Apple QuickTake 100 Camera
Date Introduced: 1994 Design: Apple Design Group Words and Pictures: Adam Richardson
Not everything Apple touches turns to gold, and the QuickTake 100, Apple’s first digital camera, was certainly not a hit. Ironically now Apple produces the world’s best-selling camera by far, with the iPhone. But back in 1994 the QuickTake paved new ground as a consumer digital camera at a relatively low price-point of $749, even if it packed a measly VGA 640x480 pixel image capability (0.3 megapixels…compared to the two dozen or more megapixels common in today’s cameras). Be careful if you shoot with one, however, as you only get eight (!) shots at that enormous resolution.
The QuickTake 100 adopted a binocular-style form-factor, making it immediately stand out from the innumerable quantity of 35mm point-and-shoot cameras available at the time. The designers embraced the new layout opportunities available when freed of having to deal with a cassette of film moving between spools and across a shutter. Other digital cameras that would follow, such as the Sony DSC-F707 and the Nikon Coolpix 990, took this even further. It’s a shame that today we’ve settled on quite boring and familiar form-factors for our digital cameras.
Peak period style
From an aesthetic standpoint, the QuickTake 100 appeared at the peak of the Robert Brunner-led period of the Apple design language. Matte gray plastic in complex compound surfaces, with lots of pinches and incisions to give definition to the form. It’s a look that hasn’t really aged well. But I think some of that comes down to the 100% use of plastics - imagine how this could look in the machined aluminum that Apple favors today, it could actually by quite interesting.
But those heady days of Apple quality are decades in the future (following the return of Steve Jobs and the rise of Jonathon Ive to head of the industrial design group). Here we have third party internals (from Kodak) wrapped in shiny textured injection-molded polycarbonate. At the front a door slides open to both reveal the lens and turn the camera on, a standard point-and-shoot interaction in the 35mm days.
On the back is a basic LCD and an optical tunnel viewfinder, but no way to review a photo after you’ve taken it. Given the precious 8 shot capacity, that must have surely been frustrating. Controls were extremely basic (no manual control whatsoever), and the lens was a simple fixed-focus affair with range of 4 ft to infinity (no selfies with that minimum distance).
Images were transferred over to a Mac using a proprietary serial cable and the QuickTake driver software. AA batteries supplied power.
The QuickTake 100 didn’t sell well, and the 200 that followed was not a success either. Both were summarily killed by Steve Jobs, along with a raft of other non-desktop or laptop products that Apple was making at the time.
What gives it soul?
While comically large and clunky by today’s standards (not to mention with awful image quality), the QuickTake 100 dared to try an unusual form right out of the gate. And though the styling has not aged well, it created a simple, friendly look that made this novel technology appealing to first-time digital camera owners in a way that the complex, highly technical (and hugely expensive) professional digital SLRs of the time surely did not.