The 1980s were a time of profound change. The DVD started its campaign to kick out the old VHS, walkmans made music portable, and synth-pop changed the sound of music forever. Photography also experienced incredible changes with the advent of the 1980 Polaroid camera and the democratization of photography.

You no longer needed to work in the industry or be rich to carry a camera around with you. There was no need for a dark room or lots of technical knowledge. Everything from the 1980 video camera to the massive changes that would hit the 1990s set the stage for what photography would become in the following century.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane and relive some of the cameras in the 80s and 90s.

When Did Polaroids Come Out?

polaroid was the original popular camera in the 80's

Nothing defines the 1980s like the Polaroid camera. It was the ultimate camera of the young. It was possible to take pictures anywhere, get them instantly printed, write on them, and then hang them somewhere special. Most Polaroids at the time cost well under $100, making them accessible to all.

It might surprise you to learn that the Polaroid 80s editions were not the first ones. Instead, the Polaroid brand dates back to 1948. The original Polaroid cameras could produce the distinct-looking photos of the 80s. However, at that time, they were still expensive, bulky, and unwieldy.

The Polaroid collection expanded dramatically throughout the 1980s, with the 600 Series being one of the defining cameras people love to look back on today.

The 90s Polaroid generation would continue to advance upon what made this camera brand so special, but they would never hit the same heights as they did during the 80s.

What are the Most Popular Cameras from the 80s?

Perhaps the most notable landmark of photography in the 1980s was the sheer amount of choice available. You had viable cameras at every price point, and it’s what got so many people interested in casual and professional photography.

You no longer needed a training course to take fun photos with your friends and family. Let’s take a look back at the most fun cameras in the 80s, excluding the legendary Polaroid camera of the 1980s.

1. Minolta Maxxum 7000

minolta maxxum 7000 cameras in the 80's

The Minolta Maxxum 7000 was the camera that every dad had. During this decade, anyone who went on a family vacation would see dad with their trusty Minolta hanging around their neck.

What made it so popular was how easy it was to use. The autofocus feature made it simple to point and shoot. The film could be snapped in and out within seconds. Furthermore, it always came with an XL carrying case to make transportation simple.

Despite the jokes, the Maxxum 7000 was a solid 80s camera choice.

2. Nikon FA

Nikon FA camera in the 80's

The Nikon FA is about as 80s as you can imagine. It bore the stereotypical look people associate with the 80s generation of photographers today. Back then, it was one of the more expensive imported cameras on the market, with only kids from richer families wearing them.

It’s no surprise why it was so popular. The LCD screen, oversized lens, and excellent aesthetics made it an excellent starting point for the professional shooters of the future.

3. Canon F-1

Canon F-1

Canon, as a brand, has always been known for its reliability and quality. During the 80s, it was no different. The brand was at the forefront of innovation, and the F-1 resembles many of the modern DSLR cameras people use today.

The groundbreaking design altered the photography landscape forever. It came with a truckload of accessories to create the shot you wanted. And today, it remains a collector’s item.

4. Kodak Ekralite

Kodak Ekralite

Do you remember capturing a Kodak moment? The Ekralite was a film camera that produced nothing in the way of advanced features, capabilities, or accessories.

Yet its cost-effective nature meant young people across America owned a version of the Ekralite. It was impossible to go wrong with this camera in terms of an entry-level option for point and shoot. 

The Ekralite is such a piece of 80s nostalgia that you can even find some stores selling and processing 110 film today for use with the Ekralite.

5. Disposable Cameras

Disposable Cameras from the 80's

No list on 1980s cameras can exist without mentioning disposable cameras. The first wave of disposable cameras appeared and 1986 and changed the way people take pictures.

Although cameras had become more portable in the 1980s, you still needed to carry around a case. Disposable cameras could be placed in your pocket and used to capture images of school field trips, summer camps, or just while hanging out with your friends by the creeks.

