New Ideas, Old Hardware: Taking Photos with the Gameboy Camera and Bitboy
The Nintendo Gameboy is something is near and dear to me. Not only is it a quintessential and nostalgic part of my childhood, but it is also a device I use to express myself artistically. For the past few years I have been producing dance music using the now 26 year old video gaming console. So when I found out the people over at www.gameboyphoto.com were constructing an after market product to port photos taken from the classic grey brick’s hardware accessory the “Gameboy Camera,” I knew I had to get my hands on one.
Before I can properly review the device, I feel its best to give you a brief history of the Gameboy Camera.
Those who were not diehards of Nintendo or the Gameboy may have missed this hardware accessory that came out in the late 90s. The camera functioned like a normal game, but with the added feature of allowing the user to take 256×224 pixel 4 gradient photographs. With this there was also an additional thermal printer which could be purchased to print out your photos aptly named the “Gameboy Printer.”
By today’s standard this is less than jaw dropping, but by 1998’s standards this was quite a feat. This even earned Nintendo an award by The Guinness Book Of World Records for the “Worlds Smallest Digital Camera.” Sadly because of technology limitations, photos never were able to be extracted from the device.
Flash forward to today: Digital photography is everywhere! If you have a cellphone it’s almost certain to have a camera. Photos can be snapped anywhere and be shared in an instant online. With the invention of GameboyPhoto.com’s “Bitboy” you can finally, 17 years later, download and share your retro photos.
(The Bitboy by GameboyPhoto.Com)
How Does It Work:
The Bitboy in short is a SD-Card reader that allows you to upload photos. The images are transferred by the Gameboy Camera’s existing printing feature. The camera is fooled into sending the data to what it thinks is a printer, but instead the data is uploaded directly to the Bitboy’s SD-Card.
(“GB CL” By Graz)
The device works as anticipated and is just as easy to use as any other external SD-Card Reader. The device has an internal lithium battery which can be recharged via a USB cord. The photos themselves appear on the card in all of their pixelated bitmap glory, and look just as you would anticipate they would.
Overall I think this is a great addition to any video-game or photography enthusiast’s arsenal, but doubt it will replace your DSLR anytime soon. It takes a bit of time to determine how to wrangle the contrast and brightness settings within the Gameboy Camera’s GUI, so this can lead to some blown out or dark photos. Photos are almost impossible to salvage unless you are in good lighting conditions. I could see this discouraging a lot of first time users of this device. However this is a fun and creative alternative to Polaroid or toy camera photography. With that if you grew up with the Gameboy Camera then you will find an odd sense of satisfaction seeing your tiny pixel photos on a big computer screen or smart phone.
All in all the Bitboy is worth it’s sticker price. You can tell a lot of love went into producing this product, from its 3d printed casing to bonus hand bound photography book (not pictured). Novel as it might be, I foresee use of devices like this becoming more and more common, as hardware is no longer an inhibiting factor of creative expression.
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