Leica-owned German manufacturer Minox has been making cool spy cameras since the 1930s. Sean Connery had one in You Only Live Twice. Who else but &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eklast%2Enet%2Fbond%2Fq%2Ehtml" target="_blank">Q could dream up such a crazy contraption? In real life, the &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ecrimelibrary%2Ecom%2Fterrorists%5Fspies%2Fspies%2Fboyce%5Flee%2F1%2Ehtml%3Fsect%3D23" target="_blank">Falcon and the Snowman reportedly used a Minox to photograph classified documents from the Black Vault. The company's latest spy model, the 2-megapixel DD1, certainly looks the part. But alas, even the slickest secret agent couldn't work around this camera's lousy image quality and performance problems.
The DD1's quirky circular design will definitely earn some quizzical glances from passersby. The camera is quite lightweight, weighing 4.5 ounces with its single battery installed, so you can tuck it easily into the pocket of your bulletproof vest or wear it &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Emuskabeatz%2Ecom%2FFeaturing%2FFlavor%2F" target="_blank">Flavor Flav-style on the thin leather neck strap included in the box. There are only two controls: a shutter release and a button for scrolling through the menu options. The lens offers no optical zoom, although you can adjust its focus to a fixed 0.5- or 0.9-meter distance.
While it looks great, the DD1 suffers from three lamentable design flaws. To start, the circular LCD is tiny. Though the options are sparse, viewing them as vague, two-character abbreviations is still maddening. You'll have to carry around a crib sheet to decipher the codes. Second, there's no media slot, so once you've maxed out the 32MB of built-in memory, you'll have to upload your images. And finally, to achieve the DD1's unique shape, Minox wired the camera to run on a single CR2 battery, which you won't find at every corner kiosk.
Regrettably, the DD1's minimal feature set doesn't compensate for its design limitations. There's no flash, so if you're planning to spy on the bad guys, you'd better hope they do their dirty work during daylight hours. All you get is a tiny optical viewfinder--there's no image viewing on the tiny LCD, so playback is impossible. And control is very limited. The only resolution settings are the interpolated 2,048x1,536-pixel Superfine and the 1,600x1,200-pixel Fine. The two compression levels apply to only the Fine images. To capture short, 320x240 video clips, you'll need to download a separate driver and install the bundled ArcSoft PhotoImpression. The DD1 has a self-timer, but adjustable white balance, scene modes, and other options common to competing 2-megapixel models are nowhere to be found.
Performance results were mixed. Battery life was good, but that wasn't surprising in a lithium disposable cell powering a camera with a tiny LCD and no flash. Switching back and forth between high and low resolution, we took more than 400 pictures, and the DD1 kept on going. In start-up time, the DD1 is miles behind the competition, taking a dismal seven seconds to get ready for the first photo. Though there wasn't much shutter lag, shot-to-shot time was about average at a little more than two seconds.
If your DD1 will be photographing criminals or unfaithful spouses, have a backup plan. Our test images were poor for their class. In fact, we've seen better shots from high-quality Webcams. Colors were off, detail and sharpness were poor, and highlights were consistently blown out--way out. We also saw a lot of noise and compression artifacts.
Given this camera's problems, we can't see anyone depending on it in matters of national security. The DD1 is more of a novelty gadget than a real competitor in the 2-megapixel market.