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REVIEW: Casio, HP, and Nexian Pocket PC Add-on Cameras
March 30, 2003
Updated on July 4, 2003 with Nokia 3650 comments
Updated on November 22, 2003 with Sony Ericsson T610 comments
Updated on August 1, 2004 with Veo Photo Traveler 130S comments
Copyright 2003,2004 Todd Ogasawara

I've used three Pocket PC camera add-on devices over the past few years. Although I found value in each of the camera add-ons, image quality issues continued to annoy me (especially since the $100 to $200 spent on these devices can now purchase relatively nice standalone digital cameras). This review looks at the Casio CompactFlash Digital Camera, the HP CF Pocket Camera, and the Nexian NexiCam. I used an old Sony Mavica digital camera as a comparison since it has a maximum 640x480 pixel resolution that is similar to the add-on cameras reviewed.

T-Mobile Hawaii was kind enough to loan me the Nokia 3650 GSM/GPRS Bluetooth phone with a built-in still/video camera in July 2003. I transferred the images from the phone to an HP iPAQ 2215 using a wireless Bluetooth connection. You can find my full review of the Nokia 3650 on the OReillyNet Wireless DevCenter site.

T-Mobile Hawaii was kind enough to loan me the Sony Ericsson T610 GSM/GPRS Bluetooth phone with a built-in stillcamera in November 2003. I transferred the images from the phone to an HP iPAQ 2215 using a wireless Bluetooth connection.

Dell was kind enough to loan me the Veo Photo Traveler SD camera card as well as the Dell Axim X30 for testing.

I used the camera in a situation similar to actual conditions under which I might take a photograph: Non-optimal lighting conditions without significant setup time. I used each camera with a minimum of fuss. I did attempt to focus each lens for each photo. However, I did not spend a lot of time doing this. Each photo was taken at the device's maximum resolution (640x480, 800x600, or 1280x1024).

You can find more information about each of these cameras and what Pocket PC I used to test each camera below in Table 1.

  Casio Digital Camera
HP Pocket Camera
F 1869-60001
Nexian NexiCam
Veo Photo Traveler
Sony Mavica
Sony Ericsson
Nokia 3650
Tested with Casio E-115
Pocket PC 2000
HP Jornada 565
Pocket PC 2002
HP iPAQ 3850
Pocket PC 2002
Dell Axim X30 NA HP iPAQ 2215 Bluetooth image transfer HP iPAQ 2215 Bluetooth image transfer
Device Type CF Type 2 CF Type 1 iPAQ Sleeve SDIO Card Standalone camera Phone Camera Phone Camera
EG-800, BE-300
HP Jornada 520,
540, 560 Series
HP iPAQ 3600,
3700, 3800,
Any Pocket PC 2003 or Pocket PC 2003 Second Edition device; NA NA NA
Zoom None None 2x Digital 4x Digital 10X Optical None None
Max Pixel
0.30 megapixels
0.30 megapixels
0.47 megapixels
1.3 megapixels
0.30 megapixels
0.10 megapixels
0.30 megapixels
Video Yes No Yes Yes No No Yes
Lens Cover No No Yes No Cap Clear plastic Clear plastic
Flash No No No No Yes No No
Lens swivels Lens swivels,
View finder,
Shutter button
Lens swivels,
CF Type I slot
Lens swivels NA NA NA
Comments Significant color
Good photos require
optimal lighting. Does
not adjust well to
bright or low light
Washed out images.
Low contrast.
At 1.3 megapixels this is the highest resolution Pocket PC camera I have tested. I am impressed by the clarity of the images. However, the color balance seems to be off with a tendency for a magenta tint. Photos also seem consistently underexposed. This is most evident in photos taken indoors under artificial or natural light. NA At 0.1 megapixels it has the least resolution of any of the cameras tested. However, it has good color saturation and reasonble clarity. Has settings for different photo types that I did not try.

Table 1. Feature comparison of camera options for Pocket PCs. The Sony Mavica is a sub-1-megapixel standalone camera used as a control comparison.

