Obvious things first, it's QVGA. Yes that's 320x240 and remember this is a stills camera, not video.
The sensor is just raw exposed through a pinhole, no actual lense.
There's no compensation layer to remove noise or compensate for defects in the sensor, so you get dead pixels and other noise in your shots. There's no JPEG, just raw data and the driver makes it into an image.
Ok bad but you've seen worse right? I'm just getting started. Flash is expensive so they didn't use it. The camera has DRAM in it. If the batteries die (which they will after maybe two hours of inactivity) every lousy picture is lost. It's not good DRAM either, no need. They used seconds so some extra pixels are dead or bright in particular shots every time, some fade before the batteries die.
There's a single button control, and the "LCD display" is literally a counter that tells you rough battery remaining and shots taken, no images.
It is amazing. They tell you the best camera is the one you have with you. But if you have this, the best camera is probably to describe the scene in a tweet. Higher fidelity.
AFAIR it's so cheap it has no model number, describing itself only as "Camera" or something.
But it had the worst rolling shutter effect I've ever seen. Just taking a photo in not the brightest of sunlight holding it in your hand you're liable to get a wavy image.
Mustek MDC3000 was my first digital camera, which took me on a journey through Canon Powershot S2 IS, Nikon D1x, Nikon D200, and now Fuji x100.
Mustek MDC 3000 was amazingly versatile: plug it into a computer, and it becomes a webcam (same as the Mini you had, IIRC), could shoot videos. Daylight quality was good. If it had manual controls, it would have been amazing for the money (about $200).
I semi-killed my Mustek by trying to power it off a DC adapter by hotwiring it to the battery terminal, and mixing up the polarity or the voltage. It still worked as a webcam after that!
100's of thousands of shots later (on other cameras), I still have my Mustek, hoping to repair it one day.
My records say it claimed to be a "Che-ez! Snap / iClick Tiny VGA Digital Camera". Which, straight away there's one lie because VGA is 640x480 and this camera couldn't do that. Presumably somebody making a $5 camera used this chip with an actual lens, a sensor and maybe even flash (both kinds).
They were sold as "pen-cams", skinny and rather elongated. They weren't actually pen size, but they did sit in a front shirt pocket without standing up too much.
Now days of course you can buy pens with actual digital cameras in them.
isnt't raw data a feature available only on high-level Canon DSLRs and not available PowerShots, even on pricey ones?
RAW stills are considered a professional feature primarily because the average consumer's needs are better met with JPEG, not because RAW is an expensive feature to implement (unless you count the additional storage requirements).
Once that sunk in, I was considering offering to send him my old Canon Digital IXUS II and my wife's old Fuji digital camera which we have the orginal packaing and manuals for, but it seems the owner is planning to sell up so I decided against making the offer.
Time for another browse on eBay!
Or get the timing right and you could get Matrix style "bullet time" effects:
The amount of technological improvement and decrease in cost between that camera and a 2003 Olympus point-and-shoot was stunning. I don't think I've seen hardware advance that quickly at any other point, except maybe PDAs around 2003 or smartphones around the introduction of the iPhone in 2007.
The floppy disk storage was amazing, so convenient. I seem to remember the disk fitting about the same number of images as a roll of film, 24 or so.
I still have the files,
they are 30k to 60k jpegs at 640x480 pixels!
It was basically a Sony video camera with the nice 10x optical zoom without the tape and with a floppy instead.
It looked something like this (may not be the exact model).
It's weird to look at the history of Kodak's digital camera lineup. It's often said that Kodak fell because they didn't invest in the technology early enough and were too late by the time they started to do so in the 90s.
I would argue that the existing user base of Canon and Nikon in the 80s probably contributed more to that - although Kodak made SLRs they didn't make lenses, and instead offered compatibility with Canon/Nikon's mounts. The problem is that the users of those lenses were more than likely to buy camera bodies manufactured by the same company, and not Kodak. Had Kodak offered bodies in the 80s then it's doubtful they would have sold to Canon/Nikon users due to the costs.
It seems they were damned by either going for too much (cost) too soon, or too little too late.
I think this is often used as an example of the "innovators dilemma" i.e. Kodak's cash cow was film sales. Every digital camera sold would potentially eliminate a film customer forever. So internally there was just an unwillingness to admit that the future was digital. So many people thinking things like "serious/pro photographers will never abandon film" or "digital will never have the quality of film" and for a little while they were right. By the time they realized they were wrong it was too late.
