It’s not the best digital camera, but the Logitech Pocket Digital could be the neatest gadget of the year.
This brushed-aluminum point-and-shooter not only fits in your pocket, it fits in the credit-card compartment of your wallet — it’s no larger than a laptop’s PC Card, half an inch thick and 1.8 ounces — yet snaps and stores over 50 images before needing to be emptied (images uploaded to your PC).
Battery life is ample; controls, including a self-timer, are simple; and a sliding lens cover lets you slip the device into a shirt pocket or purse so you’re always ready to capture a snap.
And while most entry-level consumer cameras cost $300 to $400, the Logitech is almost an impulse buy at $130.
So what’s the catch? There are several: Unlike virtually all digital cameras (including Casio’s recently announced, almost-as-small Exilim), the Pocket Digital has no LCD monitor to frame a shot or review your pics — you can’t see images till they’re transferred to your computer.
It has no flash for indoor shots, no zoom or closeup mode, no removable storage or replaceable battery.
While Logitech advertises “1.3-megapixel images,” that’s a fib — the camera’s CMOS sensor captures 640 by 480 (VGA) resolution, and your image-editing software can probably do a better job of enlarging or interpolating images to 1,280 by 960 pixels than the Pocket Digital does. And even sticking to 640 by 480, image quality is strictly Instamatic.
But hey, Kodak sold a lot of Instamatics. And if you’d like an ultra-simple, always-in-hand camera — one you can carry at all times, or even forget you’re carrying — to snap images for your Web site or for e-mail to family and friends, the Pocket Digital is hard to resist.
Eat Your Heart Out, 007
Easily mistaken for a business-card holder, the Pocket Digital measures 3.5 by 2.25 by 0.5 inches closed — you turn it on by sliding the case open, increasing its length by half an inch and revealing the viewfinder and tiny fixed-focus (F/3.8, equivalent to 47mm on a 35mm film camera) lens.
The shutter (what Logitech helpfully calls Picture Taking) button is on top; a tiny port for the supplied USB cable is on the left.
Aside from the viewfinder, the only rear-panel controls are two buttons below a 0.5-inch-square LCD that shows battery status; the number of shots left in the camera’s 16MB of flash memory (counting down from 52); a big or small rectangle to indicate image size; and whether the self-timer and function beep sounds are active.
One button toggles the sounds and, when pressed for more than a second, the self-timer.
The latter offers a 12-second, beeping delay between pressing the shutter and taking the picture, if you can put the camera on a table or bench propped against a soda can or sunglasses or something.
The other button switches between 640 by 480 and 1,280 by 960 image size — the 52-shot capacity is unaffected by your choice.
Held in, it lets you delete the previous or all images in memory, if you know you took a blurred or accidentally-pointed-backwards shot without even seeing it.
The USB cable serves a dual purpose. First, once you install the provided Windows 98/Me/2000/XP driver, connecting the camera and your PC is all it takes to summon a dialog box with one button to transfer images to the folder of your choice (automatically clearing the camera’s memory for the next batch); a full 52-shot download took 2 minutes and 10 seconds on our Celeron/1.3 desktop.
You can’t drag and drop images from the Logitech within Windows Explorer as you can with many USB cameras, but on the plus side, you can plug and unplug the camera without fussing with “remove or stop hardware” dialogs. MGI’s PhotoSuite 4 image editor is also supplied on the driver CD.
Second, plugging the Pocket Digital into a USB port tops off its built-in, lithium-polymer battery.
If you take a full set of snapshots, make a quick PC pit stop to download them, shoot another 52, and so on, you’ll drain the battery after three or four sets (i.e., over 150 shots).
But in normal use, you may never exhaust the battery, as long as you leave the camera connected while cataloging or editing the images you just downloaded.
And both the battery and image capacity are sufficient to slip the Logitech into a pocket and head out for a weekend trip.
It doesn’t get much more convenient than that, although you can’t dawdle when framing shots — to save energy, the camera automatically switches off after 30 seconds’ inactivity and must be closed and reopened to continue shooting.