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Tiny, Tiny Sony Digicam 90

Phil writes: "Check out this new digital camera prototype from Sony, it's just 2.7" wide (about the size of a piece of chewing gum) it's got a full colour VGA sensor (640 x 480) and a 0.55" LCD on the back (like a digital viewfinder)... Got to be gadget of the year if they do release it..." Now, if only it weren't saddled to the proprietary, expensive chewing-gum Memory Stick, this would jump even higher on my wishlist.
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Tiny, Tiny Sony Digicam

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  • It's digital. You don't want it coming out the other end, umm, hard.
  • If you were willing to wire it to a larger gadget, like a laptop, what would make more sense would be an even smaller device - lense and button only - with everything else on a box that clips to your belt. Then you could have a pretty darn high-res camera that would do exactly what you are talking about, on something the size of a lapel microphone.
  • by linuxonceleron ( 87032 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @12:10PM (#899685) Homepage
    This prototype is using the new Memory Stick Duo format which Sony designed for smaller devices. Of course (AFAIK) its not compatible with the regular Memory Stick, that's Sony for ya.

  • You could not use it
    As a paperweight, becuase
    It is so tiny.

    I would be scared though
    Of eating it by mistake
    Silly tiny thing.
  • Maybe you can't use this camera, but imagine one that can take 29 pictures a second, transmit and receive them over some wireless communication device, and is a Palm plugin. You'd have remote video teleconferencing.

    This device isn't useful, but I like to see ideas that promise better things for the near future.

  • Now if we can just combine the two technologies...a concealable camera that can see through clothes in glorious 640x480.
  • He'd have to wait seven years, though.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    1) they are asian equivalent of microsoft
    2) their products AREN'T the best
    3) propietary, propietary, propietary
    4) insanely priced
    5) see #3
    6) bloodthirsty corporate monster
  • your misspelling of
    the word "mention" is tragic. the summertime.
  • Finally - something small enough to compete in coolness with the Minox [] B spy camera. Minox [] makes a variety of cameras, and the best place to find the classic Minox B is used on EBay, typically about $150-200US. They use 8x11mm film instead of 35mm, but they're extremely small, and come with a watch-chain that lets you measure the distance from those classified documents you're photographing. Here's a picture [] (on a Geocities page, which is likely to be less bothered by slashdotting than Minox's web site :-)
  • I must be getting cynical in my old age, but when I see this the first thing that occurs to me is somebody is going to rig a little circuit to take a photo once every 20 seconds, and hide it in changing rooms/toilets/whatever.

  • Using their 64MB memory device, you can get 1000 pix on one stick! Makes the 1.44MB capacity of the Mavica look awefully primitive.

    If these things get released, I bet the number "hidden camera" shots on the internet would skyrocket! No more being conspicuos at the nude beach....

  • Akk!!! I don't know why I thought I was in the BSD story. Please smack me with a wet trout.
  • Even if you put this camera inside the back pocket of your jeans... then sit on it... that will be bad.

    I'm not saying you will break the camera and lose those pictures. I'm saying break that camera on your back pocket and left those sharp plastic and glasses pieces inside your pocket... got to be hurt!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, if it was a company other than Sony (who has a vested interest in promoting MemorySticks) they could use MMCs (MultiMediaCards) instead. They are a little bit wider than MemorySticks, maybe a little bit longer than those MemoryStickDuos that this camera uses, but they are thinner. I am not sure if they are an open standard yet since I've only seen SanDisk ones, but it looks like they will be the new tiny standard, as a lot of newer portable MP3 players use 'em.
  • PHr0D wrote:
    Thats cool but...I think I'd prefer a higher resolution

    The just-released Canon S100 [] does 1,600 x 1,200 and is the size of a deck of playing cards. Additionally, it takes high-quality pictures [] (although green gets somewhat under-exposed [which can be fixed in photoshop]).

    You can sort-of video capture with it too with a continuous mode that does two frames-per-second. It also has a USB interface and direct video out.

    But best of all, it exists [].
  • Zoyd wrote:
    But best of all, it exists.

    ...and had a hyperlink to a price-comparison for Canon S10s in stead of S100s [].
  • I'd say >> 3Mpixel only start to make some sense.

    Look, normal 35mm frame is 24×36 mm. You can easily have 50 lines/mm of resolution. That'd be 100 pixels/mm (caveman's conversion, I know). 24×36×100×100 = 8.2 Mpixel.

    Now if you park your camera on a good tripod and use mirror lock-up, you can get 100 lines/mm. Multiply pixels by 4 and you get the idea.

