The primary advantage of the disposable camera
is in the fact that it costs only $4 (when taking pictures in the Sierras
, I saw a family that had a dozen disposable cameras in the trunk of the car - much lighter weight than the mass of stuff I was lugging around, and $4 is something you can let a child carry (and use) without biting your nuckles when he or she wants to use a camera). These cameras are often optimized for a single purpose - some even are made for underwater photography
. The disposable camera
is also commonly available in places
where one wishes to have a camera
for the 24 exposure
The $10-$50 35mm point and shoot cameras have slightly higher quality optics as the disposable ones which is especially noticeable in the viewfinder (which is more than a hole in the box). Beyond this fact, the other advantage of the 'almost disposable' cameras is they have a wider range of film available to them (print and slide, black and white and color, 32 to 1600 speed). It takes far less volume in a pack to carry a single inexpensive camera and several rolls of film than the equivalent number of disposable cameras.
The disposable and point and shoot cameras pale in comparison to the quality of pictures from someone moderately skilled in photography with a good ($300 and up) 35mm camera. These cameras are designed for a much longer lifetime (I would not be surprised if the point and shoot were only designed for life of a single year). The disposable and point and shoot cameras lack many useful features such as variable aperture (and depth of field), variable shutter time (for taking long exposures at night or very quick to capture the beat of a humming bird's wings), zoom, and changeable lenses.
The market for the fixed focus point and shoot 35mm cameras is slowly disappearing as the APS cameras begin to gain popularity. The APS camera is often a much better value for the individual looking to take pictures as memories and not as an artistic endeavor.
The first "disposable camera" was developed by George Eastman in 1888 (yes, eighteen eighty-eight - over 100 years ago). This development came about because the process for loading and developing film was a difficult one for the average person. This came out shortly after the invention of photographic film rolls in 1883 - and "backs" for most every plate camera available to use the new film rolls. Pre-loaded cameras were sold ($25), and after the photographs were taken, the camera was sent back to the Kodak lab in Rochester for processing after which they would be loaded once again with film with 100 exposures and then returned to the customer ($10). Within a few years, the "pocket" camera was released only $5. The ease of this process for the consumer was a major selling and advertising point - the slogan of at the time being "You push the button, we do the rest".
The goal for George Eastman was to make the camera available to as many people for the lowest possible price. By 1900 the "Brownie" camera was released by Frank Brownell, and sold by Kodak. This camera followed a similar design as Eastman's and was made out of wood and cardboard for $1 with a target audiance of children.
Comparatively speaking, Fuji's disposable camera in 1986 was very late to the game.