MobileInfocenter
Manufacturer: The Price:
  • $150
The Pros:
  • Takes decent pictures
  • Very small camera
  • Very easy to use application
The Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Small pictures of limited use
  • Takes up Memory Stick slot
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*Maximum Rating is FIVE (5) InfoPalms



PEGA-MSC1 Memory Stick Camera Module Review
By Ed Hardy
3/20/2002


Overview
The MSC1 isn't a digital camera that uses Memory Sticks for storage; It's a digital camera that is a Memory Stick. Except that it can't store anything. It uses the input/output capabilities of the Memory Stick slot to store its images in the Cliι's memory.

Images
I know, the first question you are going to ask is, how good are the pictures? I won't make you wait. They are pretty good, if a bit small. The largest possible image is 320 by 240 pixels. It can also take pictures that are 160 by 120.

In the following examples, of course I shrunk the thumbnails down but the full versions are completely unaltered. I tried to get pictures in a variety of conditions.

  Just a typical outdoor scene. It was a fairly bright day. As you can see, the image isn't as sharp as it could be. It's possible I moved the camera a tiny bit when taking the picture.
 
  Here's an indoor one. The cat was getting light from both a lamp and the Sun. I think this picture looks pretty good.
 
  Here's another indoor one and all the light is artificial. This picture isn't great but it's surprisingly good for it being taken in a not very bright room. (Jim is going to shoot me.)
 
  I checked the possibility of using the MSC1 as a way to capture text. As you can see, I wasn't very successful.
 

While these pictures show off some of the strengths of the MSC1, they also point out the weaknesses. It doesn't have a flash, so you'll have to forget taking pictures in anything but fairly well lit areas. I took a few of pictures in really low light. I didn't bother to include an example because they were worthless. On the other hand, the camera does a decent job of brightening up pictures taken in low-to-moderate lighting.

It doesn't have a macro mode. This means you can't take pictures of things close up because it can't focus on pictures taken too close to the lens.

Judging from the image sizes, I think Sony mostly intends for these pictures to be looked at on the handheld. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to get a good picture of a handheld screen so you are looking at the pictures after they have been transferred to my computer. All I can say is, these look very good on the Cliι's screen.

Software
I'm quite impressed with the software package that comes with the MSC1. It has a suite of apps that does everything you need. It has applications for taking pictures, viewing them, and even editing them and all of them work quite well.

The image capture application automatically launches when the camera is inserted. This is a good example of how user friendly this app is.

A good part of the screen is taken up with the viewfinder. This is in color and updates almost continuously. Moving the camera around is like looking at a slightly jerky movie. This works well and there is never any question of what you are aiming at. In general, what you see is what you get.

In the lower center is the Capture button. Press that to take a picture.

Between those two is the brightness slider. You can use this to brighten or darken an image, though the camera software itself will adjust this to keep your pictures looking as good as possible.

On the right is a small icon that lets you choose your image size. Like I said, the two options are 320 by 240 and 160 by 120 pixels. The main reason you'd pick the smaller size is, of course, that file sizes are smaller, too. The full-sized pictures make a file about 160 KB while the smaller images are about 40 KB.

On the left is the Tools icon. Pressing this will open the Tools window, that allows to make a whole bunch of adjustments to the way pictures are taken.

The most useful of these is the White Balance. You can set this on Automatic, which is what it was on for all the pictures above. But it has setting for outdoors, which Sony says is good for sunrises, sunsets, and times when a brightly lit object is silhouetted on a dark background. It also has settings for incandescent and florescent lights that is supposed to optimize you pictures under these different lights.

Also in the Tools window there are some fun effects you can use to take wield pictures. These include black and white, sepia, negative, and solarize. These aren't terribly useful. For example, black and white doesn't make the pictures any smaller. But they are fun to play around with.

Back on the main window, just to the left of the Capture button is the Timer. This delays taking a picture for about 10 seconds.

To the right of the Capture button is one that launches PG Pocket. This lets you view the images you've taken.

This whole app has been designed to take maximum advantage of the Jog Dial. You can do every single function with just it, without ever having to touch the screen, though you don't have to use the Jog Dial at all if you don't want to. In the upper left hand corner of the screen is there is an indicator to show what software function the Jog Dial is currently controlling.

