Photography in the 2020s

I have been a 35mm photographer for more than 50 years now – started with a balky old Yashica rangefinder and worked my way up to Nikon.

I got my last really good film camera 20 years ago – I still have it, along with a fair collection of autofocus Nikon lenses – but it’s been retired in favor of digital since 2015 at lest. I was using digicams for some time before that happened. My last great film travel extravaganza was in 2006.

In 2002 film was still better than digital, but that ship long ago sailed. Now, in spite of the overwhelming presence of digital imaging I have to confess that I still pretty much operate as a film photographer. I take my time, concentrate on getting the image right before pressing the shutter. I take mostly stills, do not vlog or use Tiktok or Instagram. I like to store and process my images locally on a desktop PC.

I’ll share a few thoughts about how a dinosaur photogapher operates in 2022.

Using a smartphone – not so much. My smartphone is a rather low end one – no Google Pixel or top of the line iPhone. As a result the camera it has is rather pedestrian – it lacks all the AI and computational photography software of the best smartphone cameras. I find it OK to snap a photo of a cheque or a vax certificate but it’s too shaky and weird to try any real imaging. Add to that the fact that I hate touch screens and on screen typing and for me using a smartphone is a miserable experience. I have no enthusiasm for the process or the workflow. But that’s just me. Lots of people have replaced a camera with their smartphone and seem to be happy about it.

Interchangeable lens camera – I have my Nikon D5500 DSLR from 2015 with a few more recent Nikon autofocus lenses. The old AF film lenses I have from 20 years ago still work with the new camera but I need to focus manually. This was a nightmare back when my eyesight was bad, but cataract surgery fixed that. That said, the newer lenses have image stabilization and other cool features so I use them preferentially. My DSLR is not that great for video, but I don’t care as I am a still photographer. The main concern I have is that Nikon is getting out of DSLRs in favor of mirrorless cameras. It might be hard to get replacement parts in future, but I don’t think it’ll be a problem in my lifetime.

This is a DSLR photo from yesterday. Lots of contrast but the camera dealt with it OK.

Travel Photography – I would say this has been the major change in my photographic workflow over the years. Time was when I took a heavy film SLR, tons of film and 3-4 lenses on vacation – even when traveling by aircraft. However all the security hassle and carry on baggage nonsense put an end to that. In 2015 we did a Transpacific cruise with a little camera about the size of a deck of cards. Got photos like this:

I upgraded the little camera in 2016 to get a bit more telephoto capability, and it has been my travel camera ever since. I suppose I could upgrade a bit more but with the travel opportunities being virtually zero, I will wait a bit. Besides, I still get great pics with the tiny Panasonic Lumix ZS50 I have now:

So there you have it. I have seen great photos taken with smartphones and I understand why many folks have given up on carrying a real camera around. But a smartphone is just not for me – not at this point. There is something about looking through the viewfinder of a real camera that has always given me pleasure, and frankly I don’t think that will ever change.

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