Studio Raichu
Top Works Archive Blog

Peeking inside a $15 Camera

December 24, 2023
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Front-facing photo of a cheap, ugly dollar store camera
As you might have noticed, dollar stores are full of dubious quality electronics at stupidly low prices. This one caught my eye- it looks like a very cheaply assembled camera, almost a toy (which is partly true, you'll see how later). I knew that these kinds of off-brand Chinese gadgets have one weird quality: It's fairly easy to repair or repurpose them, likely because investing in any type of DRM (black mystery goop covering ICs) would jack up the price. Sometimes these discount manufacturers don't fully understand (or care) how to configure their hardware either which opens up a world of fun to us tinkerers.
The camera turned on
(The screw holes are hidden under a plastic covering, this was my attempt to get at them)

The user experience is same as the picture quality from this thing: Terrible! Configuring anything requires a liberal amount of fumbling which is exacerbated by those uncomfortable push buttons. But then again, it's only a $15 camera. Don't expect those minimum wage interface designers to spell right.
A photo of a so-called Mitos P microSD card! best of the off-brands
It comes with a 256MB microSD, which is mostly useless for recording video since every clip is 1-2GB reguardless of length and mostly full of null bytes. The ROM they programmed has NO CLUE how to write videos correctly, and worse, by default it starts rolling as soon as you turn the camera on.
Now, for the pictures it takes: (click the image to view in high-res)
Low-quality photo of trees in front of a house
Looks like it's actually capturing photos in 4:3 and stretching them to 16:9 for no reason at all. Here's the same image, squished back to 4:3 in GIMP:
Low-quality photo of trees in front of a house
The rolling shutter is pretty bad too.
Photo demonstrating the rolling shutter effect
Save room for one last sample!
Photo explaining why I'm never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down
The photos contain EXIF data, of course. I used mdls on my aging iMac to output the following information:
AcquisitionMake = "HX-Tech "
AcquisitionModel = "HD"
BitsPerSample = 32
ColorSpace = "RGB"
Creator = "HX330X-V001.001"
DisplayName = "IMG00002.jpg"
EXIFVersion = "2.2"
ExposureMode = 0
ExposureProgram = 2
ExposureTimeSeconds = 0.01007049345417925
FlashOnOff = 0
FNumber = 3.2
FocalLength = 7.454545454545454
FocalLength35mm = 0
InterestingDate_Ranking = 2023-12-13 00:00:00 +0000
ISOSpeed = 100
LogicalSize = 427720
MeteringMode = 4
Orientation = 0
PhysicalSize = 458752
PixelCount = 5760000
PixelHeight = 1800
PixelWidth = 3200
ProfileName = "sRGB IEC61966-2.1"
RedEyeOnOff = 0
ResolutionHeightDPI = 72
ResolutionWidthDPI = 72
WhiteBalance = 0
Looks like the ISO, focus, exposure, etc. are static.
ANYWAYS enough nerd potatoes, here's the meat. One of the first things I did with this camera is to take it apart, actually.
Photo of the camera's circuit board, with a lens unit and Li-Po battery visible
Everything's held together with sticky foam pads. I can only imagine how these'll hold up in 20 years!
Photo of the camera's circuit board, showing the LCD and push buttons
The camera's version text is written on the PCB. It reads "HX02-K600C V1.0" and "230523" (date code?).
Photo of the camera's version text silkscreened onto the PCB
We're probably most interested in the SoC and ROM chip. Here's a picture of the unidentified SoC, which reads "HX3302B AH176YDM".
Magnified photo of the camera's SoC
And here's the ROM chip, I think. I'm told it likely uses SPI, so with an SPI programmer you could dump the ROM and even flash a new one. I'm not a 1337 low-level coding expert so writing a better ROM is out of my reach. The chip reads "MK 25D80BTIG 2319D8".
Magnified photo of the camera's ROM
Now, you might have noticed something: This device seems oddly similar to those cheap kids toy cameras that're all over Aliexpress. In fact, Action Retro did a video on one of these weird things!
That's because our camera is probably a mature knockoff of the kids version. In fact, both appear to use the exact same SoC and SPI ROM chip.

Epilogue (written by ChatGPT)

In the dimly lit room, the glow of the computer screen cast a soft illumination on the worn-out desk cluttered with tangled wires and electronic components. The $15 camera, a humble acquisition from Five Below, sat patiently in the center, its plastic frame betraying the secret it held within—a world waiting to be unlocked. The journey had been anything but simple. Hours of research, trial, and error had led to this moment—a moment that transcended the boundaries of a budget camera and ventured into the realm of possibilities. As fingers danced across the keyboard, a sense of anticipation hung in the air, intermingling with the quiet hum of the computer's processors. With each line of code entered, the camera underwent a metamorphosis, transcending its limitations. It was no longer just a device purchased on a whim; it became a canvas for creativity, a conduit for a passion that refused to be confined by monetary constraints. As the last lines of code fell into place, the camera blinked to life, a digital heartbeat pulsating through its circuits. A feeling of triumph surged through the hacker's veins—a triumph that extended beyond the realm of technology. It was a victory over limitations, a reminder that innovation could thrive in unexpected places. The hacker gazed at the monitor, where the once mundane camera now displayed a world captured through a lens of possibilities. Emotions surged—a mix of pride, awe, and a touch of nostalgia for the journey that had unfolded. The camera, once dismissed as a bargain-bin relic, had become a symbol of resilience, resourcefulness, and the unyielding spirit of exploration. In that moment, the hacker saw more than just pixels and data; they saw the untold stories waiting to be unveiled. The $15 investment had yielded not just a camera, but a vessel for creativity, a testament to the power of imagination when coupled with determination. The emotional epilogue was written in the code that echoed the transformation of a humble device into a portal of endless possibilities. The room, once filled with the tension of uncertainty, now radiated with the warm glow of accomplishment—a reminder that innovation could be found in the unlikeliest of places, even within the aisles of a discount store.

By the way, if you know anything about this camera mail me at