December 23, 2008

The $5 Camera

In 2001 or so digital cameras started to go from ridiculously expensive to only moderately expensive. Only the geekiest of people owned them. The rapid drop in prices, though, led to a memorable discussion between my roommate Scott and his friend Jeff, where they wondered how long it would take before disposable cameras went digital. A few years later you could get digital copies from disposable cameras. I don't think the disposables were actually digital, I think they just scanned the film and provided people with a Picture CD along with the prints.

I was reminded of this discussion while finishing our Christmas shopping. I stumbled upon a keychain digital camera, which normally sold for $15 but was on clearance for $5. $5 for a working digital camera. I purchased one (just one) and now Melissa is questioning my sanity.

$5 camera $5 camera

The Good

It only cost $5. It is extraordinarily small. It came with the required AAA battery, as well as a USB cable and a case. It also has a keychain built-in.

The Bad

The AAA battery was nearly dead on arrival. The USB cable has some non-standard connector, so it can't be used for anything else. Rather than do the sensible thing and have it mount as a USB mass storage device, it requires some Windows-only driver. It has 16 mb (that's mega, with a M) of memory which holds only 20 photos at 352 x 288. It also seemed to randomly overwrite a few of the photos I took (not that they were even worth saving).

The Ugly

The photo quality speaks for itself. These are full size, unedited photos from the $5 camera.

Photo of Rob taken with $5 camera

Photo of Rob taken with $5 camera

Photo of Rob taken with $5 camera


Anonymous said...


Scott said...

Ha! We bought one like that for my daughter Faith a while back. It was trimmed out in Ariel, the Disney mermaid princess. The good, bad, and ugly matched your $5 special spot on. (Except, with yours, is the ugly the picture quality or the subject? ;-)

The picture memory is volatile, so if battery dies or is taken out, then pictures are gone. Faith was burned by this "feature" a few times and soon started pestering us to help download her pictures moments after she took each one. With the cumbersome driver and proprietary software, this was never as easy as it should have been.

Faith has since outgrown princesses. Not sure if the camera is still around.

So will any of your nieces/nephews be getting a camera tomorrow morning?

Ragfield said...

Scott, thanks for the tip about the battery/memory problem. That sounds like what was probably happening.

As for nieces/nephews getting this camera... I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemies!