The Disappearing Entry-Level Camera

Fujifilm X-T200 — Fujifilm’s last entry-level camera?

I commonly get asked advice on camera gear. Most often it is which Fujifilm camera to buy, usually by someone who is trying to get into the system—either as a first “serious” camera or switching brands, typically because they want to try Film Simulation Recipes; however, I occasionally I get asked by someone (that knows that I’m “into photography”) who is looking for an entry-level camera for themselves or their teenage kid. If it’s for themselves, it’s because Johnny’s 5th birthday is coming and they want better pictures, or they’re about to take that epic vacation they’ve been saving up for and want to capture the memories. If it’s for their child, it’s because their kid has shown some interest in photography and they want to foster that. Either way, the basic entry-level model is what’s needed.

Whenever I ask about budgets, I usually hear something like, “Under $300.” Sometimes $500 is the upper limit. I’ve been told $150 before. Almost never is it $1,000. In the past the advice I gave was to buy a used entry-level DSLR, like the Nikon D3200, for example, which could often be found somewhere close to the budget—super easy for the novice, yet advanced enough that a budding photographer could learn on it. Later, I would suggest something like the Fujifilm X-T100 or X-A5, which were affordable mirrorless options (and, of course, Fujifilm). Nowadays it’s harder to make a recommendation because the entry-level camera is basically gone.

Those who are “serious” tend to know that they have to spend more to get a quality camera. Much of the time you get what you pay for; however, sometimes these entry-level models were surprisingly good—I was impressed by the image quality of the Fujifilm X-T200, for example. Those who are after quality will typically skip the entry-level and go for a mid-tier option or higher. Those who want a cheap introduction will be satisfied with a low-budget camera. A lot of people—mostly those who would never consider themselves a “real photographer”—used to buy these cheap cameras in droves, but now they don’t.

Hidden Church – North Salt Lake, UT – Fujifilm X-T200 – “Golden Negative

The reason they don’t is largely because of the cellphone. The camera technology on your phone is beyond good enough for most people and purposes, and it keeps getting more and more impressive. You don’t need a bulky, inconvenient, complicated, and expensive DSLR to capture Johnny’s 5th birthday. You don’t need an interchangeable-lens camera to photograph that epic vacation. Your phone is more than capable of delivering stunning pictures that can be instantly shared. Yes, you could spend a grand on a camera and lens, you could lug it around, you could take classes or watch videos on how to use it since it’s all so confusing, and you could download a bulky photo editing program onto your computer—or just pull out your phone and let its smart technology handle it all for you with just one tap.

It wasn’t long ago that the cellphone killed the pocket point-and-shoot. Now it’s also killed entry-level interchangeable-lens cameras. While I think cellphone camera technology can be (and could continue to become) appealing to “serious” photographers, I don’t think it will have a big impact on higher-end cameras. The market is shrinking from the bottom up—not the top down. If anything, there is an increased demand for mid and high end models. But the lucrative point-and-shoot and entry-level markets are pretty much all dried up.

What does this mean? There are several things. First, those hoping to find a cheap camera will have to get an older model, because less and less are new ones being made. I definitely don’t mind using “old” gear, but others don’t always feel the same—five-year-old tech is practically obsolete and 10-year old definitely is (in some people’s opinions, not mine). Fujifilm’s last entry-level cameras—the X-A7 and X-T200—were discontinued shortly after their release, due to sluggish sales. Right now the mid-tier X-E4 is their lowest-level model, and it is certainly not a “low-end” camera. Other brands have been discontinuing their entry-level options, too. If you want a “real” camera, you’ll need to get a “serious” camera; otherwise, stick with your cellphone.

iPhone 11 with Moment 58mm lens

I think the affect on those with a budding interest in photography will be profound. Either you will learn on a cellphone (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), or you’ll pony-up for a mirrorless—those who cannot afford the mirrorless model either won’t have their interest fostered and it will fade, or will learn photography differently—good, bad, or indifferent, this will shape the future of photography in some way. Change always has some impact on the future, but we won’t know exactly what it is until we get there.

Another impact that the disappearing entry-level will have on the camera industry is that money must be made somewhere. Camera companies have to make up for the lost revenue. While the trend in tech is that things become cheaper over time, I think we’re already seeing that the top-end is not getting cheaper. It won’t just affect the top, but that is what’s most affected currently it seems; I suspect that it will have an impact across all brands and all tiers to varying degrees. Fujifilm is lucky because their Instax line is still extremely popular and profitable.

The flip side of the coin is that the cellphone camera market is (and has been) booming. Whether it is Apple or Android, the camera capabilities of your device likely had a significant impact on your decision to buy. How many lenses does it have? How much resolution? What kind of computational tricks can it do? The more people spend on cellphones, the more the technology marches forward, and the better the cameras become. It’s really quite amazing what the little telephone/computer/camera in your pocket can do!

