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Gen Z is bringing back digital cameras and the post-night-out photo dump

Lindsay Dodgson   

Gen Z is bringing back digital cameras and the post-night-out photo dump
  • Digital cameras are regaining popularity among Gen Z, who seek authentic, unfiltered experiences.
  • Profits from digital cameras are projected to grow by $1.4 billion between now and 2028.

I'm old enough to remember a time when I'd have to bring along my little pink digital camera if I wanted to document a night out.

I would eagerly, if a bit fuzzy-headedly, plug its memory card into my laptop the morning after to look back on all the moments I captured. Slightly blurry, eyes closed, stained shirts, unflattering angles — it didn't matter. All the photos went up on Facebook.

Time moved on, and so did social media. Facebook albums became a thing of the cheugy past, replaced by Instagram photo dumps and TikTok storytimes.

But things may have come full circle because digital cameras are back for Gen Z. As are some of the raw, messy moments that come with them.

Like Facebook albums but cooler

Despite plummeting from 2018 to 2021, profits from digital cameras in the electronics industry have since been steadily increasing. Revenue is expected to grow continuously by $1.4 billion between now and 2028, an increase of 5.81%, according to Statistica, with sales expected to reach a new peak of $25.5 billion that year.

Business Insider's Amanda Krause named digital cameras one of the "quiet status symbols" you'd probably see everywhere in 2024. The prediction was right, with Gen Zers now promoting $40 digital cameras all over TikTok.

Photo slideshows have replaced videos for some Zoomers on the platform, showing off a few unedited snaps of an event or night out with their friends. It's reminiscent of those relentless catalogues I would upload and tag everybody in, just a bit cooler.


digital camera

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Aswaa Khurram, a Gen Zer from Germany who regularly posts digital-camera photo dumps on TikTok, told BI she bought one about six months ago after she saw a friend using a digital camera at her birthday. She said that after that, she became "obsessed" because "the result of a simple digi cam is unmatched."

She'd been using a film camera for a while and even edited her phone pictures to capture the same aesthetic.

"I really love the precision and clarity those images give you," Khurram said. "Yet they have a certain magic in being able to freeze and feel a moment in time. A digital camera makes every picture and moment look beautiful."

Hermione Whitehead, a 23-year-old editorial research assistant, told BI she'd also always loved retro-looking photos. She'd been using disposable and instant-print cameras for years but found the film and development costs too expensive.

She asked for a digital camera for her birthday and now uses her vintage Olympus model all the time. She said she loved the "graininess" of the pictures and the ease of not having to worry about editing apps.

"Taking photos and capturing memories in the moment is fun," she said. "Using smartphones constantly, we want to be 'away' from that."

Digital cameras don't come with the added pressures of social media. They don't talk back, and there's no association with getting the perfect shot for your feed.

"One click and done," Whitehead said.


Replying to @alicee_padfield #greenscreen TRUST ME I HAVE TRIED THEM ALL

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Slowing things down

Kellie Whitehead, Hermione's mom, told BI she saw the trend as "a comforting throwback to childhood."

She said her daughter's generation loved all things vintage, thrift, and normcore, which was "a step away from the instant hustle of modern life."

With it being more or less impossible to take a bad photo with a smartphone, she added, something about being able to do that was charming.

Sharmin Attaran, a marketing professor at Bryant University, told BI that Gen Z's return to more classic forms of photography "reminds us that not everything has to be instant."

"This trend isn't just driven by nostalgia; it's about connecting with something more tangible and authentic in our heavily digitalized world," she said.

It's also about embracing authenticity — something that's becoming increasingly important in a culture that's become so reliant on filters and photo editing.

"Gen Z is championing a slower, more thoughtful approach to life. They're reminding us all that in our fast-paced, instant-everything world, there's still a place for the slow development of film, the excitement of unexpected outcomes, and the lasting value of holding a piece of history in your hands."


Finally got a little digital camera #digitalcamera

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Greg Morrison, the cofounder of MXML Creative, an agency focused on helping brands relate to Gen Z culture, said the hype of digital cameras was nothing new, with Zoomers adopting plenty of nostalgic trends such as Y2K fashion, Pokemon cards, and audio cassettes.

Khurram said there was definitely nostalgia to using her digital camera because it reminded her of her childhood, when her parents would bring out theirs, or a video recorder, to capture special moments and occasions.

"It brings back memories when photography felt more natural," she said.

She said she tended to be "less selective and perfectionist" now about what she posted online and had stopped overthinking whether to share a photo — focusing instead on how she felt when she was there. It helps that photos from a camera simply look better.

"I personally feel more photogenic in those than my phone photos," she said.

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