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  • [piano-laden jazz music]

  • Greetings and welcome to an LGR camera thing!

  • And this time around weve got a delightful little oddity from Sega.

  • Yes, thatSega! ♫

  • Back in the mid-90s, they were experimenting with all kinds of hardware beyond games, and

  • 1996 saw the release of the Digio SJ-1, Sega’s first and only entry

  • into the personal digital camera space.

  • The SJ-1 sold for 29,800 yen, or roughly 300 US dollars, when it was first announced in

  • the fall of 1996.

  • A full two years before the Nintendo GameBoy camera came out, by the way, another example

  • of Sega doing what Nintendon’t.

  • And the Digio wasn’t just a toy camera or a game console add-on either, nope, this was

  • a point and shoot digital camera with a better set of specs and features than you might expect.

  • Things like a 320x240 resolution image sensor, manual focusing for both landscape and macro

  • photography, and even a color LCD screen acting as both a viewfinder and a playback device.

  • And images were stored on state of the artDigital Film,” as Sega called it.

  • Which in reality was a version of Toshiba’s recently-released SmartMedia format.

  • Yeah, I was honestly shocked when I first found out about this thing!

  • Not only was it an official Sega product from the mid-90s that I’d never heard of, but

  • it was a digital camera with some seriously impressive specifications at a price that

  • was entirely reasonable from the get-go.

  • However, Sega never marketed the original Digio SJ-1 for sale outside of Japan, and

  • even there it seems it was largely advertised to their existing customer base in periodicals

  • like Sega Saturn Magazine.

  • Which, on further inspection makes sense seeing as the Digio was advertised to work in conjunction

  • with the Sega Picture Magic and the Sega PriFun.

  • The former of which was a graphics tablet with a combination of Sega 32x and Mega Drive

  • hardware inside, allowing for drawing on top of and editing digital photos taken on the SJ-1.

  • And the latter being a video printer designed to work with the Sega Saturn and the Pico,

  • letting users print 4x6 photos and sticker sheets captured using

  • the printer’s composite video input port.

  • [Japanese PriFun advertisement plays]

  • And yep, the Digio SJ-1 outputs using composite video as well using a 2.5mm adapter cable,

  • same kinda thing you saw on consumer camcorders back then.

  • So if you didn’t feel like squinting at that tiny LCD screen, you could view saved

  • photos or even a live feed from the camera right on your TV.

  • Dude, seriously, this is awesome for a three hundred dollar camera from ‘96!

  • Why weren't these more popular?

  • Sega did at least update the SJ-1 slightly in 1997, bundling in a clip-on magnifier for

  • the LCD screen and a larger memory card, along with a couple of fresh new paint jobs like

  • metallic pink and silver.

  • 1997 is also when the Digio went on sale outside of Japan, but from what I gather this was

  • limited to Australia and was only marketed there for less than a year.

  • Yeah, this really is the perfect storm of impressive

  • yet obscure tech from a well-known company, I live for this stuff.

  • So let’s take a look at the original HDC-0100 model from 1996, which I imported from Japan

  • about a year ago now.

  • It’s been a journey to get everything I needed for this video, cuz yeah.

  • Even though it came in the original packaging, all that was in the box was the camera itself

  • and the video cable for connecting it to a TV.

  • Oh, and the memory card, thank goodness, since the Digio will only accept a particular type

  • of early model SmartMedia card.

  • This one for the Digio uses 5-volt power instead of 3.3 volts that soon became the norm.

  • Not only that, but this only has 5 megabits of storage, equating to just 625 kilobytes.

  • So not only is it bizarrely-specced, but I had no way of getting the photos off the camera

  • beyond hooking it up through fuzzy composite video.

  • Turns out that’s because, originally, Sega only intended the Digio for use with their

  • graphics tablet and printer, not a computer.

  • It wasn’t until January of 1997 that they started selling separate kits for connecting

  • the Digio to a PC, for an additional cost of 7,800 yen, nearly 80 dollars.

  • That’s a lot for a floppy disk and a serial cable.

  • Anyway, well sort out the computer stuff later on, but for now let’s take a gander

  • at the SJ-1 itself!

  • It’s a solidly-built binoculars-style design, a popular form factor on early to mid-90s

  • digital cameras, weighing in at 11 ounces with batteries installed.

  • Which, by the way, are an absolute pain to get in there.

  • It takes four AA batteries and you have to jam the bottom pair in past the top two spring

  • contacts to get them to fit.

  • [batteries shuffling]

  • Seriously, who signed off on this design?

  • Another quirk of the Digio is that even with the batteries installed, the camera will not

  • power on at all without the memory card latch in the upright locked position.

  • I thought I’d received a dead camera when I first got it, but nope, you just have to

  • lock that tiny switch on front or nothing happens.

  • Also on front is a red LED indicator for the self-timer feature, just above the opening

  • for the lens, which is a 10 millimeter design with an aperture of 1.9.

  • And right above that on top is the aforementioned manual focusing ring, something rather unusual

  • for a compact digital camera in ‘96.

  • It does a pretty darn good job too, especially on the macro side of things, I’m impressed

  • with the range of focus options.

