Those of you with long memories may recall my two columns from a year back about the $10 keychain camera (here and here). It was a helluva lot of fun to use, but the nonstandard storage format was readable only on a limited number of computers, and the fact that photos were stored in RAM meant that I lost a high percentage of them due to dying batteries. And, let's face it, the picture quality was even less than marginal.
Six months back, Mike ran an item about the CatCam. When read the photographer's description of what he had done, I realized this was a keychain camera with a memory card slot! Of course, I had to buy one. Even at the lofty price of $25, it was more than worth it. I am now the proud owner of a VistaQuest VQ1005. I decided to go all the way and splurge for a maximum-sized memory card: a $10 512 MB SD card. I am nothing if not a big spender.
Above: The VistaQuest VQ1005 takes SD memory cards. The sliding cover protects the lens and the shutter release. Below: Ready for action, with the memory card inserted, the lens uncovered, and the nearly-useless viewfinder extended.
The size is similar to my previous keychain camera: The VQ1005's a few millimeters fatter, but it's slightly smaller in length and height. It answers many of my previous complaints. It uses standard digital camera storage format, so it looks just like a USB hard drive on your computer under any operating system that recognizes USB. No weird drivers needed. Insert an SD card into the slot and photos are automatically written to the card. When your batteries finally die (and they will die, believe me; just like the other camera, this one constantly keeps the RAM powered up) you don't lose any photos!
At standard resolution (which produces the best image quality on this camera) about 2000 photographs will fit on the memory card! As a result, the issue of whether to reformat or delete frames hasn't come up; I'm just leaving every photo on the card (and, of course, downloading them to my computer). I expect the camera to break before I fill the card.
Camera resolution is a whopping 1.3 megapixels. In other words, we're up to about cell phone quality. In my opinion, the pictures benefit from considerable massaging in Photoshop, especially the Shadow/Highlight tool (but just about every snapshot benefits from that fabulous tool).
The camera does not have the low-light capability of the other keychain camera; it'll work okay under bright indoor light, but that's its limit. On the other hand, it doesn't totally lose it in direct sunlight.
In fitting with this camera's fine quality standards, it actually has a lens with two focus positions—one setting for closeups of people and one for landscapes, according to the icons on the camera. The near focus setting seems to be about 3 ft. and the far focus setting at about 10 ft. But the "plane of focus" is anything but flat, as my last illustration clearly shows, so who knows?
I didn't find any stores that carry this camera on their shelves, but it's available online from several sources. Take my word for it: this is a must-have for any serious connoisseur of fine photography.
ADDENDUM: Here's an Amazon link for the camera. I got mine from CompUSA, but they're defunct, and I'm one of those anti-Walmart types, so Amazon's your best bet. —Ctein