Disposable Digital Cameras
August 4, 2003 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Would you use a disposable digital camera? If so, when and why would you use a disposable Digital Camera? I can't see how a single use digital camera is an advantage, other than in dangerous situations where I might break it. Then again, there are $40 reuseable digital cameras I could use in the ski slope/roller coaster/dive bar scenario.
posted by m@ (29 comments total)
How long before someone figures out a hack to make these reusable?
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:01 PM on August 4, 2003

I don't get it.

If it's really "one-time use" then the digital information must be stored on media that can only be written on once, like a CD. How much more expensive could it be to make a "really crappy but more-than-one-time use" digital camera?

I think it's like the Betty Crocker cake mix scenario: they marketed it as "just add water" at first, but people were uneasy with the concept, so they made it "add water, eggs, and oil" instead.
posted by zekinskia at 2:02 PM on August 4, 2003

i thought the article gave a perfectly logical reason for using this: it's cheap and allows people to try digital without a big investment. it's only $3 more than a non-digital disposable.
posted by dobbs at 2:02 PM on August 4, 2003

(the point being: it has nothing to do with the quality of the product, and everything to do with marketing)
posted by zekinskia at 2:03 PM on August 4, 2003

As a user of a 50 dollar digital cam (stylecam blinx) I can tell you the problem with dive bar scenario is that they refuse to take pics in anything other than very bright light.
What I'd give my eyeteeth for is a digicam that can do low light photos without a flash. And be small and discreet.
posted by lumpenprole at 2:03 PM on August 4, 2003

less than 19 percent are printed because there's really no need to print them. duh. this is pretty much crap. an excuse to promote cheap goods no informed person would want to uninformed people who think anything bearing the moniker 'digital' is superior.
posted by quonsar at 2:09 PM on August 4, 2003

This isn't really disposable - when you return it to Ritz, they will be reusing as many parts as possible. Kodak already does this with the bodies we've come to think of as disposable.

Though these aren't for everyone, it provides the option of an inexpensive, decent quality (2 Megapixel), camera without the n-hundred-dollar investment... The real test will be how long it takes them to get hacked, and how Ritz responds to that challenge...
posted by whatzit at 2:09 PM on August 4, 2003

I'd use one right now because I can't yet afford a decent digital camera, but I'm very tired of scanning prints.

Beyond that, I'd very much like an almost-disposable digital camera. Over the years I've carried three 35mm cameras: a Leica M3, a Nikon F, and a Mamiya-Sekor that cost about $125 new, with lens. I've gotten many, many more good photos with the Mamiya than with the other two combined, simply because I wasn't afraid to carry it around. It's almost-disposable, and so are its Canon-mount aftermarket lenses. Not too many Leica bayonet-mount aftermarket lenses in any Walmart I've ever been in.

Here's hoping 3-4 megapixel digital cameras with interchangeable lenses get down to the hundred buck level soon.
posted by jfuller at 2:12 PM on August 4, 2003

I'm quite happy with a Casio Exilim, which is small enough to comfortably fit in a trouser pocket. It doesn't do so bad even in low-light situations, but since it only has digital zoom, it's not suitable for anything but the most casual photography.

Having a digital camera all the time inclines me to take a lot more pictures - I always have the camera, and there's no development cost.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:14 PM on August 4, 2003

lumpenprole, i'd skip digital cameras altogether and get :

a) ricoh gr1 (with a 28mm 2.8 lens) with some tmax 3200 film,


b) leica minilux (with a great 40mm 2.4) lens.


c)discontinued yashica t4, with zeiss 35mm 3.5 lens and the "superscope", a waist level finder which allows you to shoot without looking through a viewfinder, perfect for discreet photos.

they are unbeatable for their size and quality.... and allow you to turn off the flash.
posted by ig at 2:15 PM on August 4, 2003

From the article: Despite its increasing popularity, less than 19 percent of digital pictures are printed because of the complexity, cost, and time requirements of home printing, according to the Photo Marketing Association.

Maybe it's actually because less than 19 percent of all pictures are really worth printing?

Home printing with messy ink, paper, and drying is no fun, that's for sure. I just drop a card off at Wal-Mart and they print it on real Fuji Crystal Archive photo paper. It's way better than any inkjet I've seen and cheaper, too. If the Photo Marketing Association wants more business, they need to trumpet this ability as much as they can.
posted by zsazsa at 2:16 PM on August 4, 2003

These are just regular disposable cameras. The only thing that makes them 'digital' is that they front load the cost of having a photoCD created when you buy the camera rather then when you pay for the developing.
posted by dirtylittlemonkey at 2:18 PM on August 4, 2003

it's cheap and allows people to try digital without a big investment. it's only $3 more than a non-digital disposable.

at $11 for the camera and $11 for the developing, it's actually a few dollars more than $7 for a disposable film camera and $7 (last I saw at Walgreens in Denver) for developing AND a CD of your prints.
posted by m@ at 2:18 PM on August 4, 2003

monkey, the Kodak described is just as you say. But the Dakota Digital sold by Ritz is a true digital. You do still have to pay for developing, which doubles the cost.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:29 PM on August 4, 2003

I see no advantage to these disposables for me. I like my Visioneer LX200, it was 100 bux plus another 40 for the additional memory card, and it lets me take 85 pix at its highest quality and resolution (2 megapixels) for the cost of two AA batteries. So I just snap away all day long, taking it everywhere without worrying much about theft or damage. Downside is the dingy little preview screen is useless in the bright light that the damn camera needs to take sharp photos. The upside is that I do daily get a few photos that I'm happy with, and the rest are easily deleted.
posted by gametone at 2:43 PM on August 4, 2003

Honestly, printing 20% of the images seems high to me. Of course my photographic methodology is to have a crappy little Canon PowerShot with me as much as possible, and to take tons of pictures with it. Then I go into iPhoto and organize the ones that are worth something, and print out copies for people who actually like that sort of thing.
posted by mosch at 2:45 PM on August 4, 2003

This is primarily for the benefit of Ritz, not its customers. They'd love to get rid of their 35mm disposables and move everybody over to these. It reduces their costs by eliminating the need to process film.

