20th May 2024

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Technology and Computer

8 Vintage Digital Cameras Still Worth Buying Today

Composite image of digital vintage cameras

(Credit: René Ramos, Jim Fisher)

Old digital cameras are all the rage, at least according to social media influencers. This trend isn’t too surprising since old tech has a way of coming back into vogue—vinyl is popular amongst music fans, while DVDs appeal to movie aficionados jaded by the ever-rising cost of video streaming services. Many point-and-shoot cameras now enjoy the same retro-chic status, especially since they save you the hassle and cost of developing film.

At the same time, there are fewer new compact cameras on the market than in years past. Major players in the industry have abandoned the low end of the market, effectively ceding it to smartphones, so photographers are left to spend about as much as they would on an entry-level mirrorless camera. And there’s still clear demand. For example, the class-leading Fujifilm X100V was on back order status for most of its time on the market, and demand for the X100VI sequel is already outpacing supply.

So, what should you do if you can’t find the camera you want for a good price, or in stores at all? Thankfully, there’s a thriving market for used compact cameras from recent memory and yesteryear. We’re here to walk you through all of your best options.

The Best Modern Digital Point-and-Shoots You Can Buy New


There Are Many Reasons to Go Retro

Some creators pick up an older camera to get a different (often more artistic) look than a smartphone, many of which use similar computational processing techniques to create snapshots that are technically fantastic, but boringly similar. There’s a reason why articles that compare image quality between smartphones feature nearly identical photo samples.

Ricoh GR sample image, Empire State Building at night in fog

Ricoh GR, 18.3mm, f/5.6, 1.3 seconds, ISO 100 (Credit: Jim Fisher)

For others, it’s a pure nostalgia play. Artists in their teens and 20s are often drawn to the cameras they remember from their youth. And when they were growing up, parents were still using pocket digital cameras or SLRs for family events and vacations. There’s something to be said about snapping a photo today that looks like the ones you saw in family albums, even if those albums were on Flickr and Facebook.

As mentioned, availability is another reason. Influencers have driven up demand for some models to the point that it’s nearly impossible to get them. We already mentioned the high demand for the Fuji X100VI, but other lesser-known models have gone in and out of stock in recent memory. You might have a camera picked out only to discover that you’re trying to buy in between retail restocks. The Canon G7 X Mark III is a good example here. It’s still in Canon’s lineup, but it tends to sell out every so often and you may have to wait for a few weeks for it to return to stock.


What to Know About Used Marketplaces

So, if you want a good, small camera that can arrive at your home in a few days and won’t set you back too much financially, your best bet is to shop for a used compact. I’ve reviewed many of the cameras below and mixed in a few models you can find for fair prices on popular used marketplaces. I kept usability at the forefront here; you can still buy batteries and chargers for them, and they all use SD cards rather than esoteric media card formats like old CompactFlash or xD.

Availability is likely to be hit-or-miss for some models. That’s just part of the deal when you buy old tech. Where appropriate, I’ve listed several like-minded cameras or those in a series.

As for where to buy, look first to camera retailers. Start with the large national shops such as Adorama and B&H, as well as used specialists like GearFocus, KEH, and MPB. And if you have a favorite local shop, check and see if they have a used department. Amazon and eBay are slightly less compelling options. Both offer plenty of used gear (including cameras you won’t find elsewhere), but you never know what you’re going to get.

Sigma DP2 Merrill sample image, small purple and yellow flowers

The resolution and color fidelity you get from a Foveon sensor almost makes the hassle of using one worthwhile; DP2 Merrill, 30mm, f/2.8, 1/320-second, ISO 100 (Credit: Jim Fisher)

As mentioned, our recommendations below are just a starting point. If your favorite vintage compact isn’t here, be sure to chime in—after all, hundreds of quality, small cameras came out during their heyday. And if you have questions on a specific model, feel free to leave a comment or reach out directly.

 

Look for an Older Fujifilm X100

Fujifilm X00F

Fujifilm X00F (Credit: Paul Maljak)

The most obvious alternative to the hard-to-find X100VI is an older version of the camera. The original X100 is a little long in the tooth but is fundamentally similar to the latest models. All editions of the X100 use a moderately wide f/2 lens, have dial-based shutter and aperture controls, and offer a unique hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder for rangefinder-style photography.

An X100S, X100T, or X100F gets you modern conveniences such as an X-Trans sensor and Fuji’s Film Simulation modes. At press time, older X100 models are plentiful on the used markets, with prices in the $600 to $1,000 range.

Revisit Canon’s Classic Compact PowerShot

Canon PowerShot Elph 330 HS

Canon PowerShot Elph 330 HS (Credit: Canon)

My first digital camera was a Canon PowerShot Elph, so there’s some nostalgia at play here. But there’s good reason to be sentimental about the line—Elph series models have a sleek industrial design, some with durable aluminum exteriors. There are so many to choose from, but I recommend targeting one with a CMOS sensor in the 8-12MP range and support for SD memory cards. Searching for “Elph HS” will help narrow down the targets for those models.

My favorite old model is the Elph 330 HS. It represents the pinnacle of the series thanks to its size, picture quality, and design. If you can find one for a good price, snap it up. Used Elph cameras aren’t available at photo retailers at press time, so you have to take some risk and shop Amazon and eBay to find one. If you can’t find an Elph, a Canon S series (like the S90) or a Nikon P300 are suitable alternatives of similar vintage. Expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $300 if you go this route, and make sure you avoid those with “parts only” in the description.

