In Japan, Digicams are the New Film – Guest Post by Johnny Yokoyama

In Japan, Digicams are the New Film – Guest Post by Johnny Yokoyama

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What’s up, from Japan! I’m Johnny, nice to meet you. Today, I’d like to introduce a new photography trend that’s gaining popularity over here. Welcome to the exciting world of “Digicams.” Yeh! Yeh! Wait! Wait! Don’t roll your eyes just yet. Cameras! You like cameras, right? History? Computers? Over thirty? Star Wars? Well, that last one has nothing to do with digicams, I just wanted to get your attention. Anyway…

What’s a Digicam?

Yes, I know it’s a basic question. Yet it should be noted that there’s a whole generation of padawans coming up that have only known a smartphone. A whole generation that can’t imagine taking pics with an electronic gadget that can do nothing except take pics. With that in mind, let’s start from the beginning, please.

The term “digicam” started around the mid 1990s and comes from a combination of the words digital and camera. In Japan, digicams usually connote a compact point and shoot digital camera.

Typical digicams are simple to use, durable enough, yet somewhat disposable in nature. Think of the digicam as something you bought at the local Best Buy before your honeymoon in Hawaii. Then after numerous years of enjoyable memories taking pics of fishing trips with buddies, family barbecues, your first child’s birthday, your car, your dog, your car, your dog. Yeah, you get the idea.

It’s 2022. Why Shoot a Digicam?

Alright, it’s a valid question. Why would I want to spend my precious time using an old digital camera that takes subjectively poor-quality photos? Why use a camera that’s painfully slow, gives an unnatural front pocket bulge, and makes you look even more like the geek-a-zoid you already know you are? Yeah, many reasons to toss the old digicam in the recycle bin. (Please remove the battery, thanks). Yet, before you toss the digicam away forever, ask yourself “Wouldn’t it be cool to take pictures with your grandfather’s camera?” “Oh, how grand it would be to hold an object that so many memories were taken with?” This is, after all, what many of us said about film cameras not long ago.

And now you might realize that the digicam was a part of your life, your family history. Remember, quite a few digicams are coming up on twenty-five years old. There’s probably one sitting in your parent’s attic somewhere. What’s that? Oh, your mother donated it, along with all your Star Wars figures while your away at college? Tragic.

From a purely technical aspect, the advancement of digital imaging technology over the years was and still is amazing. In the early days, everything was an innovation. Everything was an unknown. These include sensors, software development, battery management, memory storage, and body design. How do you like that swivel screen on your camera now? It didn’t just come out of the blue, you know. Some engineer poured countless hours to develop it. The features you see now on modern cameras were refined after many mistakes. History is fun. It’s fun to shoot an old digicam that has direct links to your expensive mirror-less camera now.

OK, OK, I get it. You’re a forward-thinking, social media creative that doesn’t care much about old stuff. You want the latest and greatest now. Oh, you only have fifty followers on Instagram? Most of them are your friends and family. What to do? How do you stand out? Ever notice how all digital photos look the same recently? Well then, how about a digicam? You might not know, unless you work in the industry and live in Japan, but there were actually numerous sensor makers at one time, unlike the few that exist now. Each supplier had their own design theory and each ended up with their own particular aesthetic, a signature “look” to the images their cameras made. Try shooting with a 0.35mp camera, or even better, one with a broken sensor. Your artistic creativity and sense of accomplishment will skyrocket. You just can’t duplicate these images so easily in Lightroom or Photoshop. You’ll be at the forefront of a new trend. It’ll be… “The New Film.” How cool is that?

How Do I Get Started?

This one is easy. Go dig around the closet, the garage, your car glove box and there’s sure to be one or two found. Can’t find one? No problem- next step is family. A quick phone call, ahem, I mean text message to your brother, sister, parents will surely turn up something. Uncle Bob is good. I don’t recommend asking the In-laws, as you’ll only reinforce the image that she could have married someone smarter, richer and taller. Interestingly, once the word is out that you’re the local junk hoarder, friends, coworkers and neighbors will gladly send you their old digicams, broken digital watches, computers, stereos, calculators, tennis rackets and old bicycles. Don’t ask me how I know this.

