In our 30 years of camera repairs, we’ve seen all types of cameras. But the most interesting bit of camera technology we’ve come across is a digital data pack designed for an old satellite. 

To our best guess, the pack was manufactured for the US military sometime in the mid-to-late 1980s. But because of these alleged first owners, much of the pack’s fascinating life is unknown to us. What we do know (because we were given a collection of emails documenting it) is that this pack endured a long period of being tossed from owner to repair shop and back around again because few people knew how it worked and even fewer knew how to get it working. 

And we can’t fault them. As it was built for space, this data pack has an inherently different build to regular consumer cameras, with features like grooves in its casing to enable heat dissipation in a vacuum. It also has a CCD of 6x6cm, four times the regular modern size. There’s also the absence of colour microlenses; to capture a full colour image, the pack requires specialised filters and a three-shot process. Not to mention it needs to be connected to three separate power supplies to turn on. 

But what makes this pack even more remarkable is that it’s a technological marvel even by modern standards. For instance, its enormous CCD can capture a lot of light, leading to better quality low-light images. It also has a resolution of 16 megapixels, which knocked 90’s digital cameras out the water and is not that far off the 20 megapixels of good modern cameras. And its three-shot colour capture process means its resolution is as advertised. Modern camera CCDs have three separate sensors, each devoted to capturing one colour, meaning the 20-megapixel resolution is cut into thirds.

So, there’s your interesting bit of camera history for the day. Stay tuned or follow us for more.