The Point and Shoot Camera versus Thoughtful Photography

1000266-01Panasonic Lumix TZ70: Expressive filter.

Welcome back. It’s been several months since I last posted, but I haven’t stopped taking photos. Not one bit; in the intervening period I’ve taken some personal favourites and come to realisations about how I want to approach photography as a medium. Having not discovered my passion until the digital era, I don’t really have many recollections of the cheap, point and shoot 35mm camera era. I’ve bought a couple since and dabbled, but film isn’t really my thing. Being a 21st Century Digital Boy I cut my teeth on everything from Lumix bridge cameras to several EOS bodies and plenty more in between. Very early on with my beloved 20D I shot in RAW. As a Mac user, I was on board with Aperture for RAW conversion and workflow management. The dawn of the digital darkroom was a playground for drawing as much detail and oomph from the files before you exported it as a finished article.

This was all well and good, but after a decade, it become quite tiresome. Apple finished making Aperture – a bad decision from my perspective – and I had to revert to manufacturer supplied programs or Adobe Camera Raw. I now use Capture One and mighty good it is too. It wowed me the first time I put CR2 files from my 5D Mark II through it, a camera I have found to be underwhelming in the main. However, since buying my Fuji X100F last summer, I’ve become a JPEG, straight out of camera convert. Because of this, RAW editing has become anathema to me and I’ve found myself being very happy to just let the camera decide. A brief flirtation with a Sony RX100 III came and went and then a used Fuji X-M1 popped up at WEX for under £100 and I saw a chance to match the JPEG approach with interchangeable lenses. A post about this camera will follow in the coming weeks, but this entry will focus on my latest purchase – A Panasonic Lumix TZ70.

I received a trip to see Arsenal as a birthday present from my partner and wanted a small camera with a good reach to get close-ups of my favourite players. As a first timer at the Emirates Stadium, I wanted to be a total tourist and needed as much versatility from one camera as possible. My X100F would have been brilliant for external shots, but I would be stuck with a fixed focal length for 90 minutes. A last minute hunt online found the Panasonic and it was the 12mp sensor and 30x optical zoom that appealed. I didn’t read any reviews first, which is unusual for me, and trusted my gut instinct of older Lumix being great for their time. The TZ70 didn’t disappoint or cause any buyer’s remorse. The camera can shoot RAW, but Capture One doesn’t support this particular model, and manual mode was frustrating without direct controls. My recourse was to dabble with the Creative Effects mode, which offered the usual filtered images and here was a couple of surprises.

1000283-02Panasonic Lumix TZ70: Dynamic Monochrome filter.

Expressive mode gives the bright, punchy colours I love when using Fuji’s Velvia film simulation and Dynamic Monochrome ranks very closely to Acros in my affections. All but one of the featured images here were taken in these two modes; the wall of death picture was switched to Cross Process, which dialled back the saturation and white balance to a more pleasing level. Whilst I find myself adding a little tonal contrast and sharpening to these files via Snapseed on my phone, the workflow isn’t as convoluted as RAW can be, nor as time consuming. Essentially, I just set this camera into a very easy mode and worry more about seeing better and more interesting compositions and taking time on each image. As a photographer, I’ve simply had enough of making something simple, difficult.

1000294-01Panasonic Lumix TZ70: Cross Process filter.

Which brings me on to an important consideration. If we as photographers could stop chasing complexity and just practiced taking pictures in the moment, we might discover more about ourselves as photographers and offer up more satisfying images. Sure, I could walk to a stunning location and whip out £500 worth of glass filters just to kick the 5DII’s dynamic range up the arse, but then I’d be having to take time fiddling with files when I got home and I’m just so over that life. I could hand on heart say the last 9 months of hassle free JPEG shooting have been some of the most liberating times I’ve had behind a camera since I learnt to take photos on a DSLR. So, don’t write off a £250, point and shoot camera to be for rank amateurs, but instead, consider one as a way to kickstart your creativity in-camera, in the moment and stop worrying about how it will look in post. You might enjoy it.

1000259-01Panasonic Lumix TZ70: Edited to B&W in Snapseed, from original JPEG.

Living StatuePanasonic Lumix TZ70: Dynamic Monochrome filter.

Pocket Photography – why is the smartphone so heavily stigmatised?

The above image is similar to the header of this site – no coincidence as they were shot on the same day. The B&W was taken on my Fuji X100F, whereas this colour shot is taken straight from my Huawei P10 Plus with the Leica Dual Lens set-up. At 28mm it’s a little wider than the Fuji at 35mm, but the composition is similar. However, I read a lot of negativity about smartphone cameras and it’s something I feel quite strongly about.

“Want to get a decent image, buy a DSLR” – yeah, my 5Dii with the 17-40 L slips so readily in my trouser pocket. “They’re toy cameras” – at £700-£1000 the latest top models are expensive toys, then. “Pros use full frame only” – is that why billboards and magazine covers have been shot with iPhones? Honestly, the rhetoric you see against camera phones is asinine. Sure, it might not have the print fidelity, but I’d say it’s professional enough if you’re seeing them on billboards and covers. The funniest line I see is “get a real camera” – to which I always think, why would I use my Canon Ixus that takes less satisfying images than my phone?!

The rate of development in this corner of photography should be celebrated, not decried because everyone happens to have one. That’s a good thing. The more photos taken, the more drive for innovation, the higher chance this hobby continues to grow and develop. If you’re a professional photographer worried about these phones eating into your market, up your game. Don’t belittle these cameras just because they’re social cameras. Be glad you can capture usable images in a highly convenient way. It’s not as if ‘back-up’ cameras haven’t found an audience with hobbyists and pros and those haven’t always been the ultimate in image quality, either.

And on a significant point, if you consider a smartphone to be inferior to an interchangeable lens camera because it lacks features, or optical zoom etc, then how about embracing the limitation to inspire your creativity? The fixed focal length means you think more about the image. Heck, if operating a decent camera manually wasn’t so enjoyable, I’d set my camera to auto and just focus on the composition – something I have done with the aforementioned crappy Ixus. The only limitation that truly matters to any camera is the user, be that full frame, mirrorless or the smartphone.

As a parting shot, one of the most pleasing colour photos I’ve taken in a long time is the one below. Straight from the Huawei, inside the rainforest Biome at the Eden Project. Cheers, Matt.