Its features included, in addition to the 10x optical zoom, a floppy drive and a 640 x 480 VGA display. These were super rare features in a digital camera back then, especially the 10X zoom.
It seems pricey now, but back then it was a steal with all these cutting edge 1998 features at $699. Totally worth it. I made it my main camera for years.
Even its size was prescient of cameras to come. Check out this photo.
Back in 1998, the FD71 was just one of a long line of cameras in Sony’s Mavica family. And by long, I mean 17 years. The first Mavica was introduced in 1981.
Now technically, the first Mavica wasn’t a digital camera in the modern sense of the word. It recorded and played back an analog video signal. The FD71 was considered large for a digital camera even in 1998.
You can see from my photos how the 1998 FD71 compares to a 2009 Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3.
Though the FD71 was a fixed-lens camera, notice what looks like a filter on the lens in the two photos above. The FD71 had threads that let it work with any 37mm filter lens. I used to leave a UV filter lens on it all the time to reduce haziness and to provide a bit of protection for the FD71’s lens — for all its perks, it didn’t have a lens cap.
The back of the FD71 was not that different from the backs of digital cameras of late. But there were two notable differences: the physical controls to turn off the LCD backlight for power saving and the control for ejecting the disk.
The LCD, as you probably notice from my pics, was a lot smaller than most of us are used to today, too.
Thge side and top-down views will give you a sense of the FD71’s thickness. It was a hefty camera, alright.
One reason for its big dimensions: The FD71 saved its photos to a standard 3.5-inch floppy disk. This feature, along with the then amazing 10x optical zoom, were the reasons I bought the FD71 in the first place.
Why? Well, buying, carrying and potentially losing a CF card were expensive propositions back in 1998. But floppy disks were cheap and easy. I used to carry four or five floppies on me when I traveled and I’d buy more if I needed them.
Using floppies to save digital copies of my photos let me easily import them to any computer that had a floppy disk drive — in 1998, that meant every single PC on the market.
Talk about compatibility.
But then it was over. After a couple of years, the disk drive in the camera went out of alignment. The situation worsened until my PC OS and drives could not read the camera floppies at all. That was sad.
But it was great while it lasted. Here are a few of the photos I took back then on that FD71.