Epson PhotoPC: The 1995 Digital Camera Experience


Greetings and welcome to an LGR thing!
And this is the Epson PhotoPC, first introduced a the tail end of 1995 and
marketed into and throughout 1996 at a suggested retail price of $499 US dollars.
Making it not only the first digital camera from Epson but the first color
digital camera under $500 on the consumer market.
Intriguingly this was actually developed by Sanyo and then just licensed out
to different companies, Epson being one of them. And another being Sierra Imaging
releasing it under the SD640. But yeah this Epson is the one that we’ll be taking a
look at throughout this video because I found it at a Goodwill a while back and
found it instantly intriguing. I probably just haven’t paid much attention but you
know, whatever: I think Epson, I think printers. And you know, that was maybe why they wanted to get into this in the first place. I mean why not sell you a
digital camera to go along with your Epson printer! And yeah they were
advertising them side by side with their color inkjet printer selling for $449.
And yeah, digital cameras, they were just super new and exciting and crazy at the
time. The fact that you could take pictures and have them go directly into
your computer — you don’t have to like, get them developed and scanned and whatever
else, it was just amazing to me. I was like 10 years old when these things we
were coming onto the market, and first time I saw them displayed at like a Best
Buy I was just like “whoa how does that even work?” As a result these earlier
digital cameras and intrigue the crap out of me so let’s take a look at this one.
After all it’s “the quick easy way to bring pictures into your computer!” Yes
*into* your computer. *Zoolander clip plays* And the system requirements were pretty modest: just needed a 486 with Windows 3.1 or higher and the most standard of standards the
RS-232C serial interface. And man this mid-90s digital camera marketing: “just
imagine what you can do!” Seriously, you’ve got to imagine it because this is new
territory for most people. “It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5” but like, what
do you do with a digital camera? Well they provide a handy list of ideas
on the side of the box: letters, presentations, reports, proposals, flyers,
invitations, desktop and internet publishing, holy nuts.
For half a grand I mean, that’s a bargain! And check out these specs: 24-bit color
images, 640×480 or 320×240 resolution, and it could hold up to 16 or
32 of those images, respectively. And yes this has its own internal memory, one
megabyte of storage. As you can see on the other side of the box here, this is
the one megabyte memory version. This could actually be expanded with memory
modules up to 4 megabytes, and we’ll get to that in a little bit, but yea. Let’s
go ahead and unbox the box itself and see what we get inside here, which starts
out with a nice little plastic bag full of paper goodies. And of course the
camera and the cable, and in my case some batteries. Back to the plastic baggie
though and inside of that you get a little strap that has seemingly never
been installed on this camera. And I don’t really care for straps anyway so
it’s gonna stay unattached. You also get a rather substantial instruction manual
here covering everything from how to set it up, to how to take friggin pictures, to best practices for this particular type of camera. Because it mean, it’s an
early digital camera, it’s mighty restrictive in terms of what you can and
can’t do in lighting and shooting conditions and all that kind of stuff.
Next up is a packet of the Photo PC software called Easy Photo. And this
comes on two floppy disks to get the actual camera connected and
communicating with your computer, as well as some software to quote-unquote
“develop” your pictures. And we’ll see that more in a little bit. There’s also this
little card in here reminding you to remove the plastic cling film, yeah don’t
forget to give yourself that pleasure! And there’s an important reminder here
about serial baud rate among other things. And yeah that speed in
particular, you do want it to be as fast as possible because serial ain’t quick!
There’s also this fold-out thingy here showing all of the accessories that they
had provided by Tiffin. And I mean yeah look they’ve got filters and cleaning kits and UV
protectors and conversion lenses and tripods and cases and holy crap! All
sorts of stuff available for its 37 millimeter lens. And then there’s this
piece of paper which I just love. This is the original receipt from the person
that bought it before me back in the day. Apparently on December 13th, 1997 for $250, mm half price. And they got it from America Online *laughs* Why? I don’t
remember them selling digital cameras but maybe they had some sort of
promotion going on. I mean apparently they did. And enough of the paperwork let’s
get on to some of this hardware stuff. So you’ve got the serial cable right
there, it’s just a standard nine pin serial connector and in this case it
came with these old batteries. Yeah they are long dead but it just amused me to
see these again. I remember those little testers on there that you had to press
ridiculously hard to show the battery capacity. And finally here is the PhotoPC camera itself. It’s a little bit bigger than like a standard 35
millimeter point-and-shoot of the time, just a little bit wider. And the on/off
switch is down here in the bottom right which will slide the cover on and off of
the lens. And it is indeed a fixed lens you can’t do any zooming or anything like
that. Autofocus from two feet to infinity with
an ISO equivalent to 130 and an f-stop of 5.6, not terribly great stuff.
But you know it works. Along the top here is where you have the so-called “easy
touch LCD,” and no it’s not a touchscreen, just silly marketing. And on the side
