Debate: disposable cameras are not worth the hype

There are more environmentally friendly and cost-effective ways to enjoy film photography

Art by Claudia Culley

Art by Claudia Culley

As zoomers increasingly use film cameras over their mobile phones or DSLR cameras to snap pictures of ducks in the park, a particular type of film camera has come back, the disposable point-and-shoot.

Disposable film cameras are understandably popular because they are beginner friendly and take pictures with beautiful grain, distinctive colours, and the occasional light leak, which leaves strips of red or orange on photos. They also force people to slow down and consider each picture they take because a film roll only has 15 to 39 photos

There is a much better way to start shooting film without relying on disposables. The typical disposable point-and-shoot camera is made out of plastic and is useless after you’re finished taking pictures with it.

If single-use waste is not enough to convince you to stop using disposables, think about your wallet. Film photography is already an expensive hobby. In addition to the price of film, you must pay to get it developed and scanned into hardcopies or digital files.

The last thing you need on top of all those fees is to pay for the disposable camera itself each time you want to shoot film. A Fujifilm disposable camera with 27 photos currently costs $20.99, and a three-pack of film with 36 photos each costs $58.84.

So, you would be paying about $0.78 per photo when using the disposable camera, but only $0.54 per photo if you just bought the pack of film and loaded it into a reusable point-and-shoot. 

Reusable point-and-shoot cameras take better quality photos, have zoom features, and strong flashes. You may also not even need to buy one. I own three film cameras, and two of them are point-and-shoots I inherited from my dad. 

Even if you don’t have a relative with an old point-and-shoot laying around, you can buy them second-hand at thrift stores or online. While they can be more expensive than buying a disposable camera, they are cost effective in the long run because you will never have to pay for disposables again. 

If you are apprehensive about switching to a reusable point-and-shoot because you intentionally want low-quality photos for aesthetic reasons, then take pictures on your phone and edit them after.

There is no shortage of online video tutorials or articles on how to use editing programs like VSCO or Lightroom to make pictures look like they were shot on a disposable camera. There are also mobile camera apps made specifically for shooting disposable-esque pictures like Huji Cam and Lightsnap App. 

While the flurry of disposable pictures across Instagram may seem like film is just going through a trend cycle, young people have actually been shooting film for a while. Four years ago in my Grade 10 photography class, I learned how to use chemicals to develop photos and create printouts in my school’s thriving darkroom. 

I believe film is here to stay, but the craft must be enjoyed responsibly. It is time to ditch the environmental and financially wasteful disposable point-and-shoot switch to a reusable camera or digital photo editing software.