This application runs only on 320 by 320 screens, which means you can't use the MSC1 with the S series. It can run in monochrome, so you can use it with the T415.

PG Pocket displays the images you've taken. Version 2.1, required for the MSC1, has a camera mode which emphasizes just displaying the images and includes a small icon that returns you to the camera app.

It also comes with Cliι Paint, a small image editing app. I don't think graphic artists will stop using PhotoShop in favor of Cliι Paint but it is still pretty good. You have various drawing tools you are probably familiar with from other drawing apps, like a pencil, an eraser, a spray can, and tools for drawing geometric shapes. You can also import small bits of clip-art.

You can add an image in PG Pocket format to your Address Book entries, which is one of the best uses for this camera. if you have a hard time keeping names and faces together, this could be a godsend.

Hardware
The MSC1 is amazingly small for what it does. It makes the digital cameras for other Palm OS models look huge.

The lens on the MSC1 can rotate. This allows you to take pictures of the person holding the handheld or what is in front of the user. When you are flipping the lens around, the camera automatically inverts the image so everything isn't upside down.

The camera sits well away from the handheld's body. It protrudes more than an inch from the top of an N610C. Combined with its delicate connector, this means you aren't going to be carrying the two hooked together in your pocket. In a nice touch, Sony has included a plastic carrying case for the MSC1.

It would have been nice if this had some storage built into it. That way all your pictures wouldn't have to go directly to RAM. I know lots of people who keep the RAM on their handhelds full all the time. Maybe I'm asking too much. Sony did cram a lot of camera into a small space.

Usefulness
There's no doubt about it, this is a cool little gizmo. Everyone I showed it to thought it was great and we had a lot of fun playing with it. But I didn't find a lot of use for it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are people who will find this useful. For example, people shopping for a home can easily take and view pictures of houses they have looked at. But I don't think the average Joe on the street has a lot of need to do this every day.

Now, if you can afford to pay $150 for something for you and your friends to play with, then I think you'll really like the MSC1.

Conclusion
As I said before, the MSC1 is a decent camera... within its limits. Its pictures look pretty good, if a bit small. It takes the best pictures of any Palm OS add-on I've seen. It's slightly hampered by its lack of a flash but it does a decent job of compensating for it.

If anyone has a need for small images that can quickly taken and viewed on their handheld, the MSC1 just fits the bill. If you don't need to do this though, $150 is a bit much to pay for a toy.

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Ed's house?
Foo Fighter @ 3/21/2002 2:48:04 PM #
Ed, I didn't know you lived in the same house the Brady Bunch was filmed? He he! ;-)

Great review!

image quality

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/21/2002 12:11:34 PM #
"how good are the pictures? I won't make you wait. They are pretty good, if a bit small."

I'd disagree. The image quality of these pictures is pretty bad, and that doesn't have anything to do with the resolution. There are some pretty serious artifacts in these pictures that I'm guessing are from lossy compression. Is there some setting on the camera's software to control the compression?

How does the software work to get these images from the device to the desktop?

RE: image quality
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/21/2002 12:29:52 PM #
I own a Visor but when it come down to expand my PDA as a digital camera, I decide against it. EM and EM2 will just not do it. The factors are unpredictable quality, high price, and no flash. I finally opt for a MP3 player with flash digital camera(.3 MPixel) at $80. So now I carry a PDA and this to fill my need, at least for the time being.

Even I can work around such poor quality, this camera expansion must at least have flash and at a reasonable price to be a real option.

Alan

RE: image quality
mtg101 @ 3/21/2002 12:39:22 PM #
I've got one of the cams - and the image quality is pretty bad. This is far from a 3megapixel baby with flashlight that someone was screaming for in an above post. If you want a quality digital camera - this is not it. If you want a small thing to plug into your Clie to take pictures at a moments notice and email around - then this maybe for you.

To get the files on your PC you use PictureGear lite - which comes with the Clie (or does an updated one come with the cam - can't remember... sorry).



---
russ@russb.fsnet.co.uk

RE: image quality
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/21/2002 3:11:18 PM #
AFAIK, the camera can capture only to PictureGear Pocket format, which is lossless. The JPEG artifacts probably are coming from conversion on the desktop side.

