Ten one-of-a-kind cameras from the 21st century
1 Ten one-of-a-kind cameras from the 21st century
In the early years of digital cameras, manufacturers were experimenting in a number of areas. Some cameras used PC Cards to store images, while others tried floppies and CDs. On other cameras, an LCD - something we all take for granted now - was an optional feature. Form definitely followed function, as you can see when you look at the designs of early cameras.
In the early 21st century, digital camera technology grew at an incredible pace. Whether it was resolution, zoom power, or LCD size, it was up, up, and away. Camera designs started to become a bit more conventional, as manufacturers learned to stuff everything into a more traditionally styled body.
That doesn't mean that there weren't some out-of-the-ordinary cameras over the last thirteen years. Camera makers tried different features and designs, and some stuck, while others didn't last long.
In this article I'll be taking a look at ten of the most unusual cameras from the year 2000 to the present.
Olympus Camedia C-211 Zoom (2000)
Olympus and Polaroid announced the Camedia C-211 Zoom in July 2000. This pairing led to exactly what one would expect: a digital camera that could produce prints on Polaroid film.
|The Olympus C-211Z was a large, vertically oriented camera that printed onto Polaroid film|
The C-211 Zoom was a giant camera, which isn't surprising when you consider that it also had to make those prints. At 178mm (7 in.) tall and weighing 680 g (1.5 lbs), the C-211Z wasn't something you'd carry around in your pocket.
On the camera side, the C-211Z was standard issue. It had a 2.1 megapixel CCD, 3X optical zoom lens (35-105mm equiv.), and used SmartMedia cards. Its 1.5-inch LCD used a new technology at the time, known as Hybrid Collector Backlight, which used ambient light to illuminate the screen outdoors. To turn this on, you'd just flip a switch on the back of the camera.
|The most interesting thing to point out here - besides the dedicated print button - is that slot above the LCD. When you were outside. you'd flip a switch, which let you use ambient light to brighten the LCD.|
By now you probably want to hear about the C-211Z's printing capabilities. It used Polaroid 500 instant film cartridges, each of which held 10 prints. It took around 10-15 seconds to produce each 73 x 57mm (2.9 x 2.3 in.) print. Your print would come to life in 30-90 seconds, just like regular Polaroids.
The C-211Z was the only printing camera that Olympus ever made. Polaroid, on the other hand, is still at it.
Olympus E-10 (2000)
I should disclose up front that I owned the Olympus E-10 - and loved it. The E-10 was a DSLR, but with a non-removable lens. It had a 4 megapixel, 2/3" CCD, fast F2.0-2.4 35-140mm lens, manual zoom and focus rings, a hot shoe and flash sync port, and support for a wired remote control.
|A cutaway of the lens and viewfinder design on the E-10 from Phil Askey's original review.|
But wait, there's more! The E-10 had a large TTL optical viewfinder that could be used alongside the live view on its 1.5-inch articulating LCD, courtesy of the 'beam splitter' shown above. Unfortunately, the quality of the live view was choppy and low resolution. The E-10 used an infrared focusing system, though its performance was nothing to write home about.
|The E-10 had more buttons and dials than you could shake a stick at.||The E-10 had a large TTL optical viewfinder and an articulating 1.8-inch LCD.|
Other features on the E-10 included support for shooting both Raw and TIFF images, twin-dial operation, dual memory card slots (for SmartMedia and CompactFlash), and an optional battery grip. And then there's this:
|The E-10 with the TCON-300S telephoto lens adapter. [Photo credit: David Weikel]|
The TCON-300S was a 3X teleconverter that boosted the top end of the E-10's zoom range to 420mm. Attaching this monster essentially doubled the weight of the camera, and it was unwieldy, to the say the least.
All was not perfect in E-10 land. The camera was very expensive at the time ($2000), and it had a problem with 'stuck pixels' and chromatic aberrations. Even so, the E-10 was the camera of choice for people who didn't need to change lenses, and had many fans (myself included).
