Monday, October 15, 2007

Yet another toy camera: JamCam 2.0


Turns out that this coming Saturday (October 20th, 2007) is "World Toy Camera Day". And it just so happens that I recently added to my small but growing menagerie of toy cameras, so I figured I'd take one for a spin today. I realize that technically I ought to have waited until Saturday for this, but I didn't. Oh, well.

So today's delightful gadget is a JamCam 2.0, which is what passed for an inexpensive digital camera back during the previous century. You get 24 shots at 320x240, or 8 at 640x480. Or 48 at some godawful postage stamp resolution I can't recall at the moment.


Ignoring image quality for the moment, the JamCam has three big problems. First, the user interface is strictly from the stone axes 'n bearskins era. The $14.99 VuPoint camera I bought new a few months ago leaves the JamCam in the dust, UI-wise, and the VuPoint is nobody's idea of intuitive. It might be easier if I had a manual, but it didn't come with one, and I can't find one on the net either. Which brings us to problem #2: The camera's manufacturer has long since shuffled off to the great bit bucket in the sky, and it's tough to find drivers for current operating systems. This site claims to offer downloadable drivers and more, but first you have to register, and their registration system is either nonfunctional or remarkably slow. So making Windows talk to the JamCam is still an unsolved problem, but luckily someone's written a JamCam app for OS X. JamX only claims to work for the subsequent JamCam 3.0, but it works like a charm with the earlier camera too. Problem #3: While the ergonomics aren't bad overall, the shutter button is easy to hit by mistake. I actually used up most of my "roll" of 24 exposures when I shoved the camera into my coat pocket. I must've had the shutter depressed, because the camera silently took one dark frame after another until it ran out of memory. Niiice.

On the other hand, the camera looks cool. It's brighly colored and excitingly chunky, which counts for something. I haven't actually tried to damage it, but it looks pretty robust, at least by camera standards. It only cost six dollars, which is an important point with toy cameras. It's reportedly a good camera for infrared work, if you can live with 640x480 resolution. It has a tripod mount, believe it or not. If you can find software for it, it talks to your computer over USB, not some cheesy serial port link or SCSI cable or proprietary connector or whatever, and on top of USB is our old friend TWAIN, just like the VuPoint and every flatbed scanner in the land. And it takes a standard 9 volt battery, not some hard-to-find proprietary thing. Ok, sure, I've never seen a 9 volt battery in a camera before, and the world may never see the like again either, but every convenience store carries 9v's. So the camera ought to be usable for a long time to come, and maybe that's good and maybe it isn't.

I say "maybe it isn't", because you'll never make the cover of National Geographic taking photos with a JamCam, as you might've inferred from the photos here. And all of these except the last one were run through GIMP for a bit of brightness/contrast and color balance work. The originals were generally darker and full of dull bluish-purple tones. I just couldn't post 'em the way they came out of the camera. Sorry, purists. In my defense, mostly I was just correcting for the weather, which was dull and overcast and blue-grey everywhere.

The night pics are a bit more, er, interesting, with all sorts of exciting color artifacts. I have no freakin' idea what the third photo down from here is supposed to be. Maybe it's the inside of a coat pocket or something. I had no idea my coat pockets were so exciting.




A few words about World Toy Camera Day, in case I've piqued your interest for some reason:




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