|True DIGITAL quality at a single-use price!*
*Printing costs as much as the camera.
July 2003 was a pretty big month for digital photography. Digital camera sales were up 93%, the Nikon D2H was announced, and DPReview posted three enthusiast compact reviews in a single day. Oh, and Ritz Camera announced the Dakota Digital single-use camera.
According to Ritz Camera, the Dakota Digital gave ‘consumers the exciting benefits of digital photography without the cost and complexity.’ That’s true, to an extent.
The concept was simple enough. You buy the camera for $11, go out and take your 25 photos, then bring it back to a Ritz or Wolf Camera store. After handing over another $11, Ritz would give you prints and a Photo CD, and then they’d ‘recycle’ the camera to sell again.
|For 8 dollars more you could view the last photo you’d taken.|
The Dakota Digital is as basic as you can get. It had a 1.3 Megapixel sensor, automatic flash, self-timer, an optical viewfinder and a lens of unknown focal length. On the back of the camera was literally an entire printed manual as well as an LCD that told you how many photos were left on your digital ‘film.’ After you took a photo you had the option to delete it, even though you couldn’t see it. About a year later, Ritz introduced a camera that let you view the last photo you took on the LCD – a big step up.
So how did the photos look? Not very good, according to a PC World review at the time. The magazine recommended buying a cheap digital camera rather than essentially paying $22 every time you wanted to take 25 shots with the Dakota Digital.
|The guts of a single-use digital camera. Well, single use for only a bit longer. Photo by Tyler Akins.|
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that folks found a way to modify these cameras so you didn’t have to take them to Ritz after 25 shots. You simply need to disassemble it, solder on some cables that you’ve wired properly, and glue the USB receptacle in place with some epoxy. Et Voila, you now have a poor quality digital camera that you can use again and again, and for $11, it was quite the bargain.
|After some soldering, cable wiring and plenty of epoxy, your Dakota Digital now had a USB port, so you could use it again and again. Photo by Tyler Akins.|
We couldn’t figure out when this single-use camera store disappeared from shelves or if anyone actually bought one. Ritz Camera itself filed for bankruptcy twice, first in 2009 and then again in 2012, and stores were closed or sold to other companies.
Did you happen to own a single-use digital camera? Share your memories in the comments below.