The JamCam 2.0 from KB Gear

JamC@m 2.0

Review by: Ted Felix


KBGear, makers of the JamCam have long since gone out of business. If you need drivers, try, they seem to have everything, including drivers for Win2000 and WinXP!


Overall, this is a pretty impressive little camera for the price. It can store 8 pictures at 640x480, and it has adjustable resolution so it can store more pictures at a lower resolution (24 @ 320x240 and 48 @ 160x120). The picture quality is fine considering the low price tag. Much better than Mattel's Barbie Cam. It prefers direct sunlight and low contrast subjects. In low light it does capture quite a bit of detail, but it also adds a red cast that requires color correction. It has flash memory built-in, so it keeps the pictures even after the battery is quite dead. It uses a standard 9volt alkaline battery that lasts for hundreds of shots.

Getting Photos into the Computer

Figure 1, JamCam 2.0 TWAIN Driver UI

Now that I've been spoiled by the Fuji FinePix 1300's driver, I find the JamCam's TWAIN driver completely unbearable. There's no way to just download all the pictures in the camera. You have to click on each thumbnail (imagine 48 times in lo res mode!), and click on the download button for each of those thumbnails. I can only imagine the nightmare if JamCam 3.0's driver is still this awful, especially if you have a memory card and 64 pictures to download.

Figure 1 shows the JamCam TWAIN driver's user interface. The thumbnails look pretty ugly in this version. That was fixed in the PhotoSharp version (see below). The "Interpolate" checkbox enables 800x600 mode. This just resizes the images from 640x480 to 800x600 when you download them. It doesn't give you any extra detail.

My experience with using the JamCam 2.0 with software other than Picture It! has not been good. Specifically, I've tried Photoshop 3.0, 5.0 and 5.5. KB Gear's FAQ reports that the TWAIN driver does work fine with all imaging software and I have heard from other users that it does indeed. So, I need to look a little deeper and see if there is something I've missed. I've also heard reports that CompuPic from Photodex and good ol' ThumbsPlus work fine with the JamCam 2.0 TWAIN driver.

Since I'm stuck with Picture It!, I have two complaints. First, it is very annoying to save your images in TIFF format. It really goes out of its way to make it difficult to save in a format other than its native format. I guess that's just "The Microshaft Way". Second, it adds an empty Alpha channel when you save in TIFF format. This adds 300k to the file size but can be removed with Photoshop.

The serial port interface is somewhat slow when moving pictures into the computer, but not unbearable. In addition to the thumbnail download time, you have to wait for each individual image to come across the line as you download them. You also must have a free serial port, and this can require some serious hacking when most machines have a mouse, an internal modem, and a disabled COM2: port. I also had trouble with the serial cable popping out every time I plugged it in (a rubber band proved very helpful).

The USB interface is fast, and very easy to setup. I highly recommend this route if at all possible.


A TWAIN driver upgrade called PhotoSharp is available that offers a trio of imaging tools: sharpening, automatic density adjustment, and user selected color correction (sun, cloud, home, office). I wouldn't recommend PhotoSharp for advanced users of the camera since you can't get the raw data from the camera after installing it. It is more targeted at people who don't understand what sharpening is and love the really dark prints they get at the drugstore. I've found the color correction feature to be worthless, so don't get it because you think it might help you color correct.

The JamCam 3.0 ships with PhotoSharp. I've not used it, but hopefully they've added an option to download the raw image from the camera.


In low light situations, the JamCam 2.0 suffers from a serious red cast.

Incandescent lighting, 80 watts.
Raw image from camera converted to JPEG.

KB Gear is apparently oblivious to this problem. Their PhotoSharp driver enhancement has some color correction capabilities that do not take this red cast into account, and are therefore useless. The cast can be neutralized in Photoshop fairly well, though posterization sets in pretty quickly. The following version is a quick attempt at color correcting the above image (ain't auto-levels grand?).

Color Corrected

So, if you've got the ultra-expensive Photoshop for your ultra-cheap JamCam, you can get passable results in low light.

Exposure Accuracy

Occasionally I have noticed overexposure. I wasn't able to simulate it, other than by tricking the camera into thinking it was shooting a dark scene, then presenting it with a bright one. The dynamic range of the camera is very short, so light areas can be easily blown out when they don't really look all that bright. Small brightly colored flowers on a background of dark green foliage usually end up as white flowers.

