A good camera is a good camera, right? That’s how it should be. Of course, in the world of digital cameras where the image making technology is built into the camera, how long ago the camera was made will have an impact on the potential photographic outcome. Newer digital cameras take better photos – at least that’s the line we are sold by the manufacturers. It’s true too, objectively speaking – but with a good few caveats, that idea can, and is increasingly being challenged. Photographers, it seems, are increasingly turning to the vintage digital camera!
For a long while, each new generation of digital cameras was defined by the pixel-count race. That’s not to mention the race for more dynamic range, higher ISO/lower noise output and better colour accuracy. And then there’s the race for faster autofocus, greater functionality, increased customisation options, etc.
I’ve been vocally critical of a lot of these “advances” for a long time. But you won’t hear me making any sort of strong argument that ultimately they don’t help take objectively “better” photos, easier. The fact is, bang up to date technology is good for photography – at least that is if you measure what’s good by the merits by which we are sold cameras.
Of course, what’s objectively good for photography might not be good for the individual photographer. Over the last few years, the price of digital cameras has gone up quite dramatically. The rise of the smartphone camera has put tremendous pressure on the digital camera marketplace. It’s squeezed all the big brands out of the entry-level market, forced them to concentrate on high spec, all-singing all-dancing cameras which has pushed the price consistently upward.
Cameras have become increasingly complex too. I’ve frequently moaned about the overpopulation of buttons and menu items on more modern kit. For some this means they can perfectly customise camera to their individual needs. For others, it means cameras that feel overwhelming and somehow unsatisfying to use.
I’d pin both of these factors as playing a part in the increase in popularity of film photography. There are other factors too – not least fashion – but the idea that film photography could be quite cheap and the fact that the cameras were comparatively simple was certainly what drove me more heavily in the direction of film in 2013. Back then I bought a Yashica T5 for £30, I could buy rolls of colour film from Poundland for £2 each and could even have them developed and scanned for a further £2. Yes there were expensive film cameras, but expensive meant £200 for a Contax T2 or £350 for a Leica M3. Charity shops had piles of boxes of film cameras you could dig through too. This made film photography feel more accessible. And because it was accessible, it felt less serious. It felt more fun.
Don’t get me wrong, I still really enjoy shooting film. I’m also not going to get on my soapbox about the cost of film cameras or the film they take. The cost of the cameras has been caused by the increase in the popularity of the medium – and that’s no bad thing. More people shooting film means it’s more likely to continue to be supported by the industry, and that’s something we should celebrate. I also don’t think judging the cost of film solely by measuring it against it’s all time low (2012/13) is particularly sound thinking. But it’s hard to get away from the fact that for me – and many others – these added costs have taken something of the fun out of an certain approach to film photography.
And all this is where vintage digital cameras come in. Of course, it’s probably a little bit silly calling them “vintage” when the massive majority of the kit I’m talking about was made within the last 15-20 years, and is therefore a lot newer than most of the other kit that is more often talked about on this website. But the reality is, any digital camera over 5-10 years old is largely regarded as old technology. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not still good.
In fact, if you combine a yearning for less complicated cameras with cameras that can be had for not much money. Actually, older digital cameras are increasingly becoming a more obvious proposition. Now, it won’t be a surprise to many readers of this website that I’m saying this. I’ve been talking about shooting older digital kit for a long time. I’ve also been welcoming content about other people’s experiences with such kit on to this website for a long while too – scroll back through the digital camera reviews and you will see a lot more old cameras than new ones. What’s interesting though, is that it feels like it’s becoming a growing interest for more and more photographers.
This became very apparent to me when I showed off some pictures of a recently acquired Panasonic LX-3 on social media a week or so back. I share pictures of cameras all the time, but these pictures really started a lot of conversations. In fact, not only did I get public and private messages from swathes of people telling me I’d encouraged them to dig out their old Panasonic LX-3, but other similar cameras were dug out by people too. What was even more interesting, was that a whole number of people got in touch to say that my posts had them seek out a Panasonic LX-3 for themselves. And what was their motivation? Well, unsurprisingly the same themes cropped up time and time again. These old digitals are cheap, and are often a lot better value than similarly priced film cameras. They’re also less complex and therefore more simple to use than modern digitals. Digital photography has been around long enough for us to get nostalgic about older gear too – a number of people I spoke to almost wistfully recalled getting a lot of enjoyment out of their older, simpler digital. And finally, despite being old, they still take great photos given the right circumstances.
