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2000s tech renaissance brings digital cameras to Western’s campus

Grainy, over-exposed photos taken on 20-year-old cameras are a staple for Gen-Z Instagram feeds

A photo of Ritual Records in downtown Bellingham taken on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. // Photo courtesy of Megan Smith

After years of upgrading from one iPhone to the next to get the highest-quality camera, grainy pictures now litter the Instagram feeds of those brave enough to venture to the junk drawer and retrieve their old digital camera.

The trend cycle has come full circle, bringing low-rise jeans and tight-fitting baby tees back into style. Alongside these re-emerging fashion trends is a tech renaissance. Digital cameras are re-emerging from the 2000s and being put to use by trendy Gen-Zers.

Megan Smith, a first-year student at Western Washington University, said they have owned a digital camera since they were 10 years old.

“I got it for my tenth birthday, and I used it for two years,” Smith said. “When [digital cameras] made their comeback, I felt cooler than everyone because I already had one from when I was younger.”


Megan Smith poses for the camera on the Ruston waterfront on Dec. 13, 2022. // Photo courtesy of Megan Smith

Even if you aren’t ahead of the trends like Smith was, there are still ways to take part in this point-and-shoot renaissance.

Natalie Coffeen, a first-year at Western, said they get the majority of their older technology secondhand. Thrift stores, eBay and garage sales are usually safe bets.

Coffeen also cited these places as being part of the reason for the tech resurgence.

“[The comeback of digital cameras] could be from the popularity of thrifting in recent years, and the abundance of older technology in thrift stores,” Coffeen said.

The accessibility of these cameras combined with the nostalgia and abundance of Instagram content is a perfect recipe for Gen Z adoration.

“I like carrying [my digital camera] around,” Smith said. “I like knowing I have it on me.”


A photo of the downtown Tacoma Theatre District taken on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. // Photo courtesy of Megan Smith

Coffeen also noted that buying older technology is more sustainable in the long run than trying to keep up with new tech releases every year.

MoonPhoto Lab is a professional photography lab in Seattle that has been in business for over 40 years. They specialize in developing film and photo restoration. While they can’t definitively link it to a generational uptick in popularity, they have noticed a slight increase in upcoming films over the past couple of years.

“The influxes are more easily recognized by the seasons,” a staff member said via email. “Our busiest times of the year are summer and fall.”

The reason for these influxes is that students have more time during summer vacation to take photos and are trying to get them developed before school starts. Smith shared a similar sentiment with their digital camera, saying it was easier to take pictures during the summer.

“All my friends knew about my camera and were excited about me uploading the digitals,” Smith said.


Emily Erasto in Pel’meni in downtown Bellingham on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. // Photo courtesy of Emily Erasto

This isn’t the first time old cameras have made a comeback with young people. As Emily Erasto, a first-year at Western, pointed out, Polaroid cameras were the predecessors.

“I started out with my Instax Polaroid, just like every single person, ever,” Erasto said. “I wanted to start using a digital camera because I knew I couldn’t handle film. I didn’t want to have to wait to see my pictures.”

Digital cameras somewhat maintain the delayed gratification aspect of film cameras. Still, you’re able to see if pictures are blurry or didn’t come out quite right in the same way as on a phone camera.

“People are drawn to older technology because there’s less distraction,” Erasto said. “People want to find comfort away from their phones.”

Aubrey Black

Aubrey Black (she/they) is a second-year news-ed major at Western. She enjoys making Spotify playlists and perusing used bookstores. 

You can contact her at

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