Depending on how old you are, you may or may not remember the dawn of digital cameras. If you’re a Generation Z baby like me, you’ll probably have some recollection of when digital cameras first came out – but who'd have thought that 20 years later those same cameras would be popular again?
These days it’s hard to imagine a time when digital cameras didn’t exist. Digital photography is now so accessible that most of us carry a camera on us at all times (in the form of a camera phone (opens in new tab)) and we're taking more photos than ever before – a whopping 1.72 trillion in 2022, according to Photutorial (opens in new tab).
Despite the incredible image quality you get from some of the best mirrorless cameras (opens in new tab) and best DSLRs (opens in new tab), though, some Gen Zers are turning their backs on modern tech in favor of old compact cameras from the 2000s.
• These are the best compact cameras (but not from the 2000s!) (opens in new tab)
I can still just remember the day my dad made the exciting leap from film to digital. We went to Jessops where he bought a Fujifilm Finepix A330 – a 3.2MP camera with a CCD sensor and a 3x optical zoom. For the first time in either of our lives, we could take and view photos instantly – and it was revolutionary. You didn’t worry about wasting a photo, you deleted the ones you didn’t like and you reveled in not having to spend money on film and developing (well, I didn’t anyway because I was 10).
A lot has changed in the 18 years since the Finepix A330 was launched, though. Cameras like the Fujifilm GFX 100S (opens in new tab) now have a 100MP CMOS sensor, while cameras like the Canon EOS R3 (opens in new tab) can shoot 30fps and benefits from features like eye detection and in-body stabilization.
But that doesn’t mean that some of these OG digital cameras are obsolete; in fact they have had a big resurgence, as Gen Zers are choosing to shoot with low-fidelity cameras with built-in flash to achieve the newly fashionable Y2K aesthetic.
Search volumes for terms like "Nikon Coolpix", "Canon PowerShot" and "Fuji Finepix" are on the up, and between 2021 and 2022 searches for digital cameras on eBay went up by 10%, according to the Daily Mail (opens in new tab). As most of these cameras are now nearing two decades old, you can pick them up cheap – on eBay they go for as little as $25 / £20, which could be another factor in their increased popularity.
People never fail to surprise me. Tech advances constantly, and yet there always seems to be a demand for products from the past. Whether that’s people returning to film photography after a stint in the digital world or Gen Z choosing to go out and buy a camera from the 2000s.
Over the years I’ve taken thousands of photos on relatively cheap, low-res digital cameras, and I loved the photos. I used to keep one on me at all times, and take silly photos in school or on the weekend, but I’ve never thought about digging one back out to use on my Instagram feed. I don’t care about the Y2K fashion aesthetic and, as far as I’m concerned, cameras from that era should be left there. But if you love that low-quality, bright flash aesthetic, it turns out that you're not alone.