Gadgets of days gone by: Kodak DC50, my first digital camera

This week at CrunchGear, we’re looking back at some of our favorite gadgets from the not-so-distant past — old phones, computers, media players, toys… those devices that still stand out in our memories despite their obsolescence. Feel free to contribute some of your own nostalgia.

In 1999, I was into photography, but not seriously. I’d had the obligatory Kodak Instamatic, a couple of cheap 35mm pocket cameras, and I had fun taking snapshots. I never really took it seriously, though, until I saw some pictures that a co-worker had taken of a sunset. Then I just had to have a digital camera.

But back in ’99, your options for digital cameras were somewhat limited. You could pay $6,000 for a Nikon D1, but I had no intentions of doing that. Based on what a co-worker had, I ended up purchasing a Kodak DC-50. The DC-50 was quite advanced for its time. The sensor was a 0.38 megapixel CCD and took pictures at a 756×508 resolution. This was unusual, since most cameras at that point took pictures at a maximum of 640×480.

Most cameras were limited to internal memory back in those days, and while the DC-50 did have internal memory available, you were much better off using a compact flash card with a PCMCIA adapter. The lens was a 3x optical zoom, which covered a relatively wide range considering that it was physically contained inside the camera. You also didn’t have any way to view the pictures until you pulled them out of the camera. There was only a basic LCD on the back, which showed a few details to keep you informed of what is going on. There was no way to control the ISO, or the shutter speed, and the focus was completely automatic. But for the money, it was the most advanced digital camera you could get without spending more then you would for a car. I’ve still got some pictures from back in those days; you can check them out at the bottom of the page.

I fondly remember that camera, but I was certainly glad when I upgraded to something better. I wince when I see the image quality from back then, but it was a great starting point. I vaguely remember spending in the neighborhood of $150 for the DC-50 off of eBay — you can find them now for about $35. Of course, I shoot with a Nikon D300 now, which is in a whole different class.