  • Along the bottom youve got a standard tripod mount, on the left youve got nothing at

  • all, and on the right is a little rubber door covering the ports for video output, serial

  • connectivity, and a place to plug in a 10-volt DC power supply.

  • Finally, there’s the standout feature of the Sega Digio: the color LCD panel.

  • Which, again, was an impressive feature in 1996, especially at its $300 price point.

  • The LCD-equipped Casio QV-10A cost fifty percent more by comparison,

  • though it also had a screen twice the size.

  • Anyway powering on the Digio boots up this nifty splash screen, followed by a live feed

  • acting as a viewfinder.

  • Yep, there’s no optical viewfinder at all on here, only an LCD.

  • And a tiny one at that, the panel is only about 0.7 inches, or 18 millimeters across.

  • It is magnified a bit to try and make up for that, but this also means that you have to

  • move it away from your eyes in order to actually focus on the image and see it clearly.

  • And taking a picture is simple and silent, everything but the focusing happens automatically.

  • [photographic silence]

  • It does take about five seconds to save an image, but once you

  • have some you can switch over into playback mode and manage pictures directly on the camera.

  • It’s limited to simple stuff like locking photos, deleting groups of them, and formatting

  • the memory card, but this was still pretty fresh stuff in ‘96!

  • Many digital cameras up to that point didn’t allow you to access pictures at all unless

  • it was through a computer.

  • Speaking of which, I tried several methods of getting files off of here without the serial

  • adapter, including putting the card in another camera that uses similar SmartMedia cards,

  • and trying multiple PCMCIA adapters that were supposedly compatible with 5-volt memory cards.

  • But man, no matter what I just couldn’t get anything to recognize it.

  • So I turned to Amazon Japan, as ya do, and imported an HDC-3002 kit for 2,000 yen.

  • And uh, welp!

  • All it came with was the software, which I’d already found an archive for online.

  • What I really needed was the serial adapter, so I put in a saved search on Yahoo Auctions

  • Japan until I found a listing for both the HDC-3002 and 3000 kits complete in box for

  • a total of 3,100 yen. Excellent.

  • I didn’t need both of them but whatever, I’ll take what I can get.

  • The only real difference is that the 3000 is only for IBM PC-compatibles running Windows

  • 95, and the 3002 also comes with software for the NEC PC-9821.

  • While I don’t have a PC-98, I do have an NEC PC running the Japanese version of Windows

  • 98 which really is the next best thing!

  • [Windows 98 startup sound plays]

  • Mm, my waves are now vapor.

  • Right, so the HDC-3002 software here is completely in Japanese, that’s a bit of a thing.

  • There is an English version of the software from its later Australian release, but ah

  • well, functionality is standard enough for mid-90s photo retrieval apps

  • that I didn’t have a problem with it.

  • With the Digio plugged in and powered on it’s able to download your photos

  • in Sega’s proprietary SJ1 file format.

  • From here you can select which images you want to delete or keep, transferring the ones

  • you like over into the editing window.

  • From here you can do things like flip and rotate images, adjust RGB color values, edit

  • hue, saturation, and lightness, change brightness and contrast, and both increase and decrease

  • sharpness and mosaic pixelization.

  • Once youre happy with things, you can export images to something more standardized, like

  • Windows bitmap files, and there ya go.

  • As for the images themselves, well, as mentioned earlier theyre captured in 320x240 resolution,

  • though if I had to guess it looks like it’s automatically upscaled from 160x120.

  • I shouldve expected as much since it holds

  • around twenty pictures on that tiny memory card, so yeah.

  • The resulting images are maybe a tad more compressed and chunky

  • than they otherwise could be.

  • Not that I expected impeccable image quality, but still, everything just looked so cool

  • through that LCD screen!

  • Ah, I mean well, sometimes.

  • See, the digital viewfinder is useless during the middle of the day due to its inherently

  • reflective design and muted backlighting.

  • Imagine having a Sega Game Gear screen that’s less than an inch across and you're looking

  • at it through an oddly curved magnifying glass.

  • Yeah.

  • The screen is turned on here, I swear, but even in the shade

  • it’s hard to see anything if the sun is out.

  • Not only that, but the battery life?

  • Ha, what battery life!

  • I only get enough juice from four AA’s to fill the card once with pictures and just

  • get them loaded onto a PC before it dies.

  • I went back to count and it turns out I went through two dozen batteries

  • just to make this video.

  • [dead batteries crash to the floor]

  • Still, these kinds of quirks and caveats are precisely why I enjoy using older digital

  • cameras from time to time.

  • I don’t do it for the ease of use, I do it for the fun of it,

  • for the retro challenge of the ordeal.

  • I love taking pictures of things that wouldn’t be out of place when the camera was manufactured.

  • Old cars, buildings, trees and metalwork and stuff.

  • And I love seeing how devices like the Digio go about capturing various colors and light

  • ranges, because you never get precisely what you expect.

  • Like the Mitsubishi DJ-1000 I reviewed, this is another mid-90s digicam that produces these

  • downward streaks of light on any parts of the image that’s bright enough.