Parents can breathe a sigh of relief now that they don't have to lend their expensive digital cameras to their kids anymore.
The new Nintendo Game Boy Camera is the Swiss pocket knife of digital cameras: an inexpensive, kid-friendly device with a number of cool functions. All you have to do is stick the camera into the back of a Game Boy hand-held video game player and start shooting pictures.
Once you've shelled out $49 for the camera, you can take and store up to 30 digital images. If you want to shoot a photo after the 30th shot, you'll need to delete one of your old photos.
The camera is easy to use, runs on two AAA batteries and has a lens made of plastic located inside a swiveling head that can be rotated 180 degrees.
"The Game Boy Camera will be a hit with kids, more so than the real thing," said Mark Hasby, a technology specialist for The Good Guys. "It's a great concept because kids want the coolest features and this has it all."
Taking a picture is fairly straightforward: Point the camera toward your subject with the directional buttons on your Game Boy and view the image through the Game Boy screen, which functions as a viewfinder. To shoot the photo, press the "A" button on the Game Boy and the image is automatically stored. You can then play with the brightness, contrast and placement of your shots, which will be in black and white.
Built-in programs allow you to manipulate the images in a number of ways. Using a paint program, you can draw on the photos. You can also decorate them with goofy facial features, comments and captions or use a trick lens to flip, stretch, zoom or split the screen.
A time-lapse mode adjusts to allow users to take photos $H continuously or at adjustable intervals up to 60 minutes. Afterward, snapshots can be viewed one at a time or as a slide show. They can also be arranged and viewed as time-lapse animations.
In case you forgot that Nintendo is a powerhouse in the video game department, the camera includes several arcade-style games and even a little music composition program. In two of the games, you can take your own images and put them on the game characters.
And when you've got a photo that's a keeper, attach the camera to the $59 Game Boy printer with a $9.95 connecting cable and you have everything you need to take digital pictures and put them on paper. A calculator-size device that works like a tiny fax machine, the Game Boy Printer burns stamp-size images onto a miniature roll of sticker paper. When the photos are printed, peel the backings off and you have photo stickers.
The connecting cable also allows users to transfer images from one Game Boy to another. And if you have a Super Game Boy adapter on a 16-bit Nintendo Super NES console, you can see your images on a television screen.
The camera, introduced in Japan in February, sold about 500,000 units in the first three weeks it was on store shelves, according to officials at Nintendo of America. But even without these figures, Nintendo has other reasons to expect the Game Boy Camera to become instantly popular. The company estimates that there are some 22 million Game Boys in North America, with 60 million worldwide. It expects to sell 1.5 million of these cameras in North American stores in the second half of this year.
"The Game Boy is still really popular, which is different considering it's been around for 10 years," said Jack O'Keefe, manager of the video games section at Toys R Us in Pleasant Hill, Calif. "There's something about it that keeps people interested in it."
And when Nintendo releases its new color Game Boy this fall, the company is banking that consumers will continue to jump on the bandwagon. When used with the Game Boy Camera, the color Game Boy will let users make color images, although images will still only be printed in black-and-white.
"We're putting new technology in the hands of kids and allowing them to learn while having fun," said Tom Harlin, a spokesman for Nintendo of America. "The concept is already extremely popular in Japan and we think it will do just as well here in the U.S."
If projections are met, analysts say the video game company will be manufacturing the No. 1 digital photography device in America.
For more information, call Nintendo at 800-255-3700 or go to its Web site at www.nintendo.com/gb.
Pub Date: 6/22/98