Timeless Tuesday – exploring early digital cameras – Sony Mavica

As the title implies, I’ve decided to take another look at some early digital cameras and to see if they can find a place in today’s photographic landscape. Here’s a look at what was essentially the first digital camera to use a 3.5-inch floppy disk as “film”. Sony used the advertising tagline “The Fun is in the Floppy” in its late 1990s ads.

The Sony Digital Mavica 1.3 model MVC-FD85 made its way to market in the late days of 1999 with an official release of February 2000. Here’s that camera.


The strength of Sony has always been the sheer size of the company and the ability to do incredible R&D.


Sony lenses in video cameras were almost beyond equal (maybe Canon would disagree) but the Mavica made good use with what it was given.


The film. A standard 3.5-inch floppy. The “MVC” in the camera’s name refers to “Magnetic Video Camera” hence the use of a floppy disk for file storage.

At its highest resolution (1280 x 960) the Mavica FD85 will record only six images on one disk. This led to photographers carrying around a box full of disks if they were expecting to record a number of images. Six disks equaled one roll of 36 exposure 35 mm film.

I acquired this Mavica from the original owner – a local guy that was downsizing his collection of “stuff”. It’s in mint condition with only a few marks indicating gentle past use. From some of the other cameras that I purchased from him, I could tell that he took excellent care of his gear. It fired up perfectly after an overnight charge of the battery and with a fresh disk inserted here’s the first batch of pics. Except for the last photo, none of these images were enhanced in any way.


After nearly 15 years of slumber here’s the first image taken with the Mavica and recorded to floppy. All things considered, the auto exposure and auto focus handled the scene perfectly. Yes, we’ve become accustomed to high def pics from our smartphones and this picture falls way off in that regard but I like it because it appears “film-like” with its softness and lack of mind-shattering contrast. This is a wide angle shot.


Using the telephoto zoom lens this image is not technically bad. Auto focus and auto exposure appear spot on and the scene is pleasing. Remember, back in 2000 the main purpose of this camera was to upload the images to your PC and for emailing them as attachments. Most people had less than cutting edge PC’s at home – remember “Y2K”?


I took the Mavica into my studio and under the harsh studio lighting (5600K) the camera did just great. This was shot using the macro setting but I believe the camera has a pretty broad focusing range. This pic was cropped a bit and I made a slight adjustment in the contrast. It looks like there’s good depth of field and overall it’s reasonably sharp. I would use this image for listings in my various online shops as it’s technically just fine for that venue.

Ads from back in the day suggest that this camera sold for around $700 to $800. That’s crazy big money then and still is today. It will be fun to give the camera a bit of a workout over the coming months – 1.3 megapixels might just be a new way of seeing things.

Thanks for stopping by! – Chris

Please respect that all content, including photos and text, are the property of this blog and its owner, Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Yashica Sailor Boy, Yashica Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2019 Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Chris Whelan
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4 thoughts on “Timeless Tuesday – exploring early digital cameras – Sony Mavica

  1. These are fun. I’ve found that around 3mp and above you can get very good images with old digital units – Working around the tiny views ,often massive camera sizes and huge amounts of shutter lag just makes it ‘interesting’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment, Tony. I know that I couldn’t afford one when it was new but it’s amazing how quickly the technology evolved during the first 5 years of the 2000s and how quickly prices dropped.

      Liked by 1 person

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