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GBA Mini Camera Review

Thanks to EAGB Advance for the review

Buy your GBA / GBA SP Mini Camera from Lik Sang

Introduction

It's anyone's guess on when Nintendo will release an official GBA camera, although rumors were rife recently that one was already in development. Those of you who can't wait, however, need not despair, thanks to a third party manufacturer in Asia who has just released the GBA Mini Camera.

Purpose Of The GBA Mini Camera

The GBA Mini Camera, as it's name implies, is a cartridge camera using CMOS technology. Just like a regular camera, the GBA Mini Camera will allow you to take pictures using the screen of your GBA as a view finder. The camera has 8MB of built-in flash memory so you can store up to 26 photographs which can then be transferred to your computer via a USB cable. Once you get your pictures on your computer, you can then print them out or touch them up using your favorite imaging software. Below is a list of the camera's features:

Built-in 8MB of flash memory.
640 X 480 pixel resolution.
Takes up to 26 pictures.
Pictures can be deleted/undeleted from the GBA itself.
9 pictures can be viewed simultaneously on each page in preview mode.
Selectable area zoom-in.
4 exposure modes; normal, under-sun, in-door and night.
4 picture effects; neutral, rich color, blue, red.
Adjustable screen contrast.
Adjustable focus.
USB connection with supplied cable to computer.
Photo management software for your computer to preview, print, back-up and catalog your pictures in the camera. The software only works on Windows 98, ME and XP operating systems.
Using The GBA Mini Camera

Those of you who own or tried the old GameBoy Camera will know instantly how to use the GBA Mini Camera. It's a relatively simple attachment, you only need to plug it in and turn on your GBA to start snapping happily away. The camera doesn't need any batteries nor do you need to modify your GBA in any way to use it. The printed instructions that come with the camera reads a little looney (literal English translation from Chinese) but trust me it's easy to work because all the menus are on-screen.

The first thing you'll see when you turn on the GBA is the flash screen for the camera program. After that, you are instantly in picture taking mode and whatever you see on the screen is what you will take a picture of when you press the "A" button. Pressing "Select" will bring up menu options, and from here you can select the exposure mode, effects filters and contrast display.

Exposure Mode - It's important to set the mode in which you are taking pictures. For example, if you are taking pictures out-doors under bright sunlight, you must choose the "under-sun" mode. If you don't, your pictures will turn out over-exposed. Focus can also be manually adjusted by tuning the focus lens on the camera. Don't worry too much about this, however, because you can see for yourself what your picture looks like on the screen since everything captured is in real-time and you can adjust the settings accordingly. As soon as you snap a picture, there is a slight pause and you will know that your picture has been saved when the picture counter goes up by one.

Effects Filters - The camera has four effects filters and you can play around with these to your heart's content. I only used the "neutral" filter for this review since any kind of filter effect that I need can be done with Adobe's Photoshop. To let you know, the "rich color" filters emphasizes hues and color, while the "blue" and "red" filter as it's name implies, imparts a bluish or reddish tint to your pictures.

Contrast Display - As we all know, the GBA's screen display can be rather difficult to see. The camera, however, will allow you to adjust the contrast up to fifteen times. This helps a lot, but in low light conditions you can't expect much unless you have an internally lighted GBA.

So, once you've got all your pictures you can then manage them using the camera's photo management menu. You can access this menu by pressing the "left" shoulder button. In preview mode, you can view up to 9 thumbnail pictures at one time, and select to view or delete the one you want. A neat feature is the ability to zoom-in on any part of the picture, although the result is highly pixilated. Another good feature is the undelete option, in case you delete any picture accidentally.

The next step is to transfer the picture to your computer for printing or touch-ups. This is done via USB with the supplied cable. The driver and software for the camera comes on a diskette, so you must install this on your computer first. Pressing the "left" shoulder button and cycling through the options will get you to the "pc connection" menu. When you've got the camera linked and ready, you'll then need to start the "Mini Cam Photo Book" software.

Mini Cam Photo Book Program- The program is small and simple and easy to use. It will tell you how many pictures are stored in the camera and will give you the option to preview, print, back-up and catalog your pictures. All pictures saved are in the JPEG format.

Pros Of The GBA Mini Camera

First of all, is ease of use and portability. The camera is the size and weight of an average game cartridge and is a self sustained unit with it's own built-in memory. This means you can bring it anywhere and take pictures anytime. The high resolution screen of the GBA also works nicely as the camera's view finder. The menu system and options are easy to understand, and anyone can get it up and running in no time.

In sunlight and bright light conditions, the camera takes pretty good pictures. Capturing at 640 X 480 pixel resolution gives your pictures better print quality, and also makes it easier to work with when exported to an imaging program like Photoshop.

The use of USB is another plus point, which makes transferring pictures that much faster and easier. The drivers supplied worked flawlessly on my computer, and the camera's photo software was simple and dead easy to use.

Cons Of GBA Mini Camera

As I've mentioned, the GBA Mini Camera uses CMOS technology, and so you can expect certain shortcomings in image quality and sensitivity that are inherent to CMOS (if you own a GB Camera you'll understand). In short, camera's like these need a lot of light to capture good quality pictures. So while the camera is quite good at capturing pictures outdoors on sunny days, it doesn't do as good a job in low light conditions.

Another con is the slow frame rate that the camera achieves, which in turn makes focussing a little difficult. To take a good picture you'll definitely need steady hands as any movement when pressing the "A" button will result in a blurred image. Processing time between pictures is also a little long (about 5 seconds) so don't hope to take fast, simultaneous action shots with this camera.

In the software department, my main gripe is that you can only select one picture at a time to preview or upload. If you have 26 pictures, it will take some time to upload all the pictures despite the fast USB connection.

Another disappointing gripe is that the camera can't be used a web cam or to capture video. Maybe this is too much to ask for considering the price, but it would have been ultra-cool if it could. Also, because the camera is locked in a fixed position without any kind of swivel attachment, self portraits are out of the question, bummer!

Lastly, like the GBA TV Tuner, the GBA Mini Camera will be so much easier to use if you have an internally lighted GBA. So if you can, get yourself the Afterburner kit!

Final Comments

Despite its shortcomings in image quality under low light conditions, the GBA Mini Camera is pretty good for outdoor shots. For those on a budget and very new to digital imaging, this is the attachment to get for your GBA.


 

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