here you have this little door. This slides down to show the serial
connection as well as somewhere to plug in the optional power adapter. Along the
bottom yeah, it’s pretty much what you’d expect. Just a place to screw in a tripod
and some model and product information codes and numbers and things. And along
the back you get a viewfinder and a place for your thumb and that’s it!
There’s no screen to look at what you’re shooting on this thing. And then there’s
this little rubbery deal on the side which completely comes off in a couple
of different ways. The first way is to get to the battery compartment and
that’s why it has such a wide area here on the front: to fit four AA
batteries. And then another compartment opens up and here is where it gets a
little interesting. This is the spot for the expandable memory. And this is flash
memory, in this case one megabyte is permanently installed in there, and
there’s a slot for another stick of flash memory, from two megabytes to four
megabytes. Epson was really pushing this at one point. They called it
the PhotoSpan memory module. The thing is this was ridiculously expensive! From
what I can gather the two megabyte module was like $300 and then the four
megabyte one was around $600. Well I don’t know about you but I’m more ready to try
this thing out. So you power it on right there and the little LCD at the top
turns on. And this basic little display it’s like an inch across and it just
tells you a few different things, with these buttons that can be used to switch
between “high res” quote-unquote and low res, and then a button for the self timer.
This right here just lights up a little red light in the front of the camera to
let you know that it’s about to take a picture. There’s another button here to
switch between the flash modes. That would be the flash in the front of the
camera, not the memory. And then there’s a button to delete the last taken picture.
That’s right, only the most recent picture. If you want to do anything more
than that you’ve got to plug it into a computer. And of course you have the
shutter right there so you just press that down to take a picture, and it
takes a picture. And notice that nice little gold reflective bit on the front
of the viewfinder there, you can actually see your reflection quite well and take
selfies that way. And yeah once you take a picture it will show the number of
pictures currently stored on there. And as you can see, pressing it to take a
picture and then the time it takes to actually store it to the flash memory is
a little substantial, especially on the “high-res” 640×480 mode. And yeah it really is just that simple. Point and shoot. The viewfinder itself
even doesn’t give you much of any information at all. There’s no
range-finding. It just gives you those little brackets to kind of give you an
idea of what is going to be in frame for your picture and that’s all you get. Then
when you’re ready to get your pictures onto the PC, turn it off, flip that
little thingy down, and plug in the serial cable and then you’re ready to go
and plug it into your COM port on your PC. Yeah gotta love that traditional serial
bus. This is the days before the universal serial bus, so no USB when this
thing launched. Most cameras were using plain old serial. Once you get the PhotoPC software installed you can go into this camera controls settings program
here and well. Here’s where you do all the other stuff that you can’t actually
do on the camera itself, like use it as the world’s slowest and crappiest webcam!
Change the auto shutoff time, the shutter speed, and the date and time of the
actual pictures you’re taking, as well as the connection speed for your serial
port. And yeah the Photo PC software itself is also very simple, you just
click the button and as long as everything is configured correctly it
will grab the photos from the flash memory of the camera and then very, very
slowly copy each one of them over to your hard disk. And there you go! You’re
free to do whatever you want to do with your brand-new digital photos, ooh.
What are you gonna do with all those non megapixels?! Anything you want, including
some basic brightness and color correction and even spot removal tools
in this program. And yeah I’ve had a lot of fun just taking this around and
shooting photos. I especially enjoy using older digital cameras like this to take
photos of things and environments where you can’t really tell when the photo was
taken. Finding things from the mid nineties, the eighties or whatever, really
gives a convincing effect when you take photos with this thing. There’s something
about its particular noisy low res washed-out style that I quite enjoy. And
the fact that this one in particular actually does have some pretty decent
color reproduction for a digital camera of this time period? Ah you know it’s neat.
Not bad Epson and Sanyo from the mid 90s, not bad at all. And that’s pretty much it for the Epson PhotoPC. I hope you enjoyed this look
back at one of these earlier digital cameras. It’s certainly not the oldest
thing around, heck it’s not even the oldest digital camera that I have. But
it’s one that I find really easy to use and kind of fascinating with its
built-in flash memory. There were many more PhotoPCs later on, I haven’t used
any of those so I don’t know. I’m assuming they only got better or
whatever, but this one in particular being the first of its kind stands out
to me because of that. And I hope that you enjoyed watching and if you did then
perhaps you’d like to stick around and see what else is coming along here on
LGR. There are new videos every Monday and Friday on all kinds of topics: retro
tech and software and gaming related. And who knows what else because I’m always
trying to evolve what the heck I’m even doing here because I don’t know. With
that being said as always thank you very much for watching!

