Sony Mavica FD5 Retro Evaluation: The Digital camera That Used Floppy Disks


Again within the mid to late Nineteen Nineties, digital cameras had a storage drawback: they both used costly reminiscence playing cards or built-in reminiscence with restricted capability and awkward cables. Each have been holding again the adoption of shopper digital pictures, so in 1997 Sony got here up with an alternate so crafty that by the top of the last decade it grew to become the best-selling digital digicam sequence within the US. And like the perfect concepts, it was so easy: simply report images onto normal 3.5-inch floppy disks.

Nearly each pc on the time had a 3.5-inch floppy drive, and most workplaces, house or in any other case, had a stack of floppies mendacity round. They have been low cost media that could possibly be utilized in a digicam then inserted into a pc and accessed straightaway – no cables, no software program, no card readers, no fuss. All Sony needed to do was design a digicam with a built-in 3.5-inch floppy drive.

The Magnetic Video Digital camera idea, or Mavica for brief, really arrived 16 years earlier as a prototype that recorded stills from NTSC video onto two-inch Video Floppy Disks. It was arguably the primary digital stills digicam and later developed right into a business format that bought between the late Nineteen Eighties and early Nineteen Nineties. However the Mavica on this story is the Digital model, launched in 1997 and exploiting the ubiquity of three.5in floppy disk drives on the time.

The primary two fashions have been the MVC-FD5, with a hard and fast 47mm equal lens, and the MVC-FD7, sporting a 10x optical zoom equal to 40-400mm. Each employed a CCD sensor tailored from a video digicam capturing photos with 640×480 pixels, that’s VGA decision or roughly one-third of a megapixel, however even at that modest picture measurement, Sony needed to flip up the compression to suit an affordable variety of pictures on every 1.44MB floppy. In a pleasant parallel with 35mm movie cartridges, you have been taking a look at 20-40 images per disk, however that meant even best-quality JPEGs labored out at solely 60KB or so. Composition was with a 2.5in display screen and each have been just about absolutely computerized with the one management over publicity being compensation of +/-1.5EV.

Recording onto physically-spinning media took its toll on general dealing with although, with photos taking six to eight seconds to report or playback. To be honest although, it needs to be stated the serial cable transfers of different cameras within the late Nineteen Nineties wasn’t significantly quick both.

I examined many of the Digital Mavicas whereas I labored on Private Pc World journal within the UK and even used some for fundamental product pictures in print. Nobody was beneath any phantasm concerning the modest high quality even again then, however the low price and sheer comfort have been unparalleled. I’d simply hand a floppy to the artwork desk and it was imported straight onto the web page – revolutionary stuff after we’d beforehand bike merchandise to our pictures studio, shoot on movie, develop and scan the movie, then bike the information again to the manufacturing desk on SyQuest drives.

The sheer comfort of the Digital Mavicas made them successful for real-estate listings, the primary on-line outlets, faculties, and publishers. Over the next years, Sony boosted the decision to 2 megapixels, launched a Reminiscence Stick adapter within the form of a floppy disk to entry higher storage, and even made fashions which additionally sported Reminiscence Stick slots.

Within the early 2000s, Sony took the idea additional with the CD1000 that switched 1.44MB floppies for 8cm recordable CDs that might retailer as much as 156MB and once more be learn in nearly any pc with out cables or software program. It too proved an enormous hit with a number of successors with the sequence peaking with the CD500 in 2003 sporting 5 megapixels.

By this level although, solid-state reminiscence playing cards had grow to be sufficiently giant and inexpensive to make floppies and CDs look very old style, whereas the adoption of normal USB ports made it simple to entry photos straight from the cameras. Each marked the top of the Mavica sequence.

The individuality of the Mavicas makes them a vital a part of any classic digital digicam assortment and their big gross sales imply it’s simple to search out them at good costs. In case your pc now not has a floppy drive, exterior USB fashions are nonetheless accessible, whereas the batteries Sony employed on most Mavicas grew to become requirements in camcorders, video lights, and HDMI recorders, so replacements and chargers are available too.

I discovered an unique Mavica FD5 second-hand in good situation, so took it out on the streets of Brighton virtually one-quarter of a century later to see how the floppy expertise feels immediately! Test it out in my newest Dino Bytes video!

Concerning the writer: Gordon Laing is the Editor of Cameralabs the place he presents gear critiques and pictures tutorials. He not too long ago launched Dino Bytes, a brand new channel to indulge his love of classic tech and retro gaming, with movies about traditional cameras, computer systems, consoles, telephones, and extra! He’s been a journalist for therefore lengthy he really reviewed most of these items the primary time round. Gordon can be into meals, drink, and journey, and is the writer of “In Digital camera,” a guide that embraces the artwork of JPEG pictures with no post-processing.


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