Last Christmas, both of my children asked for digital cameras. After doing weeks of research, I purchased two popular models with decent megapixels. The cameras lasted two weeks. One simply disappeared from the face of the earth, while the other was just too boring for my nine year old. I mean, all it did was take great pictures. What was I thinking? This year, Playskool has introduced the ShowCam, which is a kooky digital camera with a projector aimed at making young photogs (and their desperate parents) happy.
Geared toward the three to seven year old constituency, the ShowCam has necessary bulk to it. It is roughly five and a half inches wide, five inches long, and four inches tall. It has a handy wrist strap, and the sides are outfitted with rubber grips. The LCD screen is sizable, and the buttons are large, colorful, and easy to understand. In addition to the common shutter button and scrolling arrows, the ShowCam is equipped with a bright, yellow smiley face button. This "silly" button allows the kiddos to add fun effects and even animation to the pictures. Located on the front of the camera is a green lever, which turns on the projector. I was impressed to find a mini-USB port located on the bottom of the camera. Unfortunately, the cable is not included. This port allows your protégé to download the pics in order to print them, post them, or email them to their playmates.
According to my kids, the "silly" button is a highlight of the camera. Before taking a picture, your kiddo can simply push the button and scroll through a range of stamps and silly scenarios. These options show up on the LCD screen so you can line up said images on your subjects' faces. I can't tell you how many times my boys gave me a mustache or a pig nose. The camera also has several built-in animations. For example, my son took a headshot of me, which was used as the face of an animated chicken. When played back, I laid an egg, which hatched into a baby chick with my son's face. After perfecting their pictures, they were able to simply press down on the projector lever and show off their creative masterpieces. Taking photos with the camera requires a bright environment; however, when using the projector, an extremely dark room is best.
After several rounds of trial and error, I found that the best viewing experience was at 24 inches diagonal. In order to achieve this, I set up the ShowCam roughly three feet from the wall. The picture remained grainy, but I was able to adjust the focus ring to get the best image possible with it. The projected slideshow was actually entertaining. It had ooh's, ahh's, and the occasional barnyard animal sound. (Don't worry; you have the option of turning off the sound effects.) Although you are able to download the pictures onto your computer, the projected slideshow is a true game changer for kiddos. It was fun to watch the sense of pride my boys took when showing off what they created, without any help from me.
The Playskool ShowCam is for kids. Sure, the resolution is low, and the pictures are a bit blurry. However, I never heard these complaints from my peanut gallery. Kids tend to focus on the big picture, not the little pixels that kept catching my eye. My amateur photogs only complained about two limitations. First, the camera can only take photos, not videos. My oldest finds it hilarious to record my panic attacks when he jumps out at me. A picture of my horrified face is just not enough. Second, the camera is equipped with a mini-USB port, but no cable is provided. If you are able to scrounge up an extra cable around your house, the downloading is quite easy. My youngest pointed out that an SD card would be much easier than the manhunt for a cable. He's my lazy one, but he does make a valid point.
With a reasonable price tag of $59.99, the ShowCam makes a great addition to any novice techie's collection. You can choose between a gray/blue/green camera and a white/pink/purple version. Not only is the camera cool, but it is also functional. It's always interesting, and a bit scary, to take a look at the world through your kiddo's eyes.