Wednesday, July 8, 2009

a blast from the past

For a brief moment yesterday, my very first digital camera came back to life. It was a Sony Cybershot U20:

When I purchased it in 2002, it was pretty much the only thing that satisfied my criteria of small*, proper autofocus, proper flash, and LCD. But seriously, that was about all it had. The megapixel count was 2. The LCD was a measly 1", and there was no way of zooming the playback image to check focus. AF was mostly a lottery. Forget scene modes, this thing didn't even have exposure compensation! Still, it was fun if only because I could muck around to my heart's content and not have to pay for the film processing. It did have the neat trick of being able to lock focus at a certain distance, and with a 6mm f2.8 lens, pretty much everything would be in focus after a meter anyway.

*Interestingly, it could have been even smaller still if it'd used SD cards and a proprietary lithium battery instead of two AAA rechargeables. Most of the internal volume is occupied by the battery chamber and the (full size) memory stick slot.

Sometime in 2005, there was a product recall over the CCD in this camera crapping out for no good reason. It happened to me intermittently, and sometimes a good knock in the right place would bring it back to life again - probably a loose contact. On dismantling, I couldn't find any contacts that were loose, so I reverted to whacking it again...and lo and behold, it came back to life - for a little while, anyway.

Nadiah. (Note noise in the image - with limits of ISO 320, 1/8s, f2.8, you're not going to be shooting anywhere remotely light-challenged.)
Sony Cybershot U20

Despair (perhaps at the lack of dynamic range!)
Sony Cybershot U20

Sony Cybershot U20

"My foot..."
Sony Cybershot U20

Even when it was new, it wasn't really a leader in anything other than size. But it was fun. The output is surprisingly filmic, even if the dynamic range is so limited there are only three tones in monochrome images: black, gray and white. And shooting with it for a day was surprisingly enjoyable - until I realized that I couldn't get a sufficiently bright image in normal room light without a flash, and the CCD died again. Ah well.

Interestingly, you could get a nice new D40 kit for what I paid for it back in 2002. Just shows you how far we've come since then...

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