RE: image quality
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/21/2002 4:20:26 PM #
So would it be possible to have some of these images in some kind of lossless format? Are the originals still available, and can they be posted as GIFs or something like that?

RE: image quality
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/21/2002 6:39:02 PM #
GIF is lossy too if you're dealing with anything with more than 8-bit color.

PNG probably would be the best format. (Alternatively, Ed could post the PictureGear Pocket images themselves, and people with high-resolution CLIEs could download them and view them on actual devices.)

JPEG
ktran @ 3/21/2002 8:21:01 PM #
The images that Ed has taken are in JPEG format, which is probably the best all-round compression algorithm for photographic images with subtle gradations. At high quality settings, one can still get away with minimal quality loss and benefit from a 9:1 compression ratio.

However, I just think that the MS camera is a toy camera with likely a cheap lens and CMOS imager (they tend to be less sharp and more "noisy"), stuffed with a couple of wires into an MS-sized unit, and shoved to market with a very high novelty price. The images are also likely compressed at a higher ratio, which would explain the artefacts. JPEG is great, but just don't get carried away with it.

Sorry, I just don't like overpriced things...


rgds,

k. Tran

RE: image quality
Ed @ 3/21/2002 9:51:21 PM #
> Alternatively, Ed could post the PictureGear Pocket images themselves,
> and people with high-resolution CLIEs could download them and view them
> on actual devices.

That's a good idea. Here are the originals exactly as they came off the handheld:

http://www.palminfocenter.com/images/cam98950.prc
http://www.palminfocenter.com/images/cam98955.prc
http://www.palminfocenter.com/images/cam98956.prc
http://www.palminfocenter.com/images/cam98959.prc

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News Editor

RE: image quality
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/8/2002 9:56:47 AM #
I can't install the pixs onto my Clie. HotSync manager states that the files are invalid Palm files. Do I need to use the MSCam_enUS.prc program? I have PGPocket installed.

Questions?

Ed @ 3/21/2002 12:10:03 PM #
If you have any questions for me about this module, you need to ask them now. I'm a bit late getting this review out and Sony wants their camera back now. I have to ship it back in a couple of hours so I might not be able to help you if you wait too long.

---
News Editor
RE: Questions?
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/21/2002 12:34:24 PM #
Ship it back with a note:

Nice try pal, call back when it has at least 3 megapixel with flashlight built in.

PS. Walmart toy pen digital camera goes on sale for $60, and it's VGA too.

RE: Questions?
LarryTheTomato @ 3/21/2002 1:15:57 PM #
Yeah, I can see your 3 megapixel camera stick. It is 4 times the size of the CLIE. It doesn't so much attach to the top of the CLIE as the CLIE attaches to the bottom of the camera.

If you want a real digital camera, go get one. I think you can even get one that will take memory sticks. But its going to be huge compared to this camera. You won't be able to carry it everywhere in your pocket the way you can this one. You'll be lucky if you can get it in your pocket at all. I know my digital camera doesn't fit in any of my pockets.

This camera isn't for everyone. But its an example of variety, which I like. One camera, like one handheld, isn't right for everyone.

AFAIK, these are selling like hotcakes. They were selling at PalmSource and they ran out after a couple of days.

RE: Questions?
cyruski @ 3/21/2002 1:27:44 PM #
if only there were something similar to palmpix which worked with sony.. i can sacrifice size (which always is better than ordinary digicams) for quality.

cyruski!
Size of CCD
ktran @ 3/21/2002 1:55:20 PM #
Really, stuffing a high-quality CCD into a camera like that oughtn't be too hard... CCDs typically are 1/3 of a inch in size. You can get smaller ones that still have pretty high image density.


K. Tran

RE: Questions?
palm_pilot_guy @ 3/21/2002 7:01:04 PM #
it's a bit late but is the lens glass or plastic?