Of course, as I said in my opening paragraph, there are caveats. Low light performance might not be as good, autofocus not as fast, colour accuracy not as perfect to real life as modern digitals are. But, if these sorts of limitations sound familiar, it’s because they are some of the same limitations those of us who shoot film are used to anyway. And just like in film photography, or indeed when shooting older more characterful lenses, sometimes the limitations have a positive impact on the results anyway!
So what’s next, are we about to see a decrease in the popularity of film? Is the vintage digital going to become the emperor’s new shoes? No, I don’t think so. What I think we are seeing is just a bit growth in another alternative way to approach photography. Be it cost motivated, through a search for a more simple approach to photography, through nostalgia, the qualities of the results, or just through a desire for photography to be a little more fun, older digital cameras can have a lot to offer.
Please do let me know if you are are enjoying a vintage digital camera – I would love to feature your experiences on the website.
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77 thoughts on “The Rise of the Vintage Digital Camera”
I’m still using and enjoying the image quality from a very well used, slightly battered but truly excellent ‘vintage’ Sony A700 that I bought new around 2008 – maybe it’s worth more than I paid for it 🙂
I treasure my Canon G2 which I bought used for 15 € at a flea market. New price was around 1000.
Getting batteries and memory cards is much more of a challenge with those old treasures.
Thanks for your insights!
Yeah, it can be for sure! They’re often out there though – for now at least
Ah, my first digital camera. I had, and still have it, the boxed Special Edition in all black + 1gb IBM microdrive, and priced at £50 less than the normal price of the silver body version + the microdrive. We tend to forget at just how expensive flash storage cards were back then, and the standard retail of the 1gb MD was a staggering £199!!!! Do they even bother with making 1gb cards today?
I think 10 years ago was the point where digital cameras reached the ‘good enough for almost anything’ image quality threshold. My first-gen Fuji X100, for example, still holds up perfectly well compared to modern cameras, despite being only 12MP, and honestly the only way it feels old is in its rather primitive electronic viewfinder, and a write speed that rather encourages a relaxed shooting pace. Neither of these things bother me, and as long as the camera keeps working, I’ll keep using it. And if it breaks, even the second-gen S model goes for around £200 on ebay.
Yeah, that’s a fair comment I’d say – there are a few exceptions. I’d reckon the Fuji f30 would be pretty solid for day time work, but that isn’t much older
Totally agree. 12/20mp I believe is the sweet spot for a digital sensor. I am now a GFX50r user and I am still no happy with the results. The images and lenses are now so sharp and perfectly corrected that there is no soul or character. I’m going to go back to my D800 and Zeiss Distagon glass. I took some lovely images witht hat setup that I didn’t appreciate at the time until looking back recently. I haven’t taking anything as good with my GFX.
That LX-3 is a very fine piece, Hamish, I used it a lot for street and even shot William Gibson with it. I still keep a Lumix GF1 around, with a pancake and a 25/1,4, and my favorite, the X100s is almost vintage. Most of my commercial work comes out of my three Nikon D3s, just for jobs that ask for quietness I use a rather modern Z.
I’ve been thinking about a gf1… I had one ages ago and liked it a lot
I have a GF1 and a Fuji 100Xs, and I still enjoy using both of them. In fact the Fuji is the newest digital camera I have. I also have an EOS 5D which is more than good enough for what I want. The only thing that I think I would gain from a newer camera is the high-ISO performance. But it is not worth several thousand pounds for a new Canon mirrorless.
I collect and use vintage film cameras, high end ones that I used to wish I had when I was a youngster. I have three digital cameras but non could be classed as vintage.
Panasonic GX7 bought new but well priced as the replacement GX8 had hit the shops. Great for using my Takumar 135 as a 270mm.
Fuji X Pro I because it looks, feels and can be used just like a proper vintage film camera with no need to have to use anything other than proper controls to change aperture and shutter plus the excellent jpegs it can produce.
Sony a7 for using with my various vintage lenses and I can see the whole of the lenses view as there is no cropping.