Get a Small Fujifilm X Camera With an OVF

Fujifilm X20

Fujifilm X20 (Credit: Fujifilm)

The Fujifilm X10 (2011) and X20 (2013) are well worth seeking out today. Each features a decently large optical viewfinder and a mechanical zoom lens. The line continued with the X30, which dropped the optical finder in favor of a less charming electronic one, but Fuji abandoned the line afterward. These small cameras are among the best from the 2010s and sell for a decent price on the used market, typically in the $400 to $600 range. Overall, they are enjoyable to use and look great.

Take Control With an Enthusiast Canon G or Nikon P

Canon PowerShot G12

Canon PowerShot G12 (Credit: Canon)

Before the Fuji X series hit the market, Canon G and Nikon P series cameras were the de facto standard for photographers looking for a compact camera they could use on days they didn’t want to carry a DSLR. Search for a Canon PowerShot G7 through G12 if you want the look of a CCD sensor, or a G15 or G16 if you prefer CMOS. All of these options include on-body controls and eye-level optical viewfinders.

For Nikon, the P7000 and P7100 use CCD chips and optical viewfinders, while the late-entry P7800 switched to CMOS with an EVF. These are similar in concept and style to the Canons, though they tend to sell for less. The Nikon P7000 series, for instance, goes for around $100-$200 on eBay, while most Canon G camera listings start above $200. Of course, both represent a reasonable value compared with other compacts.

Reach for an APS-C Ricoh GR

Ricoh GR II

Ricoh GR II (Credit: Jim Fisher)

At the time of its 2013 release, the Ricoh GR was a revelation. It wasn’t the first point-and-shoot to include an APS-C format sensor (see the Fuji X100), but its smaller frame meant you could slide it into your jeans pockets. The GR includes ample on-body controls, a fantastic 28mm f/2.8 prime lens, and a 16MP sensor that supports both a configurable JPG engine and DNG Raw.

The GR II is essentially the same camera, just with Wi-Fi. Both still do a good job today, though you’re likely to end up buying one that shows some dust spots on its sensor since they lack weather protection. Even so, they fetch a decent price on the second-hand market, anywhere from $600 to $800. If you like the camera style but want to spend less, look for a Ricoh GR Digital (2005) or the Digital II, III, or IV follow-ups. All use smaller image sensors and sell in the $300 neighborhood. The Ricoh GR III and IIIx (along with their HDF variants) are available new, though they are often on back order like the X100VI.

Go Small With a Type 1 Sensor Sony RX100

Sony RX100 III

Sony RX100 III (Credit: Sony)

Sony reframed expectations around pocket camera picture quality with its first Type 1 sensor camera, the RX100 from 2012. The RX100 and II both come with a 28-100mm F1.8-4.9 equivalent zoom lens and 20MP sensor resolution. Their prices hover in the $200-$400 range today.

I see the RX100 III as the pinnacle of vintage options in the series (now up to the Mark VII) since it was the first to use the excellent 24-70mm F1.8-2.8 equivalent lens and to include a built-in viewfinder. It tends to command a higher asking price, anywhere from $400 to $700 depending on the condition.

Leica D-Lux 4

The D-Lux 4 compact is a stylish compact camera, proving that some design is timeless (Credit: Leica)

The Leica brand is synonymous with luxury prices, but it’s tough to argue against the quality of its cameras. The D-Lux compact series is a good way to get a camera with the iconic Red Dot logo without spending an arm and a leg.

The D-Lux 3 (2006) and D-Lux 4 (2008) are not hard to find at used shops in the $200 to $400 ballpark. Just note that Panasonic, a company Leica often collaborates with on releases, manufactured them. The Lumix LX2 and LX3 are effectively the same cameras (minus the Leica logo) and go for a little less, between $150 and $300.

Try a Sigma DP Merril With Foveon Tech

Sigma DP2 Merrill

Sigma DP2 Merrill (Credit: Jim Fisher)

You might know Sigma for its E- and L-mount lenses, but its Foveon sensor cameras once served as compelling alternatives for photographers looking for digital images with a bit of a magical quality. Foveon chips use three color-sensitive layers to record images, an alternative to the Bayer sensor format in most digital cameras. This helps them record far more detail per megapixel and produce a different color rendition than CCD and CMOS sensors. These cameras didn’t take off, however, since they are slow to use and perform poorly in dim light.

If you want to try something really different than a smartphone, the DP1 and DP2 Merrill are still worth a look. Batteries are easy to find, and Sigma still supports their Raw formats with free, readily available software. The Merrill line fetches a decent price on the secondary market, anywhere from $500 to $800 depending on the model and condition. Pick up a DP1 for a wide lens (28mm full-frame equivalent), DP2 for a standard angle (45mm), or DP3 for a short telephoto view (75mm). Sigma followed this lineup with the conceptually similar Quattro series, but their funky design means they won’t fit in your pocket.

More Camera Picks

Fujifilm Instax Mini 99

Fujifilm Instax Mini 99 (Credit: Jim Fisher)

Not all modern cameras are difficult to find at retail. You shouldn’t have much trouble getting one of our favorite full-frame or action cameras, for instance. And if you prefer film to digital, most instant cameras are affordable and widely available. Finally, make sure to check out our guide to mobile photography if you decide your phone is all you need to capture your creative vision.


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