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Nintendo DS cameras are the best lo-fi photo trend

Polaroids have nothing on my Nintendo 3DS

A photo taken of plushie toys with the Nintendo 3DS. There are a few Pikachu, Kuroo from Haikyuu, Lucario, Pichu, and Keroppi. There are digital sparkles that have been drawn on top on the photo graphically.
I took this photo on a Nintendo 3DS.
Graphic: Ana Diaz/Polygon
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

Sometimes I miss the unique charms of the Nintendo DS and 3DS handhelds. They were weird. I liked the wonky touch controls, and some games featured weird gimmicks with the built-in mic and cameras. Now the family of handhelds has newfound relevance; people are using the cameras on the Nintendo DSi, Nintendo 3DS, and other DS consoles to take photos and videos. As it turns out, the cameras are the perfect way to nostalgically capture the low-fidelity look of the 2010s.

My first real brush with the resurgence of the Nintendo DS camera was when a hip-hop duo called Joey Valence & Brae recorded an entire music video on a Nintendo DS. The two musicians seem to really lean into a classic ’90s vibe sound-wise, and they recorded the entire music video for a song called “Punk Tactics” on a Nintendo DS. The crunchy, pixelated, lo-fi look seemed to connect with audiences; a teaser for the video got over 2.1 million views on TikTok and over 7.2 million views on YouTube, and the song went on to inspire its own viral trend.

Since the release of this video, it’s become trendy to use the Nintendo DSi and 3DS handhelds as cameras. The first DS with a built-in camera was the Nintendo DSi, which Nintendo released globally in 2009. It contained two 0.3-megapixel cameras, one facing outwards and the other in. The cameras were pretty rudimentary even for the time, but for many who had the device (especially children), it could have been their first time having their own camera. Fast-forward to 2023, almost a decade since these consoles came out, and now the aging gen Z population can look back at that time period with an air of romance.

Modern phone cameras are getting more and more advanced. Yet, some people still want something that looks stylized or isn’t picture-perfect. This inspires some to use old film cameras, but others might still have a Nintendo DS sitting around somewhere. These lo-fi cameras take extra-crunchy and pixelated photos that easily evoke a nostalgic aesthetic.

In one viral video, a person shows off photos they took during a trip to Yosemite. The photos have a dreamy, painting-like quality. “This is the Gen Z version of Polaroids and I love it,” one user commented.

So if you happen to have a Nintendo DSi or 3Ds laying around, maybe try taking it out to take photos. I’ve seen people take them to concerts or car shows, but these devices are small enough to bring anywhere. I personally took mine on my last walk, and although I felt a little silly holding it up, I got some lovely shots of flowers.

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