100 thoughts on “Epson PhotoPC: The 1995 Digital Camera Experience

  1. I really hope no one actually bought these. Its cool for this video, but if I now scan images from film i can easily get 10-12Mpix out of them. With a dynamic range that comes close to my DSLR, making them even great for big print outs and so on. And then imagine someone who really took pictures with this thing. Maximum printing size would be around 10cm (4inches) diagonally for acceptable, but not great 200ppi. Not even considering the ridiculous compression artifacts and the high costs.

  2. The first digital camera I ever got was a Sony Mavica. Don't remember the exact model, but it used a floppy disk for storing images. I thought it was the coolest thing ever haha. It even had video capability, but it was extremely pixelated and no audio.

  3. 640×480 is no accident. The first consumer digital cameras were born from taking camcorder sensors and adapting them for digital imaging. After these early cameras (mavica, quicktake, etc) proved there was a market, manufacturers began investing in dedicated imaging chips and the megapixel race was on. In just a couple of years 1-2mp was fairly common.

  4. I had an Olympus camera that was very similar. The one big difference that made it tolerable was that the big flash memory card could pop out and I could use a USB external card reader to download the pics into my PC. Ended up giving it to a teacher friend for her special needs kids. A camera you just turn on and take pictures is great for them, and they have a lot of fun with it.

  5. невар мейдет ез а уайтмен…. ай кудант кътит еза пор мен стийлинг

  6. Nice – that images look my like i was woatching old 90s magazines or tv – and if i dont know that is 2018 i thinked that fotos are old some from archives 🙂

  7. There does not seem to be any of the memory modules available anywhere, new old stock or used. At the original prices, it's unlikely very many people bought them.

  8. You should talk to movie makers if they want authentic looking photos for their film and maybe you might make a buck or 2.

  9. I had a later model of one these from the mid 2000s. From what I can recall, no they really didn't get much better. Mine ran on 2 batteries instead of 4, same resolution, same memory, though it did use SD cards and USB. And had a (really crappy) lcd screen to view photos. From what I remember though you could only use it to view photos you already took. You couldn't use it as a viewfinder. It was an improvement over the one in this video, sure, but it was still a crap camera even for the time. I regretted buying it. Everyone else I knew had really nice cameras and I was stuck wih that POS.