However, be careful in your new hobby. There’s lots of rabbit holes to follow. How technical do you want to go? CCD or CMOS sensors? Early digital cameras used various removable storage formats like floppy discs, CDs, CF, XD, and Smartmedia cards. I recommend sticking with the good ‘ole SD card for your first time. Next level is those cameras that were direct connection to a computer only. Don’t forget the associated proprietary batteries, chargers, cables, software, and a new espresso machine as you wait for pics to transfer to the vintage Windows 95 PC you might need. Delonghi makes some quality machines, for your information.

Once you start acquiring a few cameras, you’ll inevitably find that some are better than others. You might get lucky to find one at a recycle shop, but crazy enthusiasts (not me…) scour the internet for unique or rare models, many unused and still in the box. Did I mention that your loving spouse will love this new endeavor?

Anything Else?

I didn’t really touch on specific companies or models, as I wanted this article to be more of an introduction to digicams. Whether you want to dive deeper is your choice. For most of us, photography is something we do for fun. It’s our artistic expression of how we view the world. Using an old digicam reminds us to slow down, stop chasing the next, and enjoy life more. For the seasoned professional, I think it’s a great way to keep motivated and push yourself to think outside the box. In the end, it doesn’t matter what camera you use or what talent you have because we are all here to support the digicam as well as the greater photography community.

If you’re still reading and interested, there’s a growing community on Instagram. Try Please join and ask any questions. And if you’d like to see my Cheap Camera Challenge themed photos, I’m at @johnnypics123 and my YouTube channel is at Johnny on Wheels.

Special thanks to my friends who are featured in this article, Jasmine and Shagufta. Please check them out! Jasmine can be found here on YouTube and on Instagram @enlightize, and Shagufta or “Shaggy” is on Insta @sha_chan07. Finally, thank you to James and Casual Photophile.

Everyone, please have a safe 2022!

Find your own Digicam on eBay here!

Our guest posts are submitted by amazing photographers and writers all over the world.

Today’s Guest Post was submitted by…

John Yokoyama is a photographer and writer based in Japan. John hopes to add knowledge and support to the greater photo community. He can be found on Instagram, Youtube, and his personal website here.

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  • John 😉
    Thank you very much for this very interesting review/article.
    I have thought a lot, … but no headache, … dont worry 😉
    I dont like my Sony despite it is from Japan, but I loved the result of my first Sony digital camera with floppy disk, 😉 and after my Nikon CoolPix, why? The images they produced were closer to film texture and rendering. What I can not find in actual digital camera.
    So, considering that Japanese people love photography, love film cameras, I am interested, it is not stupid..
    But, I have not these cameras any more, “unlikely” like said the WHO about the origin of this pandemic ( now we dont listen to them any more about that, … … red envelops for Christmas?)
    And I know more and more why I dont like actual digital cameras, because I love film. This is the reason why I love this great website.
    Happy New Year to all of you, all the best.
    Thank you James one more time for creating, working, to provide us this wonderful Casuaphotophile and thank all the writers very much.

  • Great post, Johnny. Coincidentally, over the holidays I re-discovered an album of photos I’d taken with a state of the art digicam in 2000 from our family vacation to Tobago. I was working at Canon at the time, so of course I used my PowerShot G1 and made 4×6” prints with a Canon S800 Photo Printer. My tongue-in-check suggestion is that anyone using these old digicams again should be sure to make prints with an age appropriate output device. Then you’d be authentic:)

    Cheers and Happy New Year!

  • dangerouschristian January 4, 2022 at 2:45 pm

    OMG! I had a Kodak EasyShare C330 (4 mp) that died. I have a couple of thrift stores near me I can take a look. That might a new art trend especially with film getting scarcer and costlier. Thanks for sharing John!

  • What defines an “old” digicam? I have a 1998 Fuji MX-700, Canon Powershot A80, A610, S90 and up to a 2012 Sony RX100 (which they still sell). Is it defined by megapixels? CCD vs CMOS? The Canon A80 and A610 took a lot of our family photos back in the day and I suspect it falls under your digicam category. Fortunately they take AA batteries which could be an issue with digicams using proprietary batteries as in the case with my Fuji MX-700. Great article-looks like I’ll be taking my Powershots for a walk.