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F707 (2001)
On most digital camera designs, the lens usually places second fiddle to the body. On the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-707 - along with the F505 and F505V that came before it - it looked like the body was bolted onto its giant lens.
|The F707 had a hinge that allowed the body to rotate, while the lens was held steady.|
The F707's design was daring, and unfortunately, didn't last as long as some would've liked. A hinge located at the back of the lens allowed the photographer to tilt the body upward by 77 degrees, or down by 36 degrees. This gave you the much same advantages as the fully articulating LCDs found on other cameras, with that large lens serving as a sturdy grip.
|The body can tilt up 77 degrees...||... or down 36 degrees.|
The lens on the F707 was pretty spectacular, as well. Despite the misleading labeling on the side (which included digital zoom in the calculation), this is a 5X zoom, with an equivalent focal length of 38-190mm. This lens was also a fast one, with a maximum aperture of F2.0-2.4. The lens had a manual focus ring, though it was 'fly-by-wire' rather than mechanical.
Photos were composed on a 1.8" LCD with 123,000 dots, or via an electronic viewfinder with 180,000 dots, which was pretty good for those days.
|The laser pattern from the Hologram AF system.||Composing a photo in complete darkness using the NightFraming feature.
[Photo credit: Digital Camera Resource Page]
The DSC-F707 had a number of 'party tricks', as Phil Askey said in his review of the camera. The first one was actually very useful, and it was called Hologram AF. The camera had a Class 1 laser on the left side of the lens that shot a cross-hatch pattern on your subject, which the camera then used as a focusing aid. This feature was truly amazing, allowing for focusing in complete darkness (up to a certain distance, of course). It's a shame that Hologram AF only lasted for a few more models before Sony got rid of it.
The other neat feature, which, again, didn't last as long as some would've liked, is Nightshot. When turned on, the F707 moved its IR filter (a common feature on digital cameras) out of the light path. It then turned on a pair of IR emitters located above the lens. You were then able to compose and shoot photos in complete darkness, with a greenish tint similar to that of night-vision goggles.
A feature that took advantage of both Hologram AF and Nightshot was NightFraming. At the press of the shutter release button, the camera would switch into Nightshot mode, use Hologram AF to focus, and then switch back to 'normal' mode to take a flash photo. It worked very well.
Some clever photographers learned how to take advantage of the F707's Nightshot feature. By permanently locking the IR filter out of the light path (which was not an easy task), the F707 became a true infrared camera.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1 (2005)
Jumping five years ahead we find another interesting Sony camera: the Cyber-shot DSC-R1. Unlike some of the cameras in this article and my previous one, the R1 wasn't particularly weird. Rather, it was groundbreaking.
|The DSC-R1 had a design not unlike that of the Cyber-shot DSC-D700 from 1999.|
The R1 was the first fixed-lens camera to utilize an APS-C-size sensor (of the 10-megapixel variety) - something that has only been repeated a handful of times. It was also the first camera of its type to use a CMOS sensor, which is what you'll find in most compact cameras these days. The DSC-R1 also did something that even DSLRs couldn't pull off in that era: full-time live view.
The R1's large sensor was paired with an F2.8-4.8 Carl Zeiss T* lens, with a focal length equivalent to 24-120mm. The lens had a mechanical zoom and electronic (fly-by-wire) focus rings.
You might expect a camera with these specs to cost a ton, but Sony priced it at just $999.
|The R1's articulating LCD flipped up, rather than down or to the side. Phil Askey was not impressed.||The hot shoe was awkwardly placed on the hand grip.|
Okay, it turns out I wasn't entirely honest about the DSC-R1's relative weirdness. Its 2-inch, 134k-dot LCD flipped up from the top of the camera, and could rotate 270 degrees. Because of the placement of the LCD, the camera's hot shoe ended up on the top of the right-hand grip. DPReview founder Phil Askey didn't care for the placement of the LCD, and found himself using the electronic viewfinder nearly all the time.
The R1 had a ton of manual controls, and was the first compact camera to support AdobeRGB in addition to sRGB. It could record Raw images, though Mr. Askey noted their large file size and slow write times. Despite a lengthy list of cons, the R1 was still impressive enough to earn DPReview's coveted 'Highly Recommended' award.
|Sophisticated construction by the nature by Orchideon|
|After the Rain by Flor Tempra|
from Macro - Something Pink
|Asilah by Limburg|
from Cozy Corners
With card readers disappearing from MacBooks, USB-C card readers are now a necessity. Macworld's helpful guide compares five models and decodes the current mess of card speeds and certifications.
A Sony a7S II mounted on the outside of the ISS' Japanese Experiment Module (KIBO) for the last seven months has sent back some impressive 4K video and stills.
