What To Do With An Old, Low-Res Digital Camera

Sony CyberShot DSC U10. ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/80 © Jon Sienkiewicz

What’s the best thing to do with an old, sub-2-megapixel camera? Go out and capture some remarkable images, that’s what.

Can you take good pictures with a 1.2-megapixel camera? Can anyone? Here’s a small album of images shot with a diminutive Sony CyberShot DSC U10 to challenge your preconceptions. The images were all captured 20 years ago at various locations in the US, Germany and Japan.

About the Camera
If the Sony DSC U10 has a superpower, it’s its tiny size. Introduced in 2002, the Sony U10 is small, just 3.3 x 1.1 x 1.6 inches (85 x 29 x 40 mm) and weighs a scant 4.2 ounces (118 g). That makes is scarcely larger than a roll of Lifesavers candy (which measures 2.9 x 0.9 inches).

By all metrics, the Sony DSC U10 is grossly underpowered in today’s world. It has a non-zooming f/2.8 lens (33mm equivalent) and a 1.2-megapixel (effective) 1/2.7 type CCD. Maximum image size is 1280 x 960 pixels. Video capture is MPEG1 and – get this – it records video without audio. Silent movies.

Sony’s CyberShot DSC U10 owners manual (p.7) warns users to keep fingers out of the way.

The U10 uses Memory Stick recording media and is powered by a pair of AAA-size NiMH batteries. There is a sliding lens cover and built-in flash on the front, and a 2.5 cm (1-inch) LCD monitor with 293 x 220 dots on the back.

But the point is that none of that matters.

Text continues after this small gallery of images shot with a Sony CyberShot DSC U10.

A side street in Cologne, Germany after dark. Minor post-processing, mainly noise reduction. The halation around the lighting sconces would look entirely different had this image been shot with a 12 or even 6 megapixel camera. ISO 320, f/2.8, 1/30 © Jon Sienkiewicz


The Reader, Westchester, NY. For a very early version of a digital image signal processor, the U10’s ASIC handled the dynamic range rather well. ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/500 © Jon Sienkiewicz


Stairwell in hotel in Germany. Excellent sharpness from such a tiny lens. B&W conversion in Nik Silver Efex Pro 3. ISO 320, f/2.8, 1/30 © Jon Sienkiewicz


My reflection in a traffic mirror in Katano, Japan, on a gray, rainy day in 2002. ISO 100, f/4, 1/60 © Jon Sienkiewicz


Self-service counter displaying tethered cameras in a progressive camera/electronics store in Germany. ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/30 © Jon Sienkiewicz


Atlantic City, USA. Empty lot in 2002. Telephone number pixelated to protect the innocent. ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/800 © Jon Sienkiewicz


Trendy, colorful sunglasses in Tokyo. ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/80 © Jon Sienkiewicz


Earth-tone wax candles, Soho, NYC, USA. ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/30 © Jon Sienkiewicz


Camel rides in Osaka, Japan. Probably not what you expect to find in a typical tour book. ISO 100, f/4, 1/400 © Jon Sienkiewicz


Photographer and photo industry luminary Steve Rosenbaum in Cologne, Germany, 2002, shooting Infrared (IR) with a Minolta DiMAGE 7 and an IR filter . ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/40 © Jon Sienkiewicz (Note: Steve is the one on the lower left.)


Sony CyberShot DSC U10 promotional poster near Photokina site in Cologne, Germany. ISO 100, f/4, 1/125 © Jon Sienkiewicz

Ready to Challenge Yourself?
Golf legends Lee Trevino and Chi Chi Rodriguez once competed against each other using only 5 irons. They hit their tee shots with the 5 iron, blasted out of sand traps with the 5 iron and putted with the 5 iron. USGA rules allow up to 14 clubs in the bag, so what were they trying to prove? Fancy clubs don’t make great golf shots, great golfers do.

If you want to try your hand with a Sony CyberShot U-camera, you have a couple choices beyond the U10 used in this story. Sony followed the DSC U10 with the U20, a 2-megapixel version (1/2.7, 6.72mm CCD and same lens, etc.) and later with the U30. The U30 featured a Super HAD (Hole Accumulation Diode) CCD but was still 2-mega. The DSC U40, which was available in four colors, came next, and then the really cool underwater version, the CyberShot U60. Clearly Sony built a complete lineup based on the small form factor. Looking back, it’s probably a good thing that Sony chose to abbreviate HAD instead of trying to explain what “Hole Accumulation Diode” means.

Challenge yourself with a low-res digital camera, 1.2 preferred but definitely no higher than 2-megapixel. No, you cannot merely set your high-res camera to 1280 x 960 (or similar) because you would still be using the enhanced image signal processing, superior lens and other advanced features.


This image was captured with a Sony DSC U20, an advanced 2-megapixel member of the Sony CyberShot U family, in 2003 at Astroland Park, Coney Island, Brooklyn. ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/1250 © Jon Sienkiewicz

Yes, you can improve your images with a little post-processing. It’s not cheating when you consider that modern cameras manipulate image files extensively before saving them as JPEGs. In fact, when you inspect the Raw files from some popular cameras, the results are repulsive in comparison to the clean, sharp, colorful JPEGs they spit out.

Share the Images for All to See
Post your best shots at Shutterbug’s Photo of the Day online photo gallery. It’s not a contest, and there are no prizes, but what you learn may well be priceless.

—Jon Sienkiewicz


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