As the proud owner of a Canon Elan IIe, I can say that the quality of a disposable camera—while admirable for such a small, inexpensive apparatus—can never hope to come close to that of a near-professional quality instrument with control over focus, zoom, exposure, &c. Nonetheless, a disposable camera can have a range of practical uses that would be hard to fill with other equipment. For example:

  • The underwater/waterproof example above is perfect. I have played with these plastic-enclosed contraptions before, and they are glorious. You can be out on the water and not worry about dropping them in—they even float! And to buy a multiple-use camera you could actually use underwater, you'd have to drop at the very least a couple hundred dollars.

  • For a theft-prone area where you don't want to be worrying about your belongings and only need memory-quality pics

  • Keep one of these in your glove compartment, in case you get into a car crash and need to take photos of damage for evidence or want to catch the license plate when you're the victim of a hit and run.

  • Carry one around at all times in your backpack, purse, or pocket, in case you see marvelous sights you must capture on film, such as a restaurant called "Salad World", or the ghost of Jerry Garcia. Disposable cameras are the size and weight of a pack of cigarettes, and thus extraordinarily easy to schlep.

  • As a promotional item. For example, if you are a pedicab/rickshaw driver, you can keep a bag of disposable cameras, each with a sticker with your company name and phone number, on you. If a passenger wants a picture of them with the rickshaw, you can sell them one of these cameras at a slight markup to them to get these pictures, and then carry with them to record their day outing. When they go to get their film developed, they'll be reminded of the company...

  • To take surreptitious pictures, such as incriminating shots of people sleeping, sneezing, stealing houseplants, &c. Disposable cameras are small enough that they can peek out of a shirtpocket for a brief second without being easily noticed, and make the quitest of click-noises.

  • Carry one around with you, and take a picture of where you are every day—as a sort of surrealist/mono no aware photodiary.

  • When you get married, scatter them around at the reception—one or two at each table. You ask your guests to return the cameras to you when it's over, and you get photos of the festivities from dozens of different perspectives.

  • Give them to small children to enjoy their first photographic experience, without worry of damage to expensive equipment.

  • Take one on a roller coaster—if you drop it, sure, someone might get hurt, but at least you won't have to worry about losing a spendy apparatus!

  • Reverse guerrilla art: put them around the city attached to self-addressed stamped envelopes and ask people to take pictures of whatever they want and send them to you undeveloped.

...the list could go on forever. These things are hella cheap, portable, and hold the potential for endless fun. You're creative noder-humans, go on out there and have yourself some quality disposable photographic fun!

Special thanks to Joyquality for kickass idea submissions.