Image taken with Nikon Film Camera

Photography with Nikon Camera and Potra 800 film in Chinatown, CA (Photo by Shauna Hong)


Opinion: What’s the appeal of use of old film and vintage cameras?

The lack of artificiality, where “authentic moments” were able to be captured remains appealing.
<a href="" target="_self">Shauna Hong</a>

Shauna Hong

February 4, 2022
For this post, the term “vintage” will be used loosely. 

In recent years, the collecting of vintage cameras has once again grown in appeal. The revival of the overall “vintage look” circulates in mainstream fashion, architecture and even cameras. Even with their seemingly counterintuitive, more complex and traditional techniques, some see it as a form of gaining knowledge about the past and appreciating the historical usage of “timeless” photography.

Photography has been diluted in some ways from some extraordinary novelty into a convenient app on every contemporary phone. Many people upgrade to digital and view older forms of photography as outdated.

With disposable cameras, camcorders, polaroids and other cameras of lesser quality having a substantial increase in purchases, people are left to wonder.

What contributes to this recent surge?

In modern generations, social media plays a critical role in the popularization of these cameras. 

The 90s in general is a time period that is overly aestheticized. This is an era from which trends have been consistently regurgitated and modified. Mom jeans, track pants and camcorders provide that 90s experience that teens dream of, making them nostalgic for a period they never even lived through.

Growing up in an era when there are plenty of alternatives to film cameras, the process of getting a raw, unedited process is rare. 

While the phone camera has the ability to edit, alter, and photoshop, the raw film has an appealing simplicity to it that allows the photographer to focus on capturing the moment.

If you search up the hashtag #disposablecamera on apps such as TikTok, you’ll discover a plethora of videos with a total of 16+ million views. 

People such as David Dobrick even capitalized on these trends, starting an app that copies the experience of using a disposable camera. Even incorporating the function of having to wait until 9 a.m. to view the photos, the app perfectly captures the element of anticipation, of waiting to relive the candid, raw captured memories later.

The trend of “vintage” circulates in subjects not limited to just film. We see parallels between film and topics like architecture and fashion. For example, Victorian wooden furniture, antiques, botanical wallpapers, geometric motifs, etc are back in style.

As in the case of film cameras, new approaches are constantly infused with those regurgitated trends. The lack of artificiality, where “authentic moments” were able to be captured remains appealing.