Are digital cameras cool again?

A few years ago, the idea that the smartphone could replace your digital camera still seemed fanciful. But fast-forward to 2023, and it's almost a reality. With the likes of the iPhone 15 Pro Max providing an incredible optical zoom, it's harder than ever to tell the difference between the output of a camera and a camera phone. But apparently Gen Z want to tell the difference.  

A new study shows that "Y2K" era point-and-shoot cameras are making a comeback, with young people embracing the tech as a result of what's known as the "20 year trend rule" (which, as you might have guessed, involves trends coming full circle every 20 years). Even the options in our best point-and-shoot cameras roundup might be a little too good for Gen Z.

Digital camera

(Image credit: Max Spielmann)

Leading photo printing retailer Max Spielmann says online searches for “film cameras” has grown 338% in the last five years, while visits to the London Camera Exchange site have increased 35% in the last year alone. The trend is particularly popular on Gen Z headquarters TikTok, where “digital camera” has amassed 31.6M views.

"Back in the day, digital cameras didn’t have the best of reputations, Max Spielmann says. "The picture resolution wasn’t great, often blurry, and worked poorly in low lighting. But what they do offer is simplicity from the handful of mode settings... cameras from earlier eras have great functionality and durability too, meaning it’s possible to buy equipment second or even third-hand and still achieve great results. This has fueled the retro trend allowing more people to buy into and experiment with the minimalist yet playful essence of Y2K photography."

Screenshot of TikTok showing the "digital camera" hashtag

(Image credit: Max Spielmann)

And there could also be a sustainability aspect to the trend. "A large part of the revival of retro camera trends is also the qualities that come alongside them such as the craftsmanship and high-quality design of older digital cameras," Max Spielmann adds. Photographers are opting for a more minimalist approach to their output by reusing and extending the lifespan of camera products, demonstrating that reducing waste and promoting the longevity of older models is an important consideration when it comes to choosing a camera."


♬ This Night Has Opened My Eyes (2011 Remaster) - The Smiths

Indeed, this is by no means the first retro revival we've seen in recent months. The Y2K movement is one of the big web design trends for 2023, and even translucent tech is at risk of becoming cool again.

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Daniel John
Senior News Editor

Daniel John is Senior News Editor at Creative Bloq. He reports on the worlds of art, design, branding and lifestyle tech (which often translates to tech made by Apple). He joined in 2020 after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more.