At the start of the year, I decided to try and improve my life by cutting out the technology in my life where I can. I’m only human, so I haven’t thrown my iPhone into the toilet yet (though that would flush away all the brain rot that comes with being terminally online in the 21st century).
While I would absolutely love to join my Gen-Z peers, opt for a brick phone and completely unplug (I am currently on the hunt for a clamshell phone to do just that), I decided to add one bit of tech to my life that’s so simple and off-the-grid, I can at least get the ball rolling. After all, it’s not really tech itself that is slowly turning our brains into soup; it’s the constant, interconnected drip-feed of mindless content.
So I bought a point-and-shoot camera. My Kodak H35 Ektar now lives in my tote bag (as a ‘zoomer’, of course I have a tote bag) or stuffed into a jacket pocket and taken everywhere I go. I‘ve formed an emotional attachment to this small and basic camera, and I think its simplicity is what forged this bond.
I made the shift to a point-and-shoot camera after seeing the beautiful pictures people posted that they took on old film cameras, decorating their rooms, or making scrapbooks. I want to document my life through the lens of physical film and have tangible memories that just hold more meaning than the ones stored on my phone.
If you’re interested in dipping your toes into analog photography, I highly recommend going through the TikToks and Youtube videos of other young people documenting their journey. Gen-Z is taking a different path with technology than their millennial counterparts, taking to the internet to learn more about older technology and inject it into their everyday lives, watching the content other people make and switching to wired earbuds, flip phones, and now retro cameras. We’ve seen this before with the recent popularity of retro-styled Polaroid cameras, and now film cameras are in the spotlight.
How it started vs how it’s going
I bought the Kodak Ektar H35 film camera in early December 2022 after a little research and a lot of internal debating. There are so many great point-and-shoot cameras out there and it can be incredibly confusing to pick one, but I decided on the Ektar H35 because it's super compact, super simple, and works as a half frame camera. This means that each photo is taken on half of a full frame, effectively doubling the amount of pictures you get.
This works out well for me because physical film can be expensive (depending on what film your camera needs) so being able to use the same film for longer and take twice the photos is a huge plus. The camera itself was around $50 (£50 / AU$99) which is pretty solid for a beginner investment. The camera is gorgeous, easy to use, and small enough to fit in your pocket.
So far I’ve completed one roll of film - about 72 shots - and I’m very excited to see what the photos will look like once developed. There is an element of waiting and patience that is a little foreign to me, being part of the digital snap-and-share generation, but I think that adds depth to the experience. Because I have to send my roll off to develop, I’m much more selective of what I take photos of now. I find myself walking around town and constantly thinking ‘that would be a great photo’ in a way I never did before. In the same way my phone was basically glued to my hand, my camera is now glued to my back pocket.
So far the only trouble I’ve come across is the lack of guidance the actual camera gives you. It’s a really strange and stressful feeling to just point and shoot! I have no idea whether the photo is good, if the flash ruined the photo or if I even took a picture at all! But perhaps that’s part of the fun; setting aside the instant gratification of using a modern phone camera also means going without the constant hand-holding provided to us by today’s tech.
Make it snappy
I highly encourage you to give a point-and-shoot camera a go if you’re looking for an easy new hobby, or a way to add a little sparkle to your day-to-day. Whether you’re a camcorder veteran or a master of the highly curated Instagram post, introducing traditional photography into your life will really open your eyes to different types of beauty. It’s cheap, you get something tangible and physical out of it, and by the time you finish your roll and get back your developed film, you’ll be looking through happy memories.
If going straight to film makes you feel a little impatient and is a little too far out of your comfort zone, instant cameras are a great way to start. Some of the best instant cameras are probably already really familiar to you, either as a trinket you bought a few years ago during their hype or seen being carried by the trendiest people in town.
Their popularity means that you probably won’t have to deal with film shortages, developing wait times, or difficulty in availability. You get your photos instantly, and if you’ve got a rogue thumb in frame or forgotten to turn on the flash, at least you’ll know a lot sooner.
What's up with the kids?
As a young person, it’s easy to spot our odd fondness for retro technology. The new fascination with flip phones is something that deeply resonates with me and I can definitely see the appeal. Our lives have become so digitally interwoven that it’s become a detriment to our physical and mental wellbeing.
Young people have grown up with consistent access to the entire world, every single day, for the majority of their lives. Every bit of negative news, damaging fashion trends, and beauty standards are beamed into our brains from the palm of our hands. The simplicity that comes with a flip phone, only the bare essentials and nothing more, is super appealing.
The revival of old-school tech may also come from a place of longing. We’ve seen ‘Y2K’ fashion become huge across the internet, wired headphones made a brief comeback, and vinyl is still growing strong. I believe Gen Z has become pessimistic towards the rampant unrelenting march of contemporary technology and connectivity, because I sure do feel the same. I would love to not be quite so online, to disconnect and try existing in a timeline of nostalgia I - as someone so young - can’t claim per se, but long for.
Anyway, when it comes to why I love my new camera, and why so many zoomers love theirs too, is simply a desire to create real memories. Real, tangible photos are memories that scream I was here, I took this picture, this sunset happened. It also separates us from the hyper-constructed Instagram-ready mindset that growing up with social media has ingrained in so many people. It deconstructs posed, precision photography for something more natural for a lot of people, and I’m so glad to see it.
We can definitely assume that the retro tech trend will only keep going, and more and more ‘vintage’ tech will be adopted by a newer generation. This is the first step in my unplugging journey, and I can’t wait to try new things and disconnect.