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Wednesday, 09 January 2008


I always knew you were a camera snob. What's next, a wide angle adapter?!

Talk about a discreet camera...... how's the shutter lag? These things make me wonder about the future of digicams and at what point every phone/handheld will have a perfectly usable digital imaging function?

Did you start a keychain pool on Flickr yet? Those are at first blush rather nice in quality Ctein.

Forgive me for raining on the parade, but why not just use a cellphone cam?

It seems to me that the appeal of the original $10 keychain cam was its very idiosyncratic image quality - so bad that it was good.

I think your new keychain camera is too "good" a camera - its IQ is the match of a cellphone cam.

Perhaps you can develop a Photoshop action to emulate the horrific IQ of the original cam. :D

Way too much contrast, not enough black saturation, optical distortions, tons of noise grain - that's the way to go! :D

The last post-photoshop shot looks like a painting of a scene by an impressionist painter in the later 1800s. Perhaps 'three artists meet on the road'.

Do you agree that a lot of times the less sharp and the more impressionistic the shot, the more the eye has to work with and the more appealing the shot seems?

I really like the original, soft landscape image, but find the Photoshoped version Blah!
Also, what is the "Shadow/Highlight" tool? (I don't think it is in Elements of PS 7.0 which is what I have.)

Maybe it is just me, but for the first one I quite like the "straight" photo, not at all enamoured of the 'shopped one. The straight one has charm and a very "natural" look.

I know (am) a reason for a key-chain camera. I've always got keys in my pocket - can't get back into the house without them - but rarely a phone. Who wants to lug a brick of a telecomms device around when this will do nicely for on the spot photog?

With this I could properly get into photo of the day.

Well doesn't that look like an hour or two of cheap (and legal) winter fun?! (Where in heck did you find this?)

Gingerbaker wrote: "Way too much contrast, not enough black saturation, optical distortions, tons of noise grain - that's the way to go! :D"

What's that spell? H-O-L-G-A on a chain! Woo-woo!

Thanks Ctein!

I personally prefer the originals over the edited versions... the originals have a bit of a Lomo feel to them with the high contrast, saturation and vignetting. The edited versions look rather washed out.

@Gingerbaker; I have a Motorola V710, and let me tell you, these keychain photos are 100 times better than I get with my phone. (The v710 has, literally, the worst camera ever put in a phone. See this blog post for a comparison of a freak lightning shot taken with it versus the same shot taken with my girlfriend's LG phone: http://www.blork.org/blorkblog/2006/08/02/ligntning-storm/ )

I so want to get one of these keychain cameras and rig it up as a cat cam. BTW, maybe it's just my monitor, but I prefer the pre-photoshopped versions, especially in the case of the distance shot. I LIKE that the colors are a bit weird and over saturated, as it suits the medium.

I suppose it's a bit like using a Holga; instead of trying to force it to look like a photo from a decent camera, my preference is to exploit its vulnerabilities and to play them up.

Almost bought one of these, but the lack of RAW output and true image stabilization were deal breakers.

FYI, camerahacker forum has tip for correcting infinity focus:


Keychain camera? Great concept. Off to attach the car keys to my G9


Dear Charlie,

Shutter lag is superb. A lot better than on those fancy shmantzy cameras that waste time doing nonsense like matrix metering, adjusting exposure and focusing [grin]. Who needs that stuff!

I presented two of the very best photos, but really the overall quality ain't bad for 'drugstore' prints. The original camera files are linked in, so you could copy them to your computer and print them out as 4"x5" prints if you're curious.

If I were a REAL tinkerer, I'd pull the thing apart, replace the current lens with an instrument-quality microlens (which'd cost more than the camera did), change it to continuous focus instead of two position.

Or I could go get a life [vbg].

pax / Ctein

Dear Ginger,

I hate cell phones (and too high a percentage of cell phone users. They're like smokers-- the 10% who are inconsiderate ruin it for everyone else).

I only carry one when I travel, I hardly ever give the number out, and it's the cheapest pay-as-you-go model I could find.

Tell ya what: find me a $25 cell-phone-with-camera that WON'T hit me up with monthly service charges or a fee every time I make a photo and I'll review it. It'd also be better if it DIDN'T accept calls [g].

pax / Ctein

Dear Folks,

I've never been enamored of blocked-up shadows and blown-out highlights. But then I've never been enamored of slide film.(Or Lomo or Holga, on the whole.) But that's me.

If you like a slide film look, you'll like the "before" tonalities a lot better. But that wouldn't be me.

Nice thing about digital files is no one forces this on us. You can leave 'em straight or massage the hell out of'em as suits your taste.

BTW, there's a posting glitch Mike and I are trying to track down. The original files are 1024x1280; what's showing up online here is640x800 and it's compressed more than twice as much as my files were. So there are JPEG and other artifacts in the online versions that AREN'T in the camera photos. They're better than this

Mike and I hope to figure this out, so check the image sizes when you look at them. If you see 640x800's, you're still seeing the stuff the posting software has screwed with.

pax / Ctein

Dear Tim,

Michael Reichmann's "Funkycam" is of the same design as the one I stripped down and reviewed a year back (see the two links near the top of the column).

pax / Ctein

That Baby is COOOLL :D!
ANd the pics, even before PS are not bad at all (just told hubby that I found a camera for him - he wasn't amused ;) )

Radio Shack sold a 1.3 mega pixel camera a few years ago called the Flatphoto. It had the annoying habit of firing the flash in low light. 2 screws and the flash was in the can.
yup, it reminds me of the holga or other junk (art cameras) cameras. Some of the photo's I'v taken with it a great, it's been sitting around for the last 6 months or so, just turned it on and the battery is still good to go.

