Cameras photo
stand alone cameras
Lives, camera, action. Brian Klutch

Flip through the photos you’ve taken over the course of your life, and you can watch yourself (and your waistline) grow. For most of us, it’s a tale spun through strings of same-looking selfies on smartphone camera rolls. Bor-ing! A stand-alone camera—from any generation—can capture distinctive memories worth keeping.

1. Past

The Polaroid Originals OneStep 2 works like its predecessors, so your photos will have the same vintage flare your elders’ snapshots did. One pack of color film gets you eight 3.1-inch shots that instantly develop with the soft look that inspired your favorite Insta filters. Each snap costs roughly $2, so choose your shots with care.

2. Present

Pros still gravitate to bulky DSLRs, but the Panasonic ZS200 will do for the rest of us. Its 15x zoom lens starts wide enough for group shots but can go long to catch expressions at 50 yards. The 20.1-megapixel sensor is almost double the resolution of a phone, so today’s pics could fill the huge screens our grandkids will stare at.

3. Future

AI-powered cameras such as Google Clips absolve you of your duty as family photographer. Set up the 2-​inch box in the corner of the playroom, and its face and smile recognition ID big moments. When the robo paparazzi spies a playful pup or grinning kiddo, it takes a 7-second photo burst, which later offloads to an app.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2018 Life/Death issue of Popular Science.