The Tiny 8-megapixel Y3000 Camera

I bought this little camera on eBay about two years ago but I have not started using it until this week. It’s quite a useful little gadget for very causal use.

The quality of the images and video footage is really bad when compared to most phones. I, however, like the feel of the analog era coming from the photos taken with this thing; there is a certain atmosphere caught in them. There is not much space for fiddling with the results in post-production as the dynamic range is only a couple of stops and the mic does not even handle a person speaking next to the device very well.

The controls are limited to a single button which can be used for powering the device on and off, taking photos and starting and stopping video recordings. It takes a bit of trial and error before one learns the right time intervals for each of the functions:

  • When powered off, a short press powers the device on. The power LED is turned on and stays that way for about 30 seconds after which the device automatically poweres off.
  • When powered on, a short press takes a photo; The power LED shuts off until the photo is saved which takes 1–3 seconds together with exposure metering and taking the photo.
  • When powered on, a 3 second-long press starts a video recording; the power LED starts blinking in half a second intervals.
  • When recording a video clip, 1 short press stops the recording.
  • A 4 second-long press powers the device off. The LED shuts off.

There are a few behaviors which one should know about:

  • Sometimes, the device turns off 30 seconds after it is powered on even if there were photos taken during the interval.
  • The device stops recording and flashes the LED quickly 5 times when the battery is low. It records a few seconds of video footage though.
  • The default behavior is to put a nasty timestamp in all recorded footage.
Notice the ugly timestamp

The device requires a date and time setup; otherwise, all files are timestamped relative to the first power-on, starting at 2007–01–01 00:00:00. It also places a white timestamp with an orange stroke by the bottom edge of all footage. There is a very simple way to modify date and time settings even though it is very unintuitive.

A file named TIME.TXT is supposed to be placed to the root directory of the memory card. This file should contain a timestamp in the format of “YYYY.MM.DD HH:mm:ss” followed by either “Y” or “N” for whether the camera should add the timestamp to the footage. The full notation is thus “2015.08.23 23:54:00 N” if that is the current time and I do not want a label in the video.

The tricky thing is to realise that the date and time put in the file is read when the device is powered on and thus the value should be in sync with the exact time you power on the device next. What I did was opening a second-precision clock on my computer, writing the current time to the file shifted forward by a minute. Then, I put the card into the device and waited for the exact second to power it on. I confirmed the correct setting by taking a photo while looking at the clock. The resolution is that the device needs about a second to read and set the date and time info. Note that the TIME.TXT file is deleted by the device when the date is set.