—hellomoto—————————————————¬
————————palmoto————————————|
——palm_pilot_guy———————————|
——————————————————————————

RE: Questions?
Altema @ 3/22/2002 10:26:39 AM #
Cyruski, I also would sacrifice size for quality, although I must admit that the PalmPix camera is not what I was hoping for in terms of quality. It does not have the horizontal distortion of the PEGA-MSC1, and it does have the macro mode, BUT the clarity was not much better. I had bought a PalmPix with the intention of snapping some pics at work when planning projects, but the quality was not acceptable, and the images were too dark due to lack of flash. Aparently the Sony camera compensates better for the lack of flash.

What I would like to see is a re-design of the Kodak PalmPix for better quality. The form factor is not unbearable, but there is a lot of empty space on the current model, and they choose to stick with the slow serial interface, ignoring the much faster usb data connections. Getting away from the serial connection would allow them to drop the monochrome preview, and improve the camera-to-Palm image transfer time. Kodak should also update the software, or license the apps used on the Sony. I would be willing to pay more for the improvements... Kodak could keep it's current model in their lineup, and sell the new version as the premium edition.

RE: Questions?
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/6/2002 8:54:45 AM #
How do i transfer the picture from the clie to my desktop? thanks

It also shows that the MS slot is not just for memory.

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/21/2002 12:21:47 PM #
I got to play with this for awhile also. It's a cool toy but I agree that it is not of practical use.

Nice Shirt, Jim

montyburns @ 3/21/2002 12:27:27 PM #


I like my Palm!

320*240 only?

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/21/2002 12:24:10 PM #
excuse me, but sounds like an expensive toy to me. What use is the picture taken by the camera beside some blurry novelty? 320*240 stamp size tangerine colored neibhoors kid? If a camera cannot take a good picture, nobody is going to buy it no matter how nifty and small it is.

this is why eye module, jornada CF camera are all dead. People rather buy real digital camera that make far better quality picture.

RE: 320*240 only?
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/21/2002 12:40:24 PM #
320x320 to mach the Clie's screen resolution would have been a better choice. IMHO

RE: 320*240 only?
mtg101 @ 3/21/2002 12:41:45 PM #
_some_ people want digital cameras with many mega pixel displays to take pics and print on lovely photo quality paper at thousands of dots per inch. This is not a camera for that use - it's for taking quick snaps and emailing them to your mates - same sort of thinking as MMS.

---
russ@russb.fsnet.co.uk
RE: 320*240 only?
ktran @ 3/21/2002 3:03:50 PM #
>>> 320x320 to mach the Clie's screen resolution would have been a better choice. IMHO


Unfortunately, I don't think CCD and CMOS imaging devices are made in the square aspect ratio.


K. Tran

RE: 320*240 only?
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/21/2002 11:46:17 PM #
How about 320x480? That's the size of the new NR-70 Clies. They should have been able to
capture images that fill up the whole screen!

RE: 320*240 only?
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2002 8:43:01 AM #
Is that it? My Eyemodule 2 can take up to 640x480, make 15 sec. color movies (w/o sound :-(). And it only protrudes about 1/4 inch above the top of my Visor Prism!
Also, Targus has a new cam w/ 2mb of memory on board and a swiveling lense like the Sony.
Sony, it's time to go back to the drawing board.

Why the MS slot?

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/21/2002 12:44:09 PM #
My biggest comment/question is why the Memory Stick slot?? Just to prove that MS can do I/O funtions?

To me it would have made more sense to have a camera module to fit on the end of the CLIE where you hotsync, then you could have memory sticks for picture storage & use it more of a digital camera. Though I know the pictures are relatively small & not professional quality, but for work/ trade shows/ etc. it'd be great. As soon as I saw the NR-70, I was like, "...the possibilities !"

Hopefully Sony will make a camera for the T-series that can use MS for extra memory, becuase it swaping the camera for MS would defeat its usefulness [in my opinion] [& if you couldn't tell i'm a T-615c owner]

:: dk ::

RE: Why the MS slot?
Ed @ 3/22/2002 10:53:43 AM #
Data transfer through the HotSync port is much slower than that through the memory Stick one. This makes the camera work much better because when the view finder is on, tons of data is streaming into the handheld constantly.

For example, the Kodak PalmPix for the m500 series uses the HotSync port and its view finder is in black and white (even on the m505) and updates about once a second. In comparison, the MSC1 has a color view finder that updates almost constantly.

