A review of the Nintendo Game Boy camera 24 years later
Photographer Gordon Laing of Camera labs and Dino Bytes released a special episode dedicated to one of the weirdest digital cameras released in the 90s, the Nintendo Game Boy Camera.
Launched in Japan in early 1998, Nintendo entered the digital photography space with its Game Boy Camera, a 2-bit camera system with approximately 0.014 megapixel resolution capable of capturing up to 4 shades of “gray” to approximately the equivalent of a 50mm. perspective field of view.
When the system was initially launched, the price was around $50, allowing consumers to enter the digital photography space at a massive discount compared to the Nikon Coolpix 900 or Canon PowerShot Pro70 which each cost around $1,000 for a 1 megapixel(ish) digital camera. case. The Game Boy camera was built into the system cartridge and saved captured frames (up to 30) directly to the cartridge.
While those 128 x 128 pixel monochrome images were arguably terrible, and the craze didn’t last that long, the $50 cost made digital photography accessible to anyone with a Game Boy system, accessing a massive audience and making the process actually quite fun. The irony is that now, over 20 years later, vintage image enthusiasts have found a new love for photography by resurrecting those Game Boy systems and fusing them with 3D accessories and custom software to do more than Nintendo had never imagined possible.
The Game Boy camera itself was designed to accommodate the screen capability of handheld consoles allowing for a maximum resolution of 128×128 pixels with the images cropped a bit vertically (up to 112 pixels) to allow viewing. Nintendo Game Boy Header and Footers. to place on each frame, making the final shot size 160×144 pixels.
What made this camera all the more interesting was that it wasn’t just a plug-and-shoot system, but was loaded with little games and games. apps to help distract from the incredibly poor quality images he could be taking, as Laing puts it, effectively “provided a distraction from hardware limitations but an experience that’s still unique 24 years later.”
One of the frustrating designs of the old Game Boy Camera systems was that there was no way to simply remove the footage from the cartridge for storage and display on a normal computer (at least at the time). The only option was to use an additional accessory to print the images onto postage stamp-sized thermal paper, where the image quality was often still lower than that of 2-bit images on screen.
For people who wanted to retain more footage than the 30-frame capacity, they had only one real option, and that was to buy more Game Boy cameras. These old cartridges were actually rolls of digital film. The good news is that users can now use a number of methods to get their footage from the Game Boy Camera, accessing pixelated abstract art images in all their glory.
Modern technology has breathed new life into the old entry point of digital photography, even allowing users to share their images on social media and use 3D printed adapters to mount modern lenses to the cartridge. . This includes new “analog” devices like the Analogue Pocket having better screens to work on, allowing retro camera users to make composing and viewing images a much more enjoyable experience.
Laing says “With its basic visuals and cute game interface, it’s easy to dismiss the Game Boy camera as just a toy, but it ticked several boxes that all other digital cameras lacked at the time: it was small, indeed the smallest digital camera in the world. for a while, really cheap, appealed to a wide age group and even had an affordable printing option. This probably started a fire in many young creatives at the time, paving the way for them to embark on a career as a photographer.
Be sure to watch the full 16-minute video to see all of the results of Laing’s testing of the system, and visit his Dino Bytes YouTube channel to see more great retro reviews.