  • Hi i have been collecting Sony Mavica Floppy Disk cameras ,the good points about these cameras are that the batteries are still being made and latter models have dual media that takes floppies and Sony Memory stick, the optics are great with zoom lens, plus all have Picture Effects . Neg Art , Sepia. Black and White , solarise, , most computers can use a memory stick and portable Floppy Disk drive that plugs into an USB are easy to use

  • @focusonthephotograph January 4, 2022 at 5:53 pm

    For once, I was doing something before it became a “trend”. I’ve been experimenting with old CCD digicams…the color in some of them is fantastic. I did this after I realized I don’t need too many megapixels for what constitutes a good photograph. Just today, I bought a minty Nikon Coolpix 4300 (4 mp); it’s the first model digital camera I ever bought. Unfortunately, I gave away my original one years ago, but I realized how many great pics I have of my kids from that camera. I just wanted one for sentimental reasons. I remember buying that model because you could record to the .TIFF file type, for goodness sake!

  • It was a Nikon Coolpix 4300

  • My very first digital camera was a HP Photosmart 315, a 2.1MP point and shoot, definitely an early digicam. I got this as a birthday gift in 2001 prior to embarking on a semester abroad to Australia. The camera had a 38mm equivalent lens and came with an 8mb CF card. I bought a 32mb card to supplement it, which at the time was pretty large and expensive. I could shoot JPEG images at either 640×480 or 1600×1200 pixels in size. I was one of 2 or 3 people in my group of 35 who took a digital camera along on this once-in-a-lifetime learning experience. Everyone else was shooting film.

    I distinctly remember purposely choosing to shoot at lower resolution so I could fit more photos on my memory cards. I also remember being very selective about which photos I kept, constantly deleting shots that I did not think were good enough, so I could preserve that precious memory space. What I should have done was just buy more memory cards, despite their expense. However, I think there was some issue with Asia-Pacific market memory cards not being compatible with North American market cameras. This was the infancy of consumer digital cameras, after all. I managed to take home perhaps two hundred photos with the HP Photosmart 315 from my months spent in Australia/New Zealand. At the time, I thought my digital photos were pretty decent, but now I think they are just utter garbage.

    With over 20 years of hindsight and several years of dedicated film photography under my belt, I know that I would have been better off with a basic 35mm film SLR and 28-80mm kit lens. I can’t look at those old, grainy, small digital images anymore without thinking about all the missed opportunities for decent, and potentially amazing, film photos that I did not take. I guess it’s as simple as 20 years ago, I was not a photo guy. Anyway, I had the HP Photosmart 315 for a few years after my time in Australia, but it died after I accidentally dunked the camera during a kayaking trip in the Adirondaks. At that time in 2004 or 2005, advances in digital photography were occurring almost every day, so I wasn’t very bummed out at the loss of my first digicam, since I could buy a much more capable replacement digital point and shoot for a reasonable price. But because the HP Photosmart 315 went with me to Australia, it will always have a place in my heart. Even though the images are garbage, they still evoke very positive memories.

    • I should also mention that even though the images I took with the HP Photosmart 315 were pretty awful, on balance, they have extra special meaning for me because it was during my semester abroad in Australia that the 9/11 terror attacks occurred. Our group of 35 students was so far from home and so far from our families that we all came together into a very solid friend group. Our Australian hosts were incredibly supportive and gracious as well. In the end, a decision was made that Australia was pretty safe and our group did not have to cut our trip short and return home to the U.S. ASAP. And even though those photos are garbage, looking at them stirs fond memories of friendship, support, and humanity we all shared during a very tumultuous time in our history.

  • My first digicam was the Olympus Camedia C-820L with 0.8MP. And I paid around 250 Deutsche Mark for a 4MB SmartMedia storage card. The f2.8 5mm lens was actually quite good!

  • Andy Leiva Garcia January 5, 2022 at 3:05 pm

    Excellent trend. Will be a punch in da face of Kodak, film prices socks. I am into this new trend, fuck yea!!!
    Digital standar: expensive
    Film: expensive
    Photoshop subscription: expensive
    We need to stop being victims of the market, so this is good, and ecologists in a way.
    I’m in

  • Andy Leiva Garcia :