What's also odd is that they had really great image sensor technology, used heavily in scientific and medical instruments, and somehow lost the lead there too.
My fifth (arguable) digital camera was a DC-3200; I still own several (others that I picked up at Goodwill).
I say fifth and arguable because my first real digital camera, prior to it, was this no-name cheapo QVGA camera that took horrible pictures. Prior to that were a series of digitizers (a Dazzle for my 486, some digitizer for my Amiga, and a DS-69b for my TRS-80 Color Computer). There may have been a quickcam or two in there as well.
Anyhow - yeah, it was a really nice camera, and I still keep it around (and the extras I bought) for taking "shop" pictures when my hands are dirty, or I'm in a "dirty" environment (welding, automotive work, etc). Don't want to ruin my phone or my "good" camera.
But I do know of one major downside (ok, two):
1. Slow to take a picture - you had to press the button, and wait - don't move - otherwise it'd blur.
2. Ate AA batteries for lunch - you'd be lucky to get 2 hours out of a set.
But other than those two things - it was really nice camera!
Looking back at the photos it took (on a 32MB CF I bought for USD 32), I'm surprised as to how good they were and how they are comparable (at least without pixel peeping) to a 2014-era smartphone.
I think smartphones, particularly the iPhone, set us back a few years in photo quality where the convenience of an always accessible camera made us ignore the obvious lower quality images that they produced.
If you look at photos on social media from 2004-2010, you'll see that they are often higher quality than more recent photos, though we are now at a tipping point where computational photography has started to make up for the smaller lenses and poorer optics of phone camera.
Reminded of my first digital camera I used - the Apple QuickTake camera appearing in 94.
While they were built by Fuji and Kodak, I believe the Apple Cameras predated Fuji and Kodak releasing their own.
Edit: I hope the author can add this camera to his collection, it's so comprehensive it didn't register when reading on a mobile device that it was more than a list.
I remember the alternative was contacting someone that had one of these new fangled digital cameras.
The camera took better pictures than many of the entry-level offerings from Kodak and Canon that came even YEARS later.
I remember buying it at Staples and having them price match from the internet (saving me something like $150) before internet price-matching stopped being a thing (until it started being a thing again in the past couple years).
It had a smartmedia (like the Rio 500) and I too got it from Staples or somewhere with a price match too
I had some friends in the campus bookstore, which had a very close relationship with Apple (as was common in those days), and through them was able to get my hands on a QuickTake 100 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_QuickTake), one of the earliest consumer-level digital cameras. As soon as I started working that camera into my curriculum it became obvious to me that digital cameras were going to be a Very Big Thing. The kids took to it like fish to water, they loved taking pictures with it, and then when I showed them how to transfer those pictures to one of the Macs in the school computer lab and then publish them in a simple static-HTML Web page for their friends and family to see they were practically over the moon.
As with many Apple innovations of that era, the QuickTake was doomed by being just a little too far ahead of its time -- too expensive for average people to afford, too low-res due to the primitive sensors, and too clunky to use from the lack of simple ways to interface with a PC (USB 1.0 had only just been standardized and wouldn't start showing up in PCs for another year or two). It died at Steve Jobs' hands in the great massacre of Apple products followed his return in 1997, so that part of the future was left for others to make fortunes off of, at least until the iPhone came along a decade later. But even now, more than 20 years later, I still remember that camera.
A compound eye of phase detection points, laser, sonar as well as regular contrast detection would be interesting. Each has their own strengths and limitations.
(For context the camera listed above uses sonar autofocus - basically echolocation)
Sometimes I look at pictures taken with my 2006-era 3MP Nikon Coolpix and marvel at how bad they look compared to anything I was using from 2013 onwards.
By today's standards it's garbage of course, but it was a cool camera at the time. The thing I find most disappointing is how useless they are -- there's no real value in them; they're not like old film cameras where you can still take good, interesting photos.
It's fun to see the evolution of technology, as now my iPhone XS is vastly superior to most things on this list, and of course my big Nikon DSLR blows them all away.
You can see the point where cheap cameras became increasingly easy for anyone to assemble from commoditized parts in China, which was apparently one of the reasons it became infeasible for Kodak/Fuji to transition their entire film business to digital cameras (it was much easier to produce a decent digital camera than film)
I graduated to a HP 618 a year later and the picture quality was excellent. I still have the camera and I could probably get by with it today if I needed to.
