Sansoft LLC - The Digi Pen II

See my comments at the bottom if you need help...

I received a neat new package in the mail today, it was a Digi Pen from Omnicom, model CD57FG. I first saw it at Comdex and was attracted by the small size and dual nature of the pen and so wanted to give it a try. The packaging is pretty straight forward and so is the installation of equipment. As you can imagine with a small unit like this, there are not a ton of buttons and knobs to learn about, in fact, there are just two, a mode button to change the settings and a "shutter release" button. You install two AAA batteries and it is ready to go and then let the installation CD auto load and installs itself. That so far is pretty easy.

The camera itself is pretty small. It measures just 5 1/2 inches long by 1 1/4 inch wide by 3/4 inch deep and I have seen ballpoint pens weigh more than the camera does without the two AAA batteries. The CCD lens captures only a maximum of 640x480 and will use software to double that to 1280 by 1024 and as I have mentioned in the past, when you use software or hardware to double your resolution, you really don't get that good of a picture and in fact, when I looked at their samples on the web, they really didn't look that good either so stick with the lower resolution. The camera comes with 8MB of onboard flash memory for holding pictures and will really store a bunch at the lower resolution mode.

The bundled applications are pretty good as well with the MGI Photosuite of products installed even though it is the SE version. It also comes with PhotoVista for creating panoramas and Cyberlink Video Live email. A couple of quibbles at this point and that as they show you the screen shots to follow along the installation of the software, you discover that you can't read them in the booklet and hope that you haven't gone astray. With all the empty space in the box, they really could have doubled the physical size of the manual so that you can see the text and hopefully added to it, then have someone proficient in English edit it. The other quibble (at least to me as I could care less about setting it up as a web camera), is that it asked me for a CD Key for the Cyberlink and there was no key to be found. So that program was not installed.

Installing the device to the computer is pretty easy as well as all you do is to plug in the camera to the computer via the USB cable that comes in the box. My WindowsXP system though protested as it did not like the Camera by telling me that it is not yet digitally signed for WindowsXP and do I want to continue to install it. Sure, why not.

In using the camera, I find that it is really small and I find that my fingers get in the way of the led indicator on the front but hope that it doesn't matter. Also, fathoming what the cryptic LCD screen is telling you for the mode of the picture is a bit difficult. When I looked at the booklet to get an inkling of what the codes were, I discovered that there were two sets of codes for each setting and the legend in the book didn't make much sense but after thinking about it for a while, I was able to figure it out. As with most any camera, the more you use it the more you get to know where things are and where you should or should not keep your fingers. While there is no through the lens type of view finder, there is a top mounted viewfinder that slides out to allow you to get a good idea on what you are taking a picture of. Being left handed, I found that despite its small size, I had some difficulty getting used to using it with just one hand as if you want to just one hand, it must be the right, and I think that a right handed person shouldn't have any trouble at all once you get used to it. There is no off button on the camera but if you don't do anything for around 30 seconds, it will shut it self off. It also takes a while to get used to the mode button as quite often, when you hit it, nothing happens and in a couple of instances, I had to wait for the camera to power itself off because when you hit the button, nothing would happen.

In using the Photosuite, I quickly came to the conclusion that the SE version has very little of the features you will get with the MGI's Plantinum edition so the recommendation here is to immediately upgrade or to switch to another photo editing software package like JASC's Paint Shop Pro. In editing the pictures, I was a bit disappointed. It seems to capture the right number of pixels that I told it to but the color was very mottled and did not look good at all. The other package that came with the camera is MGI's Photovista image merging and stitching program and while it seems simple in setup, it is actually a very good program. I used it to stitch together a couple of other panorama series of images that I had taken before and it did an excellent job.

In connecting the camera to the computer, it does not come up as a storage device like some USB connected cameras do so you must use a photo editing software package to download the images to the computer. I could also find no real way of controlling the camera from the computer for doing things like erasing the images after taking them or determining what kind of still frame image I want to take with the camera attached to the computer. After everything has been installed, when you plug the camera into the connected USB cable (and it is a proprietary USB cable with a very very small connector on the camera side), you hear a sound telling you it has been connected and you will see the led power light come on as well. In this mode, it seems to say powered on as long as you have the cable connected but I really don't know whether it is powering from the battery or the USB connector but so far haven't wasted yet the batteries. In fact, you should get quite a bit of life out of the batteries as there is no LCD screen to eat up energy. Of course, as soon as I wrote those lines, the camera came up with the low battery indicator.

While tinkering with the camera, I did find that it works quite well in video capture mode while connected to the computer through the USB Port. You can tell it how much video to capture and what size file to use and if you keep it in the basic mode of 320x240, it captures a surprisingly very good video stream. I pulled up the program to capture a video and come to find out it launches Microsoft’s own VidCap (at least on my XP machine), video capture, program. The other option for capturing video is using the onboard memory. The camera will capture 50 seconds of video at the high res mode and 120 at the low res mode. Don't forget, we are talking of 50 seconds of video that only take up 5mb of space so don't look for quality. Still, it does get the job done and is a whole lot easier than hooking the camcorder to the computer. Finally, the last feature available on this camera is the ability to do motion video capture. Set it up and it will wait for something to come by before capturing a snapshot of the image.

I also tinkered with the images a while to see how good a quality of image I could come up with but was still a bit disappointed. I suspect part has to do with the optics. I took several images at the three different resolutions, 320x240, 640x480, and the "enhanced" 1280x1024. The last two looked a bit better than the first and while the image of the highest wasn't necessarily better than the other two, the color saturation was noticeably better. Still the exposure was a bit off and the sharpness of the image a bit off.

I quickly became frustrated with the lack of information on the camera from the very limited pamphlet they supplied so went looking for the home company and web support and information. Nothing to be found on the manual but there was a web reference on the registration card at and that brought me to the Opcom group in Taiwan. Unfortunately, you won't get much more information on their web site either. There is no support section or FAQ for the camera and in fact, their description page of the camera is a copy of the brochure.

Unfortunately, if you are thinking of getting this camera for stealth work, you might as well forget it. For one thing, despite its size, it is noticeable. For another, the green led light on the front of the camera is right next to the lens and so when the camera is on, the green led is on (and it is bright), and when taking a picture, it blinks. Nothing subtle about that.

All in all, it is certainly something different. The features of this unit and its sibling that also has a laser pointer to help you point and shoot are pretty good for the price. Coming from a photography background, image quality is very important to me and even with a tiny camera like this, I use it and think of what it could do with say 100MB of memory, and more CCDs packed into the lens. However, if you need what they have, then this camera should certainly work. You can find the camera at the Sharper Image, in their catalog for $99.95.

You will also find the Digi Pen II from several other companies including Opcom, from whom I got this one.

(From the February 2002 Indy PC News)

It has been over a year since this review was published here and in the news and wow, I have received a bunch of email from people that can't get this camera to work right. I told you it wasn't easy, that you have to fight with the software, and you should probably use something else. I gave up because the images were so poor and feel now, more than ever, that you should really have a need for this camera before buying it. However, I did find the company's web site for drivers at

Robert. (August 2003)

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This Page Last Updated: August 13, 2003.