The quick data rate comes in handy when transferring images from the camera to RAM. If you want to take several pictures in a row, you don't want a long wait while the images get saved.

---
News Editor

RE: Ed's house?
Ed @ 3/21/2002 2:54:12 PM #
Nope, not my house. I live in a van down by the river.

Glad you liked the review.

---
News Editor

RE: Ed's house?
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/21/2002 3:31:50 PM #
Hey, I also live in a van down by the river. I thought I saw you the other day while I was relieving myself at the big oak tree on the right bank! Small world.

RE: Ed's house?
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/21/2002 6:57:10 PM #
hey, i saw your house when my houseboat floated by!

RE: Ed's house?
Foo Fighter @ 3/21/2002 8:56:33 PM #
Well I live under a bridge next to your van by the river. Come to think of it, I also noticed a houseboat float by.

I'm thinking of moving though. There's just too many PocketPC trolls living under my bridge. :-)

RE: Ed's house?
volcanopele @ 3/22/2002 4:31:38 PM #
Ed,

By any chance do you work as a motivational speaker?

RE: Ed's house?
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/22/2002 6:20:49 PM #
Here's the story, of a boy named Hardy, who was busy reviewing Palm Devices not his own...

Thanks

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/21/2002 11:26:28 PM #
Thanks for this review. I've been waiting for a review of this camera for ages. I currently have one of these on order for my N770C. I'm hoping to use it to e-mail pictures to friends overseas. I think e-mailing pictures would be the main use for this camera.

Would be cool if it was possible to convert the pictures to JPEG on the Clie and then attach them to a message in a SMTP e-mail program then I could take and send pictures on the go!

People who are bagging this camera for not having a higher res are stupid. It is designed for a particular purpose and I can tell you that MMS is going to take off big time.

RE: Sending photos via Email.
TDS @ 3/22/2002 9:27:58 AM #
Check out "Eyemail 1.5" on Palmgear. It is an Email client designed to send pictures taken with the Eyemodule for the Visors via Email. It actually works quite well...
I doubt if it supports the Sony right now, but maybe if you contacted the authour, you could get him to update the app? It may be worth a try...

These pictures actually seem a little sharper than the ones from the original Eyemodule. It looks like there are a few less artifacts. Cameras of this quality are really delegated for the "Fun" category, but they can be used for some real world applications. The other day we took our little 11 Month old girl to Burger King for the first time (Try the BK Veggie! They are pretty good!). I put a "Burger King Crown" on her and she loved it! I had my Eyemodule with me so I was able to capture that fun moment right away!
Doug

Emailing photos from Clie
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/19/2002 8:26:57 AM #
Checkout VFSMail that was created to support the Sony Clie andin fact any PalmOS machine with vfs.

www.ninelocks.com

Memory Stick Camera

PIC mobile user @ 3/22/2002 10:47:33 AM #
You need to limit your format to the width of a Palm. It is difficult to read when you have to use a stylus to go side ways.

Excellent Review

nategall @ 3/22/2002 12:27:21 PM #
Ed, thanks for the complete review. The Picture samples were perfect. Not that the pictures were perfect, but the allow me to get a feel for the quality of the pictures in the hands of somebody other than a PR firm.

I assume that this is a add-on duplicate of what is being included in the new NR palm.

To thoses who don't get it. This is not meant to replace your digital camera. I own the F707, 5mp camera. The sucker kicks ass. But, it also it a pig. I would gladly accept the piss-poor quality of the camera included within the NR for this simple reason. I ALWAYS have my palm with me, and a bad picture is still better than no picture.

Plus, if i get the new sony NR, i can take the memory stick out of the camera and put it in my NR to view them. COOL.

Remember, many choices for many people. Be happy there are a s*it load of choices for you to worry your pretty little heads about

nategall says "blah!"

a couple typos

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/22/2002 7:19:31 PM #
Ed-

Once again, thanks for sharing your thoughts on these gadgets. Your opinions are valuable to those of us contemplating new toys for our Cliιs.

A couple typos...

"White Balance"
The most useful of these is the While Balance.

"their"
I know lots of people who keep the RAM on thir handhelds full all the time.

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