Mavica, Sony's famous brand, stands for Magnetic Video Camera. This camera was actually not digital in the modern meaning. It is an electronic camera that takes a still image and stores it as single frame of video on a magnetic disc. The disc was the 2" Hi-VF type.
Viewing and exporting the photos required the MAP-T2 playback controller. The combination shown here is in fine condition and may be the only one still in existence.
Sony DSC-F1 (1996)
Here is the first Cyber-shot camera from Sony.
It might only take pictures of 0.35 megapixels, but this 1996 camera is beautiful to hold and use. The over-the-top swivel lens/flash even allowed selfies. How advanced was that!
Soon after its release, the F1 had developed a strong following. Its photos were of very high quality and there were various manual settings available to the photographer, as well as advanced continuous shooting capabilities. Against that, the lens had no zoom or autofocus. The original pricing was €950.
In the end, this was a camera famous because of its personality and beauty.
Sony DKC-ID1 (1996)
“NO FILM NO WAITING NO LIMITS” Thus claimed the promotional pamphlet for this remarkable camera from 1996.
Those weren’t unreasonable claims, because this camera has qualities that would be attractive even today. Let me quote from the pamphlet itself:
“With the latest features, as you would expect from the world leader in broadcast imaging technology, the new DK-1* is nonetheless easy to use and surprisingly affordable. As well as built-in flash and auto-focus, it has a unique 12X zoom lens, a pixel-precise electronic viewfinder and a 1/15-1/4,000 shutter.”
The phrase “broadcast imaging technology” is the clue to how this camera came into existence – for Sony used its expertise in consumer camcorders to create what is really a hybrid product. There is the electronic viewfinder (for both composing and reviewing images), the huge zoom range and an over-size camcorder battery which is externally mounted. This is a digital camera with video features.
With all that, I'm sure we can forgive the fact that the CCD sensor is only 0.45megapixels and that the price was a considerable $1,800. All in all, the Sony DKC ID1 is an exciting camera, the more so three decades later. * In this UK promotional pamphlet, the model is mistakenly designated “DK-1”, although the camera's nameplate says “DKC-ID1”.
Sony MVC-FD7 (1997)
It took a while for Sony to galvanise the development of its digital cameras. The charming little DSC-F1 (above) went onto the market only in 1996. This camera, MVC-FD7 and its twin the MVC-FD5, went on the market a year later.
They were the first digital cameras in the Mavica line.
OK, so they might have been years behind the Apple Quicktake, Kodak DC40 or Ricoh RDC-1, but consumers clearly were ready for them. The digital Mavicas are reported to have rapidly achieved a 40% share of sales.
One of their attractions was the image recording medium – the ubiquitous 31/2 inch floppy disc. That's the "FD" in the model name. In those days, every computer had a floppy drive, so it was simple to transfer photos from camera to computer. Remember this was before USB cords and wireless photo transfer came along. So the disc was a solution to the file-transfer problem, but there was also a problem of powering these battery-draining early digital cameras. Sony’s solution was a large battery pack.
The disc, the battery pack and other simple features made these cameras a hit. You could say they were the Box Brownie of their day.
The camera itself is bulky because it needs to accommodate the floppy disc. It’s also ponderous in use because the floppy drive has to spool up to operating speed every time the photographer presses the shutter or accesses an image.
The camera you see here is the higher-specification of the twins – having a 10x zoom and extra controls for the recording mode, image effects and adjusting the manual focus. Both had a 0.38 megapixels sensor.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F55E (1999)
There are several successors to the F1 brought out by Sony. This one from 1999 is the first of the line with a Carl Zeiss lens. Resolution is now 2.1 megapixels three years later. The cool 180 degree swivel lens/flash component of the camera was still one of its major features.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F505 (1999)
The F505 features regularly in lists of the most famous cameras of the digital era. It's not surprising that it became a cult classic on its release in 1999. The outsized "Zeiss Vario-Sonar" lens is unique and eye-catching. The huge lens swivels 140 degrees around the camera body while the barrel has a pop-up flash head as well as buttons for selecting auto/manual focus, macro mode, white balance and spot metering.
In photos such as these, the lens makes the camera look like a monster. In reality, the F505 is a compact charmer to use. It does require the photographer to support the lens with an open hand palm-up, but this is a sound habit that could be learnt by every SLR owner.
The resolution of the original version of the F505 shown here is 2.1 megapixels, but later versions had 3.3 megapixels. The battery pack charger has an additional useful feature – it converts for mains power via a cord that has a dummy battery that is inserted into the battery compartment. I first encountered this in my 1995 Fujix DS-220.
Sony Mavica MVC FD88 (1999)
Sony produced a long line of Mavica cameras. This gorgeous model, with 1.3 megapixel still resolution and MPEG video output, was announced in 1999. There was no internal storage, only a 3.5 inch floppy that was literally clunky and which was full after 4-5 full-resolution images.
This camera was originally owned by the electricity distribution organisation Western Power in Western Australia. Its technically-minded staff would surely have loved the numerous control buttons all over the camera body.
Sony Mavica MVC-CD1000 (2000)
Here is Sony’s massive studio-like camera with buttons all over and a recordable CD disc.
Previous cameras in the Mavica line had floppy discs as their form of removable file storage, but by the end of the 1990s, the capacity of these discs was becoming too small. Alone among manufacturers, Sony adopted the CD-R, a mini CD of 8cm diameter and 156MB capacity. That required a built-in CD burner. Every time the shutter is pressed, the CD has to spin up to operating speed for the purpose of making the recording.
This camera was the first CD Mavica and the most exciting. There’s a 10x optical zoom, image stabilisation, auto/manual focus, pop-up flash, electronic viewfinder, white balance and a button for “one-push white balance”, programmable exposure settings, spot light meter and much more.
Back to the CD. The disc has to be "initialised" in the camera before photos can be burned to it. After the shoot, the disc has to be "finalised" in the camera before the photos can be read by a PC.
Sony persisted with the CD Mavicas until 2003, the end of the line.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S50 (2000)
The most striking feature of this 2.1 megapixel camera from the year 2000 is the versatile LCD screen. Overall, the camera was popular for its numerous multi-media features.