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best keychain toy novelty video/still camera

My brother’s blog post featuring a video he took from the Chicago El inspired me to write this review for the best mini-mini digital still/video camera on the market. It’s a great camera for the price, but it certainly comes with its flaws.

You may be wondering, “what does this guy know about digital cameras?”. Go to my blog home page and look for the search bar in the left column and search for “camera”. Some of those posts include:

Let me introduce the Vistaquest VQ1005. It’s $20 at WalMart. WalMart is the only place I have seen this camera (other than a few online retailers). There’s a fair amount of novelty/toy digital cameras out there. There are two things that makes the Vistaquest VQ1005 better than the rest: SD card capability and AAA battery.

MEMORY CARDS
The Vistaquest VQ1005 is the only novelty digital camera (for under $30) I found that takes memory cards. There’s three advantages to this.

  1. Other cameras store the photos on internal memory. If the battery dies or is removed, then your photos die with it. This is not the case with SD cards on the Vistaquest VQ1005. If your camera battery dies or is accidentally removed, your photos are still stored on your SD card.
  2. Having SD allows you to take vitually unlimited photos. The internal memory chip on other novelty cameras is usually only 8MB. That translates to about 30 photos. A 512MB SD card lets you take hundreds of photos and videos. (This camera does have 8 MB internal memory if you choose not to use an SD card.)
  3. Mac users are welcome to join the game. Just about all novelty digital cameras are Windows only. Having a SD slot allows Mac users to shoot to SD and then download the photos directly off the SD card via the USB port on the camera. (No third party card reader is necessary. No software is required to install.)

BATTERY
This camera takes one AAA battery. I prefer AAA over proprietary batteries because AAA are easier to replace. Buy a novelty camera with a proprietary battery and you’ll find yourself forking over $5 or $10 to replace the battery assuming the camera allows for easy battery replacement. I can not speak to the lifespan of proprietary batteries on novelty cameras.

Now with that said, the Vistaquest VQ1005 does gobble up AAA batteries like mad. I’d say I could get 20-40 photos until the battery dies. It’s a good idea to use rechargeable AAA batteries.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure that you don’t leave a battery in the camera for too long. I left a battery in my Vistaquest VQ1005 and the battery connectors started to corrode and now my Vistaquest VQ1005 is dead. The last time I used the camera was in mid-October. I tried using it in mid-April. That was a 6 month span of non-use with a battery installed that caused it to corrode.

IMAGE SIZE
The advertised image size for the Vistaquest VQ1005 is 1.3 megapixels (1280 x 960). However, it’s a bit of a pain to shoot at that size. When the camera is powered on, the default size is 640 x 480. You have to hit the tiny button on the back about three or four times to change the size to 1280 x 960. Once you take a 1280 x 960 photo, you have to hit that button again three or four times to get back to that size. It always sets the default to VGA (640×480).

IMAGE QUALITY
It’s awesome for a $20 camera. Sunny photos have a nice, saturated look to them. It reminds me of the trademark saturated look that 8mm films have. I love that aesthetic. Here’s just one example of a photo I took while driving my car. Of course if you have access to Photoshop, you can magnify the saturated nature of the photos like this shot. It’s the very first photo I took with my VQ1005. I have loved the camera ever since.

Remember this camera is only 20 bucks. So don’t expect a flash or any settings options. The lens is fixed at f/2.8 which is fine for this sort of thing. The slowest shutter speed is 1/15 sec which is fine too. Any slower of a shutter speed and you’ll get blurry photos. This camera won’t work wonders indoors. Photos will be extremely dark from indoors. Do not plan on using this camera indoors.

MOVIE
The weird thing about the movie function is that the length of the movie is always a guessing game. Some times it will take 35 second videos. Some times it takes 20 second videos. Most of the time it’s somewhere in between those times.

Just like the still camera, the movie is best suited for outdoors. Here’s a string of videos I took that show it from indoors and outdoors. The camera is quite shakey outdoors cuz I took the video while I was walking.

WEBCAM
I know nothing about the webcam other than it only works on Windows. Mac users are out of luck of which I am one.

CONCLUSION
Looking for a fun little toy camera to keep in your glove compartment? Or do you want to take quick little videos at the ball park without hauling around a larger camera? Look at the Vistaquest VQ1005. It’s only 2.4″ x 1.5″ x 0.8″. I like the rich deep colors better than my VGA Motorola V220 camera phone. However, I find myself taking more photos with my camera phone simply because I can preview and review the photos with my camera phone’s LCD screen. No such luck with the Vistaquest VQ1005. But the VQ1005 does take better movies than any affordable camera phone. Someday the market will offer affordable camera phones with better movie capabilities, but that day has not arrived yet.

It’s $20 at WalMart, but plan on buying rechargeable AAA batteries or budget yourself a big pack of standard AAA batteries. And look for an SD card if you’re a mac user and/or if you want to be able to take 30+ photos on the camera and have no worries about the losing the photos.

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VISTAQUEST VQ1005 SPECS:

price: $20 at WalMart

still camera: 1.3 megapixels (1280 x 1024)
video camera: 320 x 240 / 20 frames per second

max shutter speed: 1/500 sec
min shutter speed: 1/15 sec

exposure mode: automatic
white balance: automatic

lens: f/2.8 (fixed)
minimum focus range: 35.4″

internal memory: 8 MB
memory: SD (SD card not included)

auto power save
no tripod mount
no flash
no LCD image preview or review

supported OS: XP, 2000, ME, 98 (this is for internal memory only. Mac users can use the SD slot. See review above. Webcam function is Windows only.)

dimensions: 2.4″ x 1.5″ x 0.8″

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Tom Saaristo
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Outstanding review

Subby
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Vistaquests rock!