Across every corner of culture, the zeitgeist’s tendency towards nostalgia has been impossible to ignore over the past few years. The sartorial scene alone has been proof of this enough; from the Y2K resurgence to the reigning era of archival fashion on the red carpet. Tunes of the ‘00s are said to carry with it a timeless magic of its own—when the industry’s pop queens and biggest bands were born and throned. In essence, it all points to one encompassing mood: a curious desire for reliving a decade once past. A time, perhaps, when things were not as perfect and cutthroat as they seem these days; when raspy voices were favoured over the autotune pop of today; and a piece of clothing that has passed through generations holds more meaning than something off the rack.
The same can be said about how we’re choosing to see—and remember—the world around us. Despite the advent of our mobile devices, our pandemic-stricken years have seen us opting for older forms of photography to memorialise our biggest (and smallest) life moments. We’ve ridden the wave with analogue film cameras for one, and in recent times, the digital camera has been enjoying its renaissance too.
At its core, the idea remains the same. These older devices brim with a certain nostalgia that seem near irreplaceable, with each shot being one that feels more decided and intentional. Many also take comfort in the fact of its singular usage; you’ll be more focused on your subject of photography, rather than risk the ease of distraction that comes with shooting anything on your mobile devices. To that end, a slew of local vintage markets have been offering old digital cameras to their consumers—many of which come with their own varied set of functions and little quirks that were commonplace for these vintage cameras.
On a more practical front however, Anabelle Yip* of @digidazed—who specialises in sourcing old digital cameras for her audience—touts the digital cam as one that is more value-for-cost when compared to the film camera in the long run. Its pocket-friendly size, is something worthy of mention too. For aspiring digicam owners, we sought out Yip’s expertise, to weigh in on some of the things one might have to take into consideration before purchasing their first digital camera. From some of the basic functions to look out for, to her personal recommendations, scroll on for a Vogue-approved guide to purchasing your first digital camera.
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What are some preliminary things to consider before purchasing a digital camera?
For Yip, everyone’s priorities are different. So it’s important to know what’s one thing you can’t compromise on, and go from there. It could be the design, its ease of utility or even your personal budget. In terms of camera technicalities however, she gives her lowdown on what to look out for:
A common thread across all digital cameras is its batteries—there are two types. For those using disposable or rechargeable batteries, make sure to look for those that have higher-quality ones. As for cameras with lithium-ion batteries, it’s best to look for a cam that comes with both the specialised battery and charger together, and avoid using universal chargers as they become more susceptible to damage.
Another thing to take note of is the specialised storage cards that come with digital cameras—do check which formats are required of the cameras you intend to purchase as many older cams use rarer formats that may not be as well-supported now.
It’s always good to know what the end product is. Look for sample photos on Flickr, Xiao Hong Shu or TikTok so you know what style of photos you prefer.
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Could you explain some of the basic functions that a first-time owner should take note of?
The learning curve is not all that steep, according to Yip. To get started, you just need to familiarise yourself with some of the basic functionalities—like the shutter button, the menu options that should allow you to switch between various photo modes and the option to toggle between your camera’s flash feedback options. Its means of charging is also something that shouldn’t be overlooked; research more about whether the camera can be charged via an external cable or if you need to remove and replace its batteries.
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Do all digital cameras have that 'old school' aesthetic?
Indeed, most digital cameras actually have that vintage vibe right off the bat because their camera sensors are inherently older and are not as ‘advanced’ as the professional cameras or mobile devices we are used to seeing today.
However, digital cameras designed in the early ’00s can actually look quite different from those produced in the early 2010s. Big improvements in image quality were made over time, hence the vibe gleaned from either ‘era’ is also quite obviously disparate. Newer cameras also tend to have more unique features such as touch screen options, colour filters or even face filters!
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What are some great starting cameras for first-timers?
Not to fret, most cameras—no matter when they were developed—are actually quite ‘beginner-friendly’ because they mostly offer ‘Auto’ or ‘Easy’ modes where the camera is automatically attuned to a programme of settings that is manageable for you to just point and shoot.
If you prefer something lightweight, most of the newer cameras are generally more compact. Sony’s Cyber-Shot DSC WX models are really light, yet have a good hand feel to them that doesn’t feel too fragile. If you love something that’s easily pocketable, the Nikon Coolpix S0 series are the smallest digicams ever made and can fit into your palm.
Should photo quality be what you’re after, then the Canon S100 series or the Sony DSC-Hx would make great choices. The Fujifilm Super CCD series is a cult favourite for many photographers who like its sharp output despite low lighting.
If you love a unique shape, my personal favourite is the Olympus Stylus Verve that’s got such a retro and goofy look to it. And for those of you pink-lovers? Some of Canon’s styles are your best bet, such as the Ixy 20 or the Powershot SD1100.
*Interviewee’s name has been altered.