Pentax EI-C90 (1997)

The EI-C90 is a tough camera to track down, with virtually no proof of its existence on the Internet. This camera, first shown at Photokina in 1996, was quite a break from the 'normal' digital cameras of that era.

This is the camera portion of the EI-C90. See anything missing?  [Photo credit: PC Watch] That's right, the LCD is a separate unit. Here you can also see the optical viewfinder, which is located just above the PCMCIA slot.

As the photos illustrate, the EI-C90 was sold 'body only', and the 2-inch LCD was an optional accessory. What this meant is that you could go out and take photos, and then connect the LCD later (via a video cable) to compose and review your photos. According to the manual, the LCD didn't show the image you were composing until the shutter release was halfway-pressed.

Spec-wise, the C90 has a 1/4" CCD with 410,000 pixels, producing images at a resolution of 768 x 560. The F2.0, 35mm equivalent lens was fixed focus, though you could switch to macro mode by sliding a switch. The EI-C90 could record JPEGs or TIFFs, and save them to either its 2MB of built-in memory, or to a PCMCIA card.

While delete buttons are commonplace on modern digital cameras, the EI-C90 made you change into the dedicated 'Erase' mode first. I'm glad that trend didn't last long.

Fujifilm Fujix DS-300 (1997)

I didn't remember the Fujifilm Fujix DS-300 until I found it deep within the DCResource archives. This was a prosumer-level camera with a price tag to match: $2500. But that's not what makes it notable.

Notice anything missing here?  [Photo credit: Steve's Digicams]

The DS-300 was, as far as I can tell, the only consumer-level camera that didn't have a rear LCD - even as an option. You could add an electronic viewfinder (shown above), but otherwise you would use the optical viewfinder. While it's not easy to see in the photos, the DS-300 was also gigantic, measuring 153 x 96 x 78 mm (6.0 x 3.9 x 3.1 in.).

The DS-300 had a built-in zoom flash, plus a hot shoe for something more powerful. At the far right you can catch a glimpse of the sensors for the Hybrid AF system. [Photo credit: Steve's Digicams] The DS-300 used ATA PCMCIA cards for storing images. Fuji offered its own, starting at 5MB, and you can also pick up adapters for SmartMedia and CompactFlash (shown above). [Photo credit: Steve's Digicams]

Fuji pulled the 1.3 effective megapixel, 2/3" CCD from its professional DSLRs (the DS-505A/515A). A Fujifilm brochure about the DS-300 brags about its square pixels and primary color filter. The camera had a 'Super Hybrid Autofocus System', which combined passive, active, and CCD-based AF. The lens wasn't as remarkable, with a maximum aperture range of F3.5-5.6 and an equivalent focal range of 35-105mm.

The DS-300 had a full set of manual controls, including Program, aperture/shutter priority, and full manual modes. It didn't just support JPEG - this puppy could save images as TIFFs, as well. The camera's serial port (remember those?) is how you connected to your PC, or a GPS receiver, if you were lucky enough to have one in 1997.

The DS-300 could shoot continuously at 4.5 fps, but only if you picked up one of the optional 'extension units'.  An added bonus of the extension units: a SCSI port. Seriously.

Nikon Coolpix 100 (1997)

The Coolpix 100 had a one-of-a-kind design that was never used again. It was essentially a PCMCIA card with a lens and sensor attached. A battery pack that could hold four AA cells fit snapped onto the camera when you were out taking pictures.

The Coolpix 100 had one of the most unusual design in the history of consumer digital cameras. The yellow button in the middle was actually the shutter release.

The battery compartment was just below it, and could be removed by sliding a latch on the side of the camera.

[Photo credit: Jarle Aasland]

The Coolpix 100's PC card had 1MB of memory, which could store up to 37 photos. Photos weren't very large, since the CCD had just 330,000 pixels. The F4 lens was had a fixed focal length of 52mm, and you composed your photos through an optical viewfinder (no LCD here). The viewfinder had two framing guides inside - one for 'normal' shooting and another for macro.

The Coolpix 100 split into two. As you can seem the camera module was literally built onto a PC card. [Photo credit: Jarle Aasland]

When you wanted to transfer photos to your computer, you'd just slide it right into your PC card slot. Assuming you had one. [Photo credit: Jarle Aasland]

The Coolpix 100 was definitely a one-hit wonder, as this design was never used again.

Kodak DC260 (1998)

[Photo credit: John Henshall] [Photo credit: John Henshall]

The DC260 wasn't Kodak's first digital camera, but it was the first product to use FlashPoint Technology's Digita Operating System. Digita didn't last for very long, but it allowed the user to create 'scripts', which could automate camera functions.

Kodak started you off with a few sample scripts, most of which aren't very exciting. One shows the number of pictures remaining, while another for setting the image quality setting - both things you wouldn't expect to need a script for. Two of the more interesting bundled scripts include AE bracketing and 'resolution series', which took six photos, one at each image size/quality setting. 

Kodak and FlashPoint encouraged users to write their own scripts, and provided sample code to get you started. While some users created wireless remote control and slide show applications, others ported video games, including DOOM. I would imagine that gameplay on that tiny LCD would've been difficult.

In case you're wondering about the camera itself, it sported a 1.5 megapixel CCD, a 38-115mm lens, 2-inch LCD and optical viewfinder, and an IrDA port for connecting to another camera. It even had a microphone, allowing you to add voice captions to your photos.