Novelty camera maker JTT wields wild assortment of weird and wacky little digital cameras


posted Friday, October 19, 2012 at 5:50 PM EDT


I would like to work for Japan Trust Technology. While other camera manufacturers are locked into serious competition to outdo one another’s photographic advances, JTT definitely marches to the (off)beat of its own drummer. Recently, Camera Bag Editor Dan Havlik reported on the JTT CHOBi Cam Smile Smiley Face Pin Camera (~US$92). A still and video-cam secreted in what is one of ugliest iconic images ever, the CHOBi Cam Smile is just one example of JTT's eccentricities.

Now, I am not saying a tiny spy camera is a bad idea, but can you imagine James Bond wearing a smiley face button at the "chemin de fer" table in a Monte Carlo casino? Despite 007's smooth charm, even the Bond girls would kiss his sad face goodbye.
However, Dan's article only scratched the oddball surface of JTT.
If the CHOBi Cam Smile turns you off for spy work, JTT has an alternative for you, the CHOBi Cam Block (~US$50) that looks just like a Lego brick. The Cam Block is obviously the perfect spy camera for Official Junior Spies. I love how one of the camera's Lego brick "nubs" doubles as the shutter button.


For nature or science photographers, JTT offers the CHOBi Cam One (~US$65). This camera surprisingly looks just like an SLR. However, what differentiates the one from the other CHOBi Cams is that it takes time-lapse photos. "Oh yeah," you say, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Time-lapse films." Well, just look at this time-lapse sample epic shot with the camera and see if you still scoff. 
However, the JTT story doesn’t end here. Nothing I had seen yet on the company's site prepared me for the  CHOBi Cam Pro ($76). This surely sets some sort of benchmark for itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie cameras. Described as a “Mini Micro” digital camera, it's barely the size of my fingertip. At just 1.7 x .82 x .47 inches, it weighs a hair over an ounce and gives new meaning to the term pocket camera. In fact, I think I can stuff this bitsy baby into the tiny fifth pocket of my jeans. Yet this camera is not just a toy; it takes 12-megapixel still photos and 1,280 x 720p videos, although the quality of the images is naturally on the low side.
Last month, possibly riding the wave of CHOBi Cam Pro popularity, JTT came out with the  CHOBi Cam Pro2  ($75). This is an advance of sorts over its predecessor, for the Pro2 is a night-vision version, with its own built-in infrared LEDs around the lens.
While none of the CHOBi Cams will replace my GF-1 or Canon 5D, there is a certain allure to them. Wacky as they are, they expand the definition of what a camera is, while providing different ways to explore the visual world.
There is something else to these weird cameras, too. I think their toylike nature and simplicity could spark a child’s imagination. The CHOBi Cam One with its time-lapse capability can open up an entire unseen world of nature and science for kids.


I remember how that happened for me, when as a scientifically oriented 11 year-old, my friends and I made time-lapse nature films. Using a cable release on my dad’s old 8mm Bolex, we filmed flowers growing and food rotting, and we showed our blockbusters at the annual school science fair. Not only were our little photographic experiments fun, but they also led many of us into scientific and photographic careers.

You can purchase or pre-order the above CHOBi Cam models, plus a few equally oddball others, at Japan Trend Shop. If you do buy one of these novelty cameras, please do come back and tell us what you think of it!


All photos courtesy of Japan Trust Technology/CHOBi Cam.


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