A few weeks ago there was a woot-off going on, an all day sale at woot.com.  They are always interesting and the amount of random stuff that shows up.  For all the years I’ve watched woot I’ve never actually bought anything, but this woot-off finally had something I could spend a few bucks on.  By a few bucks I mean just a few, as they had two-packs of a toy digital camera slash carabiners called Bean Sprout for $5 plus $5 shipping.  A friend mentioned a few months earlier she had bought one it was fun so I figured what the hay and ordered a pair.

They arrived last week and I’ve shot about 30 photos on it.  Keeping in mind that this is a toy, the Bean Sprout sports a whopping 640×480 resolution, that’s one-quarter of a megapixel.  To put that in perspective, my cell phone’s camera is four times as powerful!  Again, this is a toy and I bought it for the sole purpose of it.  The box comes with a non-standard USB cable (don’t lose it!) and a mini disk that contains the software that must be loaded to download photos from the camera to your Windows only computer (UGH, no Mac support?).  Luckily I have a Windows based computer to use since the mini disk is no bueno in the Superdrive slot of my Macbook Pro.  Got the software installed, rebooted (seriously, what software needs a computer reboot these days?) and plugged the camera in the charge.

I was a bit astonished when it told me it was connected at USB 1.1 speeds, I was unaware anything made in the last ten years was that slow, but whatever. The camera actually has a pretty nice feel to it, aside from the shutter button is one mode button on the back that allows you to select from the few available options, like high or low resolution, video mode or clearing the camera of all images.  In high resolution mode the Bean Sprout will hold 26 photos.  The small, two character LCD on the back has abbreviation for all the functions as you cycle through it by pressing the mode button, and confirming your choice by pressing the shutter button.  The user manual is actually really well laid out and explains these functions but I only really paid attention on how to clear the camera.

Six hours later I went to meet up with some friends and test this thing out (the manual says at least an hour, but I wanted to make sure).

The concept is that you can clip the camera to your backpack, belt loop or just about anything else and always take it with you.  But why would I want this when the camera in my phone is 4 times better?  Why not?  It’s a toy, it looks funny and when I was taking photos of my friends and other random things they all asked what it was, how it worked and where they could get one.  My co-worker even bought two for his kids.  The Bean Sprout takes all the seriousness away from photography and lets you take somewhat crappy photos, for fun! No other reason.

Following a night of taking photos I connected the camera back to the computer and launched the horrible software that lets you download them to your computer.  Because the camera doesn’t have the advanced computer chipset of a real camera, the file names reset when you clear the card, so make sure that you don’t over-write any other files on your computer from previous shooting.  So, what do the photos look like?

There are more photos that I’m adding to an album on my Facebook page.  Sure, they are grainy, blurry and there’s obviously no way to focus this thing. So again, why do I like this? Because it’s fun, I can twirl it on my finger, clip it to my keys and always have some fun with it. If it gets dropped, lost or stops working, I really don’t care.  One of my friends called it a digital version of a Holga, a cheap and fun camera that isn’t meant to be taken too seriously.  For better results (I won’t say best results) use it in brightly lit areas and hold it very still, there’s no flash and no settings at all.  I’ll continue to update my Facebook album as I shoot with it, but I have no regrets at all about buying a pair of Bean Sprouts.

Since woot may or may not have them again, you can buy them for under $4 here at Amazon or search here on eBay to find them even cheaper.  They make fun little toys for kids or adults.  Want something a little beefier and substantial? Check out the 5mp Bean with SD slot and LCD on the back for under $50.