Why Digital Cameras Are Cool Again, and How to Make the Most of Them

Point then shoot

  • Although smartphone cameras are winning in volume, standalone digital cameras are seeing a bump in popularity. 
  • Standalone cameras appeal to nostalgia but can also take great photos. 
  •  The key to great photos is good-quality lighting.
Someone using a point and shoot camera in Paris.

piola666 / Getty Images

You might want to put down your camera phone and pick up an actual digital camera. 

The number of point-and-shoot digital cameras is dwindling overall. But standalone cameras are seeing a recent upsurge in popularity. Part of the appeal of cameras is their novelty in a smartphone age as well as nostalgia from the days when cameras were more common, experts say. 

"Since we all have a smartphone in our pockets at all times, a photo is only a swipe and a tap away, with the process largely unchallenging and uninspiring," professional photographer Mark Condon, the CEO of the photo site Shotkit, told Lifewire in an email interview. "A dedicated digital camera, on the other hand, poses a challenge to get a good photo, and the process is engaging and fun, not to mention the ergonomics of the camera are far better than a slippery smartphone."

Point and Shoot Fun

Cameras that aren't attached to phones are having their day once again. Kevin Gordon, the vice president of AI Technologies at NexOptic, which makes tech for cameras, said via email that the newfound love for cameras is primarily a throwback to early point-and-shoot aesthetic, especially the somewhat washed-out flash photography. 

A person with a camera laughing with friends.

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

"What was a drawback then is now iconic when we look back at celebrity media," Gordon said. "This is partly due to the fact that this style of image is what populated the early internet. From a practical standpoint, these cameras have higher quality sensors and lenses than smartphones, and their single-function design has an appeal for the minimalist."

Danielle Dafni, the CEO of the content creation company Peech, said in an email that many people are looking for a dedicated camera to capture high-quality photos and videos as the camera capabilities of smartphones have plateaued. She noted that many standalone digital cameras offer advanced features such as manual controls, better low-light performance, and greater zoom capabilities, which are not always available on smartphones.

"The rise of social media and the sharing of photos online has led many people to want to capture high-quality images to share with others," Dafni added.

Dafni added that the best digital cameras for casual use would vary depending on the user's needs and budget. She recommends the Canon PowerShot SX620 HS, a 20.2-megapixel camera with a 25x optical zoom and built-in WiFi and NFC. "It also has a large 3-inch LCD screen and is lightweight and easy to use," Dafni said. 

A dedicated digital camera, on the other hand, poses a challenge to get a good photo, and the process is engaging and fun...

Also on her list is the Fujifilm X-T200 which has a 24.2-megapixel camera with a 3-inch tilting touchscreen and 4K video capabilities. "It also has a retro design and a variety of film simulation modes," she pointed out. Finally, she recommends the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H300, a 20.1-megapixel camera with a 35x optical zoom and a 3-inch LCD screen. "It also has a variety of shooting modes and is lightweight and easy to use," Dafni said. 

Making the Most of Your Camera

Using a standalone camera isn't as easy as using a camera built into your smartphone. Professional photographer Jesse Madison said in an email that the most important thing to remember is to use good-quality lighting. 

"Either shoot in the daytime or purchase an external flash for your camera," Madison added. "It is much cheaper than purchasing the higher-priced cameras. If you are only shooting in low light conditions, purchasing a more expensive full-frame camera makes sense. But for most people, the crop sensor cameras like the Canon rebel series will work just fine for what they need."

Dafni recommends using natural light when possible, as "natural light can help create more interesting and dynamic photos." Also, she said, familiarize yourself with the rule of thirds. "This is a compositional technique where the photo's subject is positioned off-center to create a more visually interesting image," she added. 

Experiment with different angles with your camera, Dafni said. "Changing the angle from which you take a photo can help make it more interesting and dynamic," she added. 

Don't forget the camera's manual controls. "Many inexpensive cameras have manual controls such as ISO, shutter speed, and aperture," Dafni said. "These controls can help you take better-looking photos by adjusting the exposure and depth of field."

Was this page helpful?