Curious About Digital Versus Instant Cameras?
With the advent of modern photographic technology and manufacturing, the art of photography, once limited to a select few professionals in a very focused industry, has, in the past half century, become open and available to the masses. When easy, uncomplicated and more importantly low cost cameras were invented and marketed in the 1950's, there was a boom in the art of photography as more and more people found themselves taking pictures of everything from family pictures to inspiring landscapes to mysterious objects in the sky. Within three decades, it seemed as if everybody in the industrialized world was capable of taking photographs with their own equipment to the point where a once highly formalized and awe inspiring professional became practically mundane.
With the dawn of digital photography, this has been taken even further. Much like earlier forms of photography, digital photography was once the province solely of the professional photographer and the well heeled hobbyist, but has now become a facet of modern life so common that we take it for granted, whether it is simple digital cameras and video recorders in our ever more powerful smart phones or the advanced specialized equipment intended specifically for high grade photographs that are none the less available at prices anyone can afford. Even more amazing, more photos than ever can be taken at once and do not take up anymore space, existing as data until they are printed out.
For some decades, the most popular method of casual photography was the instant camera, a no frills camera that printed out a photograph within seconds of the picture being taken. Though popularly referred to as Polaroids, this is actually the most popular brand of these cameras rather than the name of the technology itself. In the era before digital photography, instant cameras were popular among the consumer electronics markets. When the battle of digital versus instant cameras began in the 2000s, instant cameras offered the same thing they had over other film cameras; the ability to immediately get a photograph. However, digital cameras allowed people to see what they photographed instantly as well, though they did not have a printed photograph immediately, the last remaining advantage of instant cameras.
In their day, instant cameras found quite a bit of use, not just in the consumer markets, but in a number of professional capacities as well. Police officers, fire investigators and private detectives all found use for these cameras and their ability to take unalterable negatives of images that most court rooms would consider solid evidence in a serious case. Indeed, one of the few advantages of instant cameras in the clash of digital versus instant cameras is that they use film rather than easily altered data, yet produce a photograph near instantly. The technology also found quite a bit of use in producing identification card and passport photographs, though anyone remembering the era of the instant camera likely recalls how it seemed like even their best identification pictures didn't show them in the best way.
When digital cameras came on the scene, the technology was very expensive and the clash of digital versus instant cameras for the fastest way to see photographs still favored instant cameras. However, as digital camera technology got less and less costly, instant cameras lost their market share steadily. It happened surprisingly fast; where as some technologies become accepted by the wider consumer market slowly, the ever reliable film camera and its derivative the instant camera were mostly replaced in less than a decade by new, cheaper and ever more powerful digital cameras. Many professional uses of these cameras, ranging from testing lighting before taking a more serious photograph, making identification photographs and preparing a location for filming, were found to be better served with a good solid digital camera instead.
Digital versus instant cameras are something of a settled matter in the modern age. Most every use of an instant camera in the hands of an ordinary consumer have been subsumed by digital cameras, first by digital point and shoot cameras, which were then subsumed by increasingly impressive cameras built into ever more common smart phones. This transformation happened in a matter of years, less than a decade by some accounts of the history of consumer technologies. Digital cameras allowed users to see their shots even quicker than instant cameras, without requiring the use of film that required space to store securely, while taking shots at higher clarity. And, as the technology gets better and cheaper, these advantages will only grow in time.
Still, instant cameras remain a niche market that many people still consider their favorite form of photography. Many modern instant camera users are simply using what they're most familiar and comfortable with for the purposes of instant photography, be it for a casual get together or a life changing event such as a wedding. Other users find themselves fascinated by vintage technology such as instant cameras, whether they simply consider the devices more romantic or just like tinkering around with technological devices. A few people have even found ways to combine art with technology and made some truly unusual yet stirring pieces of modern art by combining the photos made by instant cameras with other artistic mediums, sometimes quite esoteric mediums at that.
While instant cameras are a niche market that is only a fraction of their former market share, there is absolutely a group of people who still appreciate instant cameras. This group, though smaller than it was a mere decade ago, is large enough that the Polaroid designs and manufacturing techniques are currently in the middle of a revival catering to this small but dedicated market. Though these cameras are not yet widely available, they can be found at online storefronts from internet retailers who feel that these new instant cameras are well worth selling. While instant cameras will likely never regain their market share, there remain many people who still find uses for them, even in the age of increasingly advanced digital cameras.