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Video: Modifying a Game Boy Camera to capture 0.014MP photos of the moon

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There are plenty of old digital cameras that still take high-quality, sharp photos. Admittedly, 1998’s Nintendo Game Boy Camera is not one of them. The camera captures low-resolution, 2-bit monochromatic images with 128 x 112-pixel resolution. Despite the low fidelity of the image files, the Game Boy Camera was the first introduction to digital photography for many. It was – actually, still is – a lot of fun to use. Over at Hack Make Mod, fun is the name of the game. The team has modified a Game Boy Camera (https://hackmakemod.com/blogs/projects/taking-amazing-pictures-with-a-gameboy-camera) to accept a Pentax K-mount Chinon 300mm F5.6 vintage lens to photograph the moon.

Thanks to the tiny size of the Game Boy Camera’s CMOS image sensor, the 300mm lens acts more like a 3200mm lens in terms of field of view – that’s a nearly 11x crop factor. If you want to fill the frame with the moon, it’s a nearly perfect focal length. Of course, attaching the 300mm lens to the Game Boy Camera is no easy feat. The camera has a small built-in lens, and attaching a different lens requires removing the cartridge-style housing and crafting a lens mount. The inside of a Game Boy Camera is pretty interesting. Check out this datasheet if you want to read more about the Mitsubishi-made image sensor.

The team at Hack Make Mod didn’t want to ruin the Game Boy Camera, so they limited themselves to using 3D printed parts that wouldn’t prevent the camera from being put back together later. This meant printing different clamps, threads and adapters rather than performing significant modifications to the Game Boy Camera periphery. Light leak was also eliminated by using many different threaded pieces to control flange distance. The team also printed a lens tripod adapter to keep everything nice and stable, which is especially important when using a lens that delivers a field of view of about 0.6 degrees.

Not to spoil the video above, but everything worked as expected. There’s something joyful about capturing a photo of an object that’s 368,000 km (228,665 mi) away using a $50 toy camera from 1998. Is it the best-quality digital photo of the moon? Of course not, but it’s cool.

One downside of the Game Boy Camera, beyond the obvious lack of resolving power, is that it is challenging to retrieve your digital images. You could print them with an accompanying thermal Game Boy Printer, but the stamp-sized prints aren’t ideal for preserving your 0.014MP photos. You can also breathe new life into a Game Boy Camera thanks to the popular new Analogue Pocket device. Hack Make Mod opted for a DIY solution using an Arduino and a Game Boy link cable. You can read all about it by clicking here.

To see more from Hack Make Mod, visit the website and subscribe on YouTube. If you’d like to see more photos taken with the modified Game Boy Camera, click here.


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