Digital cameras first broke onto the scene in the early 2000s. With no precedent for how they should work or look, every company tried to make their digital camera unique. Nikon made a point and shoot that had a swivel lens so that you could take pictures of yourself. Olympus made the Camedia C-211, a camera that took digital photos and printed directly on Polaroid film from the camera itself. Today’s camera culture is much the same, with companies fighting tooth and nail to make the next big revolution in digital photography. The result has led to some straight bizarre cameras and some bizarrely revolutionary ones. A few are certainly more kitsch than others (like Nikon’s S1000pj, with a digital projector built into a point and shoot), but all are worth a quick look.
Kodak EasyShare V570
A Zoom Icon, Long Overshadowed: Introduced in 2006, the Kodak EasyShare V570 was the first digital camera of its kind. It featured two lenses, each with their own sensor — a wide angle and a 3x zoom lens. The setup allowed amateur photographers to switch easily between two different views to get better shots. While revolutionary at the time, it’s long since been overshadowed by optical zoom lenses, so unless you feel the need to be ten years behind the times, the V570 is more or less outdated.
Samsung Galaxy Camera 2
A Camera with Computing Hardware: On the surface, the Samsung’s Galaxy Camera 2 is a fairly standard point-and-shoot camera. It features a 21x optical zoom, a 16MP camera and a compact body. What is unique about the Galaxy Camera 2, however, is the fact that it runs Android Jelly Bean and features a 4.8-inch HD touch screen. The idea is that you edit, share and view photos directly from your camera without moving them to your phone or computer. It’s cool in theory, but in a lot of ways, the Galaxy Camera 2 is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.
Nikon Coolpix S1000pj
A Somewhat Functional Projector Camera: Introduced in 2009 as part of Nikon’s Coolpix line, the S1000pj is the first compact camera to have a built-in digital projector. The projector adds no bulk or weight to the camera, and works well both at close distances and in very dark conditions. However, its bulb is too dim to work well in any sort of light. Beyond its projector, the S1000pj is a standard point-and-shoot camera with a 12MP resolution. For those who feel the need to share dim photos projected onto a wall instead of just hooking the camera up to a computer, the S1000pj has you covered.
A Digital Ode to Depth-of-Field: The Lytro Illum is the follow up to the original Lytro camera, and it’s a lightfield camera. In the simplest terms, the Illum captures every plane of focus in one shot — users can adjust the depth of field and plane of focus in post-processing. You can even add additional planes of focus as well. The lens on the Illum is equivalent to a 30-250mm and has an aperture of f2 throughout the entire zoom range. It’s handy for some, especially if you have unsolvable difficulties shooting an in-focus picture.
Apple’s QuickTake 100 was one of the first digital cameras available to consumers. It was released in May of 1994 and retailed for $749 (about $1,215 by today’s standards). It only worked with Apple computers, took eight photos at a resolution of 640 × 480, 32 photos at a resolution of 320 × 240 and had no zoom or focus functions. It was a joint venture between Apple and Kodak that failed miserably and was discontinued just three years later. Learn More
A Modular Marvel, With Looks to Spare: One of the more unique takes on the digital SLR, the Ricoh GXR system has never really gained much traction. The system works by having lenses that are sealed to a sensor. The modular unit can then be plugged into the digital back unit. The system is somewhat restricted by the fact that you can only use Ricoh lenses, but the company did release an interchangeable M mount module, so you can use all Leica M mount lenses as well. The benefit here is that the sensor, when it becomes outdated, is the only part of the camera that you have to replace. For most users, though, a standard interchangeable lens system will do.
A Spy Camera on Your Smartphone: Designed to plug into your smartphone, the DxO One is essentially a high-powered pro-grade camera in a miniature package. Its 20.2MP resolution infuses your smartphone with DSLR capabilities. You can adjust aperture, shutter speed, white balance, ISO and just about every other setting you get on a standard DSLR. Perfect for high-res spy shots.
A Light-Capturing Marvel: Like the DxO One, the L16 puts DSLR quality in a package that can easily fit in your pocket. The camera has 16 small lenses, each of which is similar to the one you have on your smartphone. Depending on lighting conditions, the camera then fires 10 of those lenses, and stitches each image together into one high-quality image. It is a specialized piece of equipment, but isn’t more always better?
Seitz 6×17 Digital
A Solution to Your 6×17 Image Needs: The Seitz 6×17 Digital is the only digital camera with the ability to create a 6×17 digital image without stitching. The camera utilizes a digital-scan back, which moves horizontally across the back of the camera to capture the image refracted by the wide-angle lens. The camera works with Schneider, Linhof and Fuji lenses, which offer plenty of options and are widely available. If stitched panoramic photos just aren’t good enough for you and you crave the high resolution and large format offered by the 6×17, the only catch is that you have to be prepared to shell out.