A Federal judge has refused to throw out a copyright case against controversial artist Richard Prince, who used an image by photographer Donald Graham in an exhibition.
Sony has teased its customers with news of an upcoming announcement: it will soon take the wraps off a new CineAlta motion picture camera, one sporting a 36x24mm sensor.
QuikStories is integrated into the latest version of the GoPro app and automatically creates 'stories' using the video clips you've shot during a day.
Journalists photographing a protest in the US Capitol building claim they were told by Capitol Police to delete photos and videos of arrests.
The Meizu Pro 7 Plus secondary display can be used for music playback, date and weather-related information, or as viewfinder when taking selfies with the rear cameras.
Nikon is marking its 100th anniversary in many ways, including the creation of a new scholarship program for 'future visual creators' in the USA and Canada.
Take one Digital ELPH (or IXUS), rotate it vertically, add a fully articulating LCD and a lens with a camcorder-like focal length, and what do you get? Why, the Canon PowerShot TX1, of course. In this week's Throwback Thursday we revisit Canon's one-of-a-kind hybrid stills/video camera.
Just in case there was any doubt in your mind, here's the definitive video proof that yes, a $50,000 cinema camera beats the pants off a $50 camcorder in a side-by-side test.
Photographers who fly frequently in the US may want to finally invest in that TSA Pre-check status: in standard security lines, cameras and all other electronics larger than a smartphone will need to be placed in a separate bin for screening.
Images have appeared which claim to show Nikon's forthcoming D850 DSLR, the development of which was announced this week. If genuine, the pictures indicate that the D850 will offer illuminated controls and a tilting LCD screen, but no built-in flash.
To celebrate the Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64 lens' successful Kickstarter campaign, Lomography has announced a chrome-plated version of the lens in Nikon and Canon DSLR mounts.
Nikon just released four new firmware updates, adding features and fixing bugs in the D600, D610, D750 and the KeyMission 80.
It probably hasn't made your landscape photography bucket list just yet, but there's a good reason to visit Idaho. Here are 9 must-visit locations in this beautiful state.
Oops... Adobe accidentally leaked their unfinished Lightroom-powered cloud-based photo editor 'Project Nimbus' to some Creative Cloud users yesterday.
Storm chaser and award-winning photographer Mike Oblinski just released his latest time-lapse, and it is absolutely stunning.
Looking to level up your video capture capabilities without buying a whole new camera? Blackmagic's Video Assist 4K is well worth considering, despite a few flaws and its lack of 4K/60p support.
We're big fans of Fujifilm's fast-growing GFX system, and the GF 110mm F2 lens is no exception. Positioned as the system's classic portrait lens, its optics are just as impressive with non-human subjects as well.
Nikon turns 100 years old today, and the company is celebrating with a wacky music video, some tributes to its history, and a new vision presented by president Kazuo Ushida.
Phottix just released the Premio Parabolic Umbrellas series, replacing their Para-Pro line with a stronger, deeper and better made set of parabolic umbrellas.
The Moto Z2 is Motorola's first dual-camera smartphone and, compared to its predecessor, comes with a number of improvements and new camera features.
Researchers at Stanford have revealed a new '4D camera system' built for robots. The system is based on the same light field tech that allowed Lytro cameras to refocus images after they were taken.
If you want 'beautiful rendition' from your lenses, follow this simple rule: only buy classic low-element prime lenses with lead glass elements—everything else is junk.
In an interview with CNBC, Leica Chairman Andreas Kaufmann said he dreams of a 'true Leica phone,' and hinted at what's next for the Leica and Huawei partnership.
Wildlife and nature photographer Peter Mather tells the story behind this exceptional shot of a mama grizzly and her cub searching for salmon in Yukon, Canada.
Popular YouTube channel TastyTuts has put together this 33-video Beginner's Guide to Adobe Photoshop—a godsend for anybody who wants to learn Photoshop from scratch.
The long anticipated replacement for the popular Rode VideoMic Pro is almost ready for shipping. The price of the upgraded VideoMic Pro+ will be £290/$300 when it goes on sale in mid-August.
A new iOS app called Explorest wants to help you find new locations to shoot. It's limited to Singapore for now, but the app is packed full of useful location scouting features.
Nikon's D850 development announcement is extremely light on details, so we assembled a wish list of upgrades and features we'd love to see.