Slimcam 300 Mini Digital Camera
A credit card sized 'toy' digital camera
Very small, very inexpensive, but not very good.
You get what you pay
for, with digital cameras as with everything else.
This is a temptingly small
little gadget that offers seemingly good resolution (1280x960 =
1.2 megapixel) pictures.
The performance is
disappointing, but probably fairly in line with its low price.
The SlimCam 300 is very
small. It measures the same size as a regular credit or
business card - 3" x 2". Most of its body is about ¼"
thick, and where the lens protrudes, it is ½" thick. The
camera weighs a mere 1.1 ounces, with a rechargeable Lithium Ion
battery and 64 MB of picture memory built in to it.
The Li-ion battery is
charged through the USB cable and takes its power from the
computer's USB port. This is sensible and convenient, and
much preferable to having yet another separate transformer power
The battery life seems to be
sufficient to take 50 or more pictures and hold them in its
memory for a day or so, and by the time you've
taken that many pictures, you'll have probably needed to
transfer them to your computer anyway, recharging the camera in
It has a fixed focus lens
(4.5mm focal length, f2.8) and says it has both auto exposure
and auto white balance.
It records photos either in
a high resolution (1280x960 = 1.2 megapixels) or lower VGA
resolution (640x480 = 300k pixels). But its CMOS sensor is
only capable of 300k resolution, and if you choose to store
'high resolution' pictures, its inbuilt circuits interpolate extra information to make the 300k sized raw picture
grow up to 1.2 Megapixels.
This makes for ugly
looking pictures (see samples below) in both resolutions. If you need to increase the pixel count
in an image - something that is always a bad idea - you're
better advised to do it in Photoshop (using the bicubic method
of resampling). Photoshop will do a better job of making the
image larger than most cameras.
The camera holds 26 pictures
with high resolution and low compression, 52 with high
resolution and high compression, 104 with low resolution and low
compression, and 209 with low res and high compression.
In theory the best setting
combination would be low resolution and low compression, giving
you a capacity to store 104 pictures. But the low
resolution looks so unexpectedly bad that you probably should
choose the high res/low comp option, giving 26 images.
The camera has an optical
viewfinder. A small LCD panel shows the number of
remaining photos you can take before its memory is full, and a
button alongside enables you to change some of its default
There is a main on/off
switch on the bottom of the camera that is recessed so it can't
be accidentally turned on or off. This is important,
because if you turn this switch off, all pictures in its memory
are immediately erased.
you leave the camera on, the rechargeable battery keeps the memory
alive, but this continual drain means the battery flattens
within three or four days, and, once more, you lose all the
stored pictures. It is a good idea to transfer your
pictures quickly to a PC.
Although safely protected
from accidental switching on or off, this also means it is very
difficult to switch it on/off when you want to.
You'll probably need to use a pen or some other pointed object
to do this.
The camera comes with a very
short wriststrap, a 51" USB cable, a CDrom with drivers and
image management software, and two manuals (one for the camera
and one for the software).
The small ten page instruction
booklet was written in a very foreign version of English that
completely unintelligible. For example, can you understand
the second part of this sentence?
Please move the button to
'OFF' when you are not use the camera, unless it will cause its
lifetime of battery.
There was no indication of
any website or company contact details where one could go for
support, or for updated drivers. There was also no
warranty information provided - this probably varies depending
on the retailer you purchase it from.
Using the Camera
I took some pictures around
my house and garden.
The camera almost instantly
switched on (from either its standby or off state) and there was
very little delay to take a picture, and it was almost
immediately ready to take another picture again. This fast
power up and responsiveness was better than my Canon G-1 high quality digital camera.
It was very easy to use.
Simply and literally point and click.
The camera did not work well
in lower light conditions (eg much of the time inside), and
annoying would refuse to take a picture if
it did not think the light was good enough. There was no
way to use it with an external flash.
I'd prefer the
camera to warn about the low light but still to allow you to
take the picture - it is amazing how you can adjust a very dark
photo up to relatively bright good quality by subsequently
editing it in Photoshop, and if you're in a situation where you
would rather have a potentially bad picture rather than no
picture at all, you'll be frustrated by the camera's refusal to
take the picture you want.
The camera does not remember
its settings, and defaults to the high resolution setting every time you
turn it on.
On one occasion, the camera
froze while I was adjusting its settings. I had to turn
its main power off and on in order to unfreeze it, which meant I
lost the pictures I had in its memory.
On another occasion, the LCD
started flashing its display at me rather than displaying the
information normally. Nothing could stop it from flashing,
and I had to wait until the battery had died and then recharge
it, with the flashing now thankfully gone.
The following pictures were
taken looking over to a neighbor's house on an overcast day.
