The story of Kyocera cameras is a curious one. The company was founded in 1959 in Japan as a ceramics manufacturer. Then in 1983, it started making cameras when it bought Yashica. Kyocera also made consumer and industrial electronics products.
In 1997, it made its first digital camera (my DR-350 below). In 2005, it stopped making cameras. Full stop.
Slam on the brakes! Back up to 1996. Out of nowhere, Kyocera suddenly produced this “electronic camera”. It’s a still video camera, meaning that the images from the sensor are analog video images which are then converted to digital files. They are then stored on Kyocera’s proprietary video floppy disc.
How did such a product happen?
Still video cameras had been around during the 1980s but were superseded by true digital cameras in the early 1990s. The company’s previous still video camera had come out long ago in 1990, so the Kyocera DA-1 was a very late starter indeed and remains a curiosity today for that reason.
In spite of its odd origins, this is a very nicely made camera, closely resembling the DR-350 released the next year. It had attractive features for 1996 – 0.27 megapixel resolution, f/3.2 aperture and a price under US$800.
After ceasing camera production, Kyocera continued making high-quality consumer and industry products.
Kyocera DR-350 (1997)
Now it's 1997 and the Kyocera photographic engineers have gone digital.
The DR-350 was Kyocera's first true digital camera, although its appearance is close to the DA-1 (above), its still video camera from the year before. It even had the large flat sliding panel that dominates the face of the camera – so neatly done that some people couldn't immediately work out its function.
That aside, the DR-350 had a 0.35 megapixel CCD sensor, a shutter speed up to 1/1,000 sec and Compact Flash card storage. A nice feature was the gold tinted flash, intended to give a warmer skin tone to flash portraits.
All in all, a likeable early digital camera at an acceptable price of around US$600.