed on Canon’s own imagePRESS C7000VP/C6000 on-demand line (and so it should be at that size, consequently even mobile phone photos should look good). As you know in Japan there is a bit of obsession around cards of all kinds: the businessmen with their obligatory ID, errr, business cards, teenage girls producing photo labels in the ubiquitous pericula machines and kids (mostly boys it seems) with all sorts of collectible character cards (you will recall the Pokemon craze).
But let us also remember that cards and photography are very old companions indeed; in the early days of the medium one major practical application was to produce cartes de visite, visiting cards, that would bear your likeness and would be handed whenever visiting someone’s house. I think the photographic print physically presented to someone still holds a lot of power today.
Apart from the photograph itself with a caption the ClipChip cards also contain a unique URL and a barcoded link for mobile phones to access the image online. There it can be viewed and used for blogging purposes. This makes a nice connection between the physical and the virtual in an interactive way.
I am not sure whether ClipChip will be a massive commercial success, but let’s bear in mind that Canon’s main objective is to add more applications and fun to the digital cameras they are selling, so it may well be heavily subsidized. No matter its uptake or how long it will be around for, I think we should applaud anyone putting their efforts into exploring new ways of a physical presentation of photographs, especially in the consumer area. Perhaps I will try to produce one or two decks with some interesting images, they might even be usable as a kind of business card (even if you are not a businessperson a card is always good in this society, and everybody will have one). Perhaps others will think of more creative uses for this product.
In case you are curious to try out ClipChip for yourself we could act as a proxy for you for a small fee. Please contact us if interested.