Digital cameras: Where do they come from and where are they going?

If you have scrolled through Instagram recently, chances are you’ve come face to face with the influx of digital camera photos being posted on social media. Kodaks, Canons, Nikons — the newest iPhone camera rival in the Instagram picture ring. You may even be the one in front of the lens, or the one clicking the shutter.

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

Affectionately known as “digicams,” handheld digital cameras first emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s. We see vogues of the past resurface frequently, gripping the hearts, minds and Instagram feeds of younger generations; a clear instance of the trend cycle at play. The trend cycle consists of five stages: introduction, increase, peak, decline and obsolescence, according to the Independent. The cycle refers to the tendency of trends to resurface every 20 years — which places today’s trends in the midst of the resurgence of the 90s and early 2000s aesthetics.

The first iPhone did not appear until 2007, leaving a whole generation with home videos captured solely on digital cameras and stored on memory cards. The reintroduction of digital cameras in 2023 brings current Instagram feeds closer to the aesthetics of the past and bows to the nostalgia of a 2000s childhood.

Some users even create separate accounts just to showcase their memory cards. Greek life in colleges across the United States have taken particular interest in “older” versions of camera options. The handheld device allows for a step-up from smartphone photos, making high quality pictures a staple on social media.

This past summer, I followed suit. Three years ago, I was given a small, blue, waterproof digital camera from Amazon. I used it here and there to take pictures and videos of my friends and family, but it broke down a few months ago. One friend recommended I get a Kodak PIXPRO FZ55 as a replacement. Since then, I have captured beautiful moments on camera, so much so that I created my own digicam account.

Having an account dedicated just to digital camera photos not only encourages me to use my Kodak more, but also allows for a separation from a “main account” on Instagram. I post pictures of trees and buildings, solo shots of my friends and family, among other things I would never otherwise share on the site. For me, my digi cam account functions more like a scrapbook, and it highlights what really lies behind the resurgence of these devices.

The allure of the digital camera may come from separating the camera from the cell phone that carries out so many other functions. When our lives are so entrenched in our phones, it can be overwhelming to pull them out even for a second to take a picture. With a compact and convenient device — additionally providing a vintage, polished aesthetic that an iPhone camera lacks — digital cameras are, ironically, a moment of solace in the digital age.

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