    Now if we start talking medium format (6×4.5 cm or larger)... And if we think about aspiring artists who use 8×10 inches film or even larger... No digital for them, sorry. Not yet.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, 2000 @12:16PM (#899701)
    Actually, if you read the article, it IS compatible with the regular memory stick, you just need a plastic piece to make it as big as one.
  • by The Iconoclast ( 24795 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @12:19PM (#899702)

    Q: And finally James... <hands Bond a pack of Doublemint>

    Bond: Gum, Q? But I have Excellent Oral Hygiene.

    Q: No James, this is a highly compact digital camera capable of storing over 100 high resolution pictures.

    Bond: Indeed.

    Q: Oh, and James...

    Bond: Yes?

    Q: No more taking pictures of the female agents and posting them on the Internet, I've been recieveing far too many complaints about that...

    A wealthy eccentric who marches to the beat of a different drum. But you may call me "Noodle Noggin."

  • Holy crap! That's all I have to say about that :)
  • Buy digicam, and large teddy bear. Insert digicam into bear. Give bear to hot girl. Watch hot girl get naked in front of teddy bear. Beat shit until froathing.
  • Hell, I've almost done that with my Pilot! However, I swapped out my Startac for a big, clunky iDen phone, so I am no longer in danger of losing my phone... or getting a Vader (V) phone and losing that!
  • I couple this right along with that always being advertised on ZDNet. You know the one - the advertisements always spout "security concerns" while showing gorgeous models.

    Sounds like another excuse to create photos for VoyeurWeb []. :)

  • by seligman ( 58880 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @12:23PM (#899707) Homepage
    How would you create a camera that small with commonly-available, inexpensive hardware?

    Simple, use CompactFlash cards. These things are small, inexpensive, and made by quite a few people. And with a $10 convertor, they can be used as PCMCIA cards too.

    And comparing the dimensions of compact flash cards [] and the memory stick [] it looks like the camera might need to be a little taller to user a compact flash card, but perhaps it could also be less wide (I actually have no clue how the memory stick plugs into the camera, maybe it just sticks out from it).

    Compact Flash: 21.5mm x 50mm x 2.8mm
    Memory Stick: 36mm x 43mm x 3.3mm

    Using compact flash seems to be the perfect answer, you could even go with a bit wider version and use the Type II slot to get the 1gb IBM microdrive.

  • Ummm...just a wild ass guess, but I'm thinking 640x480...
  • I won't be impressed until we can start storing teraquads of low-res, blocky pictures. Goodness! It's the year 2000 and we still don't have isolinear optical chips! Geordi would be laughing at us if he were still alive.
  • by John Whitley ( 6067 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @02:21PM (#899710) Homepage
    FYI, Compact Flash writes are slower than molasses in January. CF has approx. 60ms (yes _milliseconds_) per 512 byte block write latency. The napkin calculation indicates that at 5:1 compression (assuming 640x480x24bit raw) you're looking at over 20 seconds to save an image down from RAM to flash. This can be a serious impact to the design of an embedded system (such as a digital camera). Yes, you can cache images to RAM (as you must for the image compression) but the more RAM you have (i.e. more snaps before writedown) the greater the cost and shorter the battery life.

    FWIW, Memory Stick has much higher write bandwidth than CF... unfortunately I don't have the figures on me at the moment.
  • Given Sony's current tendencies towards proprietary standards, I wouldn't be surprised if it were 480x640 :)
  • This is already being worked on. A company called Silicon Film [] has a unit that you can drop ito any 35mm camera in place of film.

    The resolution is reported to be 1280x1024 pixels at 36-bit color depth.

    Release was scheduled for the first half of 2000. Now they're saying (of course) the second half. They're projecting the price at around $700.

    I actually think I saw this on /. a long while back, but I can't seem to dredge up the story in a cursory search.

  • Same thing, except: no memory card, add a 1394 port.

    That's it.

    The only problem is the manufacturer doesn't make loads of cash on media, so it's a bit more expensive without it.

  • This camera would be great for people who sell stuff on eBay, where you really don't need a *great* picture to sell an item, but *any* sort of picture helps.

    As for it replacing my 35mm, no way. At least with photos, you can scan them at whatever resolution you want; you're not limited as much, unless you have a cheap-ass scanner (remember those handheld things?). Blowing up a 640x480 jpeg would look really, really bad.

    - A.P.

    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • put one in your sister
  • Then stop holding the camera sideways ;o)
  • by rebill ( 87977 )


    Of course, this is/i? Off-Topic, now.

