Praktica Micropix - Smallest Camera EVER
Updated: Jan 14
A few years ago, whilst rummaging around in a charity shop I found what I thought had to be the worlds smallest camera ever. That camera is the Praktica Micropix. Here's a picture of it from my Instagram next to the also quite compact Olympus Trip 500.
As you can see it is tiny! Dwarfed by the Trip 500! But still capable of capturing a digital JPG that you can extract from the camera to your computer, making it a "functioning" camera. When I say functioning I mean it has to be capable of producing a reproducible image. When I first bought the camera a few years ago I had trouble connecting it to my laptop (more on that later on) so I forgot about it, but I was recently inspired by LGR to get it to work again and after some messing around I finally found a way to extract the images from it!
A few quick tech specs for you: according to the packaging, the camera features a "100k" CMOS sensor, not an expert on sensors but I'll take their word for it, which means it produces pictures at a max res of 352 pixels x 288 pixels, 2mb of internal memory which means you can get 20 pictures at that res, or alternatively the camera can shoot at a lower resolution of 176 x 144 (wow) and you will get 80 of those shots on your memory chip before it runs out of room. The packaging claims the camera automatically measures exposure and white balance, but your mileage will sincerely vary with this, it claims it can produce shutter speeds from 1/6 to 1/15000 but I don't know about that in actual practice. I found using the camera indoors was a complete no go, and in very bright sunlight there was obvious overexposure. Finally the camera takes one AAA battery to power, can't comment on battery life but assume something this tiny with this limited amount of features, that single AAA battery should last you a heck of a long time. I took the camera out for quick test drive in very bright conditions; if I we're shooting film we are talking ISO 100 film f16 at 1/125 sort of bright and was keen to see what it was actually capable of. There is a little popup viewfinder that sits at the top of the camera but it is so incredibly tiny using it to frame images was near on impossible, but I tried anyway! Here are a few of the 12 or so photos I took with it, these are unedited and not modified in any way:
Clearly I have to get used to focal length! On that subject, looking at these images and remembering how they looked through the viewfinder, I'd hazard the lens is roughly comparable to a 40mm lens on a 35mm camera. Maybe slightly narrower than that but in the image with the bike above I clearly remember lining the wheel up to be near the bottom and here it's slightly cut off. If your pointing this thing at something be sure to leave plenty of scenery around your subject in the viewfinder. If you can actually make out what's in your viewfinder! Also as you can see from my Ice Cream Van photo the colour balance isn't perfect. But is it fair, in modern times, to critique this camera by the same measuring stick as your latest Coolpix or IXUS? Well of course not, and you shouldn't. By it's own admission the Micropix is a toy camera. Would you compare a Fischer Price keyboard to the latest Yamaha or Casio offering? Of course you wouldn't. I think half the charm of using this camera is that you aren't going to get perfect results! It's a total gimmick! But a fun one. Just having a camera that you can easily conceal in the palm of your hand is crazy in itself. And even for a toy camera it has a self timer and a 'continuous shoot" option that will take a photos in sequence until you let go of the shutter button.
Information on the Micropix is limited, I imagine detail has been lost in the sands of time, but I've dated it to around 2005/2006. Because of it's age I had severe problems using the software and drivers supplied with the camera as well as getting the camera to even be recognized as a device by my laptop. I tried a few different ways to get around that but in the end, took a suggestion from my brother to get it work. I won't go into complexities of detail right now, but in a nutshell I used software called VirtualBox to create a virtual PC running Windows XP Home and then whilst in the virtual PC installed the software and connected the camera that way. If there's more demand for detail, maybe I'll do a whole post on the process in the future. So what is my overall impression of the Micropix? Well for it's small size, and age, it's a gimmicky little toy that will actually produce proper photos. It's tiny so you can literally take it anywhere and as long as you don't expect it to rival your smartphone or the latest compact camera in results, you can get some enjoyment and usability out of the photos it produces. Whilst I was using it, it got me thinking. If Pentagon made this in 2005, what is the application for the same technology nowadays? Take a look at your phone for example, it has millimeters of space between camera and sensor to work with and yet some super high end flagship phones will produce photos almost on par with a entry level DSLR's. Entry level compact cameras, like the Canon Powershot SX620, are getting smaller and smaller, the rear LCD being the biggest component in terms of dimensions. Who's to say that ditching a rear LCD you wouldn't be able to reproduce almost exactly the same thing as the Micropix but much more modern with more accurate and powerful results?