I still love the simplicity of my proper vintage cameras the earliest dating from 1930.
William, I pair my XPro 1 with the wonderful 7Artisan lenses for full manual shooting – the 25mm 1.8 is especially great. And great prices!
Yeah, there’s a lot to be said for those sorts of cheap thrills
I do the same! A few years back I got an X-Pro1 at a price I could not refuse. Paired it with four 7artisans lenses. They’re all basically old 1940s-ish Zeiss clones with modern costings. A good match to the weirdly film-like look of the X-Pro1. I got it for a photo project I was doing, releasing a B&W shot every day for 1,000 days.
Yeah, for sure – my Leica ic is proper simplicity. But I’m in a different mood when I pick that camera up
I’ve got a Panasonic GF2 and a more recently-acquired GX7, which I mainly bought because I need a viewfinder these days because my eyes are getting old. I am happy with the GX7 but I still use the GF2 sometimes, as the images have a slightly grittier appearance and for some pictures that look feels more natural, to me. The dynamic range is less but I don’t mind that really.
Before I got the GF2, I was using a Ricoh GR digital (original version from 2005!) and similarly the images were noisy/grainy but lovely and sharp and natural-looking. A much-missed camera, which met its demise at my clumsy hands and a nearby brook.
Yeah I think there is something in having less dynamic range. The lx3 shot on the beach is an example of how I think it works for an image rather than against
An interesting article thank you. I currently have three vintage digital cameras. The original Ricoh GRD mkII and a Ricoh Caplio which is the zoom version of the GRD. I know they have tiny sensors but they are fun. I also have a lovely old Leica M8 with a couple of Voigtlander lenses. I love this old beast but it may have to go as I’m having vision problems in my right eye & finding focusing difficult. Hopefully my vision can be fixed as I’d loath to part with it. Cheers…. ????
Please let me give a shout out for the Leica Digilux 2. Wonderful digital camera shows what you can do with 5 Mp, and that lens!!
There was a recent article on Casual Photophile about how “digicams” from 15-25 years ago are making a resurgence among those photographers who appreciate the aesthetic of those “vintage” digital sensors and who hunger for the challenge of making good images given the inherent limits of these cameras. There’s also a fair degree of nostalgia involved too, because many photographers today, whether amateur or professional, first started taking photos using one of these vintage digital cameras, or because these cameras evoke fond childhood memories of family vacations and holidays recorded by such a camera. While it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison to the cameras this article is really about, whenever I want to remember how good some older digital cameras are, all I need to do is just pick up my Nikon D700.
I’d not seen that – but the fact that it’s being discussed on there, on here, and – as I point out – we have had increasing numbers of articles about digital cameras appearing on here from our readers too… I think this all says it all…
Great review. I remember very well some Nikon D100 pictures a friend of my used to have in the past. It was a fantastic camera that time, with only 6 Megapixels and much more quality build than the Canon 350D everyone used to have.
Now you can get one for about 60 Euros on ebay….
More out of necessity than love, I still shoot an original M8 that I bought when they first came out. I got it so I could use my existing lenses for color shots. The early months were troublesome – before I and Leica realized it needed an IR filter. I still carry it when I’m using film Leicas so I can get a color shot for work if I need one. It’s been used to document volunteer firefighters controlling a barn fire, early spring activities, and a host of other events that we put in our weekly newspaper. I don’t shoot digital for enjoyment – that’s where film comes in. But I do not have a need, or the desire, to upgrade from the M8.
I’ve got a few digicam’s that I started picking up on a whim at car boot sales for in all cases less than a tenner and the results I am getting are excellent, as you state the AF and low light capabilities are not up to modern standards but with care and in the right conditions and a few tweaks in PP they can give excellent results
The rise of the Fujifilm X100* series has impacted both film and digital enthusiasts alike. You nailed it with the correlation between film users and older digital shooters with limited ISO, grain, and in some cases storage cards that don’t carry a lot of photos (similar to a roll of film or two). To me the heyday of vintage digital is circa 2004 when manufacturers were including viewfinders and the megapixels were above 6. I have both a Sony DSC-V3 and Canon Powershot S70 that are incredibly good vintage digital cameras that honestly feel like film ones. Add to that shooting raw (digital negative) and you have a lot of control of post processing with the smaller sensors.
oooh I love this, Hamish!
