Adding Flash to a Game Boy Camera

Facelesstech built his own Game Boy Camera that incorporates flash.

When it comes to photography, exposure is everything. Whether it is a digital camera or a film camera, it needs light to get proper exposure. Advances in digital camera sensor technology have improved low-light performance, but more light is always a good thing. Natural lighting is usually the best choice, but studio lighting can work well, too. When those aren't an option, we have to rely on flash. But Nintendo's Game Boy Camera didn't even have that, which made it difficult to capture photos with acceptable quality. To improve the situation, Facelesstech built his own Game Boy Camera that incorporates flash.

The lack of flash was hardly the original Game Boy Camera's only shortcoming. It has had a very low resolution, limited grayscale color depth, and little storage space available. The first two issues are difficult to solve with the Game Boy's limited horsepower and would require a better image sensor even if that weren't a concern. But the issue of storage is, in theory, solvable with a flash cart. It is already common for retrogamers to use flash carts to load games and the same concept can carry over to the Game Boy Camera.

HDR designed a custom Game Boy Camera Flash Cart PCB, which accomplishes some of that work. Facelesstech noticed that HDR had a flash ring on his demonstration, though that seemed to be missing from the released files for the project. So Facelesstech took it upon himself to build his own.

A camera flash only needs to emit a very bright light for a short amount of time — just long enough to expose the photo. Normally, the camera would include a function to activate the flash in software or hardware. But the Game Boy Camera didn't have either, which necessitated manual activation. For that, Facelesstech used a simple TTP223-BA6 capacitive touch sensor chip. That sits on a tiny custom PCB that fits inside the Game Boy Camera enclosure and controls the LEDs, which sit in a ring around the lens. The LEDs shine through a custom 3D-printed cap for the camera that is thin enough to be semi-translucent.

As Facelesstech demonstrates, this makes a huge difference. It can now capture decent in photos in lighting conditions that would have yielded a completely black frame before.

Cameron Coward
Writer for Hackster News. Proud husband and dog dad. Maker and serial hobbyist. Check out my YouTube channel: Serial Hobbyism
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