Given that others are digging out newer cameras for Jankuary, I decided to take another look at my first digital camera – a Fujifilm MX-500. This had a 1.5 megapixel camera (yes, the decimal point is in the correct place) that was bought at Morgan Computers, a specialist in bankrupt stock and discontinued lines, so it was probably getting obsolete when I bought it. When the memory is cleared, the date defaults to 1998, so I guess the design is 25 years old.
It has a couple of nice features. One is the lens cover. Press a button and it slides out of the way, revealing the lens. The other is that you can post full-size images from the camera on the web. Given that it produces a 1280×1024 pixel image (1.2 megapixels, smaller than the advertised size of the sensor), no downsizing is needed. There is also a built-in flash. However, those are the only advantages I can think of.
There is a mode dial on the back, with fairly self-explanatory icons. Note that there is no menu button, just a Settings position on the mode dial. Something that will stand out in the first photo is the grey sticky tape. The reason for taht is shown in the third photo, of the battery compartment. It seems to be a common fault with cameras of this age (I have the same problem with a tiny Nikon Coolpix 300) that the battery compartment door, which is under a lot of pressure from the springs under the AA batteries, relies on cheap plastic. The two lugs have broken off, meaning that there is nothing other than the tape to keep the door shut, and without that the camera won’t work.
The first two of my five frames are from the first photos I took with it, in May 1999. (Not the very first, which were of the family.) The first is what used to be a pub but is now, I think, a community centre. The second. of the horse, shows that if it gets the focus, it can produce a decent image. I have done no processing other than adjusting the exposure and lightening the shadows a tiny bit. The colours seem to be good, though other photos show the dynamic range is not so good as on newer cameras.
The next two were taken yesteday, in the same location as the first, though unfortunately from a different viewpoint.
Finally a photo of Bromsgrove station, showing some nice bright colours.
So what did think when I returned to this camera after a quarter of a century? My first reaction, aside from frustration about the broken battery compartment door and the need for really strong tape (a bigger piece than the first I tried) was how slow it was. It was necessary to wait for a few seconds to do anything – to switch from taking pictures to playback, or vice versa, and it seemed necessary to half press the shutter, wait for a while for it to focus, and then take the shot. Also, I was often uncertain about whether I had actually taken a shot. It also takes some effort to get used to the small and not-very-bright screen, though the viewfinder is optical, so easy enough to use. Given the age and obvious limitations of the camera, which are significant, I decided that the images it produced were not too bad.
Over the next few years I got through half a dozen digital cameras, still mostly using film, but hoping for one that would be as good as a 35mm camera loaded with Kodachrome. The improvements were perhaps more noticeable than are the improvements in cameras today, though looking through my archive, I think it was not until I got a Minolta 7i, at the end of 2002, that I got one I would be happy to use now. Unfortunately that suffered from the problem of disintegrating plastic, so does not function as smoothly as it should. This all makes me realise how much more I like using film cameras from that era and modern digital ones (the shots of the Fuji camera were taken with an OM-5.
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