I recently re-discovered my Kodak Easyshare v530 digital camera that I used to make my first ever “portfolio” to submit for my college application. the camera still takes great pictures, and it really is one of the reasons I fell in love with photography. quick, easy, pocketable, flash included, takes the same memory cards my pro camera takes and honestly gets the job done in lots of scenarios.
funny thing, I tried to update the date and time in the camera, and the calendar only goes through the year 2023… I guess that’s the expected lifespan.
It will be interesting to see what happens to it after… maybe it will self destruct ????
Ive been fortunate enough to shoot with a variety of digital cameras over the last 20 years or so. Upgrading from one to the next as the years went by. Mostly Nikons. But when I look back at which cameras gave me the best user experience and gave the best results in the field, I gotta say, The Nikon D2X and the D7000 were the winners. They took a lickin and kept on tickin. The D3 and D4 stayed on the shelf. But needs in digital and professional photography are distilled into the best for you camera. To that ends I find that APS-C sensor cameras are for me, currently the Fuji XT2 and Xpro2 that are a couple generations old now, but they work, fit like a glove and have saved me a lot of money by not upgrading to cameras which do pretty much the same things as the older ones. Next digital will be MF. Full frame hold little appeal at the moment. Having said that I still use the Nikon F3 when wandering the streets of a large city. Because I love it.
Yeah, the d3 is an awesome camera! I lived mine. I was very sad when it died
A good choice Martin, I know from reading various reviews how good those lenses are.
Does this mean I should sell my film Leica M4P and use my large and heavy Olympus four thirds SLR, just because it gives good results?
Hmmm… yes… no… maybe… not because it gives good results… because you like shooting it….?
I’ve been collecting, fixing (when necessary,) and shooting with film, more than digital for the last few years. Why? Perhaps for several reasons including I got bored with can-do-everything hi end digitals, there was some nostalgia collecting “old” cameras that I knew in my past and also because I like a challenge.
So for similar reasons I’ve started using my little Pana GF1 (MFT) with a 20mm pancake lens, rather than my do-everything G9.
I’ve a sweet little Canon G12. The G12 has a CCD rather than a CMOS sensor and it really does produce a pleasingly different look.
Then there’s the Canon D30 (not a 30D) which was one of the first Canon DSLRs. It cost around £3000 new so picking one up for £10 at a boot sale was irresistible. And just for the sheer fun of it I have a Mavica FD90. What else can I use my floppy discs for?
None of these will make World class images but they do give me a lot of fun and enjoyment. Better on my shelves than in land fill.
Nice shots BTW Hamish!
Thanks, and I agree on the comment about landfill!!
Hamish, your article is so pertinent to me just at this moment. Recently, I find myself turned off by film for some reason, and have a fridge full of film. I have turned to my trusty Panasonic Lumix LC-5 for satisfaction! Of course, as soon as we start to consider these digitals as retro or vintage they become rather trendy and prices start to rise according ly!!!!!!!
Yeah, so be it – just get the ones you want now… that’s what I’m doing ????
I just picked up a Leica D-Lux 6 (with a tilting viewfinder) on a whim and I am loving it. I can’t ever imagine upgrading it. The camera does everything I want from a fixed lens, point and shoot camera including a built in ND filter! My main camera is a Leica SL 601 that I don’t even consider to be vintage but it’s 6 years old now – which means I bought it used last year for a song. Like the the D-Lux 6 I can’t ever imagine giving up on the SL either. Long live the vintage digital camera.
I have been using old digicams for a while now, especially those with CCD sensors. Sometimes the images are lovely with a really distinctive colour palette. My favourite old digital is the Pentax Q 10. I bought it specifically so I could use D and C mount legacy lenses, some of which are superb quality and deliver incredibly distinctive photographs. That camera got me out of an enduring creative rut and led me back to film after many years shooting digital only. The Q10 at 12.4 MP and a tiny sensor can still produce great photos, just needs a change of perspective
I really wanted to like the q10, but we just didn’t click. I think it was because the lens didnt collapse.
Very nice though!