From the customer's POV, this is no different than a 35MM disposable. There's no LCD screen, so they can't check their shots before having them developed and they're stuck returning it to Ritz to get prints or a CD.
posted by cnelson at 2:50 PM on August 4, 2003

I don't understand disposable cameras at all. You're just as well off getting the cheapest 35 mm camera you can find (maybe 20 bucks?) and paying for the cheapest drugstore brand film you can. Sure, you won't have interchangeable lenses but if you're spending 10 bucks on a disposable you weren't getting that anyway.

I take some of my lack of understanding back, if you needed a gross of cameras at some event where there's no guarantee that the random photographers would be competent or sober enough to load film into a cheap camera then I guess they'd be useful. They'd be especially useful if their 'bodies' were postage-paid and included pre-paid developing along with some code on them to route the resulting images back to the purchaser. To make it work I suppose you'd have to send back a contact print by default and let them request actual prints.

A business could probably be made for this (if it doesn't already - I know they sell wedding packs 'o disposable cameras but do they include prepaid developing and postage paid bodies?).

I'll patent the idea and call it drunkography.
posted by substrate at 2:54 PM on August 4, 2003

I'm quite happy with a Casio Exilim

I've got an Exilim Z3, me & my monkey. It has a 3x optical zoom and some other nice features, and keeps the same tiny footprint. I, too, am hauling it with me everywhere so that I'll be ready when a picture presents itself.

(I'm also trying to improve from a "lousy" to a "competent" digital photographer. All albums here (click on third button for picture page) except the "Old Photos" one were taken with the Z3.)

As for disposable digital cameras, I can think of a few occasions where they would be useful, but won't everyone soon have digicams in their cellphones?
posted by rushmc at 3:04 PM on August 4, 2003

> won't everyone soon have digicams in their cellphones?

If they insist on combining all these functions - phone, camera, pocket computer, organizer, phaser - in one device so I can accidentally run over them all in the driveway at once, I want 'em on my gameboy.
posted by jfuller at 3:12 PM on August 4, 2003

Beyond that, I'd very much like an almost-disposable digital camera.

yeah, me too. I have a really phenomenal film camera...but I shudder to think of taking it to the pool, or the beach, or any number of places where I'd like to take pictures. But a cheap digital camera with good pixel rate would be great.

Disposable digitals? That's just silly. Well, until someone hacks it...then it could be cool.
posted by dejah420 at 3:21 PM on August 4, 2003


1. figure out hack to re-use cameras
2. buy about 12 of the suckers and mount them in a 4x3 grid (or some other aesthetically pleasing rectangle), adjust field of view and set all to hyperfocus.
3. rig to fire simultaneously.
4. interpolate
5. repeat
6. </evil plan>
posted by dorian at 3:28 PM on August 4, 2003

lumpenprole - If you want to shoot dark areas, your best bet is to buy a film body (doesn't matter what kind, no matter what the snobs say), get a fast lens (1.4 or 1.8), and some 3200 T-MAX. Push the film to 6400 and you can take 1/125 pictures in candlelight. For a digital solution, there's less options in terms of film. You still have to get a fast lens, but your film choices are, well, nil. There are some shmancy cameras that have "boosted" ISO's, but it's really just turning up the volume on the CCD's or CMOS sensor, which also boosts the levels of noise to awful levels. Even good digitals (which cost much, much more than the cheap film version I described above) are only really useful to 800 ISO. Then things start getting messy.

With just one minute of ebaying, here are a couple of fast lenses for cheap.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:42 PM on August 4, 2003

Dorian: That sounds like something Muybridge might have done if he was thinking holographically instead of sequentially. But evil?
posted by gametone at 3:50 PM on August 4, 2003

ooh, my thought was simply getting ridiculously big-ass 2d resolution out of a mere $132 worth of cameras, but holography and/or motion would certainly be fun to try with such a frankencamera.

very nice link, I will definitely dig into that site.

aesthetically pleasing rectangle #43: put 12x1 grid of cameras in a circle of large radius and get some very nice panoramas.

the evil part comes in when (a) ritz comes after you because hacking with the camera puts you in violation of the dmca and (2) ritz once more invokes the dmca because said big-ass grid of cameras violates the "intended use" of the camera.
posted by dorian at 4:18 PM on August 4, 2003

(or should I have said, such a dr. frankenstein's camera ...?! ha ha)
posted by dorian at 4:21 PM on August 4, 2003

Let's not forget the $15 non-disposable digital camera.

Yes, I own one. No, they're as bad as you think. No: worse.
posted by skryche at 5:22 PM on August 4, 2003

6. < / evil plan>

No, no...you forgot:

6. ?
7. Profit!
8. < / evil plan>
posted by dejah420 at 10:00 PM on August 4, 2003

Here's a good reason to use a disposable digital camera: Pennsic. Two weeks of mud-slogging and chain-mail brassieres.

Take your Sony Mavica memory stick, buy a buncha cheap AA-powered memory stick "dumb" cameras that shoot with no adjustment, and go to town.

At some point, someone will sell a cheap dumb camera that takes a removable memory stick. They might be too expensive to be disposable, but they'll be cheaper and more portable than the full-featured model.
posted by basilwhite at 7:03 AM on August 5, 2003

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