Anyone else have one of these when they were a kid? If you’re my age and spent part of your youth in the 80s I’m guessing that you did. In fact, you probably had a half-dozen of them spread throughout random drawers, shoeboxes, and of course hanging on keychains. For those in the ‘digital era’ age demographic, what you’re looking at is a 110 film keychain camera. Basically, it’s a plastic box that clips around the film cartridge. They were the perfect nexus of fashionable and cheap to produce. They were often given away for free as rewards or company promotion items. The exposure was fixed and the lens was plastic. I guess that they can really be considered LOMO-esqe, except of course LOMO was neither brand nor adjective at that time.
And then film became niche, 110 film became rare, and the keychain camera became pointless to make.
And so the world suffered without a fashionable-yet-cheap LOMO-esqe keychain camera for over a decade, until digital technology progressed far enough that both the size & ‘cheap plastic crap’ factor put such a concept back into the realm of feasibility. Enter the VistaQuest VQ1015, also known as the ‘digital LOMO’.
Before someone mentions it in the comments, I am aware that this is not the first digital keychain camera. In fact, I remember seeing a keychain digital camera at a CompUSA (that should clue you in on how long ago that was) some time ago. But it still wasn’t useful in any way. The resolution was extremely poor (320p, if I remember correctly) making it too low for making prints from and the images themselves had no ‘special’ properties like chromatic distortions, viginetting, and light leaks that would make it useful as an artistic tool.
The VistaQuest ‘digital LOMO’ works where those early attempts failed. Granted 1600p images aren’t huge, but they are printable. As far as that toy camera visual ‘uniqueness’…
Again, before the comments are made, I am aware of the plethora of ‘Holga’ and ‘LOMO’ filter and software solutions out there (I prefer Camerabag for the iPad.). Here’s where something like the VistaQuest VQ1015 stands out. It really is a toy camera. It’s as low-tech as digital can get. It really has a plastic lens. It really lacks filters over the sensor. It really is questionably light-tight. All of that combines to render an image in which the ‘toy camera’ effects are more organic then what programming can accomplish.
Oh, that girl in the last photo? That’s Jessica, a High School student I tutor on weekends. And she’s also a huge photography enthusiast. And it was her camera.
Thanks for the playtime, Jessica.
The Spec Sheet
Image Sensor: 1.3MP CMOS sensor
Focusing: Focusing Fixed Focus 0.9m to Infinity
Lens: F3.0,f = 6.56mm
Display: B/W status LCD
Picture Resolution: 1600×1200, 1280×1024 & 640×480
Video Resolution: 320×240
Compression: JPEG, MPEG
PC Interface: USB 1.1
Memory: 8MB SDRAM (4MB for camera use, 4MB for picture storage)
Memory card: Support up to 2GB SD card
Battery: 1×AAA battery (lasts up to 80 pictures)
Now that you’ve seen the specs, let’s answer the obvious questions:
Q: f/3.0? Fixed focus from .9 meters to infinity? How does that work?
A: A tiny, tiny sensor.
Q: f/3.0? Wow, that’s fast for a toy camera!
A: It is. Then you realize that the effective exposure index of the sensor is ISO60. Then it’s not.
Q: Only up to 2GB SD cards?
A: Actually, that’s not the problem. A 2GB card can hold thousands of 1.3MP JPEGs. The problem is finding a 2GB SD card. I don’t think they’ve been made since the beginning of the century.
Q: “B/W status LCD”? What’s that?
A: Do you have a cheap Timex? Look at it. And there you go.
Don’t be confused
The original version of this camera, the VQ1005, was a Japan-only effort and completely sold out in a matter of a couple of months. The manufacturer immediately decided to do another production run after making a few tweaks…specifically upping the image quality to produce more natural photos. You can see sample images from it in this Flickr set.
This didn’t go over well with Japanese lomographers who had been the machine behind the original camera’s success. They treasured the raw images produced by the original VQ1005. In response, VistaQuest decided to produce 2 flavors of the VQ1015: the R2 and the ENTRY. The R2 renders a ‘natural’ image in a square frame. The ENTRY renders a hyper-saturated, contrasty, heavily vigenetted image in a 4:3 frame.
That’s the one you want.
What makes the VistaQuest VQ1015 worth buying?
The simple answer: the VQ1015 does nothing short of bring the fun back into photography. It accomplishes that by returning 2 things that have been lost on the road to technological superiority.
- Anticipation. This is something that’s hard to explain to those that are only aware of the LCD. You shoot it and a second later you see it on the back of your camera. Before chimping, you had to wait until a roll was empty…12, 24, or 36 photos plus an hour for processing. The time leading up to the opening of the envelope containing your finished prints was filled with anticipation, which made the opening itself an event. Replace “processing” with “time to get to a computer” and “envelope” with “Lightroom” and you get the idea.
- Instinctive creation. Oddly, the more that technology assists us with (or completely takes over) the technical aspects of photography the more we obsess over the technical aspects. We loose sight of the more intuitive, organic facet of artistic creation. The ‘digital LOMO’ is completely antithetical to that.
Yeah, I want one. Bad.