Why Non-Disposable Film Cameras Are a Growing Trend

It’s more than just the ultimate Instagram filter

Key Takeaways

  • Harman/Ilford’s new EZ-35 is a plastic point-and-shoot camera with a motorized winder.
  • These cheap reusable cameras are a growing trend.
  • The prints from these cameras will probably outlast all your digital photos.
Resuable, simple, plastic cameras.

UK film company Harman's new EZ-35 non-disposable camera is plastic, cannot focus, and has no way to adjust the exposure. And it probably will sell a zillion units.

Film photography is undergoing a serious revival. Part of that is retro-hipster fashion, but today film photography has a solid and growing base. Kodak has unofficially announced two new films for this year, and the price of used film cameras continues to rise.

Surprisingly, disposable film cameras also are popular, as are a new wave of non-disposable models, which essentially are the same cheap plastic boxes, only with a door on the back to swap in new films. But what is the appeal of these cheap, low-quality cameras today?

"It’s the point-and-shoot aesthetic," Hamish Gill, founder of film website 35mmc, told Lifewire via direct message.

"That grungy, grainy often-underexposed look is what a lot of people see as what film looks like now. It’s the antithesis to great photos from an iPhone, and therein lies a big chunk of the attraction."

Why Film?

For a moment here, let’s forget about photography nerds, the people who are buying up old film SLRs and developing B&W films in their kitchens. Anecdotally, the buyers of cheap, plastic cameras are young-ish people whose only other camera is their phone.

Is film just an extension of Instagram-style filters? After all, there’s no more genuine way to get the film look than from film itself. Or is there more to it than that? I asked Gill who he thinks is buying these cameras.

Fixed focus, plastic cameras.
Dubblefilm

"Newbies who don’t know what camera to buy used," said Gill, "people who shoot for the disposable/cheap point-and-shoot aesthetic, people who like the simplicity of them. It’s fun shooting such basic kit, after all."

"There are probably three or four different kinds of people buying these cameras," the founder of film photography site Emulsive, who goes by the handle "EM," told Lifewire via direct message.

"They're popular because they are cheap, provide acceptable results, and can be used by digital-native newcomers, returnees to film, and current photographers alike."

Non-Disposable

We’re probably all familiar with disposable cameras. We may have bought one, or picked one up off the table at a wedding reception and shot a few pictures. Harman’s new EZ-35 is very similar to these cameras.

The specs are almost painfully bad. The 31mm lens is a fixed-focus model, and has one aperture setting: ƒ11. Likewise, the shutter speed is fixed at 1/100sec.

Even with the supplied ISO 400 Ilford HP5 film, you won’t be shooting indoors without a flash. The EZ-35 has one of those, although it takes 15 seconds to charge before you can fire it.

"For people coming to film photography for the first time, these colorful attractive plastic cameras are a curiosity... They're the original point and shoots,"

There’s one standout feature. The EZ-35 has a motor to wind the film, which seems like overkill on such a device.

Harman’s camera is far from the only such camera on the market. Dubblefilm’s Show is a similarly basic point-and-shoot that launched last year, and there are others.

"Recently Kodak and a bunch of other brands like Dubblefilm, Agfa and even a company called Ilford Imaging (nothing to do with the film company) are jumping on with their own versions of relatable plastic cameras," says EM.

"The new one from [Harman] is a little bit different because it represents the first automation iteration for these kinds of cameras."

The film industry, says EM, is undergoing a restart. Companies are having to relearn how to make film cameras, "because folks like Nikon, Canon, Pentax, etc. don't have any interest."

Approachable

In the end, this kind of camera may be popular because it is so approachable. "For people coming to film photography for the first time, these colorful attractive plastic cameras are a curiosity. They're cheap, they don't take a lot of brains to operate. They're the original point and shoots," says EM.

"These are the photographs that you're going to be looking at in 50 years time—not the ones that were left on your SD card, or still stuck in your export folder."

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