Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The $2 Camera

I'm a  sucker for old tech.  Not any old tech, of course.  When I push the 'on' button it has to light up.  My previously most recent experience was finding and restoring a $5 Dell laptop which was about fifteen years old.  Today, I found a Kodak EasyShare digital camera for $2 at the same thrift shop that the computer came from.  Kodak introduced this model in 2004, so it is pretty much a contemporary of the laptop.  In fact, this Kodak closely resembles the Olympus D360-L which I was using a couple years before the EasyShare made its debut.

The first digital cameras came out of the Kodak labs, and by 2004 they were producing some pretty sophisticated instruments for the consumer market.  The EasyShare has a nice 4X zoom lens, a 2.2 inch display, and a lot of the other features which are today incorporated in the latest digital offerings.

What was lacking in the EasyShare, of course, was the capacious image sensor of today's digital cameras.  The CCD in the 2004 Kodak could only capture 4.0 Megapixels.  Any cheap cell phone these days will typically have several times that capacity.  However, three or four megapixels was perfectly adequate for attaching a picture to an email, or uploading to a photo sharing site like

I was pleased to find a ring binder in the plastic bag with the camera containing the EasyShare user manual.  Unfortunately, there was no charger for the lithium-ion battery, so I'll be reluctant to put the camera to much use until I can locate a charger.  I did run by a couple other local thrift stores to look for accessories and  surprisingly found the docking station/charger which was made for this camera.  The dock had a $10 price tag on it, however, so I passed up that opportunity.  Back home, I checked ebay and found I could get a charger from Hong Kong for less than five bucks -- shipping included -- so I went for it.

I did briefly light up the EasyShare to check funtioning, and I pressed the 'review' button to inspect the memory.  I found that the SD/MMC  memory card was pretty much filled up with some pictures that had been made just a few months ago.  Someone had made a series of pictures of a nice house which was up for sale in an upscale east-side Albuquerque neighborhood.  The location was obvious from the southwest style of the house, as well as a view of the Sandia Mountains in the background of one shot.  They weren't pictures to stir the imagination, but it is still nice to make some connection -- however tenuous -- with a previous user of the camera.  I've found film in several vintage cameras previously, but all came up blank, so these EasyShare found images are a first in my experience.

And, lastly, the obligatory camera initiation shot  of  Richard.  He is eight years older than the EasyShare, but still lights up and doesn't require batteries.


Jim Grey said...

My first digital camera, the Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom, shares this body and lens. The Z730 has a 5 MP sensor, which as far as I can tell is the only improvement over your camera.

I bought mine refurbished in 2006 when my road-trip hobby was taking off. I'd been shooting a film point-and-shoot but the processing costs were killing me. I paid for the Z730 over the next three road trips by not having to send the film out for processing.

I researched considerably before I bought. Philip Greenspun over at praised this camera highly at the time, for what it was anyway. He liked the wide-ish angle lens and thought it produced high-quality images for its class.

I don't need my Z730 anymore but I keep it anyway and shoot it about once a year just because I love the great color I get. There's just something about the color signature of a Kodak digital camera. My youngest son's entry-level C-series Kodak digital has it too. I just wish the Z730 did faster than ISO 400. I pretty much always need to use the flash inside, and I don't much like how the flash behaves.

Mike said...

I'm looking forward to doing a little work with the Kodak EasyShare, mostly as an aid to recalling the early years of the digital photography revolution. I bought my similar Olympus 360 mostly to supply pictures for my on line efforts on photo sharing sites and in my web site and blog. The little Olympus with its 3.6 Megapixels was perfectly fine for that purpose. At that time most people were still connecting to the internet with phone line modems and some care was required to not upload pictures of a size which would make viewing too slow to be comfortable or practical.

As it turned out, the Olympus digital camera was also the gateway for getting me back into photography. I was particularly impressed with the little camera's ability to do extreme macro close-ups with just the press of a button. And, of course, the pictures were instantly available and essentially no-cost. I ended up going back to mechanical film cameras after that, but my next decade in collecting and using film cameras would not have happened without the intervention of the little consumer digitals.

The one major problem with the little digitals of those times was the processing that went on after you pressed the shutter button. There was an initial lag after the press in recording the image, which meant you were actually often getting something other than what was intended at the moment. Additionally, the camera then took some time to process what was recorded, meaning that you were forced to wait quite a while between shots, and thereby lose some opportunities to follow the action. Of course, early film photographers had to contend with similar limitations, but film photography was a lot faster and more reliable than what that first generation of consumer digital cameras could accomplish.