My Brief Affair with a Non-Smartphone Camera

"Lens Error"...?

What we’re looking at here is a thousand-dollar paperweight that I carried with me across Asia. What a fail.

Two days into my twelve-day trip this Fujifilm X-T10 mirrorless digital camera suddenly and inexplicably stopped talking to its kit lens—as bizarre as that sounds it’s apparently a frequent problem with these cameras. What does Fuji have to say about it? From their own support pages:

The camera is malfunctioning or defective. Please contact the place of purchase.

Done and done, Fuji. The camera is being shipped back to Amazon today. The whole experience has given me a new appreciation for smartphone cameras, and how far they’ve progressed in a relatively short time.

Back in 2009 I did the unthinkable for a travel photographer—I left my standalone camera at home and took a Nokia N86 with me on a once-in-a-lifetime points-burning trip around the world. That little Nokia did a pretty fantastic job, and with a few notable exceptions I’ve only travelled with a camera phone since. I’m not for a second going to suggest that a smartphone sensor and lens assembly can outperform an enthusiast’s rig with interchangeable lenses. At the same time, I had forgotten what a pain it was to haul around gear in a dedicated camera bag and futz with SD cards and lens caps and such.

Samsung in particular deserves a special mention here; the Galaxy Note 5 I got to use in South Korea captures photos in a 16×9 screen ratio by default. Camera traditionalists might cringe at this, but it seems to me that the majority of photos captured in this century have been delivered through the Internet and viewed on widescreen monitors rather than paper prints.

Honestly, the only thing I miss from a traditional standalone camera is a lens with optical zoom. And guess what? That technology is on the way.

To be fair, I say all this as an owner of a Canon DSLR and a couple of decent lenses. But the number of photos I’ve taken on it so far this year is zero. It really is true that the best camera is the one that’s with you. Fortunately for us smartphone enthusiasts, those cameras are actually pretty good!