Are Vintage Digital Cameras the Biggest New Photography Trend?

Digital camera technology has reached a point where even our phones can produce images that can be mistaken for a “real camera” to the untrained eye. Photographers have never had more affordable access to image-making tools that can produce crisp, high-resolution images, rivaling those of professional gear from not very long ago. So, why then have objectively inferior vintage digital cameras been making a sudden comeback? 

Vigorous discussions can be found online regarding the specific niche characteristics of older CCD sensors found in low-resolution digital cameras dating back to the late 1990s. Many claim these early models, most of which predate 2010, have a more “filmic” quality than those found in modern offerings. There is a fast-growing community of digicam enthusiasts who are either film photographers looking for a less expensive option or those who have grown tired of the sometimes too perfect and clinical look produced by more modern gear. Ali of the YouTube channel One Month Two Cameras has quickly developed a dedicated following as she religiously tests a variety of vintage digital cameras such as the famed Leica M8, alongside less lauded gems as the Olympus E-1 and the quirky DXO One.

If you’re interested in getting into (or back into) older digital cameras, then look no further than this video. Ali breaks down in great detail how to find the camera that will suit your needs and then gives you advice on getting the best out of the images during post-processing. 

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22 Comments
Omid Daghighi's picture

I am sure someone will start making style presets for vintage digital cameras ;)

Lucy Lumen's picture

Haha yeah I bet they will if they haven't already! Thanks for reading I hope you check out this channel it's really awesome!

winzehnt gates's picture

At least for vintage film you'll find a drove of "recipes" for Fuji on fujixweekly[dot]com[slash]recipes .

John Cliff's picture

I'm usually not one to fall prey to "nostalgia fads" but I do still love the images that come off my first DSLR, an Olympus E500 with the Kodak CCD sensor...there is just something about the way it renders colour & contrast, the density of the image and the overall feel of the images...sure, it handles highlights badly, crushes blacks often and is slow, doesn't like low light at all and autofocus can be very slow or non-existent but it's smaller and lighter than my Canon rig and so fun to take on my walks

Lucy Lumen's picture

Hey John, thanks for reading! I hope you check out more of Ali's channel as she is a lover of CCD sensors as well. There are some cons obviously to these old digicams but they are pretty fun and becoming really popular with film shooters like me who can't afford to burn through rolls like they used to! Have a great day :)

Mike Shwarts's picture

If it hadn't developed problems, I'd still use E510.

EDWIN GENAUX's picture

Vivitar Vivicam8300s 8MP 2006, Canon T2i using EF-S 10-22 at 10mm (16mm) ISO 6400, SS 25 sec, f/3.5, 2014. Ok pick any camera at a flea market or your dad's closet. The Key is today's software!!!! Everyone today is soooo! lucky Lightroom is good for it has the most lens corrections and the newest ways. As far as most if they will do Bracketing say at 3 images at +/- 2ev you will get the most dynamic range of the most expensive camera today. Then for a big printable there are several enlargement programs. Today you may find many older cameras at estate sales, I do all the time and get mostly free just being interested. It is the best way to test your eye for things AND learn the many software brands which is like playing a video game that you make the ending. Also in the past noise was a problem today not so many AI programs you can go to a cameras max ISO and get a clean image to boot. Lenses are inexpensive of the old and many times you will find camera plus many lenses. Just grab one and go for it no need to look through all the stuff.

Deleted Account's picture

No.

If you want a vintage look, in camera, shoot vintage glass with Fuji film simulation.

Alex Zenzaburro's picture

only read the title, ey? :)

Deleted Account's picture

I watched a few minutes before turning it off in disgust.

Edit: I'm not sure what would drive my comment from only reading the title, "ey".

Tom Reichner's picture

I still use my Canon 1D Mark 4. It was released in 2009, and discontinued in 2012, so I guess it is now a vintage digital camera.

I don't see it as giving a different "look" than my more current 5D Mark 4. It's not like the files have some unusual qualities or anything. I just use it (as my backup) because it does the job better than anything else I could get for the $500 that it is worth nowadays.

Deleted Account's picture

What you said, Tom. I'm still shooting with a D700 (2008). I also have an A6000, and sometimes adapt vintage glass onto it, giving a vintage look.

Quazi Sanjeed's picture

Perhaps I also fall into that category! All my current DSLRs were introduced before 2010. As a hobbyist landscape, street and wildlife photographer; I use Canon 5D Classic, 5DII, 1DIV and 7D with profound satisfaction. All of these bodies have huge shutter life left. So, picking up another camera is unlikely for me. However, cannot say the same for lenses. I use native lenses and don't even want to try third party glass. Sorry about that.

Weston Edwards's picture

I found my Panasonic GF1 to have very film like qualities. The sensor's dynamic range was right around that of color negative film and the sensor noise limited shooting to around ISO 400 max. All in all it was a great camera for transitioning from film to digital. However, like film, I don't miss it.

Adrian Don's picture

I've still got my old Canon 10D. I wouldn't say it's in any way filmic. Just relatively low res. It'll still produce images that are perfectly acceptable for web or newspaper use but the main limitations aren't pixels but dynamic range and low light performance. It also has difficulty resolving more modern glass, and that's assuming it'll even speak to the lens.

Josh Premako's picture

"Many claim these early models, most of which predate 2010, have a more 'filmic' quality than those found in modern offerings."

"Filmic" is an adjective "relating to movies or cinematography." Can people please stop using it in ways that make no sense?

Marius Pettersen's picture

My 5D Classic still work like a charm!

Lawrence Huber's picture

I still use my Canon D30 which was Canon's very first all Canon digital SLR.

Very enjoyable for nostalgia .

Mutley Dastardly's picture

I still have a 2nd copy of the Minolta 5D when mine got a damaged sensor, i managed to buy a used one for almost nothing (something with purple light at the top, it still works, but only when you shoot in bursts the light-blob on top goes away - it must be something in the CCD-circuit or something shutter related) - and now i have 3 chargers and lots of juice for it. I'm amazed on how good the 100 ISO colors are on a CCD 6Mpix sensor.

Tracy Kolenchuk's picture

You might check out the listings for a used Canon G16 on eBay - almost full price. Even "not working" asks for $200... Why? I think it's the end of an era of point and shoot cameras, a niche camera.

Tom Reichner's picture

I have learned to take listed prices on eBay with a grain of salt.

To see the real value of a camera body, do a search for only "completed listings" and only consider the cameras that actually sold, and what price they sold for. Just because a bunch of people are listing a G16 at $200-250 doesn't mean there is anyone who is willing to pay that much for one.

Ditto for Craigslist as there are a lot of people listing camera gear there for many times more than its actual value.

Paul Orzel's picture

One of the best features older DSLRs had was the ability to save photos as TIFF files. If you want/need large files and excellent quality but don't enjoy processing RAW files, TIFFs are an excellent choice. I really wish modern cameras still offered TIFF.