Floppy disk camera throwback: Shooting with a 1999 Sony Mavica FD83 in 2023
It seems like new cameras are released every month, featuring ever-improving specs and capabilities. So, it’s easy to get caught up in the buzz. However, the older ones among us still remember the joy, simplicity, and the occasional frustration of using older technology. In an era where users often complain about the lack of dual card slots and Eye AF, Arthur Reutov takes a step back and revisits the Sony Mavica FD83, a retro digital camera that recorded images on a floppy disk.
the Sony Mavica FD83 was released in 1999 for a price tag of $799. To put its original price into perspective, if you adjust for inflation, it would cost about $1,466 today. With a 0.8-megapixel sensor and a max image resolution of 1216×912 pixels, it sure doesn’t sound impressive nowadays. But hey, keep in mind that a lot has changed since the 1990’s. Arthur recently got his hands on a Sony Mavica FD83 in mint condition, with all stickers intact and the camera body looking fresh. It cost him just $15 – as I said, a lot has changed over the 24 years since it was released.
Features and specs of the Sony Mavica FD83
Equipped with a 37mm to 111mm lens, the FD83 offers a 3X optical zoom and a 2X digital zoom. The camera features a built-in flash, microphone, zoom rocker, and several simple buttons for various controls, such as brightness adjustment and flash toggle. Arthur notes that navigating its user interface is almost comically straightforward compared to modern cameras.
As I mentioned, it came with a 0.8-megapixel sensor and a maximum image resolution of 1216×912 pixels. Interestingly enough, it used an NPF battery, which is still popular and widely available today. While the original specs promised 2 hours or 1,200 shots, a brand-new battery surprisingly shows a runtime of 224 minutes, which is pretty impressive.
And now for the most fun part – the storage. The FD83 kept photos on a 1.44 MB floppy disk. In other words, it could store roughly between three and five photos. Just thinking about it gives me an anxiety attack. If you wanted to capture video, it would be at a resolution of 320×240, with a 15-second limitation.
While floppy disks are undoubtedly obsolete, you can still find them today! I used them for some craft projects, you can turn them into a poor man’s IR filter, and Arthur got his hands on them to take some test shots with this retro Sony camera.
Usability and taking photos
Arthur took the Sony Mavica FD83 to Sony Kando, an annual event featuring photographers, YouTubers, and tech reviewers. What he found striking about using it was the limitation on the number of shots. This forced him to think well before he shot anything. “It’s not like you can fire away at 30 frames per second and just sort through it later,” Arthur comments in the video. And when you finally do commit to taking that photo… Oh boy, it takes ages to take it first and then to review it. It’s an experience that really forces you to slow down. Both literally and figuratively.
The images the FD83 produces carry that vintage ’90s look. they’re grainy, with a lack of contrast, and with a limited dynamic range. As for video, let’s just say the quality makes it clear why YouTube wasn’t around in 1999.
The joy of using retro tech
Despite its limitations, Arthur notes that the Sony Mavica FD83 was an absolute delight to use. It made him both appreciate the advancements in modern cameras, but also enjoy the nostalgia of using older technology. As you can probably imagine, it was also a great conversation starter at the event.
Sure, the FD83 may not boast impressive specs or features by today’s standards, but it’s a blast from the past that offers you fun and a throwback to simpler times. And sometimes, that’s all you really need from a camera.
You can check out more retro cameras like this in this article. And if you remember the different storage media from the past 30 years or so, you can also try our quiz and test your knowledge and memory.
Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.