I remember my boss showing me a really early Casio camera in the 90's. That was the first digital camera I ever got to play with.
Great site, love it.
Oddly, it was an effect tool for up-selling cameras. The higher end cameras tended to last slightly longer before getting binned.
Unfortunately, the camera also used DRAM and would lose all your images if the batteries got bounced loose.
Slid in a floppy disk and failed to write to it when pressing the shutter button on the camera. Didn't get it working and forget if I tried to format the floppy from the camera or not, if such method exists?
Every thing afterward came in fiberglass bodies.
Still have the G1!
Now..I had been trying to take infra red photos with film for years and I totally sucked at it. It was expensive and it was tricky. You couldn’t use just any camera because anything with electric features would leave a mark on the film because light acted different on IR film/aperture ..it was heat that registered. And gosh..one couldn’t find a place to process it. Every shot was hit and miss. I don’t think I made even one good IR film print.
And then..it all changed with the G1 IR lens hack. I was so excited that I told everyone and blabbed endlessly. I did invite scorn mostly as it was considered ‘cheating’. The older photographers wouldnt stop pontificating about the virtues and glory of IR in film media.So I just stopped teaching people the trick. Suckers!
Anyways..it won’t work with other digital P&S cameras that came later. To me, G1 was almost SLR quality because of the Carl Zeiss lens. Even with the focal length magnifier aspect!
Fast forward many years and I got a DSLR(D3 and then canon D6). This trick sadly wouldn’t work with the new dslr cameras...it has something to do with a sensor light hitting the mirror.(sorry. I forget).
And then I found out that someone made conversions for several hundred dollars but it would mean that it will only take IR shots(images still has to be digitally manipulated..the alteration was inbthe camera..not the lens or lens filter..). Also. It needed a dedicated lens and it was fixed. You can’t use different lens interchangeably. But it was still worth it for me. When I finally got a second DSLR many years later, I sent my old canon for the conversion and I think I use a 50 prime lens with it. It’s an older dslr and still has the 1.6x multiplier. It’s ok. With digital tweaking, I can now print 20x30 prints(Hellooooooo, Costco!!!) that is borderline medium format quality. It’s better with landscape shots than portraits. Altho IR can make a wrinkly 70 year old look like a teenager with gorgeous clear skin.
How things have changed since film days! I enjoyed this one. Thanks for posting!
I probably have one not listed somewhere... I'll contribute if I stumble upon it : Creative PC-Cam 300 ;)
Couple more in day light.;
For a long time it was better for camera phone pictures, and they were often a real pain to get off the phones and so often were lost when the phone was replaced. I have a bunch of old phone cameras with no way to charge them and no way to get the pics off. Ah well. I still have the Chameleon somewhere, I should see if there are any 'final' snaps still on it!
Anyway, I kept it and ended up digging it up in 2010 from a box of old stuff to crack it open and make it an IR camera. Something went wrong, so now it's fixed focus at ~3ft, and with a few bits of dust permanently on the sensor... but, it worked! The focus issue prevents it from being very useful, but it's really cool as it is VERY sensitive to both IR and UV light. Using a very deep 920nm IR filter with it, I have to decrease exposure on a bright day or it's blown out... and it can very easily see UV patterns on things inside when the sun is out. I have a faded shirt that looks just black, but with the camera it can see the original lettering etc as if it were new... but also it looks magenta rather than black. Even with tungsten lights, the IR sensitivity is stronger than normal light and can end up with some crazy pictures that have "color" but not true color.
Here's some example pictures:
* https://i.imgur.com/5ZKmgFm.jpg reading text on a letter through an opaque black shirt (UV/IR illuminated through windows)
* https://i.imgur.com/IYzdhXP.jpg an out of focus look out of my house on a summer day (notice red leaves, brown grass)
* https://i.imgur.com/STSPbq5.jpg IR "enhanced" portrait in a car. Her hair is deep red and the coat she's wearing is black and white only.
* https://i.imgur.com/7gSzCTT.jpg looking partially through a deep IR filter
The only good UV-only photos I have tend to be flash pictures. The built in xenon flash appears to output enough UV that it will burn through IR filters. It definitely appears to be UV though because of different colors used and the way certain things will fluoresce
I've done some film B/W IR photography but with film it's so temperamental and I've never gotten good IR-only (though a deep red filter can be nice) pictures. There is Aerochrome, which is getting harder and harder to find for color IR pictures on film, but even it is hard to predict (though requires less filtration) and very expensive these days.