Kids these days... with their Itunes and their Snapchats. They don't know how good they got it maaaan...
Back in my day we couldn't take pictures with our phones and we had to walk uphill both ways to get to school and home. We only had disposable cameras and we had to wait days to see our pictures. We wouldn't even know if they were shit until we got them back from the drug store.
So what happens when a Millennial shoots with disposable cameras? Watch my Youtube video to see.
The concept of a disposable camera stretches back to the 19th century with inventor Alexander Pope Whittell. In the 20th century, there were a number of single-use cameras that took 110 film, a format smaller than 35mm. But modern disposable cameras that we think of today were first developed in the 1980s.
During this time, Fujifilm and Kodak were looking for ways to capture more of the mass market of amateur photographers. Fujifilm had captured huge amounts of market share from Kodak in the United States, proving that Americans were willing to purchase film from someone other than an American company.
To this end, Fujifilm released the Quicksnap in 1987 - the first widely accepted 35mm disposable camera. Kodak released a 110 film camera, but pivoted to release a 35mm disposable camera in 1988.
These cameras caught on like wildfire. By the early 1990s, disposable cameras were selling millions of units per year in the United States.
So what is the appeal of these disposable cameras? Families that couldn’t afford or didn’t want to bother with a traditional 35mm camera could still take pictures that were good enough. As we have seen over and over again, convenience and ease of use always trump image quality when it comes to the mass market (just look at the widespread adoption of mobile photography, even before the image quality got good).
My family often purchased disposable cameras on road trips and other travel. Looking back, we actually never owned or used a traditional 35mm camera. We went from disposable cameras straight to digital with the sweet Sony floppy disc camera (see below photo).
The term disposable camera is a bit of a misnomer - these cameras are actually recyclable. After sending them to a photo finisher, the lab will send them back to Kodak or Fujifilm, which recycle the parts to create new cameras. This recycling system was set up after people pushed film companies to be more environmentally friendly, since disposable cameras were piling up in landfills around the world. Kodak and Fujifilm began branding these products as single use cameras and created public awareness campaigns. But still, the name “disposable cameras” has stuck with most people.
Now obviously cheap film and a plastic lens doesn't make a recipe for top notch image quality. Watch the video to see how I got these shots.
But people don't shoot disposable cameras for the sharpest, highest resolution photos. They do it for ease of use and experience.
DISPOSABLE CAMERAS TODAY
The advent of digital photography signaled a huge blow to the disposable cameras market. While you might be able to scrounge up a single use camera in a random Walgreens or CVS, they are not nearly as prolific as they were in the 1990s. Today disposable film cameras are mainly utilized by moustache-wielding hipsters and Millennial Youtubers like me.
Disposable cameras are fun to use, despite not having the best image quality. But quality is obviously not the appeal. For me, it was very nostalgic shooting with these cameras. But I can’t see myself making a habit out of it. In any case, I highly recommend shooting with a disposable camera at least once in your life - if even to have some connection with life in the 1990s.