“Vintage” point-and-shoot digital cameras are all the rage among Gen Z today, and while you can cruise eBay to find something used to scratch that itch, what can you get for about the same money new?
To answer that question, I headed over to Amazon.com and typed in “Digital Camera” into the search box. Surprisingly, most of the listings that came up were not from any major brands, or any identifiable brand at all. In fact, it wasn’t until 10 listings down that I spotted a Nikon D3200. But the D3200 is $479.
My criterion was that it couldn’t be a camera designed for kids. There were several no-name cameras that were in the $100 and under mark, but I set my sights on the bottom of the barrel, the $21.64 Yosoo Health Gear Digital Camera, Compact vlogging Camera. At least that’s what I think it’s called. It could also be the Acuvar 16MP Megapixel Compact Digital Photo and Video Camera or perhaps it’s the EMVANV HD Digital Camera or maybe even the 01 Digital Camera Recorder, Vlogging Camera. Who knows? It all appears to be the same camera sold under different names without changes to the body at all. For the purposes of this review, I’m going to call it the Camera brand camera since that’s what’s prominently written on the front of what could loosely be described as a camera.
Build Quality (If You Can Call It That)
Most people I showed the gold Camera brand camera instantly recalled the Canon PowerShots of old: boxy, deck-of-cards sized cameras that were ubiquitous in the mid- to late-2000s. They were the cameras that documented many a childhood vacation, wedding or family gathering. And it’s clear whoever the manufacturer of this camera is channeling that nostalgia. I say “whoever” because the instruction manual provided no clue as to the provenance of the camera, nor did the minimalist packaging that the camera came in:
The first hint that it’s not a PowerShot is when you pick it up. Say what you will about how much of a commodity camera those Canons are, they at least feel solid and perform their basic intended function. The second I picked up the Camera brand camera, I figured out what I was in for. It’s incredibly light, but in the cheap way, not the good way. The three AAA batteries that the camera uses weighed more than the camera. The battery door felt like it was going to fall off as I put the batteries in. And those batteries were good for about 155 shots. Ouch.
The rest of the outside of the camera isn’t much better. The “lens” doesn’t move when powered on and it appears almost as if there’s a webcam or some other similarly cheap imaging device glued into an enclosure that’s supposed to mimic the look of a lens. I decided to open up the camera (which was held together by all of 6 screws) to take a look, and well, you can see for yourself:
It sure looks like a webcam with an incredibly small imaging sensor underneath. All of the silver and fancy bezel work is just for show. Your cell phone has no reason to fear the image quality of this camera.
There’s a flash, but it’s not actually a flash but rather a small LED light that stays on continuously and isn’t powerful enough to actually light anything. Light leaks from the top of the camera body when it’s turned on.
Out back there are black buttons with markings molded into them. One set is a “T” and “W.” On the screen, it looks like these buttons zoom in and out, but they don’t work and the image is always recorded at the widest angle no matter what you’re looking at. And that widest angle is not so wide. I’d estimate about 40-45mm or so. There’s the usual four-way controller, and OK button in the middle of that, a play button and a menu button.
Underneath, there’s a tripod mount that’s off-center and apparently made of plastic. There’s a small slot next to that for an SD card. The photocopied sheet of paper that was posing as a manual inside the box said that it couldn’t use larger than a 32 GB SD card, and so, I abided with a 16 GB card.
The camera handles, at best, poorly. The shutter button seems to function only 75% of the time, and it’s not always clear what the rest of the buttons do. There is a menu, and most standard items are there, followed by some strange ones such as “frequency” and “screen saver” whose functions are not immediately clear. There’s also the ability to add quartz dating to your photos, but that seems to turn itself on and off at random.
The screen, which isn’t touch-enabled, isn’t even positioned correctly in the body. Out of the box, you can see that the left side is cut off and so are some of the icons and text. Quality control over at Camera brand cameras must be stellar.
The four-way controller, depending on the direction you push, will cycle through movies, still and audio recorder modes; adjust EV compensation (which, like the zoom, doesn’t actually work); and adjust quality (which is awful, no matter what setting you use). One of the directions adjusts resolution, which, unlike the other functions, actually works, though the camera seems to max out at 10.2 MP, which is below its claimed 16 MP resolution that the camera proudly proclaims on the front plate. Additionally, the photos display some weird stretching by about 250 pixels on the wide end and also display some weird artifacts, even in perfect lighting. Here’s how the Camera brand camera mangled a product shot of my EOS M6 Mark II:
There’s about a half-second delay between pressing the shutter button and taking a picture. I’m not sure there’s even any focusing going on, the screen is so low resolution. Playback is about what you’d expect, although to move through the pictures you use the up and down arrows rather than the traditional left and right arrows. There is no speaker on the camera, and so video and audio files will play without sound. You read that right: Audio files play without sound.
There are cameras that bring joy to the process of shooting. This does the opposite.
OK, so using the camera is a terrible experience. How is the image quality? In a word, terrible. If you need more words, horrible, no-good and awful fit as well.
This was a partly cloudy day, not really any challenge for most cameras. But as you can see, there’s a stark difference between what my EOS M6 Mark II captured vs. what Camera brand camera captures. You can always dumb down a “real camera” image to look this bad, but you’ll never be able to scale up with the Camera brand camera. This comparison is after I fixed the stretching on Camera brand Camera and cropped the photos to match.
The lens has an aperture listed on the front of f/1.1, but with no metadata recorded, it’s hard to tell if that’s accurate. It’s also impossible to tell how fast the shutter speed is by the sound, and because the disassembly revealed that there is no mechanical shutter and the sound is a pre-recorded electronic shutter sound. Anecdotally, shutter speeds are probably along the slower end of the spectrum more often than not. Squirrelly kids proved difficult:
Even not-so-squirrely buildings proved a challenge for this camera. The detail you’d expect in a photo isn’t there. I think that the Fisher Price kids camera I reviewed a few years ago did a better job. This is reminiscent of pre-iPhone cell phone camera days, and that’s being generous:
While photos may not be the claimed 16 MP, video was actually better than the claimed specs on Amazon, coming in at 1080p rather than 720p. Sadly, the video uses a crude Motion JPEG codec and audio is recorded at 16 kHz, so your subjects will sound like they’re talking out of a tin-can. Coupled with the video quality that is as poor as still image quality, and you have this:
The video seems to turn all the trees into some sort of greenish-brown blobs, and the stretching from still photos is also present in the video. There’s not much else to say. To pass this off as a camera in 2023 is a cruel joke.
All that said, when I showed the images to some of the Gen Z set, they remarked about how “cool” the photos looked.
I have no words.
What I Liked:
- The camera subdivides the memory card into audio, photo and video folders, which is clearer than even professional level cameras which still use DCIM folders.
- That’s it. That’s literally it.
What I Didn’t Like:
- Image quality is terrible.
- Using the camera is an exercise in frustration.
- Most functions of the camera don’t work.
- Basically, everything about Camera brand camera.
There are at least four versions of this camera on Amazon.com. If you’d really like to subject yourself to this same torture, you can buy the one I did here. But don’t. Really.