Olympus EVOLT E-330 (2006)

The Olympus EVOLT E-330 was an oddly shaped camera that, like the Sony DSC-R1 above, broke new ground. The E-330 was the first DSLR with live view, and Olympus pulled this off in a most unconventional way.

This cutaway shows how the E-330 is able to provide live view on its LCD, while still allowing for an optical viewfinder.

The above diagram is pretty confusing, so here's how the E-330 was able to provide live view on its LCD at all times, while retaining a TTL optical viewfinder. In 'Mode A', the main mirror would remain in place, while a series of 'porro mirrors' would direct the light to a small 'Live View CCD' not far from the viewfinder. This allowed you to use the viewfinder while still having live view available on the LCD. Flipping a switch turned on 'Macro Live View', during which the mirror would flip down, with the E-330's Live MOS sensor providing the live preview.

So what were the downsides of this approach? The optical viewfinder was darker than normal, due to light being split between it and the secondary CCD. In low light situations, the live view in Mode A was very poor, with a 'boost' function brightening things, but introducing flicker. Initially, Macro Live View mode only supported manual focus, though Olympus later added autofocus via a firmware update.

The E-330 had an unusual design, though it wasn't nearly as bad as the E-300 that came before it. The articulating 2.5" LCD on the E-330 had 215k dots.

Like so many other technologies developed in the early days of digital photography, the unique design on the E-330 did not last. The E-330 was the one and only SLR to let you use live view and the optical viewfinder at the same time.

Kodak EasyShare V570 (2006)

To see what made the EasyShare V570 so unique, all you need to do is look at this photo:

[Photo credit: Digital Camera Resource Page]

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this camera has two lenses. And not for 3D. Back in 2006, there was no way to cram a 23-117mm lens into a body just 20mm (0.8 in.) thick. Kodak's solution was to build a camera with two lenses: one ultra-wide, and another a more conventional zoom. The top lens is F2.8 with focal length equivalent to 23mm, while the bottom lens was F3.9-4.4, 39-117mm equiv. Both lenses used a 'folded optics' design, which is how the camera stayed so thin. Behind each lens was a dedicated 5 megapixel CCD.

The V570 gave you a zoom range unlike any other ultra-compact camera on the market at that time. There was one little problem, though: the giant focal length gap between the two lenses. For example, if you were using the wide lens and decided you wanted to zoom in on your subject, the camera would suddenly "jump" from 23mm to 39mm. This was especially awkward when recording movies. Another issue with the wide lens is that it was very easy for your fingers to end up in your photos.

The V570 came with a nifty cradle that charged the battery and connected the camera to computers. [Photo credit: Digital Camera Resource Page] Kodak was big on docks in the mid-00s. Here you can see the V570 mounted atop Kodak's optional Printer Dock. [Photo credit: Digital Camera Resource Page]

The V570 was able to use its 23mm lens to automatically create a 3-shot panorama in-camera. Back in 2006, this was a rare feature. It had a 2.5" LCD with 230k dots and a wide selection of scene modes. So what made the EasyShare V570 not-so-great? Photo quality was medicore, the flash was weak, and the battery died quickly. 

Kodak didn't give up on this design, though. The V570 was followed by the V610 and V705. The V610 was an ultra zoom camera, with one lens covering 38-114mm and the other 130-380mm. The V705 had the same lens configuration as the V570, but with higher-resolution CCDs. After those two models, that was it. The next dual-lens cameras would be designed for 3D shooting and made by Fujifilm and Panasonic.

Samsung DualView (2009-2012)

In 2009, Samsung introduced a totally new type of digital camera: the DualView. These cameras not only had an LCD on the back - they had one on the front, as well.

The TL225 was one of the first DualView cameras. It had a 3.5" touchscreen on the back for normal use, and a second 1.5" LCD on the front for self-portraits and getting the kids to smile.

The first DualView models were the TL220 and TL225 (ST500 and ST550 in some countries), both of which sported 1.5" LCDs hidden on the front plate of the camera. The two cameras were identical, save for the LCD on the back of the TL225, which was a large touchscreen display. Both cameras had 12-megapixel sensors and 27-124mm lenses.

The front LCD could be used to entertain - or possibly terrify - young children.

Mercifully, Samsung let you download other animations, such as bears dancing in flower fields or falling through holes in the ice.

So what was the front LCD used for? The first thing is obvious: self-portraits. You could also use it to show a countdown of the self-timer, the current flash and macro settings, or get children to look at the camera. That last one was a little creepy: the camera would show an animation of a clown, which was supposed to get kids smiling at the camera. I would have probably run in the other direction.

Samsung made quite a few DualView models (some with larger front screens), but eventually they decided to just have a rear LCD that could flip all the way up to face your subject.

Nikon Coolpix S1000pj (2009)

If there were ever a camera that fit the 'solution looking for a problem' cliché, it's the Coolpix S1000pj. At first glance it looked like a typical compact Nikon camera. But it was anything but typical: it had a built-in projector.

While unremarkable in other respects, the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj was the world's first digital camera with a built-in projector.

The Coolpix S1000pj - and its successor (the S1100pj, described below) were the first and only digital cameras with a built-in projector. This projector had a brightness of up to 10 lumens, and could throw a VGA-sized image as large as 40 inches onto a wall 2 meters away. It came with a projector stand and a wireless remote control.

The reason for the projector is rather obvious: it makes sharing photos and videos with friends a lot easier, as they don't have to crowd around you, trying to look at images on a tiny (in this case 2.7-inch) LCD. The S1000pj could add background music and fancy transitions to make your presentation more exciting.

Now you can use your camera to bore people to death with your vacation photos!

The main problem with the S1000pj was the projector itself. Its maximum brightness of 10 lumens paled in comparison to the 2500+ lumens on 'standard' ultra-compact projectors. It also had a tiny speaker, so hearing the audio in your movies was challenging. 

The S1100pj was the replacement to the S1000pj, and offered a brighter projector, a touchscreen LCD, and the ability the display content from a PC.

It was, most likely, the last Nikon projector camera.

In 2010, Nikon released the Coolpix P1100pj, which improved upon the original in many ways. Its projector was twice as powerful, with a maximum brightness of 14 lumens. It could display content from your Mac or PC, and you could 'paint' on your projection thanks to a touchscreen LCD.

As with many of the unusual cameras that I've covered in this series, the Coolpix projector cameras apparently did not catch on. By 2012, the S1100pj was discontinued, and has not been replaced.

Click here to continue to page three of 'Ten one-of-a-kind cameras from the 21st century'