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Thursday, 22 August, 2002, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Cheap and cheerful digital snaps
Image of pebbles on beach
Camera works well for outdoor shots

The StyleCam Blink from SiPix is a miniature digital camera which packs a punch into a tiny frame.

Small enough to slip easily into your pocket, the StyleCam comes with an equally diminutive price tag of 40 and an impressive range of easy-to-use software and will also double up as a basic video camera or webcam.

You are unlikely to win any photography awards with your StyleCam, as it really only takes happy snaps.

But it is definitely a contender in the "photo fun" category and could affect sales of throwaway film cameras or possibly even lower specification digital cameras.

Small and compact

The initial appeal of the StyleCam is its small size, it is a camera that you could comfortably take anywhere with little or no inconvenience.

Sunflower snapped with the SiPix
My only real concern has either been losing down the side of the sofa, or forgetting which pocket it is in and sitting on it.

Largely made from plastic, with metallic effect paint, the StyleCam has a small display on the back to allow you to see what mode you are photographing in.

There are two buttons - one to move through the different modes, and one which you press to take the pictures or select a function.

Choose from Hi Res, which is 640 by 480 pixels, Low Res, which is 320 by 240 or Continuous Mode, which takes about one frame per second as long as you keep your finger on the button.

Low light problems

You can also select Outdoor mode or Indoor mode for taking photos. I have found that indoor only really works in bright light. Snapping indoors in any kind of low light really does not work.

The results using a three megapixel digital camera
Outdoors, I have not really found any problems. The StyleCam takes pretty good photos. Easily good enough for viewing on your PC or for use on a website.

You cannot, as with many digital cameras, view the pictures you have taken until you upload them to your PC.

That is a fairly simple process, using the software supplied with the camera and a USB cable.

You can actually view a selection of thumbnails before you decide to upload them to your PC, meaning you can ignore any duds straight away.


The PhotoImpression software has some fairly standard photo editing options, like altering the contrast, brightness, colour balance, and so on.

The StyleCam Blink digital camera
The StyleCam Blink fits in the palm of your hand
Perhaps of more interest is that you can use the camera as a webcam while it is plugged in to your PC.

You do need to be in a room which is brightly lit for this to be effective, but it does work quite well. I've used the camera to video-conference over the internet using Microsoft's NetMeeting software.

You can also capture short video sequences with the VideoImpression software in a similar way.

The camera is powered by standard AAA batteries and there is an automatic power-down feature which will switch the device off if you do not use it for a time.

Delete the duds

As with most cameras, I have found that my point-and-shoot technique only ever yields one or two good pictures.

Blink specifications
Resolution: 640x480 or 320 x 240 pixels
8Mb SDRam memory
Stores 100 images at 640 x 480 resolution
Focus: 23" to infinity
Being a digital camera there is no feeling of deflation when you rush to get your holiday snaps back from the chemist, only to find that you've spent 7 to print 36 pictures of your feet or blurry people standing in front of distant monuments.

If you do not like them, you can just delete them and start again.

On the whole, the StyleCam Blink is not really going to dent sales of higher specification digital cameras which have a photo quality of two, three or four megapixels.

The StyleCam only has a maximum quality of 0.3 megapixels, making it around a tenth of the quality of, for example, a Kodak EasyShare 3700 digital camera. This retails for about 300, with docking station.

However, the StyleCam is a really great little camera if you accept its limitations.

I particularly like the fact that you can very easily take impromptu snaps without worrying about expensive development costs.

It does not have a flash, which makes taking pictures in the pub a bit tricky, but that aside, it is ideal for all sorts of occasions.

See also:

22 Jul 02 | dot life
25 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
30 Jan 02 | Science/Nature
17 Jan 02 | Business
18 Sep 01 | Science/Nature
03 Aug 02 | Technology
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