I purchased this primarily to have something by my keyboard and mouse that I could pick up and play with at any time, similar to a stress-relief toy. Most stress-relief toys like fidget spinners and Rubik’s cubes lack any practical value, which doesn’t appeal to me at all.
I also prefer metal materials. Before buying this, I often had a Sony D50 voice recorder by my keyboard and mouse that I occasionally picked up to play with. However, during one play session, I accidentally triggered the voice recording and lost an entire recording session.
So, what I look for in a toy that fits my personal definition is:
- Metal construction.
- Compact size, reasonable weight, easy to pick up and play with using one hand.
- Offers multiple ways to play to avoid getting bored quickly.
- Features interactive mechanical structures like buttons and dials.
- Has some practical value, even if it’s minimal.
- Can be enjoyed without relying too much on that practical aspect. This prevents becoming dependent on a toy for tasks and risking mishaps.
I’ve explored various hobbies and devices in the past, and here’s why they didn’t fully satisfy me:
- Raspberry Pi boards, up to the Pi 6, required a lot of tinkering and didn’t quite fulfill my requirements.
- A Sony D50 voice recorder fell short in several aspects.
- Traditional digital cameras and camcorders often lacked some of the criteria.
- Smartphones and tablets, while digital, sometimes didn’t provide the right mix.
- Antique film cameras didn’t fit the bill either.
- Pure toys like fidget spinners and Rubik’s cubes didn’t offer the variety or practicality I desired.
- Tools like Swiss Army knives had some risks due to sharp blades.
- Metal lighters and non-sharp butterfly knives also didn’t fully meet my criteria.
Leica’s digital cameras checked most of the boxes but couldn’t fully satisfy all my criteria.
Now, let’s delve into why I like this particular device:
Regarding the C-mount lens:
Originally, I intended to keep an m43 camera by my keyboard and mouse, like an Olympus Pen-F or Panasonic GM1, both of which use the Micro Four Thirds (m43) lens system. I have many m43 lenses, but m43 is too practical and simple for my taste. Their performance is so high that it takes away the fun of casually picking up the camera. C-mount lenses, which cost around $14 or $20, and even M12 lenses that range from $1 to $10 (often used in GoPro-style cameras), or adapting Canon EF lenses, offer a wide range of possibilities. The only limitation with C-mount lenses is that they can’t be adapted to m43 cameras.
Regarding the hardware design:
This device can connect to an HDMI monitor and also to a computer via USB Type-C, where it’s recognized as a webcam (but cannot record to the card while connected). It can be powered by a 12V DC power supply or an F-mount battery, and both power sources can be used simultaneously without interrupting recording. This flexibility makes it a versatile industrial C-mount camera, enhanced with features like a screen, TF card slot, and an external microphone jack. Even without a computer or monitor, it can be used as a standalone device for capturing video. It’s suitable for use as a live streaming camera, a surveillance camera on a tripod, or handheld use.
About the price:
Before purchasing this, I considered building a similar device myself. As a reference, the HQ camera module for the Raspberry Pi uses the IMX477 sensor, which is also 1/2.3 inches and has a C-mount. The HQ camera module costs $53 for new or $48 for used. However, this module alone can’t be used directly; you also need to buy a Raspberry Pi. The cheapest version of the Raspberry Pi 4B was around $48 a few years ago. Even the Raspberry Pi 4B’s encoding capabilities weren’t sufficient for recording 4K30p. There are now many development boards on the market with better performance than the Raspberry Pi 4B. Finding a suitable adapter for the HQ camera module was challenging, and the cheapest option was around $69. Adding the cost of a screen, buttons, and battery interfaces, and without even considering the cost of an enclosure, the total cost would be close to $138. If you want to tinker with C-mount lenses and keep the device as small as possible, you could modify a sports camera like a GoPro or even use a 1-inch CMOS sensor, but the price naturally increases.
Now, let’s discuss why I wouldn’t recommend this device, as it has several drawbacks:
- The CMOS sensor is the IMX577, which is 1/2.3 inches in size. Although it can record 4K30p in MP4 format, the bitrate is very low, with data writing to the card at only around 3.8MB per second, resulting in compromised video quality.
- It has limited functionality, with no autofocus capabilities or assistance. Achieving focus relies solely on visual judgment. The device has a screen but no touchscreen functionality. Its menu has a strong imitation flavor and offers little value, with an ineffective WDR option.
- The device’s design leaves much to be desired. It has sharp edges and lacks ergonomic design, making it uncomfortable to hold. Its appearance may remind you of the Zcam series, but it lacks the refined and robust feel. Hence, I mentioned the “Afghanistan style” in the title, as it appears suited for extremely impoverished, primitive regions.
- It’s a niche product with no second-hand market, available only as new. Without a lens and battery, it costs $138 new. While this isn’t expensive, I’ve previously found a used GH4 for $150 to $206, so buying this device for $138 new doesn’t feel like a great deal.
- The official customer service offers a one-year warranty, but they have minimal resources and don’t even have an official website. If they disappear suddenly, it would be challenging to get support.
Finally, let’s discuss the lenses I acquired later:
I purchased a used C-mount lens from Hikvision, which is all-metal, has a 3.8-16mm zoom, a 1.5 aperture, and covers a 1/1.8-inch CMOS sensor. It was very affordable at only a few dollars.
On a device with a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, this lens provides an equivalent focal length of 21-90mm, similar to a standard zoom lens. It’s perfect for casual indoor photography when picked up for impromptu shooting.
The images below show the lens’s wide-angle and telephoto performance from the same shooting position.
The lens’s minimum focus distance and magnification ratio are also impressive. I’ll use this 1/2.3-inch CMOS toy camera and this $10 lens for capturing small objects on my desk in the future.
The Raspberry Pi’s HQ camera module also uses a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor. You can find a used HQ camera module for around $48, and theoretically, it produces the same results as this device.
I also received a USB camera with a 1/2.5-inch CMOS sensor for
$27. It can record 4K30p, has a built-in microphone, and can use interchangeable lenses. The seller even included an extra-long USB 3.0 cable.
The sensor used is the IMX274. When you remove the lens, you can see markings on the CMOS indicating where to install an M12 lens mount.
Please note that these translations may not be exact and are based on the provided text.