Photography – Cheap Non-Digital Vs. Cheap Digital Cameras

fritz window

One out of 20 shots!

A while ago we bought a BenQ DC C50 off eBay. We didn’t buy it because of the brand, the style or even its specifications, really… we mostly just bid on it because it was going for a reasonable price and because our other camera had recently broken. I’ve always had cheap cameras, and some of the early ones I had (non-digital) would only have cost between $20-40, had no manual zoom or focus options, but they nevertheless produced some amazing photos. After spending this afternoon attempting to take photos of my cat with my digital camera, I began to wonder if the digital photography revolution has really provided us with any better ability to take quality photographs, inexpensively (something that I recall they were initially plugged for), or whether we have merely swapped quality for quantity?

Although I do have a lot more to learn about using it, it has already taken me quite a while to figure out how to use this digital camera in a way that will produce the best outcomes. Perhaps I just bought a dud, but this camera has a few annoying features which I wish it didn’t have. For example, there is a delay between when you press the button and when it actually takes the picture, which is quite frustrating when you’re trying to capture momentary scenes, such as a cat which won’t sit still! This also means that you need an ultra steady hand in order to ensure that even the most still scene doesn’t blur.

I therefore find that I need to take quite a lot of photos of the same thing in order to maximize my chances of getting the perfect shot. Maybe that’s just the reality of photography, generally? I’m not sure. I have to some extent come to live with this issue, but I guess it would be nicer to not have such a delay, and also to be able to control things like the focus, etc., manually, rather than having to rely on the camera to adjust things like that itself. I have noticed, though, that such features – particularly the ability to adjust the focus and zoom manually – are generally traits found in more expensive breeds of digital camera. And yes, I guess you could argue that many non-digital cameras with these features were often also more expensive than those without, but I can’t shake the feeling that the quality and lifetime of such cameras far exceeded that of their digital counterparts?

So, while deleting all of the blurred and otherwise imperfect shots from my memory card after each snap session, I can’t help reminiscing about using standard (non-digital) cameras – a time when blurred or out of focus shots were a rarity. Perhaps this occurred less because I was conscious of wasting film and so was more conservative regarding which and how many shots I would take – but still, you’d usually only get one or two dud shots out of a roll of film, with the majority of photos taken with cheap non-digital cameras seeming to have a crispness and clarity that cheap digital cameras just don’t (and seemingly can’t) produce as often.

Something else I have noticed – more subconsciously perhaps -is that when I used non-digital cameras, a physical photograph would more often result from my efforts. After switching to digital I have found that I barely ever print the digital photographs I take, nor go to the shop to get them exposed, because I take too many too often. This means that there are simply too many in my collection now for me to know where to start. Perhaps as a result I no longer have photo albums, but rather a bank of Cd’s with a tonne of photographs on them that will probably never be printed due to the expense.

What do you think? Do you agree that in the area of photography – like seemingly so many areas in our lives – we have swapped quality for quantity? Is the era of quality home photography via a cheap camera now over? Or have I just chosen the wrong device?


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