Photography today… a lot more than a Boomer’s Brownie

Thanks to cellphones, we’re all photographers now. But how good can cellphone photos actually be? If the pictures you take give you some satisfaction, just imagine how much better they could be. BoomerCafé’s co-founder and publisher David Henderson has always been an enthusiast— among other things, images are his domain on BoomerCafé— so his advice is good advice if you want to step up what you shoot.

If there ever were a time to take up photography as a hobby (or profession), I believe it’s now. We’ve seen a coming together of all the elements for photography, and it’s exciting to watch: a proliferation of excellent cameras of all sizes and prices; computers with excellent screens for editing and viewing; photo editing software ranging in price from free to reasonable; and, a global online society captivated by imaginative, creative images.

It all spells… fun!

Sunflower in Bavaria. Shot with Fuji X-T2, Fuji 18-55mm lens.

The spark for this story came to me when a friend asked for some ideas about taking up photography as a hobby. I’ve loved taking photos for decades… ever since my teenage years… and love it when others get excited about it too.

Let’s begin with cameras. While there are many excellent digital cameras available, I prefer Fujifilm’s “X” series for many reasons. They are lightweight, which is a huge advantage when traveling. Fuji cameras are beautifully crafted and use a great image sensor called “APS-C” for spectacular images.

I use the Fujifilm X-T2. Even though it debuted only a few years ago, it’s a classic. I would not be hesitant to suggest buying a used X-T2 (or any other camera) from BHPhoto.com or KEH.com, two online companies where experts inspect cameras, and offer a guarantee.

David with a Fuji X-100. (Photo by Kit Bigelow)

I strongly suggest window-shopping online and reading a variety of camera reviews before selecting a brand. It will save headaches and money down the road.

Alik Griffith, a professional photographer in Japan, is also a Fuji user and offers a couple of practical tips:

You don’t need the latest and greatest new camera. Save a ton of money and buy the previous generation or even a used version. As people, we are temped to wait until we have the best stuff or the perfect setup before we even start on a new hobby. That’s no longer necessary with today’s high quality cameras.

Don’t load up on big heavy gear that’s difficult to lug around. Having smaller and lighter gear will make the process more fun and you’ll likely bring your camera along a lot more.

Brand name lenses, like Fuji- or Canon-made, have outstanding quality and auto-focus but they are staggeringly expensive. If your budget permits Fuji lenses, use them. But, there’s a fun alternative for a whole lot less money. Take a look at lenses from Meike, Samyang, and 7Artisans. They are manual focus, but that’s easy to learn. And, they range in price from $59 to $249. Quality and sharpness is stunning.

U.S. Air Force Memorial overlooking Washington, D.C. Shot with Fuji X-T2, Samyang 12mm f/2.0 lens. The Samyang is a dramatic super wide angle lens.

Protect your camera and lenses with a good camera bag. Personally, I like Think Tank camera bags, but there are others just as good.

Now the most important part: learn about “RAW” digital images, which means, images that capture all the data without compressing it. JPG, which you probably know from the photos you take on your cellphone, is a compressed format of digital photo, and because of that, there are some limitations in quality. RAW, on the other hand, is an uncompressed photo where the Red, Blue, and Green color channels are separated to ultimately produce the best possible photo quality. So, regardless on what digital camera you get, make sure it takes both the standard JPG and RAW photos.

Monument Valley at dusk. Shot with Fuji X-T2, Fuji 18mm f/2.0 lens.

It may sound crazy to those who understand, but I have my Fuji X-T2 cameras set to record both RAW and JPG images simultaneously. That equals a whopping 60MG for a single picture. Quality is the reward.

Camera memory cards today have huge capacity ,so it’s easy to instantly snap a photo in both JPG and RAW. I suggest buying 64GB Sandisk, Transcend, or Lexar cards for about $18 each.

It may sound mundane but also learn about battery life of any camera you select. If you are out for a day of photography, you will want a camera that takes at least 300 photos per battery charge. But thankfully, the price of spare batteries, like memory cards, has become reasonable.

I download and store all photos, organized by day and location, on a main external hard drive connected to my computer. The cost of Western Digital, Seagate, and G-Technology external storage drives has become reasonable.

Bee on a flower. Fuji X-T2, Helios 58mm antique Russian-made lens that cost about $59 and adapted for Fuji X cameras.

Many photographers these days use mobile apps to edit photos. Lightroom Mobile Darkroom is top notch, if your budget permits. I personally use the Snapseed app on my phone and tablet. Best of all, it’s free. On my computer, I use ON1 Photo RAW or Luminar to fine tune images. Both programs are affordable, easy-to-learn, and fun.

Once you become a digital photography enthusiast, there are many places online to display images, such as smugmug.com, Flickr.com, and 500px.com.

The best thing for me about photography is the activity. Whether standing on a street corner as a “street photographer” or exploring a dense forest or hiking mountains or simply snapping pictures of airplanes taking off from a nearby airport… you are active. And, just as good, having fun.

3 Comments

  1. Love photography as well, especially being brought up in Rochester New York, the birthplace of Eastman Kodak Company! “You press the button – We do the rest” was the slogan George Eastman, the father of modern photography and Kodak coined. From the perspective of my roots, my Dad’s workplace and eventually mine one day, I have been a fan for as long as I can remember. How could I not with the added advantage of complimentary film and developing while working at Kodak in the 60’s! And, I agree wherever you are, there is beauty to behold and capture with your Kodak camera, or another brand! Being one of the eldest in my family, I’m now the protector of our family’s photographic legacy including pictures, slides, and super 8 movies. Keep on taking those beautiful pictures, and if you or your readers have any suggestions how to organize this wonderful treasure chest of memories, please share!

  2. Very nice write-up! I shot with the X-T2 all last summer and you are right, it truly is a classic, not to mention a tank!
    Think Tank are also some of my favorite bags as well. I have three of them.

  3. Great article, thanks! Brought back memories of my film Olympus OM-2, then Ricoh digital (ate batteries sooooo fast), and on and on, now the Nikon sits mostly unused except for vacations (what are those again?) in favor of the latest cellphone cameras. Digital capabilities grow by leaps and bounds, both in the miniaturization of physical components and software/firmware improvements. I foresee the day when our camera is embedded in one of our eyes…

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