  • Hey, not a problem. It'd only take 3 terabytes to hold the uncompressed picture. (You've confused bits and bytes.) ;o) Compress it to a .jpg and you'd only need about 20% of that space or 600 GB. I'm sure that 600 GB won't be a problem by next week.

    None-the-less, it would be really cool to see a device like this with a little bit more resolution. 800x600 at least would be nice.

  • *strikes Charleton Heston pose* Give me a real resolution, you damn dirty apes!
  • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
    And I'd use this for what, now?
  • Who wants to buy a 640x480 Digital Camera these days? I think the Barbie Digital Cameras I've seen can do that.
  • Thats pretty sweet.. Now can I have it with a Tera-Pixel CCD - 8 Month Battery & A Gig- Microdrive?.. Um.. In black please.

  • In the next Bond movie, tenatively titled 007: Sponsored by Sony Corp., we'll see Sony's newest invention - not just a camera the size of a piece of chewing gum, but actually is a pack of chewing gum! Bond will be able to take pictures and swallow the evidence! When it comes out the, well, other end, the piece of gum can be hardned with a special chemical and inserted into the new Sony Memory Stick PDA to view the pictures.
  • .. Too implant in my forehead, so I can take snaps of everything I look at.. and not worth the expensive and painful 'upgrade' surgery..

  • by Cabana ( 206257 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @11:49AM (#899725)
    Sooner or later it would end up in the pocket of my the wash. So much for that camera. Isn't there a limit to how small things can get before they are seen as unuseful?
  • This is cool and all, but I want to know when we'll have medium-sized, mid-priced very high-res digital cameras.

    Storage space (and price) becomes less and less of an issue every day so even many dozens full (or very lightly) compressed images can be stored on an average camera. However, I've been less than impressed with the resolutions offered to consumers. I'd much rather have a camera that can hold 40 high-res images on a CF or smartmedia card than one that can hold 170 (like I often see).

    I'm not saying that we don't want lower-res pictures as an option, but when are we going to see some more advanced sensors at consumer prices?

  • What I want is a digital camera that looks like a 35mm film cannaster. This way I can drop it into my old camera and use it like film, but never have to pay for film again. It looks like this is just about the right size, here is hoping
  • by spazimodo ( 97579 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @11:52AM (#899728)
    Whuzzup with Sony? First a video camera that can see through clothes [], and now this. Someone needs to restock their engineers supply of tenticle porn.


    Fsck the millennium, we want it now.
  • Can you create a beowolf cluster of these?

    Which goes right along with my first question: and I want one of these because....???

    I'd rather see normal size cameras come down in price and be better in quality. A spy camera that gets crappy resolution is hardly on my wish list.

  • I don't think that this camera was neccessarily the one that they expect a ton of people to buy (640x480 is not that good), but I see this as a stepping stone for what they can do...
  • I want a digital camera that has 23X36' resolution.

    No, not pixels. Feet.

    Heck Polaroid did it years ago [], how much harder could it be for digital technology?

  • I don't know what it is about the heavyweight technology (read: gadget) companies -- they seem to have a penchant for building really cool toys, hyping the breakthroughs they've made to produce them, then either deciding not to produce it or (even worse, IMO) release a similar item with a fraction of the functionality that made the prototype cool to begin with!

    Besides, even if they do release it, small usually means expensive (so does "SONY"...), so I doubt it will reach mass-market proportions any time in the near future.


  • I agree - digital, even at 3Mp, is not surpassing standard film. And ccertainly anyone who is working with medium-format cameras is not going to be satisfied until *much* higher res is available. One could imagine many uses for such things in research/medicine/tolerancing etc.

    I just don't think it's particularly useful for most of the market. For joe-consumer, what we need is lower cost, greater/cheaper storage capacity, and better user interface. Eventually, perhaps, it will be so easy to make large prints that joe-consumer will be making > 8x10 prints for himself. Then we will need more affordable very high-res cameras.

    I doubt even the typical SLR purchaser is getting one because of the incredible res. of film. I think it's a largely because of the flexibility of such cameras: wide variety of lenses, flash positions, light metering, and shutter speeds mean you can take the picture, no matter the circumstances. But unless you blow it up, you probably don't really need all the resolution the film affords.
  • Okay, I don't usually post "This is really cool" replies, but thisis really cool.

    Basically, the camera itself adheres to the memory stick spec, and the camera itself has a Memory Stick Duo slot, for removable image storage. So you can stick the Duo mem card into the camera, and the camera into your sony pilot, and the pony pilot on the cradle, hooked to your PC, hooked to the net.

