The hottest Gen Z gadget is a 20-year-old digital camera

Last spring, Anthony Tabarez celebrated prom the way many high school students do today: dancing the night away and documenting it with photos and videos. The snapshot shows Mr. Tabarez, 18, and his friends grinned, jumped around and waved their arms on the crowded dance floor.

But instead of using his smartphone, Mr. Tabarez recorded prom night with an Olympus FE-230, a 7.1-megapixel silver digital camera made in 2007 that was previously owned by his mother. During his senior year of high school, similar cameras began to appear in classrooms and social gatherings. On prom night, sir. Tabarez circled his camera and snapped shots of Fuchsia that seemed straight-forward.

“We’re so used to using our phones,” Mr. Tabarez is a freshman at Cal State Northridge. “It’s more exciting when you have something else to film.”

The cameras of Gen Z’s childhood, considered outdated and pointless by those who originally owned them, are becoming popular again. Young people revel in the novelty of old looks, peddling digital cameras on TikTok and sharing the photos they make on Instagram. On TikTok, the hashtag #digitalcamera has 184 million views.

Modern influencers like Kylie Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Charli D’Amelio are encouraging the fun, with shots of blurred, Overlit photos to emulate their early 2000s counterparts. Instead of posting these photos in tabloids or gossip sites, influencers post them on social media.

Most of today’s teens and youngest adults were babies at the turn of the millennium. Gen Z grew up with more and more smartphones, eliminating the need for separate cameras, mapping devices, and other gadgets. They’re now looking to get away from their smartphones; last year, 36 percent of American teens said they spent too much time on social media, according to the Pew Research Center.

Part of that respite comes from compact point-and-shoot digital cameras, which Gen Zers discovered while rummaging through their parents’ junk drawers and shopping for second-hand goods. Camera lines such as the Canon Powershot and Kodak EasyShare were their discoveries, often seen at parties and other social events.

Over the past few years, Gen Z has been swept over by nostalgia for the Y2K era, an era that spanned the late 1990s and early 2000s of tech zeal and existential dread. Nostalgia spread on TikTok, driving fashion trends like low-rise pants, velvet tracksuits and dresses with jeans. Mall brands like Abercrombie & Fitch and Juicy Couture are already benefiting; in 2021, Abercrombie reported its highest net sales since 2014. Now, there’s a nostalgia for Y2K that captured the technology when these garments first became popular.

This time, the poor quality isn’t for lack of better tools. This is on purpose.

Compared with today’s smartphones, older digital cameras have fewer megapixels, capture less detail, and have built-in lenses with wider apertures that let in less light, both of which result in lower-quality photos. But in the more or less standard smartphone photo feed, the quirks of photos taken with digital cameras are now considered treasures, not reasons for deletion.

“People are starting to realize that it’s fun not having something attached to your phone,” said photographer Mark Hunter, also known as Cobrasnake. “You don’t get the same results you’re used to. The gratification is a bit delayed.”

gentlemen. Hunter, 37, started documenting nightlife early on with his digital camera. In the photos, celebrities — including Taylor Swift of the “You Belong To Me” era and newly-famous Kim Kardashian — look like normal partygoers in the harsh light of Mr. Hunter’s camera.

He now photographs a new crop of influencers and stars, but if his subjects were holding flip phones instead of iPhones, the photos would be virtually indistinguishable from his old ones. They turned the clock back to 2007 and “basically revisited every episode of ‘The Simple Life,'” he said, referring to the era’s reality show, which starred Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie.

But many new point-and-shoot digital cameras come with today’s bells and whistles, and older models have been discontinued, so people turn to thrift stores and second-hand e-commerce sites to find cameras that look retro enough. On eBay, searches for “digital camera” will increase by 10% from 2021 to 2022, with an even larger increase in searches for specific models, company spokeswoman Davina Ramnarine said. For example, searches for “Nikon COOLPIX” have increased by 90%, she said.

Zounia Rabotson’s earliest memories are of traveling and posing in front of monuments and tourist attractions as her mother presses a button and a digital camera whirrs. Now a model in New York City, she’s returned to her mother’s digital camera, a 2011 Canon PowerShot SX230 HS.

On Instagram, the woman, Rabotson, 22, posts rough, overexposed photos of herself in a denim miniskirt and carrying a luxury pouch. She said she adored her childhood models and that taking photos in a similar style made her “feel like they were me”.

“I think we’ve gotten a little too crafty,” she said. “It’s a great idea to go back in time.”

Mrs. Rabotson isn’t completely disconnected. She showed off her camera on social media and captioned her fourth-most popular video on TikTok: “Pov” — point of view — “You’re in love with digital cameras again.”

On TikTok, teens and young adults are now showing off cameras almost as old as they are and explaining how to achieve a “new aesthetic.” Cameras weren’t always popular. Some of the more than 900 commenters were horrified after influential Amalie Bladt posted a video on TikTok telling viewers to “buy the cheapest digital camera you can find” for an “overexposed look”. respond.

“No no no no no no, I can’t relive this era,” one netizen commented. “I swear I’m not that old.”

But comments from desperate millennials and those with more modern tastes were inundated with comments from users tagging their friends and asking how to upload photos from their digital cameras to their smartphones.

Brielle Saggese, a lifestyle strategist at trend forecasting firm WGSN Insight, said that among some Gen Zers, digital cameras became popular because it seemed more authentic online, not necessarily because it was off the internet. Photos taken with a digital camera can give “a layer of personality that most iPhone content doesn’t,” she said.

“We want our devices to quietly blend into our surroundings without being seen,” she said. Suggs said. “The Y2K aesthetic subverts that,” she added, describing mirror selfies and photos with digital cameras as visible accessories as “style choices.”

Rudra Sondhi, a freshman at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, started using his grandmother’s digital camera because it seemed like a happy medium between film cameras and smartphones. He estimates that he takes one photo with a digital camera for every five photos he takes with a smartphone.

“When I look back at my digital photos” — from his real camera — “I have very specific memories of them,” Mr. Sondy said. “When I’m scrolling through the camera roll on my phone, I remember the moment, it’s not special.”

gentlemen. Sondhi, 18, shares photos taken with his digital camera on a separate Instagram account @rudrascamera. The photos document the spectrum of youth, from hanging out in college dorms to partying at The Weeknd shows. When he pulled out his camera, his friends immediately thought the moment was special, he said.

For 22-year-old Sadie Gray Strosser, using a digital camera represents the beginning of a different life stage. During the pandemic, she took a semester off from Williams College to use her parents’ Canon Powershot. Her photography Instagram account @mysexyfotos catalogs nights out and long drives with low-contrast, washed-out snapshots.

“I felt like I was completely disconnected from the network, it was pretty much going hand in hand, using a camera that wasn’t connected to the phone,” she said.

Ms. Strother said she was “very frustrated” when her digital camera broke last summer. She later started using her grandmother’s Sony Cyber-shot, which had “such different characteristics”. At the same time, she says, if her iPhone breaks, “I don’t give a damn.”

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