Blast from the past: The Apple QuickTake 150 digital camera

It's possible to forget, but Apple used to have their own line of digital cameras. Back in the mid-nineties they launched three cameras under the 'QuickTake' product banner. What we have here is the second of those; say hello to the Apple QuickTake 150.

Launched in 1995, the QuickTake 150 cost new a staggering $700. Granted, this was a time when digital cameras were in the early days, but $700 meant this was not an item for the masses -- much like Apple's computers of the time. So what does an 18 year old camera provide in the way of specs?

The QuickTake 150 has an 8mm fixed focus lens, a flash, and 1MB of flash storage. It's capable of shutter speeds between 1/30 and 1/175 of a second, and produces 24-bit images at 640x480. The on-board storage stores only 8 photographs taken at the full resolution, or 32 taken at 320x240 resolution. Unthinkable today that you would ever take an image so small. The QuickTake 150 also included a separate close up clip on lens as part of the kit.

Battery power comes by way of 3xAA batteries, with support for rechargeable ones with the optional charger that was sold separately.

Quicktake 150

By modern standards, the QuickTake 150 is a rather unusual shape. It's more akin to a pair of binoculars than a camera, with a large eyepiece at the rear alongside the main controls, with the flash together on the front with the lens. While the shape may be unusual, it's still surprisingly comfortable to hold.

A neckstrap was included in the box too as part of the kit, and it is insanely long. Apple also included their own image software with the camera -- all 4 floppy disks worth of it -- along with the serial cable required to connect the camera to the computer. With the QuickTake 150 Apple added support for Windows 3.1 -- the previous iteration, the QuickTake 100 had been Mac only -- in an effort to widen the market appeal.

The photos taken are stored on the camera in QuickTake file format, but can be converted using the bundled software into more regular and supported file types such as JPEG, BMP and TIFF. So, the bundled QuickTake software and the serial cable are 100% necessary to actually get images from the camera to the computer, and there lies the very reason that sadly I won't be able to use it. For now, at least.

The QuickTake 150 can't be connected directly to a more modern Mac running OS X, because there is a lack of support for the Apple serial protocol used. I simply don't have any hardware old enough to support this camera, an unusual situation to be in. And, because the QuickTake 150 doesn't have any kind of display on it there's no way to preview any of the images taken without taking them off the camera first.

However, thanks to the Internet -- and in this case, Wikipedia -- here is a sample picture taken at maximum resolution with the QuickTake 150. Also thanks to the Internet, the full original user manual for the camera is available to view from Apple.

So, there's a quick look at a piece of vintage Apple. The camera line didn't live for long, with the QuickTake 150 being discontinued in 1997. It was though followed by a much improved model, the QuickTake 200 that looked a lot more like digital cameras of the modern day. It was also cheaper, had removable flash storage, a much wider range of shutter speeds and user-selectable focus and aperture controls.

It also serves as a reminder as to just how far camera technology has advanced. Sat next to my Panasonic Lumix G2 Micro 4/3 camera, the QuickTake 150 strikes an imposing figure.

So, did anyone of you purchase a QuickTake digital camera back in the nineties? What were your memories of it and what made you ultimately decide to purchase one? If you've any stories to share about your experiences with Apple's short-lived range of digital cameras, drop us a line in the comments!

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Richard Devine

Senior Editor at iMore, part time racing driver, full time British guy

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Reader comments

Blast from the past: The Apple QuickTake 150 digital camera

16 Comments

Richard, you have to find a way to get the pictures on it off. You might have a sweet shot of a binary sunset, or some banthas!

My boss bought one in '96. We thought he was crazy to spend that kind of money. I got to use it a little too take photos of our parts to help put the support department.

Richard have you tried a VM (Virtual Machine) of the OS of that time? A Floppy usb reader and I don't know the cable but maybe a serial to usb also may work!! It will be awesome to show how apple products can still work after all this years!! I bet you won't find a lot of Windows 3 running out there while plenty of Macintosh are up and running :)

I'm surprised an USB/Serial adapter for OSX didn't work for this camera. On the plus side, you now have a reason to get a cool old Mac

I saw the precursor to the QuickTake. It was gray plastic and had a weird vertical-format design with a bend in the middle, like a telephone handset. Probably too bizarre to release, so it evidently morphed into the QuickTake 100.

Incidentally, that Wikipedia photo of a car shows an early-90s Fiat Panda.

Nostalgia, When I was 15 years old, my father bought this camera, I made my first photo report with it.
I'm sure I still have it in a box.
Thanks to remember me this time...

We had one at the industrial design firm I used to work with, though I can't recall which model any longer. It was the first digital camera I had ever seen. It wasn't a matter of quality, but speed (we didn't think the quality was good, as we were used to 35mm film cameras, from which we scanned the photos). So, we generally still used a film camera for anything important, but the QuickTake was used to get shots of things we needed to quickly reference back at the office. It was revolutionary to our workflow.

Funny to see this, I just found one of these in a box of stuff sent to be recycled.... Being a collector I quickly saved it from the crusher... LOL

Ah yes - the early days of computer photography. The QuickTake 150 was actually very advanced. A few years before that, I purchased a Canon XAP-shot camera. It used little floppy-discs to record images. And get this: the image storage on the disc was ANALOG NTSC video! So you had to plug it into a TV set to see the image.

I bought a video capture card from my Mac II, plugged the XAP-shot into that, and was able to 'grab' images taken with the XAP-shot. Then off to image-process: de-interlace, sharpen, color correction, etc. It was a lengthy process to get one pic from the camera. Investment? About $700 for the camera, $100 for a box of special Canon floppy discs, and about $800 for the NuBus video capture card.

But at the time, I was a technical writer, and used it to take pictures of prototype products. Then use the image as a background layer in Adobe Illustrator, and then trace the details of the product to produce an accurate line-drawing. I made a lot of money with that XAP-shot. Clients were amazed by the technology.

The QuickTake line of cameras were mostly bought by apple enthusiasts and people who didn't have access to the other choices on the market at the time. It was pretty much a dismal failure for apple. It was hard to compete with kodak and it's various rebadged products. I bought a kodak DC50 back at the same time these early digicams were on the market - the apple didn't compare favorably to the kodaks spec-wise and price-wise. The kodak DC50 and DC120 were huge hits for things like the real estate business, which was evolving into the web based business it is now. My DC50 still works fine - it uses a pcmcia card for storage, but you could get a compact flash adaptor card for it, and compact flash cards are easy to read in any modern computer. Not that I'm actually still using it for anything though.

I think there wasn't much needed with the drivers, maybe just the Quicktake image extension, it just shows up as a disk that you can drag the images off of.

I think I have the windows version somewhere, you can just get a 8 to 9 pin serial cable and I think I have the software somewhere around here.

The images are saved in QkTk format, and will open with any program that opens images as long as the extension is running.

That extension doesn't work with anything later than OS9, but I think Windows XP supports the image format, if you have the driver installed.

And here's a sunset, it would have been awesome had I got there 5-10 minutes earlier

http://www.mattcintosh.com/images/secretplace.jpg