- Johnny Wilson
Game Boy Camera - easier to use now than ever
Back in March, I got to play around with a GBA Mini Camera after finally managing to pick one up on eBay after months of on-off searching. However before I'd even got round to that, I'd put my order in for a Epilogue GB Operator; a USB device that allowed you to connect Game Boy, Game Boy Colour and Game Boy Advance cartridges to your computer, which was cool enough, but for me the hardware, and software, had one killer perk that made it an instant buy: "Transfer those 16KP pics from your Game Boy Camera to your PC in just a few clicks." That's it. That was me sold. It took a little while to turn up thanks to the semiconductor chip shortage, but at the beginning of this month my GB Operator arrived in the post and I've been really happy with it ever since! I could write a whole blog post on messing around with the GB Operator and stuff, but let's focus on the Game Boy Camera for a moment; released in 1998 it takes 128 x 112 pixel resolution black & white images with a maximum palette of x4...colours, or x4 shades of black if you like... with a ball shaped lens that sat on top of a cartridge and can be rotated 180 degrees to be front facing, technically making it probably the first selfie camera. Camera operation is controlled entirely by the Game Boy it's sitting in with options to adjust the brightness and contrast of the image. which actually make a difference to how the photo looks! Despite it being a tiny 128 x 128 CMOS sensor sitting inside the camera. It was revolutionary for it's time, holding a World Record for being the smallest camera for a moment, and it wasn't the worlds first digital camera or anything but the digital camera market itself was still in its infancy and for some people the Game Boy Camera was the first real digital camera they held in their hands.
Designed to be more of a toy than a practically useful camera, the software itself featured some gimmicky stuff where you could draw on the photos and place stickers on them, and there is also a few hidden games if you dig around hard enough! But I'm not going to look at those and instead focus on the camera and the images. I paired mine with a Game Boy Pocket I borrowed off my brother, because the Pocket has a slightly better screen than the original DMG and is easier to carry around, and took it around town with me last week to get some shots:
So at first impression, I'm genuinely surprised at how well these photos turned out! They looked alright on the GB screen, don't get me wrong, but I thought they would just be a pixelated spaghetti dinner on my hi-res laptop screen, but no, you can actually genuinely tell what it is that has been photographed! I resized all these photos manually, and faithfully using Pixel Resize scaling methods, so that they were big enough for y'all to actually look at without getting a migraine! But even resized I'm happy with how they turned out! The shots I took of graffiti, in particular, worked out really well:
The GB camera, owing to that tiny sensor, likes it much more when there is a very strong contrast and definition between light and dark areas. Any areas where there is a distinct difference between the brighter and darker parts of your photo, the GB camera is going to have a real hard time balancing and usually the highlighted areas get blown out, or the shadowy areas just merge into one big, black shape depending on how you adjust your settings, like this photo of my Olympus OM10:
Big thick outlines like those in the graffiti shots are very much more preferred, because anything with high levels of detail just gets lost in a pixelated, foggy, mess:
But honestly, that's not really what the GB camera was designed for, you aren't going to take this to the mountainous regions of Norway, or the sprawling landscapes of Arizona and expect to get stunning photos, although... you might... and on that tangent, following my GBA Mini Camera posts I attracted the attention of thegameboycamera on IG who pushes the GB camera to the absolute limit with his mods and photos, and after you get done reading my post, go look at his stuff! But no, the GB camera was more designed to take silly photos of you and your friends and put clown makeup on them or something... but you can take it out it's comfort zone and use it creatively and still get some interesting shots from it. Here's a handful of other shots I took:
I shelled out quite a bit of money for my GB Operator, and not that it wasn't worth it because it is, but as a result I definitely want to be using the GB Camera a lot more now that I have a way to easily extract the native images without crazy amounts of messing about and I got quite attached to my brothers GB Pocket whilst playing with it so am definitely going to be using that some more! In the right situation, with all the right variables you can get some real interesting looking shots and even when things don't quite go right, it's still fun and amusing to play with. And you can have a social media avatar that will be the envy of all your geeky friends:
I've started a gallery to catalogue my GB Camera shots, and you can have a look at that by clicking this bit of text.