Digital cameras are the new film cameras
And I’ve fallen into the trap.
Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, by Kate Lindsay and Nick Catucci.
Real photographers don’t read this, it will only make you mad. —Kate
I came into the idea for this post ready to be a hater. After seeing the #digitalcamera trend popping up on TikTok (the hashtag now has over 127 million views) I finally felt what I imagine Nick experiences every time I tell him I learned about some classic song through Glee: old, exasperated, and despondent about the future of the next generation.
It now seems that the digital camera is to the 2020s what the film camera was to the 2010s. Celebrities like Gigi Hadid and influencers like Tana Mongeau once made second Instagram accounts dedicated to film photos, which, in addition to requiring some skill or at least effort to produce, look pleasantly nostalgic. The film trend also capitalized on the delight that comes from the delayed gratification of seeing a picture for the first time days after it was taken—something Dispo attempted to recreate with filters and a 24 hour waiting period. While it could be hokey, the film aesthetic made sense to me as a trend.
But a digital camera, unlike a film camera, is essentially just an extra iPhone you’ve decided to carry around. The technology is similar, the gratification just as instant. There’s nothing artful or unique or particularly—okay, wait, I look amazing.
In an effort to see what the fuss was all about, I brought my digital camera along for Halloweekend. It’s a Canon G7x, a Christmas present from a few years ago that I’ve only ever used for video. I had to go on YouTube at the bar to figure out how to get the flash to work.
“This is giving me such high school flashbacks,” my friend Selina, who I’ve known since we were 13, said. I had a camera pretty much permanently around my wrist throughout our adolescence, taking near-constant pictures and videos for reasons unknown (Instagram did not exist yet). It didn’t take long for me to slip back into that persona; I was an instant digital camera convert (or, I guess, re-convert).
If I took these photos on my iPhone, I’d say they looked like garbage. But taken on my digital camera, they’re giving Y2K paparazzi. They’re giving indie sleaze. They’ve giving my friend Jehan as a particularly swag pumpkin.
There are more practical advantages to digital cameras, too. Unlike an iPhone, it's something your friend Abby can wander off with without you even knowing. This is how I ended up with all of these Sunday morning:
These photos are a poor man’s version of the ones being tossed around on TikTok—everyone in them pictures is 30 or close to it, and my G7x is newer than what the kids are using. But the trend has me looking forward to digging through my parents’ storage come Thanksgiving to see if I can find the pink digital camera of my youth. If not, her memory will live on in photos: