Although I love film, I don’t hate megapixels. I shoot digital all the time. I just don’t collect digital cameras like I do film cameras. But when my parents found this 2001 Sony FD Mavica MDC-FD87 at a rummage sale for a few dollars, they thought of me and bought it.
It seems hard to believe now, but consumer digital photography was still pretty new in 2001. Cameras had only recently passed the one-megapixel barrier, giving them enough resolution for a decent 4×6 print. Many early digital cameras had unusual form factors compared to conventional 35mm cameras – they looked weird, like this tall and wide Mavica.
This Mavica’s specs are probably competitive with other digital cameras of the time. It features an f/2.8 lens that zooms digitally from 39-117mm (equivalent). Its 1.3-megapixel sensor offers a maximum resolution of 1,280 x 960 pixels. It focuses and sets exposure automatically. There’s no viewfinder, but you can frame and review your shots on the 2.5-inch screen on the back. There’s a built-in flash and a few exposure and focus modes.
Amusingly, this Mavica writes photos onto 3.25-inch floppy disks. At maximum resolution, only a handful of photos fit onto a single floppy. Sony sold a floppy-shaped adapter that let you use Sony’s Memory Sticks, but my camera is not so equipped. Fortunately, a bunch of floppies came with the camera. I had to buy a USB-powered floppy drive to read them on my computer, though. Yes, you can buy such a thing.
Another not-so-amusing feature of this Mavica is its proprietary battery, because my yard-sale find came with no charger. Unbelievably, this Mavica can be plugged into the wall, and that’s how I used it. The eight-foot range that gave me would normally be a non-starter, but given that my goal was to satisfy curiosity rather than to create art, I made it work. Here, then, are some photos of things I could reach within that radius of my living room’s south wall. First up, the Native American wedding vase that sits on my coffee table, taken in available light on a sunny afternoon. The detail, sharpness, and color fidelity are all pretty good.
When your subject is mostly one color, this Mavica tends to tint the whole photo toward it. This photo has a brown caste. It also displays the lens’s inherent barrel distortion.
This photo of my car’s nose has a blue caste. I took this from my front stoop, and zoomed in to the max. There’s noticeable pixelation in the image, which you can best see along the door seam at full resolution.
At the lens’s wide end, however, the camera registers good detail. The Mavica offers no macro mode, but it let me get pretty close anyway.
And just for grins, here’s a portrait of sorts that my son took of me in my parents’ home shortly after they gave me the camera.
See a few more photos from the FD87 in my Sony FD Mavica MDC-FD87 gallery.
This Sony Mavica is little more than an amusing footnote in digital photography’s history. Given its bulky body, its low image resolution, and its floppy-disk image storage, curiosity is the only good reason for using this camera. But it produces usable images, which was kind of a big deal in 2001 when digital photography was just starting to gain its legs.
If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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