Just came across this article. I bought a Canon A590 at a 2nd-hand shop. The manual showed that the largest memory card was 512 MB. Not having one, I popped in a 2 GB card. So far, the camera is happy, showing 1.8 GB available. I also don’t like filling up the memory card. I’d much rather move the shots to my computer, so I really haven’t tested the 2 GB’s limits.
I’m waiting for the Fuji GFX 50 to become vintage so I can afford to buy one.
Ha!! The time will come – especially with how much they drop the price on the new models
I’ve often commented, with others, on the LX-3 on dpreview and the camera always raises praise.
I’ve long been a fan of the original LX series, starting with the LX-1, when this came out around 2005/6, tempted by the imaginitive use of an over sized sensor for true, not cropped, 16:9 images, and which retained the true indicated focal length whichever format was selected. Every other digital camera until this point had to crop its sensor to give 16:9 but then this had a negative effect of effectively increasing the focal length. I “jumped” the LX-2 as although this had a true 16:9 screen, the lens was the same, and despite some improvements under the skin, I didn’t think the LX-2 sufficiently increased a desire for it.
Then came the wonderful LX-3, which sported an f2 Summicron branded 24-60 equivalent lens. 18mm with the add-on w/a converter. For one who favours w/a shooting this was a significant advantage. This, along with a Sony Nex 5N with a Sigma 30mm lens, are my go-to small pocket cameras, but the LX-3 always has top spot in my affections and is the most widely used. I capped off the LX series with the LX-7 which now had an f1.4 Summilux branded 24-90mm equivalent lens. But I don’t warm to the 7 anywhere as much as the 3.
If I were to pick one classic digital camera, it would be my Sony R1. This is another camera discussed on dpreview with much approbation. It’s at polar extremes to the LX-3, being large and quite heavy, only 10mp but with a superb Zeiss 24-120 equivalent Zeiss lens. Manual zoom, AF but no IS. The R1 produces, to my eyes, the least digital looking images I’ve seen. I do have the tele and w/a converter lenses, but I never got round to using them as the combined weight, especially the tele converter and the necessary metal support bracket, are simply too much to lug around for the very modest increase in focal length on offer. But nice try, Sony!
Yes… I’ve looked at the r1 a few times lately. I think it might just be a bit big for me to engage with. I find the p7100 slightly on the large side and think I am going to really struggle with it when it comes to the summer and I don’t have coat pockets. I can see my picking up a little canon s95 or the like when the time comes…
Super late reply on this (rediscovered this on the “best of 2022” article) but I’ve just picked up a Canon S100 and it is absolutely fabulous. Easy to find good ones for <£100 as well. Not quite as quick as an SLR or my X100F but it is just epically easy to use/carry around and is probably 90% as good in IQ terms. The 24/28/35/50/85/105/120mm snap zoom feature with the control ring was what sold me on the Canon S series in the end (think all the S series cameras had this). Highly recommended!
Great article. I have been exclusively utilizing vintage digital cameras for the past 5 years or so. Before that, I was trying to chase the latest gear, and frankly, was not having any fun. After my back injury in 2017, I made it my goal to push the limits of these digital gems, and demonstrate the potential these cameras hold. I am especially fond of the bridge cameras that had an optical zoom factor of 12X. The Panasonic FZ-20 comes to mind…just a gorgeous camera. 5 megapixels is plenty for 99% of my work. Other gems that I have enjoyed over the years include the Kodak P-880 and P-712, Olympus SP-570, the FujiFilm S-5200 and the FujiFilm S-9100. Among soooo many others. The best part is the versatility of the lens; wide angle, macro and telephoto all in one!
Check out my YouTube channel: Terrascriber.
On this channel, I feature these older digital cameras exclusively in my natural history photography.
Thanks for the article Hamish!
S9100 and 5200!! That’s nostalgia for me – I used to sell those by the bucket load! They were great cameras, and I can’t remember us ever having one back. The little fujis were great too – the f30/f31fd was a high point!
Does Nikon 1 V1 qualify for Vintage Digital Camera..? Still going strong, my go-to travel camera..!
Yeah, I’d say so – they must be 10 years old by now…?
