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Throwback Thursday: Game Boy Camera

Throwback Thursday: Game Boy Camera

Throwback Thursday: Game Boy Camera 1

It’s probably no surprise that you won’t find a review or a score for the Game Boy Camera in DPReview’s archives. Even by 1998 standards, the Game Boy Camera was a bit underwhelming in terms of technology. It took 0.5MP still images and displayed them at half that resolution. Output options were extremely limited: you either displayed your photos on the screen and passed your Game Boy around the room, or you acquired the Game Boy Printer – a glorified receipt printer that spits out tiny renditions of your subject on thermal paper.

But it was also the first camera that some of us on the DPR staff called our own, and for that reason holds a special place in our hearts. Take a look back at the Game Boy camera with us in all its 8-bit glory.

Throwback Thursday: Game Boy Camera

Throwback Thursday: Game Boy Camera 2

The camera itself attaches to a standard Game Boy cartridge, and the camera unit itself can swivel 180-degrees to face forward or backward. That’s right, Nintendo was so far ahead of the selfie craze that we didn’t even have an obnoxious name for them yet.

Throwback Thursday: Game Boy Camera

Throwback Thursday: Game Boy Camera 3

The menu system is about as straightforward as it gets: your three options are Shoot, View and Play. Of course, it needed to have a game element, so the Game Boy Camera offers three simple mini-games. But the real attraction is that camera on top. Hitting ‘shoot’ brings you to a screen where you can choose to just jump right into a fantastically laggy live view experience, or navigate to menu options called things like ‘Items’ and ‘Magic’. There’s a kind of Easter Egg if you select an option called ‘Run,’ but the less said about that the better.

Throwback Thursday: Game Boy Camera

Throwback Thursday: Game Boy Camera 4

Here’s what’s surprising about the Game Boy Camera – it offers quite a bit more than meets the eye. There are time-lapse, panorama and self-timer options. Nine different ‘trick lenses’ unlock more effects, like posterize, mirror and a 4×4 collage. You can also add hotspots to images, that when clicked take you to other images in your album. If you’ve got the time and imagination, you can actually do a lot with it. Heck, the cover of one of Neil Young’s albums was taken with a Game Boy Camera.

That said, low light shooting is not at all a strength of the camera, so any photo taken in less than ideal light comes out as not much more than some dark, indistinguishable pixels.

Throwback Thursday: Game Boy Camera

Throwback Thursday: Game Boy Camera 5

Choosing ‘View’ from the main screen brings you to a simple 3×3 grid where you can select images individually to view at larger size (weirdly, you can’t scroll between images in this view). On this screen you can unleash all kinds of mischief – zany borders, eyeball-shaped stamps and comments. But the party really started when you hooked up your Game Boy Printer.

Throwback Thursday: Game Boy Camera 

Throwback Thursday: Game Boy Camera 6

That’s right, if you really wanted to share your photos, you had to shell out some more cash for the printer. It outputs images on tiny strips of thermal paper at about the size of a postage stamp. The best part? The back of the paper can be peeled away to reveal an adhesive strip, which was ideal for attaching to photos to your Trapper Keeper.

Throwback Thursday: Game Boy Camera

Throwback Thursday: Game Boy Camera 7

The thing we remember most about the Game Boy camera is that it was just plain fun. In 1998, digital cameras were still making their way into the hands of the masses. Being a kid and suddenly having the ability to attach a camera to your beloved handheld game system was kind of magical. It encouraged silliness, inspired creativity and was the first step toward a lifetime of photo geekery, at least for a few of us.


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