Opinion | Digital cameras are having a comeback –– don’t miss it

By Juliana Morello, Staff Columnist

It’s 2003. You’re in fifth grade, packing your backpack for a field trip to a local museum.

Or maybe you’re a 20-something on your way to the club. Or, you’re a middle-aged mother of two, and you really need some pictures to send to Grandma. What do you put in your bag? A digital camera.

The United States first released the handheld digital camera in 1990, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that it became popular. Its wide screen made it easier to take pictures with than the flip phones of the time, and its portable size made it possible for anyone to fit it in their pockets. At an inexpensive price, the digital camera with its simple point-and-shoot format made it possible for anyone to use it. Not to mention, the wrist strap is pretty cool too. It was the perfect everyday camera.

Fast forward approximately 20 years, and we’ve all got high quality cameras in our pockets right now, thanks to smartphones. Digital cameras are, admittedly, harder to find. But, they’re not extinct. If you look online, you’ll see that celebrities and influencers like Emily Ratajkowski and Charli D’Amelio have posted pictures with digital cameras, helping to convince people to start using them again.

With the increasing popularity of Y2K fashion, it makes sense that these fads would carry with them some nostalgia of a time since passed. There’s also the current movement of ignoring traditional social media conventions like editing your photos and curating your feeds. Instagram photo dumps and apps like BeReal have made it way easier for someone to take “lower quality” pictures and post them. The less curated, the better, and the grainy, muted quality of the digital camera is perfect for that. Put it all together, and we’ve got ourselves a digital camera comeback.

It started for me when I realized that my friends and I didn’t take pictures nearly as much as I thought we should. College is when you make some of your favorite memories, and I wanted to remember it all. I wanted pictures of movie nights, nights out, Pitt games and afternoons spent just lounging in Schenley. I wanted pictures of when we went sledding, and that time we went to Mount Washington at 3 am. I don’t care if it’s the small stuff — I wanted to capture it.

But, at the same time, I hated having my phone out 24/7. I wanted a way to take a quality picture of my friends without feeling like I had to edit it or share it immediately. I wanted to encapsulate my time at Pitt, but still experience it all and truly be in the moment. So, when I found my blue digital camera buried in a drawer back home, I knew I had the perfect solution.

I’ve had my digital camera since 2011, and you can believe I took it everywhere with me. Equipped with a black crossbody camera case purchased from Radio Shack –– RIP –– I took pictures of everything. Or, at least, everything that was interesting to a 10-year-old. Now, I’m 21 and a senior in college. Though I’ve since abandoned the crossbody, I’m still taking pictures. There was a gap in between, of course, but I’ve been using my old camera, a bright blue Olympus Tough TG-320, for more than a year now. And I have to say, it’s one of my favorite things to do.

Since then, I’ve taken thousands of photos. Now that I use my camera, I have what seems like endless pictures of various 21st birthdays, and even more photos of us just hanging out. I’m able to take as many pictures as I want, without worrying about getting distracted or having my head buried in my phone. My camera is always with me –– I never leave without it in the morning, even if I’m just going to class.

Although it began as a way to take pictures without wanting to post everything, I did eventually make an account for my photos –– @bluedigitalcamera on Instagram –– so I could share my photos with my friends. It’s kind of like an online photo album, constantly updated and consistently time-stamped. I started it for me, but it’s a love letter to my friends and to Pitt.

It reminds me of when disposable cameras became popular again a few years ago. But, unlike with disposables, you don’t need to get your photos from a digital camera developed. All I do is transfer them to my computer using a USB, and then AirDrop them to my phone –– it’s easy, and it’s fun. Maybe someday the appeal will run out, but it hasn’t yet.

Digital cameras last a long time since they’re sturdy and have less glass than a phone. To be fair, my camera is waterproof and shockproof, so it’s slightly longer-lasting than most, but digital cameras in general are very durable. I mean, mine has lasted more than 10 years, and I’ve dropped it more than a few times. It has a few dings and scratches, but the quality has never wavered. It’s from when I was a kid, and if your family is anything like mine, you might have one or two lying around. If not, don’t fret. Digital cameras, despite their obvious appeal, are consistently overlooked. This means retailers are selling them for low prices online. It’s also possible to find them in thrift stores and secondhand shops. If you want to join in the comeback, there’s no need for you to spend a fortune.

My favorite part of taking photos with my digital camera has been the reactions I get from other people when I ask them to smile. I have countless photos of strangers, mostly taken at the bar or Heinz Field, and sometimes they’re confused, but usually they’re flattered. Digital cameras are an amazing conversation starter. If you think someone’s cute but you’re too scared to talk to them, ask them to smile for a picture! In fact, taking a picture of someone with my camera even got me my first Pitt Missed Connection. If that’s not enough motivation to get a digital camera, I don’t know what is.

My friends know I’ve always got my camera on me, so they’re always ready for a picture, but my favorite photos are the ones I’ve taken without them noticing. I love the candids, because it makes me feel like I captured a glimpse of what life actually looked like. College doesn’t last forever, and I won’t always live so close to my friends, so I know it’ll be nice for us to look back at these photos sometime down the line.

So, get a digital camera, and take pictures of your friends, your apartment and your life. Take it with you on a night on the town, and let each of your friends have a turn taking pictures. I assure you, you’re going to want to have photos of this.

Oh, and don’t forget to say “cheese!”


Juliana Morello writes about whatever’s on her mind. Follow her on Instagram @juliana.morello or write to her at [email protected]