I wonder if, if using an SD card, one could mod it so that the RAM isn't powered at all.

"Forgive me for raining on the parade, but why not just use a cellphone cam?"

Don't you need a cell phone to use a cell phone cam ? (We may be in the minority, but I don't have one, either).

Dear Matthew,

Good question... but looking at the photos here:


I can't see where the RAM is, which either means it's hidden under the SD card cradle or it's integrated into the CPU. If the latter, you're out of luck unless you're prepared for some serious hacking.

If the RAM were easy to get at, the way I'd approach it would be to cut it off of the board entirely and see if the camera still functioned.

BTW, Robert E's link to CameraHacker:


connects to a VERY nice page of info about this camera, including links that give precise instructions for fixing the focus on the camera. I'll probably give them a try.

There's also a suggestion that this camera might not be too hard to modify for IR photography. Thanks, RE!

pax / Ctein

Oh, this is just the kind of toy I need. Ordered one from Amazon now at $9.95 with free shipping. Unbelievable. I see them all over eBay as well but at much higher prices.

This is a somewhat more genuine way to get Holga-like images than using the DSLR and various PS operations to get there. But mostly this will be real fun for taking shots of cats in alleyways and such malarky.

Thanks for the info.

You are more than welcome, Ctein! Pleased as punch to be helpful.

I'd bookmarked that page while xmas shopping and forgotten about it. Here's a nice addendum, though, just found:

quality "Vistaquest Dissection" photos by revlimit:


Anyway, I ordered the $10 one you linked to. It must be a very unpopular color because the same camera in any other color costs $30. There must be massive sample variation, too. All us Vistaquesters should compare notes and shots sometime. Oh... yup, there's a flickr group:


Why use Highlight/Shadow? Levels give much better control...

The word must be out on them... they raised the price to over $20!

Dear Flaneur,

Oh, my, no! Levels and Shadow/Highlight do entirely different things. Levels is like an overall contrast/exposure adjustment. Shadow/Highlight is like doing local dodging and burning-in. They're not close to being equivalent. And if you think the latter isn't giving you more control than the former, then you're not using it properly. S/H will do a MUCH superior job of enhancing in restoring shadow and highlight detail in almost all cases, without screwing up midtones.

For that matter, if control is what you want, you should be using Curves, not Levels. 95% of the time Levels is just poor-man Curves. It doesn't offer you as much control, precision, or flexibility, and there's nothing you can do with Levels that you can't do with Curves.

pax / Ctein
[[ Please excuse any word-salad. ViaVoice in training! ]]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://www.ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

I know Levels is the poor-man's Curves. But I find Curves very complex to use properly.
But it's very known that with S/H is very easy to burn/clip tones, and in fact only in the lattest version of photoshop they added controls to prevent that. Sorry, but almost every photoshop 101 tells: avoid s/h, use levels and when you're very good, go for curves. I'm still in levels (and happy). In fact it has an eyedropper with which is very easy to correct color).
By the way I shoot RAW so, I usually use Recovery, Fill light, Brightness, Shadow to work on my pics.

Dear Flaneur,

Are we talking about the same tool? Photoshop's Shadow/Highlight tool does NOT cause clipping of the extremes-- in fact, the opposite is a more common problem, with true blacks lightened too much and true whites darkened too much if it's applied to excess. But it never clips, unless you tell it to via the clip options. Normally, you'd never mess with those, and the default is that it does NOT clip.

There's no change in the S/H controls between CS2 and CS3. Again, I wonder if you're talking about some other tool.

Any "Photoshop 101" that is telling you to use levels as a substitute for S/H doesn't understand what S/H does. They're two entirely different tools that do NOT do equivalent things. Unlike Levels and Curves.

Curves is easier to use than you think! The black and white point sliders in Levels work just the same as moving the (0,0) and (255,255) Curve points left or right. The midpoint ("gamma") slider in levels works the same as setting a point at (128,128) and moving it left or right in Curves. Curves also has eyedroppers for correcting color. Double-click on them and you can set you black, white and grey droppers to whatever custom values you'd prefer (I set black to 20,20,20 and white to 240,240,240 to guarantee I don't clip any tones when crudely correcting an image this way).

You really need to spend some time playing with Curves. You'll get much better results. You'll be sorry you didn't learn them sooner. Trust me.

pax / Ctein

Hi Ctein. Yes, you're right. I was talking about another tool, sorry :-) I was talking about Brightness/Contrast tool. Sorry again. Never used S/H. I'll try it and also Curves. Regards...

Dear Folks,

Mike and I haven't figured out how to prevent his malevolent blogging software from resizing figures down to 800 pixels and recompressing them. So I've uploaded the four photos made with my VistaQuest 1005 to my website at full res and low compression ratio, in case any of you want to do some pixel-peeping on them.


Here ya go!

pax / Ctein

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