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This 2-bit GameBoy Camera can shoot pixelated images of the moon!

This Game Boy Camera can shoot photos of the moon
(Image credit: HackMakeMod)

A handheld games console has been used to photograph the moon! Images captured using a GameBoy Camera are easily identifiable; the black border, green colors and pixelated image with the unmissable Nintendo logo at the top make these shots unique, yet not very practical for capturing great quality photos.

The team over at HackMakeMod undertook a challenge to capture super close-up macro images using the GameBoy Camera, as well as a mission to photograph the moon, with the subject taking up as much of the frame as possible. 

• Find out about videogame virtual photography (opens in new tab)

Recent mods and coded software developments have enabled owners of the GameBoy Camera to view and share their images uploaded as digital files (where before the only way to access images taken on the handheld device was via the GameBoy Printer, an additional accessory that could print out the desired images as small as a postage stamp).

The challenge of taking the absolute coolest pictures possible with this technology and pushing it to the limit might seem silly to some, but the limitations of the GameBoy Camera are what make it so appealing – and the perfect engineering challenge for those interested in photography and nostalgia. 

The HackMakeMod crew, founded by Chad Kapper, embarked on a mission to capture the moon using a modified GameBoy Camera with special 3D-printed components and mounts for various macro and telephoto lenses.

This image shows an object 368,000km away, taken with a toy camera from 1998 – remarkable! (Image credit: HackMakeMod)
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The GameBoy Camera has a CMOS sensor that is roughly 1/11th the area of a full-frame 35mm sensor, capturing a much smaller portion of the image due to the sensor's 10.81x crop factor. This therefore rendered the Pentax K-mount Chinon 300mm f/5.6 vintage lens used by HackMakeMod as a 3200mm lens, perfect for shooting the moon.

After some intense mathematic calculations, the team calculated that the moon was 2,286,445 miles away from the earth, approximately 0.54° – meaning that 90% of the height of the Game Boy camera's frame would be covered by the moon. Which the team decided would be perfect, with 100% coverage being difficult to frame.

(Image credit: HackMakeMod)
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The extremely poor 128 x 112-pixel, 2-bit monochromatic image quality of the GameBoy Camera sadly cannot be improved upon, and the only adjustable in-camera settings are the brightness and contrast, both of which are applied on top of the always-on auto exposure feature. There is also no way of locking in exposure, making things even more difficult and challenging when attempting to operate it as a functional camera. 

The first step of this mod involved removing the cartridge-style housing and designing a mount that would fit the Pentax K-mount lens, making a quick swap system that would enable the shooter to change between different lens mounts quickly.

(Image credit: HackMakeMod)
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HackMakeMod used CAD/CAM software Fustion360 to make the 3D-printed parts, with intentions of making no permanent changes to the GameBoy Camera's original parts and screws so it could be restored to its original state.

Fine-tuning the flange distance and eliminating light leak were additional important factors in the sensor holder and mounts design, using a M33x2mm thread with multiple turns. A little lens tripod adapter was also printed to ensure less stress on the camera and a balanced center of gravity. 

(Image credit: HackMakeMod)
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When used in the dark, the frames per second on the Gameboy camera goes down to 1 or 1/2 fps, making aiming and focusing quite the challenge. Time is needed for the camera to set its own auto-exposure and then it's shooting time! 

HackMakeMod also used a Canon 100mm f/2.8, designing a tripod mount for this lens as well, as trying to take handheld macro pictures with a 1100mm equivalent focal length lens is no easy task. 

Using a photo tent lit with two 98CRI, 100W LEDs mounted in softboxes was the perfect setup for capturing macro images of a dead fly's face. With subjects such as a fly, moth, murder hornet and wasp to photograph, the details of the lens with the GameBoy Camera can really be appreciated. 

Other random objects shot with this lens such as an eyeball, Pokemon Cubone head and even snowflakes can be seen on HackMakeMod's blog post (opens in new tab) detailing the process.

This Game Boy Camera can shoot photos of the moon

Cubone skull from the Pokemon franchise (Image credit: HackMakeMod)

Additionally, the team made mounts for a 1.6mm fisheye lens and a 2.8mm, used with the GameBoy Camera and such a tiny sensor the results are tremendous. Be sure to check out HackMakeMod's website (opens in new tab) for details on how to do this yourself, as well as connect images to your PC using a GameBoy Link cable and an Arduino.

• Read more:

Best gaming cameras (opens in new tab)
How to print Instax photos from your Nintendo Switch (including Pokemon Snap!) (opens in new tab)
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Beth Nicholls
Staff Writer

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.