My First Digital Cameras


 Until the early 90s photography and computing managed to work together using a scanner to digitize prints. My first electronic still camera, the Canon Xapshot (left), wasn’t digital but it did record 50 images to a 2-inch disk. I'd view them on my TV, but I needed a capture board to transfer them to a computer. My first erasable shots were of retired San Francisco trolleys returned to active service one Labor Day weekend.

The Xapshot's analog technology more closely resembled the way my VCR recorded video rather than my next camera, the Logitech Fotoman. Unlike the color Xapshot, the Fotoman stored up to 32 pictures in black and white, but they were digital, transferrable by cable to a serial port -- which almost every PC contained. It took about 1.5 minutes to download each picture or 48 minutes to dump a full load from its internal memory. (Memory cards were still a way off.)

Of course, the pain of waiting to get the pictures into your computer was nothing compared to the anguish of losing everything. If you didn't return the camera to its connected AC dock within 24 hours of shooting, there was a good chance the images would be lost. By the way, Fotoman weighed one-pound and cost $799. All that helps explain why Logitech was making a lot more money at the time selling a hand scanner that you rolled over a snapshot to get the photo into your PC.

Though with Fotoman you could delete the last image if you thought it wasn't a keeper, you wouldn't be able to see anything until you transferred the images. The camera that changed everything for me was the Casio QV-10. It certainly wasn't the $799 pricetag or that it used four AA batteries. And it  wasn't that its 2 Megabytes of internal memory was able to store 96 digital images in color. The big breakthrough was the 1.8-inch color LCD that enabled you to instantly review what you had shot.

Several days into a trip to Virgin Gorda I decided to go snorkeling with the camera in a clear sealed pouch. Moisture accumulated and the camera stopped working. It wasn't possible to use the serial cable to save my pictures. Luckily, Casio airlifted the camera to Japan and was able to extract my vacation photos on to two floppy disks.

All three companies I encountered in the early days of non-chemical photography continue to make cameras. You've heard of Canon? My current point-and-shoot is the PowerShot SD880, already supersceded by such models as the SD960. Logitech has made it seamless to get still images and video into a computer with such peripherals as the Webcam C905. As for Casio, if only I had then what I can get for a fraction of the price now: The Exilim G EX-G1 offers exponentially-more resoution than the QV-10 and is waterproof to a depth of 10-feet.

That's my experience from the pre-dawn of the digital age. What was your first digital camera?

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My first digital camera was the POLAROID i-Zone Digital Comb- 2000. The first digital and instant camera in one combo. I got the camera for Christmas in 2001 and was still anti-digital so I rarely took any digital pictures with it. I did however shoot some of the instant pictures with it. They were very small (about 1") and had the typical Polariod look to them. Soon after I got it, I joined the Army and left it behind while I went to basic then on to Germany. The only picture I have today from that camera is one of the instant pictures that I scanned and saved as a JPEG!