If you owned a Game Boy, there’s a good chance the Game Boy Camera was your first digital camera. It was cheap, it was easy to use, and the 2-bit pixelated images it captured had an undeniable charm. For the first time in nearly 23 years there’s finally going to be an easy way to get those digital pics onto other devices — if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on the Analogue Pocket.
The $US90 ($126) Game Boy Camera debuted back in 1998, and it was roughly the cost of the Game Boy itself. The camera slotted into the back of the handheld console, turning it into a full-fledged digital camera. Compared to even the other digital cameras available at the time, the Game Boy Camera’s specs were crude at best. Inside the swivelling lens that stuck up over the top of the Game Boy was a 128 x 128-pixel CMOS sensor that actually cropped images even smaller, to 128 x 112 pixels in just four shades of grey. That works out to 0.001434 megapixels.
With the ability to add fun effects to photos — decades before that would be a common feature on smartphones — and even basic stop-motion photography tools, the Game Boy Camera was still extremely popular. Even today, lo-fi photography fans do things like photograph the moon with it, or use old film photography tricks to produce colour images.
Being a modern day Game Boy Camera photographer isn’t easy, though, with the most challenging workflow issue being actually getting digital copies of your shots off of the accessory, of which the camera can only store a handful. Nintendo’s solution was a link port connected thermal printer that turned Game Boy Camera photos into thumbnail-sized stickers, but getting those shots onto another device has long been a pain. Talented hardware hackers have come up with ways to connect the Game Boy Camera to modern printers, and even elaborate devices that wirelessly transfer those images to a smartphone, but there’s finally a much easier solution.
The Analogue Pocket, which officially started shipping this week, uses a custom chip inside to perfectly play any official Game Boy cartridge in existence, including the Game Boy Camera. The Pocket also features a microSD card slot that facilitates firmware updates as well as the ability to share game save files eventually, but the company has also revealed to Gizmodo that version 1.1 of the Pocket’s operating system, Analogue OS, will allow images from the Game Boy Camera to be easily retrieved through the memory card so they can be transferred to other devices.
It won’t be as effortless as wirelessly transferring images between smartphones — you’ll need to physically sneakernet that microSD card to another device — but it will be a solution that’s considerably more straightforward than what Game Boy Camera enthusiasts have had to rely on so far — custom link port adapters and special software to extract imagery. Currently, our Analogue Pocket review unit is running Analogue OS version 1.0, and while there’s no specific timeline for when version 1.1 will be available, it hopefully won’t be that far off as Pockets start arriving to those who preordered it a year ago.