Photo by Amanda Roesch using the RitchieCam App on an iPhone 13

Obviously those advancements mean opportunities. I took the opportunity to create the RitchieCam App to bring simplified and intuitive one-step photography to your iPhone. My wife took the opportunity to do some underwater photography—something that she wouldn’t have done with an interchangeable-lens camera, but her iPhone 13 handled it swimmingly well. What that opportunity is for you depends on you—there is an opportunity for certain, you just have to find it and make it happen.

Yes, the entry-level camera is disappearing, and will soon be gone. Much like CDs, Blockbuster, and one-hour photo labs, cheap interchangeable-lens cameras are a thing of the past. It will have an impact on photography, but whether that’s positive or negative depends on your perspective. And I do think there are both positives and negatives. Certainly camera manufacturers have been concerned for some time—if there’s a lesson to be learned, perhaps it’s to do more to bring the mobile photography tech advancements to “real” cameras, too. Those wanting a bottom-end camera are seeing their options disappear. Those hoping cameras will become cheaper as they become better will likely be disappointed, at least for a time. That might look bleak, but I also believe that photography has become more accessible.

How has photography become more accessible if it isn’t becoming more affordable? The phone-in-your-pocket is only getting better, and is being taken more seriously. There’s a reason why the pocket point-and-shoot and entry-level interchangeable-lens cameras have succumbed to it. Many more people have access to a decent camera, and the pictures are easily shared across the world—more pictures are being captured now than ever before, and that’s a huge understatement!

Captured with a Fujifilm X-E4 using the Fujicolor Natura 1600 recipe.

Fujifilm cameras have made post-processing unnecessary. I don’t know how many of you truly understand the impact of this—I have a front-row seat, and I’m just beginning to grasp the magnitude of it. Learning Lightroom and Photoshop have been a prerequisite barrier to becoming a “serious photographer” for years; however, not everyone in the world has access to photo-editing programs, not everyone has a desire (or the time) to learn them, and not everyone enjoys sitting at a computer for hours (or has the time). A lot of people have been on the outside looking in, but now they don’t have to be because the barrier has been removed (thanks to Fujifilm cameras and Film Simulation Recipes). For others, it’s just a fun way to do photography, and has made the process of creating pictures more enjoyable.

Some who are just learning photography, who’ve maybe only used their cellphones previously, are buying Fujifilm cameras and using recipes and getting good results out-of-the-gate; if they had to edit their pictures, they would still be stuck on the software—they’d be making less progress and having less fun. Some who are experienced pros and have been in the business awhile have found that using recipes on Fujifilm cameras has simplified their workflow and made them more productive, while not sacrificing quality delivered to the client (true story I’ve heard several times).

Camera makers don’t like seeing a previously profitable market segment disappear, and that makes them worry about the future. Those wanting to buy a low-budget camera are finding it harder and harder to find. Things are shifting and changing within the photography and camera world. Yet, whether you just want some decent snaps of Johnny’s birthday or are just starting out in photography or are a seasoned pro—or anywhere in-between—there are great opportunities for you right now. The obstacles in your path have never been smaller.

Download the RitchieCam App for iPhone here.
Download the Fuji X Weekly App for iPhone here, and Android here.
Also, check out Ritchie’s Ricoh Recipes! Oh, and there are now recipes for Nikon Z, too.

RitchieCam Filter Intensity Trick

iPhone 11 — RitchieCam App — Instant Color 3 — 30% Intensity

As Chase Jarvis coined, the best camera is the one that’s with you—sometimes that’s your cellphone. Whenever I use my iPhone for photography, I always use my very own camera app: RitchieCam. Designed with a one-step philosophy, RitchieCam produces photos that are ready to be shared or printed the instant that they’re captured.

I partnered with Sahand Nayebaziz to develop RitchieCam. I worked with Sahand on the Fuji X Weekly and Ricoh Recipes Apps, so we already had established a great working relationship even before beginning work on this camera app. Sahand uses Fujifilm cameras, and sometimes his iPhone, for his photography.

Sahand and I were talking recently when he mentioned that his favorite RitchieCam filter is Instant Color 3 set to about 30% intensity. I have always used 100% intensity. Even though I put this feature into the app, I had never used it personally, other than testing it out when it was being developed. I thought that some would appreciate it, so it was important to include it.

The three-slider icon (between the star and gear) opens the Filter Intensity slider. All the way right is 100% and all the way left is 0%. I like to use 100% on all of the filters, but that’s to be expected because I created the filters. You might prefer something different, so you can customize the intensity to fit your tastes.

