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Nostalgic for Nokia's Fun Camera

The Nokia Fun Camera served a purpose in the days before camera phones.

What the heck is this?

Cleaning your office/desk is an annual preholiday ritual at CNET. It's amazing what you can collect in a year, and because I'm the polar opposite of a hoarder, I actually look forward to the task. Mostly I toss old press releases and outdated cables--I promise that I recycle everything that I can--but occasionally I'll find a museum-worthy gadget from another age.

Take for instance, the Nokia Fun Camera, which I found at the bottom of a box filled with old wired headsets.

Back before cameras made it into phones, they existed briefly inside attachable accessories. If memory serves, Sony Ericsson developed one of the such products, but Nokia jumped on the trend as well. And as Nokia usually does, it did so wholeheartedly. The orange and red Nokia Fun Camera, aka the PT-3, is shaped like a tear drop. You'll notice a few buttons, a circular display, and a detachable viewfinder. The camera lens and flash sit on the back side, and the whole thing comes on a lanyard for taking it on the go. And you thought wearing a Bluetooth headset around the neck was silly.

Smile! Josh Miller/CNET

You can use the Fun Camera by itself, though you must connect it to a compatible phone or USB cable if you want to get pictures off the camera. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to perform a transfer by either method so I couldn't test the image quality. I haven't seen a USB cable that uses the old Nokia connection in years, and the only compatible phone I could find--a Nokia 2115i Shorty from Virgin Mobile--is missing its battery.

Still, I did connect the phone and the camera to see what would happen. The fit between the two devices is secure, even if it's a cumbersome arrangement and the plastic flap covering the camera's connecting pins gets in the way. The body feels relatively solid, it's lightweight (3.17 ounces), and it fits easily in a pocket.

It's a complicated contraption. Josh Miller/CNET

The camera uses two AAA batteries; after inserting them I was surprised to see that it worked without any problems. The circular display and four controls to its left side serve as your primary interface points; the shutter sits the top side of the camera. The aforementioned viewfinder that fits in the hole on the camera's left end is rather curious; I don't understand the point of the fish-eye effect, but there are tiny brackets that frame the photo for you.

Features include a self-timer, the bright flash, a choice of photo resolutions, and the unique option to take round photos. The camera's 1MB of memory can hold anywhere from 12 to 53 images, depending on the resolution.

We never reviewed the Nokia Fun Camera, but CNET Asia has a review from 2004. They liked its funky appearance, but weren't pleased by the image quality. To paraphrase their review bottom line, the the PT-3 does the job as a tiny camera, but you're better off waiting for a real camera phone. If you'd like to buy it, you can get the Fun Camera from Unlimited Cellular for $3.99.