Point and shoot film cameras are often looked down upon within the film community and you’ll hear more than the occasional accusation of them being an accessory to “make you look trendy”. But, as I discuss in this article, these cameras have a value that is not often spoken about, least of which by those people who believe that going “fully manual” is the only way you can be considered to be a photographer.

Recently, point and shoot cameras have risen both in popularity and price. Their use by celebrities such as Drake and Kendall Jenner are often blamed for the growing hype around these small plastic cameras. Their celebrity association is driving up costs to unprecedented levels while simultaneously ‘cheapening’ the value and use of them to some. However, Kendall and Drake are not the whole story and despite what many think, young people aren’t complete zombies who go out and buy something because their favourite celebrity has it (well not always anyway).

Instead, there are a few reasons why point and shoots have resurged and especially found popularity among young people. The very nature of a point and shoot camera means almost anyone can easily use one. Rather than having to learn about choosing the right exposure level, selecting the right film speed or how to focus properly, point and shoot cameras can do all that and more for you.

They are a kind of democratising tool that has enabled anyone into the now ‘cool’ world of film photography. While the lack of technical ‘skill’ needed to operate these cameras has made film photography more accessible, many film aficionados look down on point and shoot’s and their users for this exact reason.

With this in mind, I was apprehensive to dive into the world of point and shoot cameras. Having used more manual SLR cameras since a young age I had to learn the hard way about not loading or rewinding film correctly and what happens when you choose a slow film speed to shoot in dimly lit conditions (extreme blurriness is what happens). However, as I was about to go on holiday I knew I did not want to carry around my brick of a camera and more importantly, I didn’t want such an obvious signifier hanging around my neck that I was a tourist. And so I purchased a tiny plastic camera and off I set.

Young people aren’t complete zombies who go out and buy something because their favourite celebrity has IT (well not always anyway)

At first, it felt a bit strange to use and its ease almost made me feel guilty. I felt I wasn’t putting in the ‘labour’ of film photography and thus, were not really entitled to its rewards. But this soon wore off as I fell in love with the camera’s practicality and reliability.

While traveling, my point and shoot became the perfect tool and sidekick. Rather than fumbling with nobs and dials, in a second I could grab my camera, slide the lens open and snap something in front of me. Indeed, the camera’s ease and quickness encouraged me to practice a new style of picture taking and one more suited to travel in general. Instead of standing there waiting and moving around to compose the best picture aesthetically I literally just pointed and shot.

The photos you see here were taken on the cameras above using AgfaPhoto Vista 400 Plus, Fujifilm Industrial 100 and Fujifilm SUPERIA Venus 800.

The results meant that many of the photos are unstructured, messy and far from the perfect glossy images posted one after the other on travel Instagram feeds. Importantly though this method forced me to be more present in the moment, to not see and experience things through a lens and to not only explore in order to exploit a place for it’s aesthetic and photographic value (I could hear the voice of Susan Sontag in my head). Instead, I chose to use my camera to capture moments for my own personal documentation and to exacerbate and aid my memories of a time and place.

This anti-photography method proved somewhat liberating, helping me not only be more present in what was happening, but I feel my images are better for it. Even though they are definitely not Pulitzer worthy, their messiness makes them feel less static and more alive. They are images of what was really there in that moment, not what I captured after I waited for everyone to move out of the way.

The less than perfect nature of them not only makes the images more personal, but also helps to situate myself within them. Traveling alone means you rarely have pictures of yourself taken and I soon realised that I felt a kind of disconnect to my more aesthetically ‘good’ photos of buildings and monuments as anyone could have and has taken that image. However, when I see the woman who stepped into the frame of my picture I know I was standing next to her. Her presence helps reaffirm mine, and that’s all I really wanted from these travel photos. Not just pretty pictures of buildings, but documents that reminded me that I was there, and that I did not spend my time with my eye glued to my viewfinder.

Thanks for reading,

~ Lydia

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About the author

Avatar - Lydia Heise

Lydia Heise

Lydia is a 22 year old photographer and writer from Adelaide, Australia who specialises in film photography. Her work often focuses on gender performance, travel, hyper-femininity, fashion, pop simulacra, suburbia and the notion of the gaze.

