The Nintendo Game Boy Camera holds a special place in the hearts of many photographers and gamers. It is an iconic part of photography history and was the first digital camera that many people owned when it hit store shelves in 1998 for about $50. Among the Game Boy Camera’s numerous limitations is that it requires a Nintendo Game Boy, although builder Raphael Boichot has something to say about that with his Dashboy Camera project.
PetaPixel has shared prior Game Boy Camera projects, including these from Christopher Graves that turned the Game Boy Camera into a stylish mirrorless camera and a more recent mission to shrink the Game Boy Camera to the size of a standard Game Boy cartridge.
However, these projects still relied upon original hardware. In the case of the Game Boy Camera M, a Game Boy’s guts were put into a camera body. For the Game Boy Mini Camera cartridge, integral parts of the original Game Boy Camera were cleverly put into a smaller case thanks to the use of an iPhone lens.
As seen on Hackaday, Boichot’s project “fully emulates the sensor management strategy of the Game Boy Camera while completely bypassing the MAC-GBD mapper, which means you can record pixel perfect images without the limitation of storage space or the need for a Game Boy Printer emulator,” explains Boichot on Github.
The Game Boy Camera uses the Mitsubishi M64282FP Artificial Retina to capture 128 by 128-pixel monochrome images with four shades of gray. Something interesting about this CMOS imager is that many of the Game Boy Camera’s limitations, including poor image quality, minimal storage, and no easy way to transfer images off the device, are limitations of the Game Boy Camera itself, rather than the Mitsubishi image sensor.
By pairing the Game Boy Camera’s original image sensor with custom code and a Raspberry Pi Pico, Boichot introduces many clever features to the “Game Boy Camera,” including time-lapse photography, motion detection, HDR, multiple exposures, night mode, focus peaking, image writing to an SD card, and more. Plus, the project is open source, so other Game Boy Camera enthusiasts can join the fun.
Boichot has unlocked the best the Game Boy Camera offers, with image quality significantly surpassing that of a stock Game Boy Camera. Of course, part of that is that Boichot adapted different lenses to the camera, bypassing the woeful stock lens.
The project’s total cost, not including the Game Boy Camera itself, is about $35. However, the Game Boy Camera is not expensive, as they can be found for around $40 to $50. The complete parts list, build instructions, and user guide is available on Github.
Image credits: Raphael Boichot