I thought that there’s some potential for creativity with this feature, so I began to experiment with it. First I tried Sahand’s suggestion of Instant Color 3 at 30%, which did in fact produce good results (see the picture at the top of this article). Then I played around with the other filters at various intensities.

B&W Fade Filter set to 70% intensity

I found the three black-and-white filters in particular can produce interesting results, because they become muted-color filters when set to about 70% intensity. Of the three monochrome options, my favorite filter to adjust the intensity of in order to create color pictures is Dramatic B&W. Set to about 70%, the Dramatic B&W filter makes for wonderful muted-color photography. I was actually very impressed with this, and spent a couple of days shooting the Dramatic B&W filter set to about 70% intensity.

Here are some examples:

Dramatic B&W Filter set to 70% intensity
Dramatic B&W Filter set to 70% intensity
Dramatic B&W Filter set to 70% intensity
Dramatic B&W Filter set to 70% intensity
Dramatic B&W Filter set to 70% intensity

The RitchieCam App has 18 filters (15 color and 3 B&W), but the potential aesthetics that can be achieved using RitchieCam is much greater because you can adjust the intensity of each filter, and that adjustment changes the look—at least a little, and sometimes a lot—which gives you even greater creative control over your pictures.

If you have an iPhone and you haven’t downloaded the RitchieCam App, go to the Apple App Store right now and do so! Then play around with the Filter Intensity slider and see what fun things you come up with. Let me know which filter is your favorite, and what intensity you use. If you find something especially interesting, I’d love to try it myself.

RitchieCam Shoutout by Leigh & Raymond!!

Leigh & Raymond Photography (formally known as The Snap Chick) dropped a video with a wonderful shoutout to my RitchieCam iPhone camera App! You’ll find the video above—RitchieCam is mentioned at about the 11-minute mark. Wow! Really, wow! I’m speechless. Thank you, Leigh and Raymond, for your kindness and support!

For those who don’t know, RitchieCam is an easy-to-use streamlined camera app intended to bring one-step photography to the iPhone. There are 18 analog-inspired filters so that you don’t have to edit your mobile pictures if you don’t want to. It is intended to be simple enough to be useful for anyone and everyone with an iPhone, although it is robust enough that even seasoned photographers should find it satisfying. Visit RitchieCam.com to learn more. Also, be sure to follow RitchieCam on Instagram!

If you have an iPhone, download RitchieCam from the Apple App Store today!

Here are some photographs that I recently captured with the RitchieCam App while visiting California’s central coast:

Classic Color Filter
Classic Color Filter
Color Negative Low Filter
Analog Color Filter
Instant Color 3 Filter
Instant Color 1 Filter
B&W Fade Filter — XPan 65:24 Aspect Ratio Coming Soon!

Fujifilm X100V vs Sigma DP2 Merrill

Fujifilm X100V + Kodak Tri-X 400 recipe
Sigma DP2 Merrill

I recently visited Pismo Beach, California, and used my Fujifilm X100V to capture some pictures. As I was photographing, I remembered a previous trip to this same location eight years ago—at that time I was shooting with a Sigma DP2 Merrill camera. I was curious how my X100V pictures would compare to those captured with the Sigma camera

For those who don’t know, the DP2 Merrill was introduced in 2012. It has Sigma’s unique three-layer APS-C Foveon sensor with a whopping 46 megapixels (15.3 megapixels on each layer); while a lot of megapixels were advertised, the resolution is more equivalent to 30 megapixels (compared to 26 megapixels on the Fujifilm camera). It has a 30mm (45mm equivalent) f/2.8 lens permanently attached to the front—the X100V has a 23mm (34.5mm equivalent) f/2 lens. There are plenty of similarities between these two models, but there are many differences, too.

Fujifilm X100V + Kodak Portra 160 recipe
Sigma DP2 Merrill

The Sigma DP2 Merrill produces wonderful images within a very narrow window: ISO 100 or ISO 200. You can get a decent black-and-white up to ISO 800, but at all costs going higher should be avoided, especially for color photography, where ISO 400 is pushing the envelope. The battery only last about as long as a 36-exposure roll of film. The camera is not particularly stylish or user-friendly.

The Fujifilm X100V can be used at much higher ISOs—for example, the Kodak Tri-X 400 Film Simulation Recipe requires a minimum of ISO 1600, and maxes out at ISO 12800. For color photography, I’m comfortable going as high as ISO 6400 (that purple flower picture above was ISO 1600). I will typically carry a spare battery, but oftentimes one fully-charged battery will last the whole day. The X100V is one of the most beautiful and best-designed cameras, in my humble opinion.

