Paper Shoot Camera Review

Our phones give us the ability to take footage of our entire lives. Unlike previous generations, we can document our world endlessly, with no need to carry a camera or pay—and wait—to get film developed. And yet, the resulting photos are not nearly as good as what we got with film. Digital images are too posed, too hi-def. When I look at an iPhone photo, instead of appreciating the moment, I’m staring at all the flaws the camera has amplified.

I recently watched Kid 90, the Hulu documentary by Soleil Moon Frye (aka Punky Brewster), and was overcome by how much amazing footage she had from her life. She filmed and photographed everything around her, and the documentary left me feeling nostalgic for a life I didn’t live. I feel something similar every time I see a great film photograph of someone doing nothing special, like sitting at the desk in their first dorm room, hanging out on a road trip with friends, or moving into a new apartment.

Enter the Paper Shoot digital camera, a device that approximates the feel and aesthetic of a film camera without the hassle of developing. I started seeing the Paper Shoot Camera on TikTok a few months ago. As a film fan who was craving a more immediate experience—I use film cameras regularly, but buying and developing film is pricey and takes forever—I knew this device was exactly what I needed.

Like an old-school analog camera, there are no screens on the Paper Shoot. When you’re taking pictures with it, you stay in the moment without feeling like you have to instantly check that the photos are good (and then probably retake them). Remember when we just had to have faith that it would turn out OK? Instead, you transfer the shots to your computer via the SD card later. The company recommends using a card with 32 gigabytes of storage.

The actual photos look like film too. The camera’s 13-megapixel image sensor produces big photos that have a great old-school feel with just a little bit of grain. There are four photo options: regular color, black and white, sepia tone, and blue tone. Whichever you choose, you’ll capture a memory beautifully, without the extreme high-definition of your phone. There’s no flash, so indoor photos need natural light, and night photos may be slightly blurred. But I liked the effect these limitations had on my photos.

Other than the little switch on the back that flips between those color settings, there’s nothing else to mess with. The only other button on the Paper Shoot is the shutter, which is placed on the front of the camera, right where your pointer finger naturally wants to sit when holding it.

These cameras come as a few separate pieces: the slim circuit board, which has a cavity for two AAA batteries (rechargeable ones are recommended), and the stiff case cut out of “stone paper,” a material made from powdered stone that’s been pressed into a sheet. It’s neat to be able to see inside the camera and do a little bit of the work of putting it together, although the assembly is basic. It also comes with a paper strap, but I prefer to go without it.