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  1. The photos look surprisingly good. Time to search Craigslist..

    PS. “exacerbate”, at least here in the States, means to make something worse..

  2. This is how exactly I feel when I use my point and shoot camera and before I realized film photography is not there, I bring back my first camera that my mom bought to me when I was in high school and only used twice because I could not afford films and develop. I never thought could be a trendy and become expensive

  3. As a completely analog photographer, I use an SLR for my “serious” photographs. However, I have noticed the value of using point & shoots for some uses – having someone else take my picture (& not have to worry if they’ve focused properly or someone running away with it), short distance pictures, or simply situations where I’m already carrying a lot of other things.
    My preference is manual with a relatively wide angle lens (often 40mm), with or without a built-in flash.

  4. I grew up in the 80s and 90s and my parents had the whole evolution of 35mm cameras from the ae1 all the way to the downsized 35mm point and shoot cameras. To be honest I thought they were just toy like until I discovered the likes of photographersTerry Richardson and Ryan Mcgingley. It seemed like the point and shoot camera allowed them to take a high quality image while being in the moment. I bought a few cheapo camers and found that they are not all are created equally. I really love the olympus infinity series and the yashica T series both of which seem to sell at a premium. The point and shoot shooting experience is different and definitely more care free. I don’t have to think about anything but composition and that is very nice!

  5. I have no problem with film cameras, I have several but all your point and shoot plus points hold equally to digital point and shoot. Digital is so much cheaper also. A final note would also be No chemicals required to process digital.

  6. Thanks for your article. It got me thinking. After decades (literally) of shunning point&shoots I have started to use some regularly and have found them to be perfectly adequate, even surprising good, especially for travel. I like the compactness, simplicity and yes, even the image quality. I think my initial prejudice came from the fact that most of the ‘bad’ awkward images from my early years came from point&shoots, whereas my favorites came from older SLRs. The difference however was not the cameras but the photographers. For sure, the ‘ugly’ shots were made by people who were relying the marketed ‘features’ of p&s cameras and not their own photographic skills. This is not to say bad images don’t come from manual SLRs. Plenty do, but they take a bit more skill and knowledge to operate which tends to make you think more photographically. But without any photographic foundation, no camera (or software) will compensate for a lack of skill (which is what manufacturers try to do). But let’s face it, all film cameras from the mid 90s onward were point&shoot which makes me wonder if this whole automatization or ‘dumbing down’ of photography really laid the foundation for the lazy hazy mess that is digital photography. It’s even more important then, that we reclaim these p&s cameras as tools of conscious image making, from than their intended use as products of consumption.

  7. Great post! I’ve been using point-and-shoot film camera since I started film photography. I appreciate it during travel. I can also ask someone to take a photo of me using it 🙂

  8. Analog point and shoot can be just the right camera sometimes. Small and unobtrusive. I have a $10 Minolta Riva Zoom 115 that takes good, pleasing images of a particular appearance. Auto focus is a bit slow however.

  9. There are times when a point and shoot is just right. Even though it seems like digital; these were the cameras that digital was bred from anyway. I have a $10 Minolta Riva Zoom 115 that is reliable, compact and gives good images. Main problem is the auto focus is slow.

  10. Thank you for the article. It perfectly captures the point and shoot film experience.

  11. Nicely said Lydia! Funny how off putting it can be when something we love and respect suddenly becomes trendy, but if this drives up film sales then it is a good thing. I recently added a small lot of point and shoot cameras to my hoard, the first 100% auto cameras I have purchased. I have yet to shoot with one, but its in the works. I have shot with some of the in between cameras not quite the plastic 1990’s auto but not a manual either such as the Canonets. its quite freeing to just shoot, the images do have a raw spontaneous feel to them. Thanks for the well written article!

  12. Nice article, Lydia. As I’m sure you’d agree, there’s room for many types of photography in the World, and different methods/styles suit different situations and moods. I love having a small P&S handy for snapshots and day-trip reminders, and I also love having an SLR for when I have a little more time to compose and focus. Neither is “better” objectively, but they suit different scenarios (in the same way that there’s no perfect shoe, just the best one for a particular task). Embrace the variety available to us, and grab a couple of P&S cameras before they all get ridiculously overpriced :o)