September 22, 2006 - The PlayStation Portable Camera has been the subject of a whole lot of interest but not a lot of info in the long await for its release. The camera was playable in limited form at E3 2006, but its full capacities were on display here at TGS, giving a better impression of its abilities and its intents.
For those familiar with the recently-unveiled Wii photo mode, you'll recognize a lot of that fun-friendly design in this PSP concept for photo/video management. The 1.3 megapixel camera's software is for more than just snapping photos and videos, as a robust photo viewer and even a photo editor (more like a photo accessorizer) are also built in. Hit a button and you can watch all of your photos play in a slide show, complete with a variety of effects (including cloud dissolves and silly borders, if you so choose). Videos also have goofy viewing options, as you can have your series of sequences play back in black-and-white or reverse, amongst a series of assigned or randomly-chosen effects. The editing application also allows you to make your photos and videos more interesting, assigning some of the effects detailed above as well as adding new abilities. If you wish to put funny glasses and a mustache on a PSP snap of your idiot friend, for example, go right ahead. We weren't able to find Red-Eye reduction in the settings, but it's possible that there may be some simple functions for more necessary photo edits as well. For videos, you can put titles and borders around clips (nothing says "Happy Birthday" like a PSP video of all your friends saying it with a big Happy Birthday sign around them.) There are a total of 72 different modifications you can make to your media with the software, including background music playback. Videos can be captured at full PSP res (480x272) at 30 fps for up to 15 seconds; photos can be snapped at either 480x272 or 640x480. The camera costs 5000 yen, which is close to $50.
Using the PSP Camera was fairly simple. The camera rotates 180 degrees, so you can either face the camera from the PSP screen either back at yourself or at your subject, or you can twist it around and use a more traditional view with the PSP's screen acting as your very-big viewfinder. There is a digital zoom function to the camera, which isn't ideal in implementation in that it jumps in steps of zoom rather than smoothly zooming through various width levels. We didn't notice the same kinds of problems of time-delay in refresh rate as the E3 2006 demo version of the PSP Camera did, so that hopefully will not be an issue anymore. In previous announcements, indications seemed to be that the PSP Camera would snap pictures and videos directly to your Memory Card, just as standard media for the PSP to handle and trade, but the TGS build made us nervous for how Sony really intends to handle the feature -- when we jumped out of the Camera application to check out the Memory Card, it was empty in the Photo and Video folders for some strange reason ... hopefully these snaps will just save like normal PSP media, because we really aren't eager to take pictures and video if they're only compatible inside the PSP. Video can apparently be "exported" to AVI for playback on a PC, according to a recent press release, but how video is exchanged and why AVI (when modern PCs can use PSP's MPEG4 formats just fine, assuming this shoots in that format) is a mystery.
Also unnerving was that this demonstration on hand at TGS was all there was of the PSP Camera. No clever EyeToy Portable to show it off. No GameFace or in-game photo feature to identify your online log-in in whatever game might support such a feature. No games of any kind using the PSP Camera. We also didn't see any online photo/video trading in the application, or anything else cool for the use of this new accessory. No PS3 implementation was detailed either. All you could do here was take pictures and screw around. At just 1.3 megapixels, the PSP Camera is bettered by some cellphone cameras, and 15 seconds of video is really best as a gimmick and little else -- this accessory needs to do much, much more than what was shown here if Sony expects it to do well.
We do know that SCE Studios London, the makers of the EyeToy Play series, have been kicking around plenty of ideas for PSP Camera games, so hopefully it's just a matter of time before we see this gadget fully unleashed. Its qualities could have been better, but it's got enough power to do some cool things. Now we just need to see Sony do it.