    I'll wait for the Duo camera, that'll use microdots for image storage...

    Kevin Fox
  • that way the storage media is separate from the camera, and multiple cameras could be used to beam to the same storage media.

    Very sadly, someone would find a way to spam it. (Even if it means breaking encryption or finding exploits to do it.)
    I can see it now, you go to dump your pictures and:
    "What the hell? '6 hours of steamy presidential mp3s'?!"
    (Bonus points to anyone who can tell where I got that from.)
  • Sooner or later it would end up in the pocket of my the wash

    I made the mistake of doing that to my passport once --- while I was out of the country, no less.

    I was very embarassed when I showed up at the embassy with the ruins of my passport begging for a new one ....
  • by dorzak ( 142233 )
    640x480 is nice for web graphics, load quickly but show a lot. I hate having to access some huge graphic the size of Manhattan on dial-up.

    Of course, this will probably be used more by the amateur spy/peep show crowd, than anything truly useful.

    I can just see it, dear where's the camera? It was just here, before I gave that nice kid a stick of gum.

  • ..These assanine moderations happen - Wheel mice. Yep. I believe that some people moderate something, then try using their wheel-mouse to scroll the page down and continue reading comments, not noticing that because the drop-down box for moderation is selected, they are scrolling through moderations that they never intended to give.. Of course it helps if you're drunk as well...

  • An affordable self-contained video camera system that can fit in the nose cone of a model rocket just got another step closer. Ohhh, yes.
  • Didn't Q pass the torch to R in TWINE? Q's dead anyway.
    ( \
    XGNOME vs. KDE: the game! []
  • At least with photos, you can scan them at whatever resolution you want; you're not limited as much

    Most film begins to show its grain at resolutions higher than about 3072x2048.

    ( \
    XGNOME vs. KDE: the game! []
  • Can you create a beowolf cluster of these? ... I'd rather see normal size cameras come down in price and be better in quality.

    Actually, a cluster of the CCDs in these tiny cameras would add up to a high-resolution CCD for a bigger camera with film-like (6 megapixel) resolution.

    ( \
    XGNOME vs. KDE: the game! []
  • So whenever there's a story with Sony's memory stick, someone whinges about its proprietariness.

    Tell me, is there any 'open' standard memory device of similar size and as widely used? Anyway, how much DOES it cost to produce memory that size with current technology? I would imagine that anyone else trying to create a similar product will end up selling it at a similar price anyway

  • my bad. i guess i needed some more caffiene to stimulate those neurons.
  • Oh, get a life, Mods. It was a half-serious question.

    Thank you.

    Remove the obvious to email me.
  • 0.55" diagonal? That's not a digital viewfinder, it's more like a digital mood ring:

    White: Aiming at something
    Black: Not aiming at something
    Red: Camera unhappy, replace batteries

  • in Black!! Oh, the rest maybe.. but in black?!?!? why don't you just ask for world peace while you're at it!
  • Namely the MultiMedia Card used in devices like still/video camcorders (JVC DVM series etc). It's about the same size as the Memory Stuck Duo.
  • Lots of people are using CF cameras. The one I'm using (Canon S100) writes a 600k jpeg file to flash in about 3 seconds. Also, normally you'd compress by at least 10:1. A 640x480 file is typically compressed to about 40k. That should be able to write to flash almost instantaneously.
  • As others have noted, something is wrong with the arithmetic. I just took a picture with my Olympus C2500L at SHQ JPEG. The image was 1712x1368x24bits=7,026,048 Bytes. It was compressed in the camera to a 1,943,311 Byte file. As soon as it had finished storing in a Simple 96MB CF I took another picture. The interval was 11 seconds. Thus the image processing plus storage rate was 176,665 bytes per second.

    The camera has a buffer, which allows several pictures to be taken at shorter intervals - in this camera at this resolution the intervals are about 5 seconds. The 11 second figure used above is allowing the buffer to empty completely after a single exposure.

  • Ha! You caught me in a massive brain-fart! I meant clairity of course.
  • Then buy a cheaper model and spend your money on a high-res cam.

    But if you've got the money to burn (which I don't), it'd be a decent toy.
  • Now, if only it weren't saddled to the proprietary, expensive chewing-gum Memory Stick, this would jump even higher on my wishlist.

    Yea, if it had a full-sized CD-RW unit built into it, it would be the best pocket camera ever!