  10. Dang, at that Time myself was one Year old. Thanks for the Videos, now i know what was "State of the Art" at Digital Cameras.

  11. The storage and hall speaker photos reminded me of Police Quest 4. You could make some nice pseudo 90 fmv adventure games backgrounds with this thing!

  12. Love your channel my friend! I’d forgotten that my dad had one of these back in the day. I too was mesmerized by the technology. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  13. As a budding web developer needing accurate photos for my Geocities site, I would've killed for this camera in 1995.

  14. It's fun to learn the current perspective of someone who was 10 when a product came out. It's also amazing you find such complete time capsule products at thrift stores. This probably would have brought decent money on eBay. Just like computers from the same era it's good to have reminders of far we've come. Today a $40 smartphone has a better camera and 4000 times as much flash memory.

  15. Upto 4MB Expandable Memory?… SAY WHAT NOW??… That's the size of just 1 of my photos on my Cell Phone.. 😂😂😂

  16. I was quite surprised by the quality of the photos, pretty good for 95. I love that retro low res look.

  17. I could take this off of your hands if you ever need some money, dude. I really want one of these but I can't find one online too easily especially with the cables and that. I love the look of the photos. Also I love your videos and I like how you're interested in the same kind of 90s esc. And more vintage looking items, love it. Email me if you wanna sell me that. [email protected]

  18. it reminds me of my family's old (35MM) camera
    man.. thinking about that thing brings back memories

  19. This software looks soo much better than what we had with our first cam in, uhh, 2000? With something like a whopping 2 megapixels!
    Ours had some crappy, "stylish" slow-as-molasses fullscreen application. And the pictures didn't even look good…

  20. when you open the camera and its shown Malaysia , yes im from Malaysia and Epson's factory still operate back in my place

  21. As someone that spent his late teens and early 20s wasting his life thinking he could be a photographer before he gave up on his dreams. I liked this video a lot.

  22. It's so funny to me how when technology becomes obsolete or at least outdated, it genuinely starts to look like a toy.

  23. Hi LGR, I have the European version, that is slightly different, I also have the optional screen to see your photos. Killed the battery in 10 min though. I can send you some photos. Unfortunately too expensive to send from UK I think.

  24. 9:56 "There's something about its particular noisey, low-res, washed out style that I quite enjoy" Funny you should say that, for the longest time I've thought the same about digicams from the 90s and even early 00s. There's something fun and nostalgic about photographs mimicking that era. Personally Iv'e been using different filter programs and apps lately to achieve the effect, though keeping an eye out for an oldie digital camera.
    Love the content, keep it up!

  25. I still own mine! Haven't used it in about 15 years but I may have to pull it out of the closet now. 🙂 Very cool to see you review it! 🙂

  26. Great. Not only did you get me to collect old computers and Boxed PC games, but now you have me wanting to get an old digital camera so I can take retro photos. Love ya LGR

  27. hello i have just bought this camera, can't find the cable though… could you tell me name or something to help me to find it. i'm so keen in downloading this camera. nice video and presentation, very useful!

  28. For 1995 that's a pretty excellent camera, given that just a few years earlier a DCS 100 was 20k and took arguably worse looking images.

  29. Is there a collection of the photos you've taken with these cameras? 🙂 It'd be interesting to see all of them at one place and maybe compare to each other.

  30. I still have from new (think it was bought 1999 ish) a Kodak DC20 camera, no flash and if I recall 320×240 res, it ate batteries and the memory held about 6 or 8 photos, loved the old thing and given good lighting the pics from it wasn't so bad. Bought the day PC world opened in York it was half price and cost £60!

  31. I hate my digital camera because it got 20.1 megapixels meaning the photos take in my digital camera are over 2.32 MB crazy expandable storage!

  32. What do you do with a digital camera?
    What do you do with a digital camera?
    What do you do with a digital camera
    Ear-ly in the morning?

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