My god, yeah. I know that my nikon is old, but it is a shock to realize that some tech that was launched in 2011 is already old. I guess that part of the problem is to keep thinking that the 2000 was only 10 years ago…
I’ve found the Fuji FinePix S2 to be an interesting model. It supports most older Nikon lenses, and supports older Nikon flashes better than most early Nikon digital cameras do. The hybrid CCD sensor was pretty innovative for the time. The S3 and S5 models are also interesting. All are built on Nikon bodies, with Fuji electronics.
My primary cameras are DSLR but I do have a compact camera to carry around when I don’t need the big guys, I was using the LX3 10+ years ago then put it back in the box when I replaced it with Ricoh GR, fun fact they both uses the same battery so the LX3’s battery and charger is still using today on the GR.
I recently bought a Canon 30D, that I wished for when younger. I payed 35 euros, including 2.8 zoom lens, cf card and bag. It is more difficult to use than a new camera especially in terms of exposure, and now I am back to manual exposure- a new learning path. In terms of quality it is fine as long as I get everything right!
I’ve recently been using a Canon Powershot G9 from 2008 and have been pleasantly surprised by the results, a huge improvement over the first digital point-and-shoot I owned, a Lumix LC5.
I’m not sure if it qualifies, but I love my Leica M9, it’s black & white images are still the best – in my opinion of course! I rarely print bigger than A3 and the M9’s 18mp is more than enough.
Yep, I absolutely regret selling my m9!!
While I am not personally interested in the “digicam” craze I can see the appeal as it’s utilized as a sort of “digital holga” with it’s less than perfect results/artsy lo-fi aesthetic which seems to be very on brand for a lot of gen z-millenials/fashion brands, etc.
It might not be as sexy but I actually sold my Fuji XT2 in favor of an original Canon 5D recently and don’t have any regrets. Full frame, beautiful color rendition, and 12mp is more than enough for me, I am enjoying using an OVF and focusing more on my composition when out shooting. The lackluster LCD is good enough to double check exposure and the AF is surprisingly reliable for a 16 year old camera body. I love the fact that it doesn’t have any video options. It might not be a fashion accessory, but it’s definitely a workhorse that”s more than capable in 2022 similar to the D700 although I am seeing that go for a couple hundred $ more lately and I am not sure why both being 12mp.
I actually didn’t mean to just talk about “digicams”, so am totally on board with your favour for a 5d! Those cameras are a perfect example of a camera that has a look to the images. It’s a lot about the blues with the 5d – really nice skys!
The Nikon d700 is real magic too. That 12mp sensor was a high point in Nikon’s history. I had both the 700 and d3. To this day I still say the d3 is one of the best cameras I’ve ever owned.
Nice article Hamish, although I do worry for the now rapid price rise that will hit eBay following this and other articles, the power of seeding thoughts of what we’ve been missing out on shooting with is strong across the net!
I’ve continued to shoot with my ‘vintage’ digital cameras, and I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of what they are probably capable of in skilled hands.
I’d raise one point to consider that I’m fairly sure many of us don’t appreciate when we view images online and read reviews etc; the compression/variation in colour and resolution seen across devices and by the individual- still surprises me how few times I’ve probably seen what my cameras can produce as I’ve not got past looking at them on the monitor!
Sorry, Wes, run that last paragraph passed me again…?
I own upwards of fifty cameras (from Leica Ms to Hasselblad to Canon 5d) and I’ve been regularly using a Leica digilux 1 for twenty years. It is by far my favourite digital camera for black and white photography. I even recently bought a spare one in case it breaks.
I’m not a very technical person but, as I understand it, there’s something unusual about the sensor that makes it render images that look like film. It’s many limitations is the very thing that I like most about it.
That’s my essentially pointless comment. Thanks for the article. I thought that it was just me that likes older digital gear.
Not pointless at all! These early sensors did have something about them – I think it could just be as simple as them not being as accurate, but how this translates in real life is that they impart something of their own onto the image… which a lot of us quite like!
Reading this got me thinking about, then digging out and using a little Canon S40 I have that I bought from a local charity shop for £5 including it’s original soft case. Shooting in raw certainly brings out it’s best, squeezing some remarkably sharp, clean and detailed images out of it’s decidedly modest 4MP. Thanks to both you and Bob Janes for a couple of good articles ????.