The first image was on the Slim Cam's low resolution (640x480)
mode, the second on its high resolution (1280x960) mode, and the
third is a comparative photo taken by a higher quality but 3½ year
old Canon G1 camera in high resolution (2048x1536) mode.
Care was taken to select the
best of several different photos from the Slim Cam so as to
fairly show its capabilities.
A 200x140 'thumbnail'
segment of each of the three photos is shown below. You
can click on this thumbnail and have a larger image appear in a
new window. The images have not been appreciably altered,
and have not been scaled (but the second and third photos were
cropped so as not to have too large a file size and
to conveniently fit on your screen) and were re-saved in
moderately low compression/high quality jpg format.
A picture is worth a
thousand words, so there is probably no need to comment on
the quality of this picture, which was taken in low
This is with the
setting for high quality and low compression from the Naxos.
If you expand this
picture (by clicking on it) you'll see that the picture
doesn't have much detail - the lighter colors quickly get
As a comparison, here's
a picture from my Canon G1.
You can see definition
in the wooden fence and the siding on the house that is
missing with the Naxos, and the colors are a lot more
stable and accurate.
Installing the Software onto
I hoped that the camera
would not need any software at all to be recognized on the PC.
Ideally, the PC would simply see it as another disk drive, just
like it does with a USB Flash Drive.
And so I plugged the camera
in to one of the laptop's USB ports, to see what happened.
Hopefully it would see it as a new drive. Alternatively,
well behaved USB devices will trigger the install process when
plugged into a USB port for the first time and will call for any
necessary drivers to be loaded if needed.
The laptop thought for a
while, and then advised that the auto install of the camera driver
I then did what the
instructions told me to do (!) - installed the drivers while the
camera was not connected to the laptop. The installation
process was unusual because the install program wanted to access
my network as part of its installation procedure. This
should absolutely not be necessary and I wonder why it wanted to
I allowed it network access,
so as to give it the best possible chance of working properly.
The other surprising event
was that after loading the driver, it required the computer to
be rebooted. These days well written USB drivers should
never require the computer to be rebooted as part of their
After completing the
installation process, and rebooting, the camera was still not
recognized. So I uninstalled the drivers, and then
reloaded them, and after more reboots at the end of every step
of the process, the camera was now recognized by the laptop.
Right clicking on the camera
device in the My Computer window offered the opportunity to
download pictures from the camera to the computer. I did
this once satisfactorily, but the pictures were in a strange low
resolution (320x240) mode, even though I thought I'd set the
camera to high resolution. I deleted these pictures off
the camera, reset it to high resolution, and took some more
pictures, then reconnected it to the computer again.
Surprisingly, the computer
thought it saw the original pictures again, and could not find
the other pictures.
I unplugged and replugged
the camera, and then the computer stopped recognizing the camera
at all, and it took several uninstalls and reinstalls to get the
computer to see the camera again.
The camera comes with two software
programs, ArcSoft Photo Impression for both Windows and Mac and
ArcSoft Funhouse, also for Windows or Mac. Photo
Impression seems to be a very simple image filing and editing
program, and Funhouse appears to let you take pictures of
yourself and super-impose them in front of various backgrounds.
I had no interest in or need
for either program, and no wish to load my laptop with more
unnecessary software, so did not test either program.
Transferring images to a
Transferring images to the
computer wasn't quite as simple or reliable as one would hope.
Several times, when plugging
the camera into a USB port, it somehow interfered with my
Securikey on another port, causing the laptop to think the
Securikey had been removed, thereby making the computer lock
After connecting the camera
to the laptop several times, the device driver became corrupted
and I had to treat myself to another series of
uninstall/reinstall procedures until the camera and pc could be
persuaded to talk to each other again.
While the two devices were
working together, transferring images, via a special program
loaded onto the pc during the driver installation, was
relatively simple and relatively quick.
The camera is not very
expensive. I've seen it for sale (under the Naxos brand
name) on various websites for
$60-90, and it is available from ProTravelGear.com (the people
that make the Plane Quiet noise cancelling headphones) for only
$50. If you use the 'Travelinsider' discount code (don't
type in the quotes, just the word) you'll get a 5% discount off
its $49.99 list price.
Although not very expensive,
it is also not very impressive. My preference would be to pay
about twice as much (at the time of writing, March 04) and get a truly good quality,
2 MP, mini
digital camera complete with built in flash, optical zoom and
removable media. This would be a larger bulkier camera, of
course, but would also be a very much better quality unit.
However, in terms of what you can expect from a $45 camera, the
SlimCam 300 is probably a fair price for what it is.
You shouldn't expect much
for only $45, and as long as your expectations are low, you
won't be disappointed.
The camera is easy to
operate, but its software is buggy and unreliable. It
takes very basic pictures quickly and simply, but of a poor
quality level, comparable to current first generation cell phone
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19 Mar 2004, last update
28 May 2011
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.