  • by CausticPuppy ( 82139 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @11:55AM (#899754) Homepage
    ...and so does this company. []
    Looks like it's made for specific camera bodies though. Also, it's been vaporware for some time now :(

  • .. I think I'd prefer a higher resolution, or something that could capture video clips, like this mini dvd camcorder [] -Something you can get a decent still out of (1280x960), capture video, and holds gigs of data..

  • by skoda ( 211470 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @11:56AM (#899756) Homepage
    Theory of Convergence dictates that we must now get a camera that small that can see through clothes.
  • for taking pictures
    of stuff. or you could use it
    as a paperweight.
  • Aw heck, if we want to get it really small, it ought to just send microwaves to a belt pack for the system -- that way the storage media is separate from the camera, and multiple cameras could be used to beam to the same storage media.
  • by 1010011010 ( 53039 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @11:59AM (#899759) Homepage
    combine this sucker with bluetooth and you can use it to send pics to the PDA in your pocket, or the laptop in your bag, etc. Also use it as remote cameras for, e.g., day care centers!

    Now what would be cool is a pcmcia/compact flash version. Just use it like a camera, then jam it into your laptop to get the pics.

    ---- ----
  • to know what type of connection they'll use to export the photos. I have a straight old twain device with the cable from the serial port to the nifty looking hole in the camera, you know the routine.

    I really like the cameras that allow you to pop out the cartridge and put it in a floppy disk like case.

    But something this small?? Could be interesting...
  • Just what could the resolution be when it holds 1000 images at 640 x 480?
  • Actually, if you look farther down the article*, you'll see a picture of a Memory Stick Duo with a little plastic extender/adapter that allows it to fit regular Memory Stick slots. Sony is at least compatible with itself, even if they think the rest of the industry can goto Hell.

    *: which will be rather difficult, considering that the Slashdot Effect has now kicked in. I was going to quote the article, but....

    Every day we're standing in a wind tunnel/Facing down the future coming fast - Rush
  • Uhm
    Would be nice for web-use. Noone hardly ever use large images on pages, ya'know.
  • Okay, I don't want to go on a bad moderation rant here, but how does a brief, sarcastic quip, even one that is not all that funny, posted at one (no +1 bonus used) and not moderated up or down by anybody, get marked as "Overrated"!?!?!?

    You could have marked it as "Flamebait", if you thought I was being mean... or maybe "Off Topic", if you failed to notice that I was pointing out that a non-proprietary storage system would have made the camera as big as all the other ones out there... you might even have marked it "Redundant", if you read the posts out of order and thought that somebody beat me to this observation... but "Overrated"? By whom?

  • or are you just making a porno flick? Heh.

  • I can think of some "interesting" uses. Spying being one (super stealth teddy bear with camera for an eye!). Or of course, girls high school locker room :).

  • um.. one problem here, a 1 gig microdrive would not be able to hold a 24 terabyte picture (assuming 24bit color precision). Oh well, maybe holographic storage is the answer ;)
  • by locutus074 ( 137331 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @12:01PM (#899768)
    Now, if only it weren't saddled to the proprietary, expensive chewing-gum Memory Stick, this would jump even higher on my wishlist.
    Methinks timothy is missing the point a bit. Open hardware is always a Good Thing, but they set out to create a really small camera, didn't they? How would you create a camera that small with commonly-available, inexpensive hardware? Use PCMCIA cards? That would've at least doubled the size.

    Anyway, let's hope that this new small camera will drop the prices (or at least pave the way for a price drop) on regular-sized, better-resolution digital cameras.


  • Well... You can can get ~$1000 3 Mpixel cameras right now. Are you looking for something beyond that?

    Considering that most photos are granny pictures, or medium light birthday/christmas shots, printed at 3x4" or 3x6" using point-and-shoot cameras with mediocre lenses, there's not really a significant consumer need/demand for super high-res digi-cams. Seems that for normal use, ballpark 1025x768 res is probably sufficient.

    Of course if you are a professional, avid hobbyist, or aspiring artist, then > 3Mpixel makes sense.
  • When are we going to see some medium-sized, very low price, mid-to-high-res digital cameras?

    Unlike everything else computer-related, last-generation digital cameras never seem to _really_ come down in price. For example, the Kodak DC215, right around a megapixel, is still $300. It's hardly cutting edge, but I want something _cheap_ - on the order of $150, that takes decent digital pictures (no, the Barbie-cam doesn't count...) Is there anything out there?
  • They need to add some sort of transponder so you could make it beep when you lose it. That small is bound to be misplaced :)
  • I'm tired of the editorializing done on a lot of these stories. If you hate closed hardware that much then design your own, see how easy it is.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.