Remember a few years back when fancy point-and-shoot cameras made headlines? Celebrities and influencers were seen toting a Contax, taking flashy pictures of their friends AND having their pictures taken with the highly coveted camera. Suddenly, it became the must-have accessory among the It crowd, crashing exclusive galas. While all of this was happening, somewhere in the deepest pits of forums and comment sections, people went wild—elitists scoffed at the trend and sellers seized the opportunity to hike up the prices. It was a frustrating time for film photographers who were seriously considering this compact.
In more recent years however, the premium point-and-shooters were gradually overshadowed by a new contender: the no-frills and unassuming disposable camera. Weighing and costing less than the It crowd’s designer purses, it was the antithesis of the Yashicas and Contaxes of a few parties ago. But no matter the hype, the disposables remained humble —there was no way a seller could overprice these low-cost cameras. It’s certainly influential too, with countless mobile photography apps trying their best to replicate its look and feel.
Years ago I received a small package from a well-meaning relative. It contained several of these cameras, unused but at least a decade old. I was told that they were "reserved, just in case needed" but I guess an opportunity never came to use it. I admit being skeptical about the questionable and expired pre-loaded film so using them was at the least of my priorities, especially in the presence of better cameras.
It seems that the joke is on me because lately, there has been a resurgence of disposable cameras, vinyl records, and cassette tapes. Anything that belongs to the glory days of analogue will always be deemed ‘cool’ to younger generations. And so, the disposable has gained cult status, whether you like it or not. What was once known as a last-minute choice for trips, wedding favors, and a marketing gimmick for brands, has become a stylish accessory in this social media age.
This is not to say that only the current generation is in on the trend. Experienced photographers have been using it more than as backup for pictorials, but also for documenting behind-the-scenes and creative snapshots. My millennial colleagues expressed that, for them, it is some sort of a rediscovery—as kids they were using it for school trips, never mind that 60% of the lo-fi photos had a thumb appearing in the corner of the shot. For Gen Z, it's probably a chance to hit pause on their fast-paced lifestyle.
With its recent improvements, it's no wonder that this camera is basking in the limelight. Pre-loaded with better film and sporting a more attractive look, new users, especially the analogue-curious who are still undecided about film photography, are bound to stick with it for a while.
Nowadays with more and more people being eco-conscious, the disposable shed its single-use image in favor of a new identity as a reusable camera. Even with all these enhancements, it's still literally and figuratively a pocket-friendly camera. The reasonable price makes it less risky compared to toting a fancy point-and-shoot at a party—you know, when you've had too many drinks and your grip turns to jello. The straightforward point-and-shoot function also leaves almost no room for error, making it a convenient choice for a quick analogue photo.
Who knows what will be the next It camera would be among future generations? Trends may come and go, but the single-use camera makes an effortless essential for photographers and memory-makers of all ages.
What do you think is the future of the single-use camera?