John's Gallery

To give you an idea of what is possible with the JamCam 2.0, I've included some of the pictures the kids have taken with it. Click on them for the full size version.

These were taken by John, the 7 year-old. His only problem with the camera is that it only takes 8 pictures.

Click for full size.
September 1999
Click for full size.
Chicoteague, September 1999
Click for full size.
The House, November 2000

Stacy's Gallery

These were taken by Stacy, the 5 year-old. Her only problem with the camera is sharing it with her big brother. Click on them for the full size version.

Click for full size.
Shed, September 1999
Click for full size.
John with Bike,
September 1999
Click for full size.
Ted, February 2000


The JamCam 2.0 drivers are definitely the weakest link in this package. If you decide to try the JamCam 3.0, let me know if things have improved at all. I have to admit that I had only minor complaints until I saw a digital camera driver that was done right. With my Fuji digicam, the images appear in a new drive on my machine as soon as I plug in the USB cable. Then I just copy the images to my hard drive, and I'm done. What could be easier? The JamCam could do the same.

Other than the drivers, this is a great camera for kids. Easy to hold, hard to hurt, easy to use. Sure the quality's low, but it is workable. And the price is right.

Using the Camera

In case you've lost your instruction manual, the most important task you'll need to be able to do is to clear the camera's memory after you pull off the pictures. This is done by pressing and holding the yellow button on the back, then pressing the shutter button repeatedly until "CL" appears on the display. Let go of the yellow button and the memory will be cleared.

Little Tikes JamCam, Jr

JamCam Jr.
Don't know much about this one. Couldn't find a better picture either.

JamCam 1.0

JamCam 1.0
The groovy egg-shaped JamCam 1.0 was about half the price of the JamCam 2.0 ($50?). It had half the resolution (320x240) and only held 6 images. The only interface it had was serial.

JamCam 3.0

JamCam 3.0
For the same price as the original JamCam 2.0, the JamCam 3.0 gives you a flash (finally!), a card slot for MMC memory cards, and a 10-second timer. A 16meg memory card costs $50 and should let you shoot around 64 exposures (8 on the internal memory + 56 on the card). I'm not sure whether the low light problems have been fixed, but the flash will certainly help a lot.

Check out this JamCam 3.0 Review from The PowerBook Zone.

Driver Versions

This review written while using the 7/6/99 version of the windows drivers. I've also used the 9/3/99 drivers, and the main issue of TWAIN compatibility with software other than MS Picture It! has not been addressed.


The JamCam
Great JamCam site. The place to go for drivers and other info.

Great site dedicated to toy cameras. Review (gone)
Great review showed how to modify the camera for better focus. If you disassemble the camera (it just snaps apart) you can see the threaded plastic lens barrel. Usually it is locked in place at the factory by melting the plastic with a soldering iron. A firm but gentle twist with a pair of pliers should free it for focus adjustment.

Pictures by Claudia Smith. Site seems to be falling apart.

Sample Images Broken Link!
When this site was up, you could see sample images of the same subject taken at each of the JamCam's 3 resolutions. It was interesting to see that the cropping was slightly different for each resolution mode. Personally, I would never use the camera in anything less than 640x480 mode. That's bad enough as it is.

Other Cheap DigiCams

Largan, Inc.
Makers of low-end digital cameras.

Game Boy Camera
Unfortunately, this site is in a state of flux. When it was up, his gallery was a good example of, "It ain't the camera, it's the photographer." It was really inspirational to see what could be done with so little resolution, and no color.

Agfa ePhoto Smile Broken Link!
When it was up, this site had sample images taken with the ePhoto Smile. The samples made it clear that this camera's pictures weren't better than the JamCam's.

<- Back to my Photography page.

Disclaimers: I am not affiliated with the now defunct KB Gear in any way other than as a customer. All trademarks are owned by their respective owners. There are no ads on this page, and there never will be. Use this information at your own risk. I won't be held responsible for anything that happens to you as a result of reading this. Shake well before serving. The contents of this page are Copyright ©2003, with all rights reserved by me, Ted Felix.

Copyright ©2003, Ted Felix