The year 1998 marked the first digital camera to hit the market, with the release of the FUJIX DS-1P in. Since then, many old digital cameras have now entered an age where they would be considered a vintage digital camera. A be considered a vintage, a camera would have had to be released more than 20 years ago. So at the time of writing this article would mean any digital camera released in 2002 or prior, would be considered a vintage digital camera.
Why buy a vintage digital camera?
Art and taste are always evolving, and sometimes what is new is old, and what is old is new. Much like this, old digital cameras have a certain flavour about them. Images that maybe don’t quite come out tack sharp, or with high dynamic range. Or maybe it’s that god-awful digital camera noise we all used to hate and avoid.
There’s a certain vintage aesthetic to it, and it invokes emotions and memories of a different time, drawing photographers more and more interested in shooting with old vintage digital cameras.
For this reason, I’ve compiled a list of some cameras you might want to check out.
Best vintage DSLR cameras
1. Canon EOS 1Ds
Originally released on 24 September 2002 the Canon 1Ds has just entered vintage territory this year. The 1Ds was Canon’s first digital full-frame flagship camera built for professionals. On release, the camera cost around $7,999 USD and when adjusted for inflation the camera would have cost around $12,000 USD.
You can find one used for around $400 today, and is definitely a worthwhile buy, as one of the best old digital cameras. The 1Ds is exactly what you would expect from any modern-day Canon flagship camera, with full weather sealing and a magnesium alloy body. Its great external build is matched by its great sensor that still produces beautiful images even by today’s standards.
2. Nikon D1X
The Nikon D1X was one of the two follow-ups from the D1 model released in 1999, much like Canon’s EOS 1D, which had subsequent upgrades over its original. The D1X is the preferred version to own due to its higher megapixel count over the original and its correction of the color space. The original D1 used an NTSC color space which made color correction more complex, while the D1X and D1H moved to the more conventional sRGB or Adobe RGB color spaces.
Originally selling for about $5,350 USD, the camera would be worth just under $9,000 USD in today’s dollars. You can pick up one of these newly vintage digital cameras for around $200.
Best vintage compact & bridge digital cameras
Not everyone is looking for a professional-grade vintage digital DSLR camera. A recent trend has brought simple old point-and-shoot cameras back into resurgence for their vintage digital look.
3. Canon Powershot G2
In the early 2000s, the compact and point-and-shoot camera market was dominated by Canon in most international markets. I remember working at Best Buy during those times and it was almost hard to suggest a brand outside of Canon unless you wanted something waterproof like the Olympus waterproof cameras… boy weren’t those cool.
You can pick up one of these cameras for around $60 today, a great bargain if you’re on the market for a compact vintage digital camera.
4. Olympus Stylus 300
I couldn’t mention Olympus without naming the precursor to the widely popular waterproof cameras that came in the mid-2000s. Cameras like the Olympus Stylus 720SW didn’t come out till 2006, which isn’t in vintage territory yet. The Olympus Stylus 300 is.
Launched in January 2003, the Olympus Stylus 300 was the first weatherproof digital compact camera sporting a fully metallic body build.
For around $70 you could be on your way to re-living the old vintage photography days with this vintage digital camera.
5. FujiFilm FinePix A205 Zoom
Being the forefather of digital cameras back in 1998, FujiFilm had a rich history of compact point-and-shoot cameras, many of which are entering the vintage digital camera era by their age. The FujiFilm FinePix A205 Zoom was an entry-level camera with only a 2mp sensor which wasn’t the best in class at the time but provided great pictures in ample lighting at a budget price. This 20-year-old camera came equipt with 3x optical zoom for added flexibility and even a “Movie mode.”
For as low as $10-15 you can’t go wrong with owning one of these old classic digital FujiFilm cameras.
6. Panasonic DMC-FZ1
Released in 2002, this camera had an impressive world-first 12x optical zoom which had not been seen before. The lens also had built-in image stabilization called Mega O.I.S., a luxury for its time. Additionally, the DMC-FZ1 featured a Leica-branded lens with a constant minimum aperture of f/2.8 over its full 12x (35–420mm equivalent) zoom range. As an added bonus this camera also had a video mode, which was a quarter of the resolution of standard definition (SD).
This impressive camera can be found for as little as $40 and is a great option if you are buying your first retro vintage digital camera.
7. Nikon Coolpix 5700
Another brand and product line synonymous with the 2000s era of digital cameras gone vintage is the Coolpix product line by Nikon. As a close contender for camera market dominance, Nikon produced several more Coolpix cameras that I can stand to count.
This impressive 4mp camera came with an 8x optical zoom (35 – 280 mm equivalent) and was capable of RAW output with 12-bits. I can say this much; I did not know what RAW photos were in 2002, which makes it that much more impressive to me.
How to create a vintage digital camera look with a modern camera
Buying a vintage digital camera might not be on everyone’s radar, but how might you replicate the look of a vintage film camera with a more modern camera?
There are a couple of ways to go about this, but I have a favourite way to achieve this.
- Get yourself a vintage lens. This will help soften your images and bring more character to your photographs to give them that vintage look.
- Turn off your in-camera noise reduction
- Shoot at higher ISOs to introduce more noise
- Shoot slightly overexposed or underexposed, depending on your preference
- Edit your photos in Lightroom with a film preset or in a vintage photo editing app like 1998 Cam
Alternatively if you shoot with a Fujifilm camera, you can take advantage of their film simulation recipes which do a fantastic job at emulating film looks.
So are Vintage Digital Cameras Worth it?
It really depends on who you ask.
Would I buy one? Probably not if I were telling the truth. At this point in time I am more interested in vintage film cameras.
Having owned many now vintage digital cameras all my life, I don’t remember being drawn to the look the produce, and I am happy with modern cameras. I do think somewhere down the line I would be open to buying a cheap older point and shoot camera. I think it would be fun to go a little minimalistic and just have fun with photography. As photographers, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously all the time, and be free to break outside the mold.