Confessions of a Compact Camera Shooter — The U.S. on a Shoestring Camera

This is maybe irresponsible. Recently, when traveling the U.S., we made the quite painful decision to put the journey above the imaging experience. Meaning: the big gear has to stay home. Value time spent with family and convenience were the priorities, and not stunning bokeh, super fast AF, always spot-on exposure and you know what else I mean. But guess what, what a freeing experience that can be for a change!

Grand Canyon Jubilee
I also resisted the temptation to upgrade to the latest Canon S100, the epitome of the compact power cam. Instead our old trusted Fujifilm FinePix cameras had to do, namely the indestructible, classic F30, the modest F70EXR and the newer F300EXR. For each family member an unobtrusive, easily pocketable camera. Deliberately not the latest models to emphasize casual, informal and unforced photography. Cheap, small, not even a problem if the gear would get stolen.

Now this may only work, if at all, for small prints and Web publishing. There is a reason why you have to decide between convenience and bigger, better, much more reliable equipment. Sure, there’s a wide selection of conveniently sized mirrorless cameras available, but the aim this time really was to just have the camera that fits in your pocket.

Foolish? Who knows. Wasted opportunities? Depends. You can get images of reasonable quality with your point-and-shoot camera. In this case being able to focus more on the experience than the gear turned out to be immensely valuable. Yes there was the occasional wish for a certain lens or camera setting. But altogether you have to ask yourself what is more important: photography or the experience.

When traveling alone this is a no-brainer.

But also consider this: a viewfinder — or composing by LCD — can drastically limit your overall field of view. Chances are you’ll see more by not being preoccupied with gear. But then again, the brain can only absorb so much. That’s why a memory cards are here for, says my wife. For the memories.

Will I travel again without more expensive, much more versatile and powerful gear? Certainly. When the experience counts and a smartphone’s not enough.

As an afterthought, I’m also surprised how often I used the zoom. Normally I’m a prime shooter. A 35mm, maybe a 50mm and an 85mm. Those zooms make a photographer’s life really easy.

Further below’s a collection. Of course there are tons of other images. Want to spare you the bore. But even these older compact cams can churn out reasonably good quality. Still, I’d wish the FinePix F series would offer a single ISO setting overriding all the individual ISO settings in different shooting modes.

Also you don’t buy these cameras for their autofocus and low light capabilities. But overall they’re quite responsive and agile, good for people shots as the cameras are low key. Most people don’t like when you’re pointing a DSLR into their face, but they rarely object when photographed with less chunky gear.

Even better, most ignore a point-and-shoot camera because that’s no serious gear.

Question though is, how would those shots turned out with nice fast beautiful glass and a large sensor.

Now should you leave your good gear at home?

Why not if it interferes with the fun experience of photography and if you don’t care too much about top-notch quality.

Some of the best photography I’ve seen is neither properly focused nor exposed.

If you don’t regret a missed opportunity, don’t like to be tied down by gear and don’t mind pictures not-so-perfect, go light and small.

If you’re a very careful photographer though who’s in no hurry and prefers to work with RAW, well don’t let your good gear collect dust in the drawer.

Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Golden Gate Bridge
Falun Gong
Chinatown Girls
San Francisco
Times Square
@ B&H
Downtown New York
Flagstaff Alley
Grand Canyon Jubilee
Abandoned in California
Sea of Salt

  • Andy Z

    wonderful work/images

  • Asya_dragon

    I would say sometimes its the less bulky cameras that can take the better picture. Recently I got to watch the annular eclipse in Southern Utah and among the groups watching the eclipse many had bulky cameras (and I only had a point and click myself). Fun part was that almost no one had a solar filter for their camera and therefore couldn’t take the pictures needed. Some people had solar telescopes but the big cameras weren’t able to get the shot because their lenses were to big to fit against the eyepiece where as i could get a few really good shots using my rinkydink camera. Now I admit that nice big cameras definitely are cream of the crop and I miss many good pictures because of the limitations of my small point and click but I say, if you are going to have your big cameras out… whats the harm in toting along a small point and click for those odd one-off situations where they may actually do the job better then a big camera?