Christopher Graves previously made waves with their incredible Game Boy Camera projects and photography, including the stylish Game Boy Camera M mirrorless camera. Graves has now crafted the Game Boy Mini Camera, which shrinks the large Game Boy Camera to the size of a standard Game Boy cartridge.
After seeing the project on Gizmodo, PetaPixel contacted Graves to learn more about their creation.
Game Mini Camera Combines Original and Modern Parts
The Game Boy Mini Camera combines the original Game Boy Camera image sensor, an iPhone XR lens, an empty Game Boy cartridge, and a custom board inspired by a custom reflashable Game Boy Camera PCB made by Martin Refseth.
All new Game Boy Mini Camera! Based on @MartinRefseth flashable camera schematics, I reduced the overall size of the cart PCB and integrated the sensor into an all-in-one board.
This has been my dream camera cart for a while 😍 pic.twitter.com/HG627KAt4g
While the Game Boy Camera’s large, original lens is no more, Graves has preserved the heart and soul of the Game Boy Camera, its tiny, low-resolution monochrome image sensor. The Game Boy Camera captures images that are a mere 0.014 megapixels and features just four shades of gray.
While these camera specs don’t impress on paper, the images captured by Game Boy Camera have a style all their own. Even 25 years after it launched for $50, the camera continues to charm many photographers.
Graves tells PetaPixel that they settled on a lens from the Apple iPhone XR because it delivers a good balance of size, cost, and performance.
“The XR lens was chosen because of the overall size, and I liked the colored metal lens ring options for XR. I’m dying to do a pink version of this shell and a coral iPhone XR lens sounds like a good fit. It also is not too thick of a lens overall, and it seems to have the closest focal length to an original Game Boy Camera lens — minus the distortion. Plus, the bump was nearly the same size as the cart lip when in the Game Boy Pocket, so there was no rocking. Basically, it was the best middle ground,” Graves explains.
Graves adds that they picked up a handful of lenses from the iPhone 7 to the iPhone 14 Pro Max for around $20 from AliExpress.
“Apple reuses many lenses, so that helps. For example, iPhone XR, XS, 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max all use the same lens, as do the 13 Pro, 13 Pro Max, 14, and 14 Pro Max. Funny enough, they are pretty much the only phone you can buy replacement inner lens arrays, at least that I’ve found,” Graves adds.
Custom ROMs Bring out the Best in the Game Boy Camera Mini
The Game Boy Mini Camera can run two read-only memory (ROM) files. There are many different ROMs available for dedicated Game Boy Camera enthusiasts like Graves, including a homebrew ROM called Photo!. Created by Toxa, Photo! lets photographers control nearly every setting of the Game Boy Camera’s sensor.
“Photo! takes all the guard rails off put in place on the original ROM. Sometimes I like using stock, but the broad features of Photo! are super nice to have if you want to capture specific details,” Graves explains.
“Or, you know, you could put Tetris on the other ROM and have a camera and a cool game on you at the same time,” adds Graves.
The Game Boy Camera Mini still only stores 30 photos, like the stock ROM, but Toxa’s ROM allows photos to be written to internal flash.
“Though it takes a few moments to write them, this opens up seven slots of 30 photos — 210 photos minus the main camera roll,” Graves says, greatly expanding the flexibility of the Game Boy Camera Mini out in the field.
How to Get the Photos
As PetaPixel explained in coverage of Gordon Laing’s excellent “Retro Review” of the Game Boy Camera, seen below, a major hindrance to photographers being able to enjoy the device is that it’s challenging to use the photos.
Nintendo sold an optional add-on accessory, the Game Boy Printer, that could connect to the Game Boy Camera and print postage-stamp-sized prints, which is fine. However, even still, the Game Boy Camera behaves more like a digital roll of film than a digital camera, given that there is no way to hold more than 30 images — save for mods like the one Graves performs.
However, thanks in part to the Game Boy Camera’s continued popularity, talented developers have created solutions to retrieve images. Graves uses the Benn Venn Joey Jr, a $40 accessory that allows users to backup and restore save files, dump ROMs, and even preserve Game Boy Camera photos.
“There are a bunch of great options, but I like the Benn Venn Joey Jr as I can use it on my phone with an OTG cable — it treats the cart as a USB storage. I copy the saved file off the cart, upload it to HerrZatacke’s Game Boy Camera Gallery web app. The app translates files into downloadable PNG files, and upscales the images for nice sharp pixels,” explains Graves.
Videoooo – just ignore any embarrassing bits pls k thx pic.twitter.com/ux5mKmcII9
Custom Game Boy Handhelds
Graves is a partner with Retro Modding, and alongside their Game Boy Mini Camera, they also showed off their customized Game Boy Pocket, complete with a sleek black shell, pink accents, and a backlit display. Graves also designed the Game Boy Mini Camera’s custom label.
“I grew up with a Game Boy Camera and it sort of launched my interest in photography. Admittedly, I’m not a big photography buff — still learning — but I’ve learned a lot since figuring out how to mod these things,” Graves tells PetaPixel.
Graves’ work is available on Twitter and Instagram. People can support their work on Ko-Fi. Graves says that while Game Boy Mini Camera is a personal project, they hope to release the required files for others to build it too.
Update: Christopher Graves sent PetaPixel many more photos that they captured with their Game Boy Mini Camera shortly after this article was published. The excellent new photos are available below.
Image credits: All images © Chris Graves (@gameboycamera)