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Retro trend: Why old, small cameras are now cool again


At the beginning of the noughties, compact digital cameras were hip and felt to be in use everywhere. Then came the smartphones - and many devices gathered dust. Thanks to TikTok, they are now experiencing a revival.

Well, I guess I missed a trend again.

A year ago I moved from Hamburg to Düsseldorf and immediately parted with two old digital compact cameras while sorting them out.

An Olympus device that I used to take party and family photos in the early 2000s ended up in electronic waste.

I gave the second, a Casio Exilim cam from around 2010, to a relative and asked her to sell it on Ebay classifieds.

In the end someone paid 15 euros for it, I was satisfied.

What else should I do with cameras that take worse pictures than just about every modern smartphone?

But over the weekend I read this: The New York Times reports that old digital cameras have recently become popular again, especially among people in their twenties.

The US newspaper speaks of the "hottest Gen Z gadget".

And I, an idiot, dispose of and sell off such technical treasures without suspecting anything?

According to the »New York Times«, the trend has several drivers:

  • On the one hand, young people, for whom the photo function of their mobile phone is a matter of course, apparently find it interesting to use another device that is solely intended for pictures and videos.

    If only because it means you don't have to worry about notifications on your smartphone while taking photos.

  • On the other hand, there is the aesthetics of the pictures.

    In retrospect, I personally find many recordings from the digicam age unsightly or trashy.

    The low point on one of my old memory cards is marked by the remarkably failed rabbit picture shown here (admittedly only one of several photos of the situation).

    But: The photos, which tend to be imperfect, form a counterpoint to smartphone recordings, which are often still being hunted through Instagram filters or elsewhere are processed beautifully by modern AI.

    As a result, some people perceive the digicam images as more authentic and exciting.

  • And then, of course, there's the group dynamic: the comeback of the digicam is also being fueled by web stars like Charli D'Amelio, who have been photographing themselves with such devices in recent months.

    She and her many millions of fans also ensured that the topic became so big that it is now in the New York Times and in this newsletter.

I wanted to find out via Ebay and Ebay classified ads whether interest in digicams was picking up again in Germany.

Ebay said that the number of digital camera sales had increased only slightly in the past twelve months compared to the previous year, by around five percent.

In the case of used devices, however - ie in the area in which most classic digicams fall - the number of sales has roughly doubled.

Ebay registered a sales increase of 17 percent for old Sony devices from the Cyber-Shot series, and 29 percent for Samsung's Digimax series.

According to Ebay classifieds, the median price for cameras from well-known brands such as Nikon Coolpix or Canon PowerShot has risen by 117 percent over the past two years, from 30 euros to 65 euros most recently.

The company has also seen a significant increase in the number of monthly listings.

So there is at least movement in the market.

Anyone who wants to get an impression of how young people actually stylize outdated cameras will quickly find what they are looking for on TikTok.

Under hashtags such as #digicam, there are videos that celebrate unpacking and trying out used devices for the first time, as if it were about the latest Apple gadget.

Elsewhere, a user posts video excerpts from her everyday life recorded with a digicam and comments: "The best decision I've ever made #digicam." Again and again you come across video makers on TikTok who call on their viewers to get their own camera to buy from the noughties.

If you really think this makes sense, the »jjondigicam« channel will help you choose a model.

Its operator is called Jon and lives in the US state of Maryland;

according to his own statements, he works as a budget analyst for the US government.

On TikTok, however, Jon is best known as a camera nerd.

Since last May he has already presented dozens of devices there in short videos, from manufacturers such as Panasonic, Polaroid and Fujifilm.

Jon writes to me that he started taking photographs when he was twelve.

Today he is 30 years old and has a whole collection of older digital cameras.

What they have in common is that their images speak for themselves and require no editing or filters.

Of course, digicam images and videos aren't "perfect," Jon says, "but that's the point."

He himself appreciates pressing a physical trigger to take a picture.

His current favorite camera is the Casio Exilim EX-S3.

This is small and yet robust, and its shutter lag is impressively short for a model from 2003.

The online community around digital cameras is growing, Jon tells me.

In South Korea and Thailand, for example, it is already very large.

In comparison, the United States and other countries are only just catching up.

The TikToker advises people whose videos make them want to take photos with a digicam again or for the first time to pay attention to the type of memory cards the device supports.

Some old cameras are only compatible with SD cards, he says, but not with newer SDHC or SDXC cards.

It is also difficult nowadays to get what are known as SmartMedia cards, which some digicams require.

Basically, however, Jon advises experimentation: Sometimes it's bulky, strange or even no-name digital cameras that deliver the most surprising results, he says, "and they can often be had at a reasonable price."

Our current Netzwelt reading tips for

  • "How hackers were able to access customer data from Porsche, BMW and Mercedes and paralyze police cars" (six minutes of reading)

    Security researchers have hacked several car manufacturers at the same time, reports my colleague Patrick Beuth: They could have opened doors, started engines, copied customer data and paralyzed company vehicles.

    One expert is "shocked".

  • "How even mid-range cell phones could soon send SMS via satellite" (four minutes of reading)

    Our gadget connoisseur Matthias Kremp was just at the CES tech fair in Las Vegas.

    One of the big trend topics there this year was satellite communication via smartphone.

    Here Matthias explains what it's all about.

  • "That's what keeps the high-tech industry going for the future" (eight minutes of reading)

    And if Matthias has already been to the CES, curious inventions shouldn't be missing.

    This article is not only about a bicycle desk, but also about high heels that are as comfortable as possible.

External links: Three tips from other media

  • "The 300 best PC games: the big ranking" (top list)

    The editors of the computer game magazine "Gamestar" have published a list of the 300 best PC games.

    As always, such a ranking encourages contradiction.

    A list of the »100 best PC games that ›Gamestar‹ forgot in its ›The 300 best PC games‹ list« was immediately published in »Wasted« magazine.

  • »Facebook's Bridge to Nowhere« (English, ten minute read)

    Meta is best known for its networks and apps.

    The "New York Times" now tells how the tech company has already tried and failed on an infrastructure project: the restoration of an old railway bridge in San Francisco Bay.

  • "A Fifth of Passwords Used by Federal Agency Cracked in Security Audit" (English, three-minute read) Last

    week's newsletter included passwords.

    A good addendum to this is this ArsTechnica article: The US Department of the Interior carried out a password check – and at least a fifth of the passwords used turned out to be too weak.

    Who would have thought that with »Password-1234«?

I wish you a good rest of the week

Markus Boehm

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2023-01-11

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