DJ-1000

Mitsubishi DJ-1000 Digital camera. The Second Worst Digital Camera in the Entire World? Updated 02/2002

(But it is fun!)

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This camera is all over the e-bay auction site and discount and surplus outlets, typically selling for about $80 up to $120 in the digital camera bidding frenzy. Is it worth even that much? Read about it here first.

New information on Feb. 7, 1999. See Latest information section and  links at the end of the page.

The DJ-1000

Lets start out with a few pictures. If you are still reading after looking at them, then a few details. These are selected best shots, the best the camera can do. These are .JPGs made from the original .BMP files. These are selected "best" shots.

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Woof!

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Playground. Notice how the lens vignettes.

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Coffee table with lava lamp The chair is really purple, the lava is red. The carpet is really off white, notice the rainbow speckle pattern  there  and the rainbow of colors on the wall introduced by the camera. Like, Far Out!

Bad Stuff First

* The pictures are poor quality. There is a lot of noise. The focus is soft. The color is washed out and wrong. It really seems to have trouble with yellow and red. Well, blue too. And green. The lens vignettes at the corners. Plus the focus is only good in the center.

* If you point the camera near a bright light, the CCD overloads and you get a weird colored streak in your photo. Cool!

* No flash. The camera needs a LOT of light. You can forget taking shots in anything but sunlight or a very brightly lit room. In low light, (and for this camera, that means normal room light at night) you get a colorless grainy shot.

* The provided software, which must be used because the camera uses a propriotary format, is very very poor. The worst things are that 1) you have to treat each picture one at a time to convert it to stardard format. 2) You have to do something to each picture if you want the "high res" format of 504x378 pixels. The default is 320x240 for each one. 3) It is hidiously slow, taking my 400 MHz machine several seconds to process each shot, over 10 seconds on a Cyrix p166 machine.  If your computer is a 486, you are going to pull your hair out. (See links to new software at the end of the page, the new software is better)

* The only format that the camera software can save in is .BMP. It is silly to store these low quality shots as a 500K BMP, so you have to convert them to JPG or your favorite format with another pass of another program. I find that storing as a JPG actually helps reduce some of the weird noise present in the shots. I think that the JPG process has trouble reproducing the single wayward totally different pixels that plague the shots. (Again, see new software links at end of page for better software)

* I think that the camera just stores the raw data for each picture in a file. They are all 128KB long. that is only 131072 Bytes, but the camera is supposed to have 250K pixels in the CCD.  I suspect that the 504x378 mode might be some kind of interpolation, and that the pixels may be rectangular. (I have now head that the actual resolution is only 256x256, with rectangular pixels. Even the 320x240 mode is interpolated, and I don't know were anyone gets off claiming 504x378. I have resigned myself to using 320x240.)

* The lens is fixed focus. Anything closer than 20" or farther than 50 feet is out of focus.  Some vendors would call this "focus free" and call it a feature.

* There is no picture remainding counter, no feedback or click when you take a shot, no battery indicator. There are two LEDs on the back that blink in different colors and patterns (steady, slow blink, fast blink) and combinations to indicate various conditions like almost out of space or batteries low. There are at least 6 patterns shown in the manual, good luck remembering them all. Basically, anything blinking is bad, especially if it is red.

* You are going to have to have a card reader for the compact flash card. There is no serial or other interface. The camera cannot format the card, or erase pictures from it, you have to do this on your computer.

* I don't think that there is any kind of "auto off" after so many minutes. Kind of the opposite of the "off in 30 seconds" problem with the Nikon 900. If you leave it on, there is an LED running that will probably drain the batteries in a few hours.

* There is no feedback that you have taken a picture. This is the hardest thing for kids using the camera to understand.

Good Stuff

Yes, there are some good things about the camera. You have to have the right attitude if you want to own one.

* My kids love it. They fight over it. In my opinion, this is a lot better than the Barbie camera if you just want something for your kids to play with. The slow picture processing and poor quality does not seem to bother them. Using this satisfies their urge to use my big digital camera. Then again, I am the one who has to unload the camera each time.

* The camera IS small. There is no reason not to take it everywhere.(Except that the shots will be so poor as to be almost not worth taking) It is less than 3 ounces (80g) and less than an inch thick (19mm). In fact, it is about the same size and weight as a 19mm think 2.5" hard drive.. It fits in a shirt pocket with room to spare.

* I was worried about the use of AAA batteries because they are expensive, and I have a lot of AAs. Fortunately, the AAAs seem to last forever, and why not, there is no flash or LCD. The first set lasted over 300 shots.

* It does use compact flash, which is an advantage if you already have some cards. You get a 2 MB card with the camera, as well as an adapter. I have been using the whimpy 4MB card that came with my CP900 in it. (Larger cards do work, by the way. I've tried up to 32MB cards in the camera, however I don't think that the camera can take more than 999 shots). (Note that I read that the camera actually uses FAT12. If that is so, there will be a limit of about 128 pictures on a card, regardless of the size).

* We dropped it the first day on a sidewalk. Since there are no moving parts, (There does not appear to be a shutter) we have not been able to break it yet. Not even a scratch. The case is actually some kind of metal, except for the battery and memory doors which are plastic (and a different color!)

* The thing is so small, and the release seems to be a simple switch, so it does bring up the possiblity of hacking the camera for other purposes such as model rockets.

* There is Windows 3.1 support if you want to use this with an old machine.

Is it worth it?

I guess that would depend on how much you pay, and what you want it for. Don't buy this as your only or first digital camera.  You really can't do anything worthwhile with it. The pictures are horrible. I suppose that you could argue that they have their own character, in the same way as watching a snowy old movie on a distant TV station. You can't really take closeups of your items for sale on e-bay as has been suggested. You can't take much indoors at all.  The software will frustrate you.  If you don't already have a card reader, then it is not worth buying one just to run this thing.

It makes a fair "kids camera", or "car camera" or "camping camera" where something is way better than nothing. It would probably survive a trip to the sandy beach where a real camera might not.  You could take it skiing or backpacking for less than 3 ounces. Your kid could take it to school and have a lot of fun with it; just write your name large on the back with a black marker. It might be just barely good enough for web material on a hobby site, or for taking low resolution shots for e-mail.

If I had to put a price on it, I would say that you would want to pay less than $30 for a DJ-1000. $19.95 would be a good price. Any flash card that you put in the camera would be worth more than the camera. If this is for your own use, get something else. On the other hand, my kids love it.  They can run around the house and take 30 shots on a 4MB card, then mess with the pictures for hours..

Links and software

There is updated software at this site.  Reports are that the site is up and down. This software allows you to transform an entire directory to .JPG in one pass instead of having to load each picture individually. This is MUCH better than the software that comes with the camera. I didn't provide a link to the exact file because it looks like there may have been a couple of recent updates. The most recent file that I could find for Windows 95 was... DJW95E21.ZIP. The files with "E" in their names appear to be the english versions, etc.  There is some partial source code for the file format at this spot.   Some software is also available here, I have not tried it.

Looking at the source code, it appears that the CCD on the camera is really only 256X128 pixels (or possibly 256x256), but the pixels are rectangular and offset which complicates things. The 504x378 size is just interpolated. Probably not worth changing anything from the default 320x240. .

Here is a nice page with more great detail about the format. Herd of Kittens!

A bunch of realy good and current  (02-2002) DJ-1000 information has been compiled by Tom Meeks.  (it is a ways down this page, scroll down to the DJ-1000 section. He even has links to a PhotoShop plugin for the camera and other software. Check it out