    I am agree with you.
    Now everything is expensive.
    Mobilephones, tablets, computers are money suckers,
    All the system have been made to suck your money : and here more storage for more money and so on,
    Look at these cheap lens and cameras which seems to be cheap, but according for the quality of components, the salary of workers, by the way all these materials made in a dictature give the opportunity to the capitalists owners of this communist system to make more money than old noble brands, and they finance militarisation of this country all over the world. If I find the look of the pictures of these old digital cameras here very nice, I am tired by digital world everywhere.
    There are many film cameras on the market to use, we can recycle them to take pictures, if we process our film it is fun, it is green, especially with Cafenol and BW films, the best way is to buy ti cheapest films and to shoot wisely, slowly, not to make too many pictures but to make only good ones by slowing down. And scanning them.
    This is changing the habits, the way and the trends, we cannot be influenced all the time by marketing, pricing and all the influencers, … analyse this word “influencer”, … it means this high level of stupidity when people are influenced by people they called “influencer”, it means they need to be influenced, … one more time, an other emptiness …
    You pay for “cloud storage” if it beak? What about your images? But your negatives, your films are still there. Look at Leica borrow his name to be used by mobile phones which are no relations with Leica history and spirit, only to have access to a market, for a market some culture can loose their mind, their soul, their spirit. I have given the example of Westone IEM, made in USA.
    Me I return on film, I dont buy cheap actual lens when I analyse why they are so cheap, …
    We can be free, or under the venom of some influencers, when you think some famous old website tastes cheap electric bicycles and cheap lens made in …. ….. why ? Before there were defending the made in USA, … commissions with links….
    I can tell you Andy Leica Garcia, fortunately there are more and more people like you, who have a head not only to wear a hat, and who think more and more, reason why for example in Australia for example now we check more and more where it is made, we dont want to be stick by domination trend and defend our national interest.
    We have to defend our hobby interest too, not to be influenced by the markets. The markets ruin this world and all the sentient beings of this world step by step.

  • Adam Kendall Smith January 6, 2022 at 12:11 pm

    I have been using compact digital cameras (or digicams) almost exclusively for the past 4 years. My D-SLR’s have taken a back seat. I never understood the reason to always use the newest products, when there are so many great cameras available used (some hardly touched) for a great price. Some of my favorites include the Kodak P-880 and P-850, FujiFilm S-9100 and E-900, Panasonic FZ-20 and FZ-1…and so many more.

    In my humble opinion, these cameras possess so much more character than more modern options.

    Thanks for a great article too!

    Check out my YouTube channel, Terrascriber, where exclusively use digicams in my landscape photography.

  • The first digital camera I used on a regular basis, was a Nikon Coolpix 990 (3.34MP), that was available on loan by the New Media program, my college major, back in 2002. I loved that camera, with it’s split body, awesome colors, and it was very sharp. The images actually have a sort of film quality to them. My wife bought me one for Christmas a couple years ago. It was a wonderful, nostalgic gift.

  • Johnny, I love older cameras and your article really spoke to me! I also love digital-infrared photography, and there’s an almost completely unknown IR gem that many people probably leave on thrift-store shelves: Polaroid’s PDC-700. They shouldn’t!

    Rated at 0.8 MP, it has no IR-blocking “hot mirror,” and easily captures lovely IR images hand-held (and sometimes even from moving vehicles). I learned about it when– as a contract technical writer– I wrote user manuals for Polaroid’s earliest (and best) mass-market “PDC” digicams. I worked closely with the company’s excellent QA engineer, and when I asked which (if any) Polaroid cameras were “good for IR,” he did not hesitate to recommend the PDC-700. “It’s the best digicam we’ve made,” he added.

    I don’t see how to attach images to comments here, but one of my very first digital IRs– captured with the PDC-700– is also one of my best-selling prints. Its “native” output size on an old Epson 8×10 printer was only around 0.5 x 0.75 inches. But VERY CAREFUL up-scaling turned it into a 12×18 wall print that sold 10 copies at exhibitions. And I originally shot it handheld while lying on my back!

    It didn’t hurt that a bit of softness actually enhances IR images. But viewed at normal distances, the print still looks sharp enough. And when a pro photographer in town tried to shoot the same scene with a multi-megapixel Nikon DSLR, the print was definitely sharper, but lacked the “IR mood.”

    People interested in shooting IR well know the camera “kings” that can be shot handheld without conversion: the Olympus C-2020 and C-2100 UZ, Minolta Dimage 7, and (OK… with conversion) Nikon CoolPix 990/995. But in the sub-megapixel range you discuss here, the Polaroid PDC-700 is a peach that should be picked. And while those Olympus and Minolta cameras still go for upwards of $100, the PDC-700 can often be had for under $30. A perfect price for playing!

  • Whatever trend in Japan that is bringing the price of classic lenses and real cameras way down, is great by me. Canon 50/2.2, Canon 50/2.8- going for under $100. The 50/2.2- used to be over $600 due to being rare. The classic cameras I use them on- Leica M9, M Monochrom, and M8. Maybe I should dig up the Nikon 600 with its CCD and CF card, one of the very first cameras to store using JPEG format. Some others- Kodak DC120, DC50- Raw only. At some point, more megapixels just does not matter. My 10MPixel Ricoh CX-5 was $30 a few months ago. First-generation BSI.