This is my first time finding this site, and I’m glad I did. Thank you to the author for a really fun read. I’m currently using a Fuji X-T1 as my “vintage” set up with old, manual focus lenses, which I really enjoy.
My 7 year old recent found my old Canon SD630 point and shoot, and it has been fun seeing the world through his eyes (haha, at 6 megapixels). Thank you again for a well-written article, it’s good to know those of us who appreciate “vintage” digital aren’t alone.
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Thank you. Have a good day.
Thank you for this article. The approach is in line with my personal interests about the gear. I have 5 digital cameras and only 1 is less than 10 years old.
My most used camera last year is GF1 and even if I have more modern options I found images from this Panasonic as closest to analog imperfection. Thanks to various profiles that can be set + appropriate WB shift I am getting SOOC images that are close to some presets from DxO FilmPack. You may find examples on my Flickr GF1 album.
Very interesting article and Topic.
Well, the D7100 for me is still a very competitive camera for stills even with today standards. Tough you found it with digital vintage price (I have rarely seen even heavy used for less than 250 €)
In my opinion digital vintage are those compacts with CCDs like Canon’s G1 to G9 & DSLR of the 1st & 2nd generation (a Nikon D1 & D2 for example).
3rd generation DSLR like the great Nikon series of D3/D700/D300/D90 ware and are still very capable cameras, even with today standards. Actually the AF system of the D3/D700/D300 is still used (refined and with more processing power and better algorithms) in current cameras as the D7500 or the D780.
From a still photos point of view, these designs were already mature, they are fast and responsive, AF is very capable, UI & ergonomics well tough…sensors have evolved but in my opinion not a day & night difference for stills. In fact, ML sensor evolution is focused in ML needs, that means, extremely high processing power and speed in order to respond to the needs of Video and sensor based AF.
Anyway, my camera acquisitions tend to digital vintage
Nikon D750 > from 2014, still my main camera
Nikon D90 > from 2008 > My first DSLR, I allways wanted one some years after I sold it
Canon S100 > from 2011 > My S90 died so I bought a substitute when I need something extremly light
Canon G3 & G6 > from 2002 & 2004 > For me they are my real “digital vintages” because of bold design, CCD, operations…
Nikon Z50 > from 2019 > My only “modern” camera
Nikon D300 > from 2007 > Old pro APS standard
Pentax K5 > from 2010 > my “rugged” camera for bad weather with their WR kitlenses.
Probably in 2022 I will add a Nikon DSLR with CCD, something like a D100 / D200 / D70 / D80.
And I have also an old Nikon V1 , currently the photo school for my daugther.
I use mostly my D750 and my Z50 when I want to travel light. But I like to shots with those old (not vintage ???? ) DSLR when I do not have an specific photo subject in mind, for example, going out with my kids and take some photos of them, going for a walk with a camera or taking some random photos at home.
With the time, I use the D300 and the K5 regularly, more than I expected. I have a very good “connection” with both cameras I like using them. Tough the D750 & Z50 have the edge in quality, I have taken very good shots with both oldies.
The S100 is my companion for bike tours (the 24-120 lens and a pretty decent sensor is more appealing than my mobile) and sometimes I have the “digital démodé day” using my G3&G6.
So yes, I like those old digitals!
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I thought my D7100 was just fine. Now I learn it qualifies as vintage….hmmm
Well, there’s a thing. Without realising it, I’d been trend-setting for years but nobody noticed.
I haven’t bought a new camera since 1974, when I got burned badly on the re-sale price of the Nikon I’d bought the previous year.
Since then I’ve always bought used, sometimes very used, at that. During film days the latest bells and whistles never excited me, so I didn’t miss out on much anyway.
Since the advent of digital, I’ve always bought the camera I wanted five years ago, and I’m quite happily shooting a Canon 10D, Pentax K10D & K20D, and it was only last year I finally went full frame with a 5DII. All of them bought when their first flush of youth was well behind them.
Saved myself a packet in the process, too.
I noticed last year the prices of mid-level older P&S digitals had plummeted to peanut levels, so picked up a couple of them just for something to throw into a pannier or the bike fairing when travelling. The picture quality of all of the above is perfectly adequate for the uses I put them to.
