Sony Digital Mavica: 1997 Floppy Disk Camera Experience

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Trying out a trio of classic Sony Digital Mavica cameras! And of course, the big reason why I want to do that is because they use 3.5" floppy diskettes to store photos at anywhere from 640x480 to 1280x960 resolution.
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Greetings and welcome to an lgr thing!. and this thing right here is the sony. mavica mvc-fd5, released in 1997 at a. suggested retail price of $599. this was. not only the first of sony's fd mavica. line of digital cameras but it was the. first digital camera to use 3. 5" diskettes as its storage medium of choice. sony ad guy: "take a look at the sony. digital mavica! high resolution and vga. images on a full-featured digital camera,. all of the convenience of a floppy disk!. imagine that!". lgr: oh yes, no need for any. bizarre formatting or disk types, all you. needed was a standard 1. 44 megabyte. floppy disk like you'd use with most any. pc of the time period. this was a big. deal since most competing digital. cameras were using internal flash memory. and often required serial cables and. proprietary software. so these cameras. may have had an advantage in terms of. read/write times while taking photos, but. retrieving said photos was objectively. slower and more cumbersome. and while. removable flash media like compactflash. and smartmedia cards were gaining. traction, those were still more expensive. than floppy disks and also required. adapters to plug them into your computer. heck, even sony's first consumer digital. camera, the dsc-f1, stored its images onto. non removable internal memory and cost a. lot more as a result at $850. but three. and a half inch floppy disks, mm, they. were positively ubiquitous! and combined. with the pricing of the cameras that. continued to drop as the tech improved,. fd mavicas accounted for up to 40% of. the entire digital camera market in the. u. s. at their peak. though it is worth. noting that this was not the first time. sony used disks in their cameras. this. wasn't even the first mavica camera! the. earliest prototypes appeared all the way. back in 1981 and began hitting the. market in 1987, with the name mavica. representing these first two letters of. the words: magnetic video camera. these. early mavicas used 2 inch video floppy. or vf disks, but despite that they were. not digital cameras. rather, these were. known as "still video cameras. " this is a. topic for another lgr video entirely but. the basic idea is that you've got an. analog video camera that recorded a. moment of video and played it back. repeatedly so as to provide a still. image to a video output device like a tv. but this changed in 1997 with the. release of the fd mavica series, namely. the mvc-fd5 and fd7. each of these were fully digital still. cameras with a quarter-inch 640x480 ccd,. the biggest difference between the. two introductory models here was that. the $599 fd5 had a fixed 4. 8 millimeter. lens and the $799 fd7 had a 4. 2 - 42mm. lens providing a 10 times. optical zoom. of the original two models. i only have the fd5 here to show in. this video, but over the years i've. stumbled across plenty of these things. while thrifting. and two of those that i. want to show are the fd75 from 2001 and. the fd87, also from 2001. i find these. models fascinating since, even though. they come from the same year, the . feels notably older than the 87 in terms. of capabilities. so it's amusing to. compare them side-by-side. while they do differ a bit here and there. what's common across all models of the. fd mavica line are their usage of. 3. 5 inch high-density floppy. discs so no matter which one of the . or so models you choose from you can. still use the same exact storage media. although sony did attempt to bridge the. gap between old and new storage tech. around the year 2000 with the memory. stick/floppy disk adapter. this allowed. you to use sony memory sticks with. certain later compatible mavicas to. provide potentially hundreds of. megabytes of storage using the same old. floppy disk mechanism. and amusingly. required to cr-2016 batteries of its own. to pull off the job. man, i love funky. media adapters like this. and for the. most part you can also use these same. rechargeable lithium ion batteries. across fd mavicas, these being the. infolithium np-f300 and f . series. rather annoyingly though there are. certain models like the fd75 that only. accept original sony infolithium. batteries, so modern third-party ones you. can find online today won't work without. some modification. seeing as most of the. original batteries have long since. stopped holding a charge and can be. rather expensive when they do, this can. be super annoying so look out for it!. another commonality between these models is their inclusion of an illuminated. 2. 5 inch color tft lcd screen. on the back that acts as a viewfinder as. well as a way to manage camera settings. and saved images. several competing. cameras were doing this as well, but. looking at a screen instead of through. an optical viewfinder was still a pretty. fresh way of taking photographs in 1997. but as much as these models have in. common let's take a closer look at the. fd5, which i really appreciate for how. straightforward it is. on the front of. the camera past the shutter release. button and the flash you get a. 4. 