Disposable cameras were especially popular among younger kids because they weren’t designed to last. Parents didn’t need to worry about risking hundreds of dollars on the above cameras to satisfy their young kids’ early aspirations.

6. Ricoh FF90 Super

Ricoh FF90 Super

Some say that the Ricoh FF90 Super is the defining camera of what the 1980s looked like. The camera was all glitz and glamor on the outside, while offering nothing of substance on the inside.

In terms of performance, the FF90 didn’t do anything other than what more compact point and shoots on the market could already do. The immense number of buttons gave the impression it had far more capabilities than other options, but it was far less than what was advertised.

The reason why it was so popular was the aesthetic. It turned heads and made ordinary people appear like serious photographers.

Yet today, its ludicrous display makes it something of a cult classic among vintage camera collectors.

7. Canon T80

Canon T80 cameras in the 80's

Another one of the cameras from the 80s that was all looks and little substance was Canon’s attempt at matching the Minolta 7000. Seeing the popularity of the autofocus fanatics, Canon’s T80 model attempted to better it.

Two months after Minolta released the Maxxum 7000, Canon did the same and received a universally tepid response. While it lacked the popularity of the other cameras on this list, it still makes the cut because it would become another collector’s item.

It was still a fairly capable piece of equipment, with several shooting modes and an autofocus system, but the design was rushed – and it showed.

Bonus: Best 90s Film Cameras

The 1990s represented the cusp of the digital age. It was the last hurrah for the analog era, and a chance for camera manufacturers to kick on from a successful decade.

Many 80s’ kids got to see the amazing transformations the decade brought and how they would progress into the 90s. The 90s delivered some of the world’s best cameras. It also saw many of today’s top manufacturers emerge and kick aside some of their smaller competitors, who would never rise again.

 Here’s a small selection of the best 90s film cameras.



The CONTAX AX was one of the most innovative cameras of the decade. Just like cameras in the 80s, CONTAX decided to go all out and would produce this camera from 1996 until the company closed in 2005.

Born from a film camera prototype in the 80s, the CONTAX AX could turn any manual focus lens into an autofocus lens using the special mount that came with the camera. Essentially, it had a camera within a camera.

The chubby, heavy design doesn’t look particularly usable, but it was surprisingly versatile for a 35mm SLR that looks like this.

While it could never compete with the likes of Nikon and Canon, it still made waves in the innovation stakes.

2. Nikon 35mm Compact Cameras

Nikon 35mm Compact Cameras in the 80's

Both the Nikon 28Ti and 35Ti models were quite simply the best compact cameras of the decade. These were designed to last for years without impacting the high-level performance Nikon users expected.

These cameras included programmed auto and aperture-priority shooting modes and a panoramic mode. With countless custom functions and a 3D Matrix metering feature, the 1990s was the decade of Nikon.

Despite its strange look, with all the dials on the side, these cameras held their own and were the ideal compact cameras to travel with to a shoot.

3. Mamiya 6 MF

Mamiya 6 MF

The medium format rangefinder film camera is not the first thing that comes to mind when evaluating cameras in the 80s or 90s. The 90s saw a huge selection of cameras in this category.

The economic conditions of the decade meant international travel grew more common, and people were looking for compact cameras that could take wide, sweeping shots, such as landscapes and group photos.

Japanese camera brands focused heavily on this category, but the Mamiya 6 MF beat them all. It was a light, wonderful travel companion. The Mamiya 7 and 7II models were also excellent additions, with greater wide-angle lens capacity.

The Mamiya 6 MF came with three simple lens options that collapsed directly into the body, which was all most people needed. Ignoring the excesses of the 80s, Mamiya opted for versatility, practicality, and simplicity above all else.

For that reason, the Mamiya 6 MF was one of the best 90s film cameras.


Camera technology has come a long way. Even the cheapest smartphone with the worst camera in the world can beat out the quality delivered by all but the best cameras from previous decades. These eras set the stage for the state-of-the-art camera technology found today.

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