The Apple Quicktake 150 Digital Camera

old apple logo

If I ask you, who developed and sold one of the first commercial digital cameras, what would be your answer? Fuji? Kodak? Maybe even Canon?

What if I told you it was Apple? Don’t believe me? Well then let us rewind the clock to 1994. Tonya Harding had just won the national figure skating championship only to lose it later after attacking her rival Nancy Kerrigan, the channel tunnel finally opened, linking England and France and the people of Los Angeles were recovering from the Northridge earthquake, one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S history. In tech news, the Java programming language saw it’s debut release and Netscape Navigator was rapidly becoming the most popular web browser.

While all of this is happening, Apple, under the leadership of Michael Spindler, was branching out from the computer market. During the mid 90s, Apple had begun to research and design such products as the Apple Emate, the Apple Newton and Quicktake camera. It also saw Apple giving the green light to companies to make clones of Apple computers, something unheard of when still under the direction of former CEO Steve Jobs.

The Quicktake 150 and 100 externally identical

The Quicktake 150 and 100, aesthetically the same

When the Quicktake was initially released, I didn’t have the pleasure let alone the money to afford one. Priced at over £700 it was a little out of reach for a 16 year old still in school. However, now in 2013 they are a little easier to come by and thanks to my friend Mark, who was kind enough to donate a Quicktake 100 and 150 to ByteMyVdu, I finally have the chance to try out the innovative piece of 90s tech and feature it on my site.

QT with attatchment

Quicktake with clip on macro lens

Aesthetically the 100 and 150 look the same, however, the 150 was released later, in May 1995, a year after the 100 debut. At which point, Apple had developed a firmware upgrade for the Quicktake that allowed the 150 to hold double the number of pictures of the 100, which was limited to only 8 24bit 640×480 images in high resolution and 32 in 320×240 low res. In addition, the 150 came with an lens attachment that allowed the camera to take macro shots when clipped over the front of the camera. As both cameras where externally the same, the QT 100 owners could make use of the macro lens also. Apple offered a factory upgrade service to all QT 100 owners, changing the name to Quicktake 100 Plus, giving the camera all the abilities of the 150.

The 150 also differs in the ability to save images in the additional file formats BMP, JPEG, PCX, TIFF. Where in the 100 can only save in Quicktake and Pict image formats.


Quicktake 100/150 Specifications:
Lens:
8mm
Memory:
1mb Flash EPROM
Shutter Speed: 1/30 to 1/175 of a second
Aperture:
f/2.0 to f/16
Image Resolution:
Qt-100 –
8x 24bit 640×480 High images or 32x 320×240 Low res 
Qt-150 –
16x 24bit 640×480 High images or 32x 320×240 Low res 
Image Formats:
QuickTake, PICT, BMP, JPEG, PCX, TIFF
Discontinued:
1997
Battery:
3AA

For the past month I have tried to use the QT150, carrying it around with me in my bag. I have tried to use the camera in practical everyday situations. The experiment has certainly turned up some interesting results, one of which was the size of the camera, for 1995 I’m sure the Quicktake was pretty compact. But in 2013, this once technical innovation is looking a little bulky, especially when sat next to my smart phone, something that has more processing power than a 90s computer along with a 5 mega pixel camera. Technology moves fast and I am amazed how it has advanced in 15 years. The same is true if you compare computers of the 80s to those of the 90s.

Performance

I have to admit, I was impressed how well the Quicktake’s 0.3 megapixels sensor performed, even after 18 years. Admittedly it will never match my Canon EOS 30D or even my phone for that matter, but for internet purposes the Quicktake is actually a useable camera. If you are looking for amazing high definition, you simply won’t find It with this 18 year old camera. I doubt you could use a Quicktake today without getting slightly annoyed with the restrictive and rather basic controls. I discovered this when I tried to manage the images I had taken. Unlike more modern cameras, the QT will not permit you to delete individual images, so deleting images you’re unhappy with isn’t an option.

QT taking basic controls to a whole new level

QT taking basic controls to a whole new level

Instead you can erase the entire memory, which is a little overkill in my opinion. I really do question the reasoning that led the designer to think this was what consumers would want, instead of letting you delete the most recent images in sequential order, which to me makes more sense.

I can only assumed it has something to do with the constraints of the hardware inside the camera. It could easily be a restriction of the flash memory, but it’s anyone’s guess really.

The Quicktake line of cameras still has a following even today, mostly by camera and Apple enthusiasts. While it will never compare to your iPhone, you are certainly more likely to be noticed taking photos with the Quicktake. For a bit of fun, the Quicktake is well worth getting if you are a collector of retro hardware.

Cabling

The Quicktake uses an Apple serial mini din cable to link it to your computer. Today it is very hard if not impossible to find a serial port on a modern computer. Luckily you can buy usb to serial adapters which can make the process much easier then digging out that old 486 IBM from the garage. The one hurdle you might face is if you plan to use your Quicktake on a Windows PC, as I did. Unlike connecting to an Apple computer that uses the same mini din connection at both ends, the PC uses an RS-232 interface, that is not compatible. You will need to find suitable mini din to rs-232 cable or make one yourself, luckily the latter is easier then you might think, thanks to the author of MyriadOfThings.com, who has been nice enough to write a guide explaining in easy to follow steps, just how to build your own cable.

I highly recommend you check out Erik’s site, as he has a wealth of fun info and articles on his site.
Link:
http://myriadofthings.com/make-a-serial-cable-for-the-apple-quicktake-100150-for-5-35-without-soldering/

Below is the wiring for making your own cable, click to enlarge.

Credit to Erik at http://myriadofthings.com/

Credit to Erik at http://myriadofthings.com/

Conclusion

Snapping a photo on the Qt150 of my blogging essentials.

Snapping a photo on the Qt150 of my blogging essentials.

For the time, I can honestly the say the Quicktake must have been an impressive camera. I recalled my father owning a Casio digital camera around the same time and the photos were never as good as those I have taken with the QT 150, which really makes me wonder why the Quicktake didn’t take off. For what ever reason the Quicktake was not very successful and ultimately the product was discontinued when Steve Jobs returned to Apple.

Quicktake has been a nice trip down memory lane and it’s certainly easy to understand why the camera is still popular with Apple fans. While I might not wish to replace my Sony Mavica just yet, I still won’t let that stop me from taking the Quicktake out for a stroll now and again.

Until next time, keep on geeking!

-Written on an Apple Classic

This one, photo courtesy Quicktake 150

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