At some point I might go FF mirrorless, but only when it’s cheap enough.
This is a great time to get back to using some good old digital cameras. No doubt the question is why use an obsolete equipment, and here I think the answer is very similar to why use analog equipment, first the price, second the experience of use is different and so are the image characteristics.
In addition many of its shortcomings can now be easily solved via software, such as distortions, chromatic aberrations, noise, dynamic range, even the resolution can be enlarged quite easily.
Where there is no solution is in speed, but even here sometimes using a faster, modern memory card will improve things, or simply using techniques like zone focusing can turn an old camera into a thunderbolt.
The two main problems with older digital cameras are batteries and memory cards, choosing one that uses easily accessible cards and batteries is critical, to avoid headaches.
I bought a Olympus C-5050 for a surf photography project, I wanted something very inexpensive to take pictures in the water with a housing.
The camera turned out to be surprisingly pleasant to use once you find the tricks of the trade, the only unsolvable problem is the slow start-up.
Otherwise, it all reduces to using it like an analog camera, setting the focus and setting the exposure.
Shooting in RAW takes 3 sec between shots, in burst mode takes 4 raw in 1.2 sec.
Feels very good in the hands , with its weight and magnesium alloy body.
Here some surfing pictures.
Great article, I loved reading it. I am 63 and got interested in photography in the 1970’s, my first camera was a Chinon CS SLR with a 50mm lens that I bought new from Dixons in Bath. I had lots of SLR’s after that before going digital and I have probably had just as many digital cameras now. I recently bought a Minolta Dimage 7i which was one of my early digital ones and I also have a mint Fujifilm XS-1 bridge camera and I love my Nikon P7800 which unfortunately has a temperamental mode dial but it produces gorgeous B/W images. It is so much more fun using some of the older cameras, I was just looking at some Olympus Camedia cameras on E-Bay which are tempting me too ha ha!
This topic seems to have fired up a lot of readers Hamish!
I find the “restrictions” of using old digital cameras alongside my modern large format cameras are the perfect way to improve my photography. Slow shooting speeds, limited lens apertures and low power zooms, narrow dynamic range and sensor noise at 400asa or above teaches me to decide with much greater clarity the subject of my photos before I click the shutter, rather than fire of a pile of pictures to “fix in post”.
I buy several inexpensive “obsolete” CCD digicams each year and have one with me all the time as my constant “sketchbook “.
So I do hope you’re going to make this topic a regular feature. The soaring cost of film and processing, coupled with the scare supply of 35mm film means that many of us who shot manual control film cameras as our creative spark tools are looking to old digicams as their replacement.
My favourites tend to be 2004-2010 era cc’d machines. We got 6mp sensors sufficient for 20” prints, download speeds after each shot got to be workable, while the switch to lithium battery and SD card memory make them cost-effective today.
My family and friends almost never can tell if a photo I show is from my latest hi-tech camera or an old thrift store find. Crucial to this is the ability of modern post-processing software to improve on old images in ways that were impossible or difficult just a few years ago.
Best wishes to you all. Paul C
I have a Lumix LX-3 gifted after the death of a good friend. He bought after using my Leica D-Lux4. The Leica is a rebranded Lumix but with far nicer ergonomics. They are pretty reasonably priced today.
Now that I think of it, my “modern” cameras are all vintage: Fuji X100S, XT-1, XQ1. I have no thoughts of replacing any of them, they are my go to cameras, the images are terrific. It seems the later models only create larger RAW files with minimal difference in the final product. I believe my skills are the limiting factor even with my current selection.
Hamish, I have 2 Nikon d3100’s that I use regularly. I keep a Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Planar on one, and a Nikon 50mm f2.0 on the other. I use both lenses on my d3200 and a d610. The d3100/Zeiss 50mm 1.4 produce some very nice images. That just my opinion, but I’m nearly 81 years old and been making images for 60 years now, so what do I know?
I’ve just added a Nikon D200 to my creative camera collection, it has lost 97% of its financial value since it was first sold but it retains 100% of its creative value – perhaps even increased as I now use much better post processing software! What an awesome machine to hold with a button or dial for every key control rather than hidden in the software folders.
Best wishes to you all, Paul C