Don't be fooled by the retro digital camera trend: you'll wish you'd used your phone instead

Everybody's going crazy for old-school digital cameras. But you might regret sacrificing quality for a short-term trend

Vintage digital camera on ebay
(Image credit: eBay)

According to the BBC, the kids are going crazy for really old digital compact cameras. TikTok is full of old-school camera clips, and both eBay and Etsy say that search traffic for vintage or retro digital cameras is on the rise.

I don't mean to come across as a grumpy old woman here, but that's what I am. And as someone who actually owned multiple digital cameras with a similar spec to the ones that today's TikTokers are now buying, I think embracing old video cameras is a terrible idea.

Here's why.

Carrie Marshall personal pic

(Image credit: Carrie Marshall)

Unpretty pictures

See that indistinct and extremely jaggy band photo? That's a band I used to be in, taken in 2000 on a digital camera at a gig that was a really big deal. And that's as hi-res as the photo ever got, because back in the day we didn't do megapixels because they hadn't been invented yet. As my son says to annoy me, it was in the Olden Times.

I've got lots of Olden Times photos like that, and they're all bloody terrible; the one I've used here is one of the few where you can actually tell there are human beings involved. I really regret not using a film camera because so many of the shots are useless, and even the best ones aren't exactly brilliant.

If you're just doing TikToks for fun then by all means load up on old kit and have a whale of a time. But if you're taking pics or video of anything you might want to look at in years to come, you might regret going retro.

The reason we moved on from what are now considered retro cameras is because unlike vintage film cameras, the tech back then simply wasn't good enough. A film camera effectively has near-infinite resolution, but an old digital camera is just rubbish. 

If you're going to be shooting anything you might want to look back on fondly, you'd be better off shooting on the very best camera you can get – and chances are, that camera is probably in your phone. The best phones today have cameras that stand-alone digital cameras couldn't even dream of, and even the cheapest budget phone is going to do a better job than a model from the turn of the Millennium. And there are plenty of really great travel cameras that don't cost much but deliver really great results.

With today's tech you can still get that retro look with filters and effects – without losing the hi-res original that you might prefer when this particular trend has run its course. 

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series; her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards. When she’s not scribbling, Carrie is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind (unquietmindmusic).