8 millimeter fixed focal. length lens with an aperture of 2. 0, the. equivalent of a 47 millimeter. lens on a 35 mil camera. and while the. focal length was fixed you have this. macro mode switch which allowed you to. shift the focus much closer to. photograph objects three to nine inches. away. and all your photos were captured. with an iso of 100 with a shutter speed. between 1/60th and 1/4000th of a second. and at a. 0. 31 megapixel 640x480 resolution,. compressed in the jpeg file format at. one of two levels, which meant that you. could store around 40 standard quality. images or 20 fine quality images on a. single floppy disk. around the left side. here you get the floppy disk mechanism. itself which is pretty straightforward. it's a lot like a laptop floppy disk. drive of the time. on the top and on the. right there's nothing really of note. along the bottom you have the battery. compartment and there's also another. battery compartment on the bottom right. of the rear of the camera. this takes a. cr-2025 button cell battery to save your. settings. there's also a nice little. circular d-pad here that works. surprisingly well, a button for turning. on and off the display, the flash, some. brightness up and down options for the. lcd screen, a switch for switching between. playback and taking photos, and of course. the on and off switch. and you get a nice little sound when you. do that. *nice little beep sound plays*. and once it's powered on you. have some on screen options and display. notification thingies. which are navigated using that. directional pad. so you can turn on and. off the timer, adjust the exposure value. if you're not happy with what the camera. automatically does, and a menu for. adjusting the clock, turning on and off the. beeping, switching the quality of the. jpeg compression, and something called. "field / frame. " and this demands a bit of. a closer look. many of the imaging components inside. the fd5 and the fd7 were shared with. sony's own ntsc video cameras, capturing. images by digitizing either a single. field or a full frame of the video feed. that it was recording. taking a picture. in field mode captures an interlaced. video image and interpolates it, filling. in the missing lines to give you a 640x480 jpeg. and while taking a photo in. frame mode you're provided a full 640x480 jpeg image off the bat, produced by. combining two fields captured a split. second apart with "unique" results. more on. that later. anyway taking photos takes. about 6 seconds to save an image to disk,. at least on the original slower speed. disk drive models, and for the most part. it seems to be quite reliable as long as. you keep the drives clean. if you don't. or if the disks themselves are of the. cheaper variety you'll probably see the. dreaded and rather unhelpful "disk error". message. ugh. when you do get a successful. shot though, retrieving the photos could. not be easier, at least for the time. period. just put the disk in a floppy. drive and bam: you've got jpegs!. no software needed, in fact the mavica. manual recommended just using internet. explorer. although sony originally included. arcsoft photostudio in the package as. well. well, i don't know about you but i'm. ready to take a look at some photos. taken with each of these cameras! i'm. just going to show you the same scene. here on the highest possible settings. for each camera, which in the case of the. first one, the fd5 here, is 640x480 in. frame mode and fine detail. and really. it's not that bad, the colors are pretty. good compared to some of the other. cameras that i've looked at. from the mid-1990s. although its. fixed lens is a bit zoomed in, the field. of view is not very high. and it's. notable when you compare it directly to. this shot from the fd75 when i was. standing in the exact same location. and as you might expect you get even better colors with the fd75 as well. it is. still 640x480, but even though it is. the same resolution the overall result. is much more cleaner and vibrant. then we. get to the fd87 and this just has a. much better sensor all around. you get a. greater dynamic range for everything, the. colors are still pretty darn good, it's a. little bit brighter, and of course the. resolution is higher: you get 1280x960. and it also includes a timestamp in the. bottom right by default, i did not know. that was there until i got the pictures. onto my computer. but i think it's fun to. see the march of progress through the. lenses of the different fd mavicas. like this. and of course for an even greater. march of progress: compared it to the. camera on my galaxy note 8 phone, which. is to be expected but yeah. you can. really see how the colors and everything. should look in this particular scene. and. then if we go back to, say, the fd75 you. can see that it really isn't terribly. far off in terms of the color. repro
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