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Score: 3.5/5

Ever since Dick Tracy first talked into his wrist, man has yearned to do things, other than tell time, with his watch. Now, with Casio's Wrist Camera, you can, and in a cool detective kind of way. Except, instead of calling someone up to chat on your watch [which, of course, is a feature right around the corner] you can take his or her photo for later perusal.

Size: One of the most obvious and exciting benefits of the Casio Wrist Camera is it's size. At a size slightly larger than a normal watch, it is one of the smallest consumer cameras available. The camera's size, and the fact that it is disguised in the body of a watch, allows the wearer to take photos indiscreetly – of people on the street, across the counter at your local deli, or of your favorite band playing their gig, for example. Although it is small for a camera, it is still quite large for a normal watch. Many a time have I heard queries in the vein of "What's the deal with your watch?" or "Can you play games on that thing?"

Accessibility: Having a camera on your watch can come in handy to the "hobbyist". Have you ever thought to yourself that if only I had a camera with me right now I'd be able to take the most perfect photo? Of course you have. Well, with this puppy, you can have a camera on you at all times. Let me tell you, the Casio Wrist Camera has come in handy on a number of occasions that I have not had any other cameras with me – the aftermath of a fire that consumed half a block of chinese restaurants and hip coffee joints, 2 Live Crew kickin' out the beats up on stage, my neighbour trying to frame me by knocking over garbage cans near my driveway [well not the last case, but I'm sure you can see the usefulness].

Fun: Let me tell you, the fun factor on the Casio Wrist Camera is fairly high. Taking pictures on the sly as you walk down the street, or as you wave your arms to the beat of the music coming from the rockin' band on stage, or even as you're sitting around with a group of friends passing around the Cam – "Here, let me try!" Nothing opens up a conversation like "Hey, I got a tiny camera attached to my wrist that I ordered from the Internet. Wanna see?" Unfortunately the fun to be had is inherent in the act of telling your secret to absolutely everyone. Not so sly anymore, eh?

Quality: You may be saying, "Okay, so this camera is inside a watch, along with all the other innards. The pictures must be crap." Well, for the most part, you're right. You're not going to be able to photograph the Mediterranean in all of it's crystal blue glory and stick it up on a billboard to try to attract more tourists. It is what it is. Small. The images are 120x120 pixels, black and white. Not too exciting. One of the Wrist Cam's major downfalls is it's performance in low-light situations. During a nice bright day, the Camera takes pictures that are as clear as can be expected, but at night or during other low-light situations the image quality becomes quite degraded and strange lines of graininess show up. There is practically no point in taking any shots in a pub or similarly lighted location as the result will be mostly black, with maybe a touch of dark grey in some slight high-lighted areas. That being said, I was extremely impressed by the photos produced during 2 Live Crews fairly lit performance. And for all that, as you can see here, the Casio Wrist Camera can still take some fairly good looking pics.

Craftsmanship: Casio, for each of its two different models, has come out with two levels of watch quality – the stainless steel model, and the resin model. The resin model has a black resin casing and a very cheap plastic band. I don't know about you, but I am sick of cheap bands that break after about a year of varying degrees of falling apart. Believe me, that's the type of band that the resin model appears to come with. And besides that, it's ugly. The stainless steel model, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. Encased in stainless steel, with an attractive stainless steel band, this model is built to last. And I can't get enough of the smooth action on the clasp. The extra $30 USD is well worth the superior quality of the stainless steel model.

Features/Accessories: The Casio Wrist Camera has two effect modes for shooting photos – the split screen mode, which allows you to shoot two different photos and have them on the same image, split down the middle; and the "Art" mode, which is nothing more that ultra-high contrast black and white photography. I have not used either of these effects beyond the initial trial... they just don't seem of use to me. Another feature that isn't of particular use to me [due to the fact that I take so many pictures and don't store them on the watch], but is definitely a useful feature is the ability to add up to 24 characters of info to each picture. For a maximum storage of 100 pictures, that's 2400 characters worth of info, in addition to the time/day stamp that it marks each photo with. You may not initially see the use for such a feature, but with this you can mark down the location or situation surrounding the photo or, as Casio has been marketing it for, you can take a pic of your friend and put his or her name and phone number on it. Then you never need to worry about losing your friends' numbers again, and if you do, it's likely the last thing on your mind. All this info that you add to your pictures are downloaded to your computer when you beam your images over. As far as I've seen, Casio has produced one additional accessory to the Wrist Camera: the 2x Teleconverter Lens. This is a lens that attaches to the front of the watch, where the normal lens is, so that you can "zoom in". I have seen the Teleconverter at one location, WatchesPlanet, but only in a kit with one model of the camera, the original stainless steel version. I have not yet heard back from Casio, whether you can buy it separately if you already have a Wrist Camera, like I do.

As a Watch: Now it's time to discuss the Casio Wrist Camera for it's lesser known function – as a watch. I must say that the display of the watch leaves something to be desired... big numbers in an ugly font are not my idea of a good time. Casio dropped the ball on that one. It was the first thing that I noticed after I took it out of the box. Actual quote: "I can see the time from way over here across the room... Can you play games on that thing?" Display aside, the watch features the date and time, a stop watch, a timer, five alarms that can be turned on or off independently of each other [I was slightly impressed by that, this being the first digital watch I've had in at least 12 years], and it is water-resistant. Other than that, all I can say is that I wish the casing had a much better design, but it has a camera in it, so what can I say?

Software: The Casio Wrist Camera transfers it's images to the PC via infra-red signals to an infra-red device attached to your computer through the serial port. In this fast-paced USB world, it takes more nearly ten minutes to download less than a Meg's worth of memory at full capacity – now, that's slow. Why Casio didn't make the infra-red device operate over a USB connection, I do not know, but because they chose the serial connection over USB, Casio effectively [until recently] blocked out the image-hungry Mac market. I am a Mac user and I am so image-hungry that I needed a Casio Wrist Camera anyways. Fortunately, I have access to a PC and problem solved. What about the rest of the Mac-World that don't have access to a PC? Until recently they have been out of luck. Now on the market is a PC Link kit that includes the original IR-Serial connector with a Serial-USB adapter and software for both the PC and Mac. This new kit retails for $79.95 USD, $30 USD more than kit without the adapter. That's a hefty different, especially if you've already shelled out the fifty bucks for the original kit. Casio has not yet gotten back to me yet as to whether you can buy the adapter separately. You can also get software to beam images from your Wrist Camera to you PDA. Check here to get the software from a guy who wrote his own program, or from Casio themselves, who more recently came out with their version. Mac users: this may be a way to get your pics to your Mac from the watch – I'm not yet sure, as I don't have a PDA. As for the actual Wrist Camera software, it is an average program that does it's job without too much clunking around... no bells and whistles, and no piss-offs.

Conclusion: While gaining ground in Size, Accessibility, and Fun, the Casio Wrist Camera lost in Quality, As a Watch, and Software. All-in-All, the Casio Wrist Camera is a fair-enough value and it's pros and cons effectively cancel each other out, but then again, I know of no other watch that can be worn on the wrist or garner as much attention as this one does.

May 1, 2001
ryan@cameraofthemonth.com

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Camborg
Casio Wrist Camera.com
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PDA Software

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eBay
watchesplanet
watchzone.com
wristwatch.com
Casio Wrist Camera
Kodak Brownie Target Six-20
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