    To anyone really wanting to do this: go for a CCD based camera. No longer made, a look that is different. The Nikon CCD used four color dyes for the Mosaic filter. Had one, converted to Full-Spectrum, gave it away to a college student.

  • Very interesting lenshacker! That would explain why infrared shots from my Nikon CoolPix 990 have a unique “antiqued” look… straight out of the camera. I love it!

  • I love digicams and have to admit to having a lot of them lol Original GRD, Ricoh GX100, Canon G5 , Olympus C-5050z, Olympus XZ-1 to name a few and they are fun to use, stick in your pocket and just shoot

  • I agree! I have built a great collection of digicams from the pre CMOS era, so for most manufacturers that is up to about 2013. Near all have been collected over the last 3years and I set a limit of £20/$30 on any buys. Most cost near half that on UK eBay.

    With a classic 1/2.3 CCD sensor the dynamic range is about 8-9 stops at base iso, so exposure is always a compromise; it’s a bit like shooting 200asa slide film- what to preserve, highlights or shadows?. By design, I look for those that can shoot auto bracket sequences (rescues 2 more stops for landscapes and scapes) and save to SD or SDHD cards.

    The market feels a bit like film cameras 6-7 years ago when I bought Nikon’s with a lens for £20/$30. Given the creative kick that some of these cameras can give, I too have the feeling that they will be the next big thing as affordable but creative pocket cameras are no longer being made, and as others have said, CCD has a magical interpretation of colour.

    Here is a typical story: today I got a flagship Lumix FX500; list price £330/$399 at launch for £10/$13 with 2 batteries and a charger. It has full manual control and Panasonic’s first touchscreen and a Leica 25-125mm perspective lens. Colour, contrast, noise reduction and sharpening all can be customised. It shoots HDR sequences over 3 stops.

    Peak digicam sales were about 2010-13: so for now there are lots of decade old inexpensive “obsolete” once high end cameras looking for buyers…. but for how much longer?

    Yes, I also use a great smartphone, but even with built in HDR, panorama and 1600iso, something is missing!

  • Q – And why old digital and not film?
    A = its practical – I want to use my cameras and take pictures every day that I am out, so I also consider the overall costs and “useability”

    The costs?
    A “classic” Olympus Mju2 now sells for $200 on eBay; colour film is $10 a roll and more to develop; CR123 and other classic “camera” batteries get used quickly – those costs too.
    Howevwer, a classic digicam with charger and battery costs less than a pizza in 2022 and a 32GB SD card costs the same as 2 caffe lattes – then it costs nothing more as long as the battery keeps recharging OK.

    And quality – sufficeint for big prints and HD screens? Think of it this way – if film is your stanadard to match – what do you need?
    A 35mm colour negative has approximately 14 million to 17 million colour dye spots. This can be thought of as 14MB to 17MB in digital terms. If we think we need a sampling rate of two-to-one for proper sampling to surpass the resolution of 35mm film, a sensor will need to generate a file of approximately 28MB. With 24-bit colour, the threshold for non-compressed images is in excess of 8 megapixels to give approximately the same resolution as 35mm film.

    For printing 7×5’s and showing on a laptop or TV screen; the 5MP standard sensor of a 2005 digicam is good enough. Go to 8MP and you are now at or beyond Kodak Gold 100ASA standards. Bonus – you get to shoot and adjust and reshoot until you get the image just as you wanted it; just try that with film! For me it is this ability to immediately see and rethink that gives the creative kick. Make the cameras so inexpensive that you have one wherever you go and creativity follows you around.

    My extra key tip? Carry a lightweight mini-tripod with you. Most digicams can be locked to 100asa and expose up to 5-10 seconds, and many to 60 seconds. Those low light and long exposure images can be fantastic!

    PS – OK – yes I love film too! I just restrict it to be used where it really matters.

  • If you’re looking for the best early digicam check out the Leica Digilux 2. Only 5mp and 8Gb cards, but that lens!! It still draws attention when I’m out shooting as people think I’m using film. Read Thorsten Overgaard’s long article – it makes very interesting reading.

  • Merlin Marquardt April 22, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    Fujifilm FinePix A330, my first digital camera, a gift from my daughter, still takes great pictures.

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