You can see the results of my somewhat informal and unscientific tests below in Figure 1. Click on any of the thumbnail photos in Figure 1 to see the original full-sized unretouched photo.

Casio Digital Camera
HP Pocket Camera
F 1869-60001
Nexian NexiCam
Veo 130S
Sony Mavica
Nokia 3650
Sony Ericsson T610

Figure 1. All photos taken between 9:00 and 9:30am outdoors under slightly overcast conditions. Click on a photo to see full-sized and unretouched original images. The Nokia photos were taken around the same time but under bright sunlight.

The Casio Digital Camera has always had a lot of color bleeding in every photograph I've taken with it. It also tends to overexpose images when set at its default settings. However, it generally performs reasonably well under various lighting conditions. The HP Pocket Camera does not have as much noticeable color bleeding. However, it is very sensitive to available light and does not perform well in many conditions (especially very bright or low-light conditions). The Nexian NexiCam seems to have produced the best overall set of results in my tests but at has the least contrast and color saturation. This can, of course, be adjusted using any of the many photo editing tools available (including Pocket PC based photo editors).

[July 4, 2003] After trying the Nokia 3650 phone's camera, I amend my comments above by saying I think the Nokia's camera produces the best overall images so far. More importantly, since it is not a CF card that needs to be inserted in a Pocket PC, it is far faster to setup and use. Transferring images to the Pocket PC wirelessly using Bluetooth was easy and fast. It can also transfer images using IrDA (infrared).

The Casio and HP CF cameras both lack lens protection when out of their carrying cases. This can be a bit of a problem since it means I cannot use flip-top carrying cases clipped to my belt. And, swapping a CF camera with a CF storage card can be a bit tricky when outdoors and on the run. It is easy to lose the CF storage card in the rush and confusion of a quick picture taking opportunity.

The Nexian NexiCam has a lens cover but does not provide a cover for the iPAQ's screen (as the various iPAQ sleeves do). The added NexiCam bulk means that you generally need a case with a protective screen area to camera the iPAQ/NexiCam combination. In my case, I generally end up carrying the NexiCam and slide it on to the iPAQ when I need to take a photo. So, I end up carrying two pieces (Pocket PC and the add-on camera) whenever I leave my home or office.

[July 4, 2003] The Nokia 3650 lens is protected by a clear fixed lens cover. So, assuming the phone is already turned on, you are a few button presses away from taking digital photos. The camera I tested came with a 16MB MMC card. So, I did not have to use the phone's main memory to store photos or video. At 4.59 ounces it does not add a lot take out of the house or office. And, since it is also a GSM/GPRS phone, it plays triple duty as a voice phone, data conduit, and still/video camera.

[November 22, 2003] The Sony Ericsson T610 lens is protected by a clear fixed lens cover like most (all?) camera phones. Its small 2MB internal memory is somewhat offset by the tiny 0.1 megapixel resolution (the lowest resolution of any camera discussed here). However, the color and clarity of the photos are quite acceptable for a camera phone.

[August 1, 2004] The Veo Photo Traveler 130S is the first 1.3 megapixel Pocket PC camera I have tested. The clarity of the photos taken using this camera was quite impressive compared to the older sub-megapixel models. However, it tends to produce both under-exposed and over-exposed photos that have a color balance that produces a magenta tint. Much of this can be corrected in a photo editor, however. Photos taken indoors tend to look extremely underexposed. Videos, surprisingly, fare much better under various lighting conditions.

None of the Pocket PC add-on cameras (with the exception of the Veo Photo Traveler 130S) match the overall clarity of even a sub-megapixel standalone digital camera. However, the CF cameras are very small and easy to pack away even when traveling very light. These CF cameras let me take and archive photos I may have missed because I was not carrying a regular digital camera at the time.

One example are the photos I took using the Casio Digital Camera with a Casio E-100 while on vacation with my family several years ago. I had decided to save some luggage space by not carrying a digital camera. But, when we got there I found I started snapping low-resolution photos to send back to friends and family via a web photo page. You can see one of the photos in an old Microsoft Presspass article titled The Not-So-Lazy Days of Summer.