Fujifilm X100V + Kodak Tri-X 400 recipe
Sigma DP2 Merrill (yeah, that’s the same kid… my son, Jon)

The biggest difference between the Sigma DP2 Merrill and Fujifilm X100V is workflow. With the Sigma, I’d have to load the massive files onto my computer, which would take forever (I’m sure it would be quicker now with modern computers), then I’d have to do an initial edit with their mediocre software (which, again, has likely improved), save as a TIFF, and then finish editing in another program (sometimes a thirty-minute process per picture). With the Fujifilm, I use Film Simulation Recipes to get the look I want straight-out-of-camera, download the pictures from the camera to my phone, crop and straighten if needed, and then upload to storage. My post-processing workflow is so much quicker and easier with the X100V!

Obviously I’m not doing any sort of serious comparison between a still-new model and one that’s a decade old. That’s not fair, and that’s not the point. I’m just looking back, and seeing what has changed in eight years. Obviously my kids have grown a whole bunch. The other big change is that my workflow has simplified and become much less intrusive to my life. The Sigma camera was good for a season, but now I’m very happy to be shooting with Fujifilm.

Creative Collective 014: Using a Fujifilm X100V as a Disposable Film Camera

Well, this is going to sound crazy, but I turned my Fujifilm X100V into a disposable film camera. No, I didn’t disassemble my digital camera, rip out the sensor, and adapt a film spool. Instead, I configured my X100V to capture pictures that appear as though they were captured with a cheap throwaway film camera. Why? I’ve done crazier things before, including distressing a camera, so it shouldn’t be too shocking that I’d do this—perhaps it was just a matter of time.

The inspiration for this project has been building for awhile. I have a picture displayed on my dresser that’s over 20 years old—it’s my wife and I, captured sometime shortly after we got married. A friend took the picture with a disposable camera. I can tell that it was a Fujifilm QuickSnap camera by the color palette, which is clearly Fujicolor. The picture is special to me because it’s a very personal (and happy) moment that’s been frozen in time through photography. It’s nothing more than a snapshot captured on a cheap camera, and would be completely meaningless to almost anyone else. I have a box full of these type of pictures, mostly 4″ x 6″ prints. You might have a box like this, too—snapshots that are meaningful to you.

Bread Truck – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V

Fujifilm developed the QuickSnap camera, a “one-time-use” 35mm film camera, in the mid-1980’s (Kodak released its version, called FunSaver, a couple years later), and it was an instant hit. These “disposable” cameras were extremely popular in the 1990’s and 2000’s. They came preloaded with 27 frames (a 24-exposure roll of film, but you got three extra shots), and were point-and-shoot. You’d push the shutter-release and advance the film, but otherwise there typically weren’t any other controls, so anyone could use these cameras—no skill required. Once you exposed all of the frames, you’d take the camera to the 1-hour lab, where they removed the film for development and recycled the camera. 60 minutes later you’d have a packet of 4″ x 6″ prints.

Cheap digital point-and-shoots made a dent in disposable camera sales, but it was really the cellphone camera that rendered them obsolete; however, you might be surprised to learn that you can still buy disposable cameras today. Thanks to the Lomography movement and an increased interest in film photography, there’s enough of a market for these cameras to continue to exist in 2022. I briefly considered purchasing one, but instead of that, I decided to capture QuickSnap-like images on my Fujifilm X100V.

Now you know the why, so let’s get into the how.

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How To Switch Between Custom Presets More Quickly On Your Fujifilm Camera

Did you know that there’s a faster way to switch between the C1-C7 Custom Presets on your Fujifilm camera?

The C1-C7 Custom Presets are a great place to store up to seven Film Simulation Recipes. Not all Fujifilm cameras have the ability to store Custom Presets, but most do, and they’re pretty easy to program, especially after you’ve done it a time or two. Once you have the Custom Presets programmed into the camera, for most models, you access them by selecting the Q-Button, which brings up the Q-Menu. In the Q-Menu you can scroll through the C1-C7 options using (usually) the Rear Command Dial. There’s some variance between models, so your camera might be different, and there’s more than one way to access Custom Presets, but this is likely how most of you do it.

If you have an X-Trans III or X-Trans IV camera, with a couple exceptions, there’s a faster way to switch between Custom Presets. This will work only if your model has the ability to assign “Select Custom Setting” to the Rear Command Dial. For those with a capable model, on you camera, select Menu and go to the Set-Up (Wrench) subset, select Button/Dial Setting, then Function (Fn) Setting, scroll down to R-Dial, and choose Select Custom Setting. That’s it! Now let’s try it out.

To switch between C1-C7 Custom Presets, simply push the Rear Command Dial to open a C1-C7 menu on your screen. Use the Rear Command Dial wheel, Joystick, or D-Pad to scroll through the options, and push the Rear Command Dial, Joystick, or the OK button to select the one you want. Because you can use the Rear Command Dial to open the menu, scroll through the options, and select the Custom Preset, you can do this very quickly with one finger while looking through the viewfinder. For some of you, this will noticeably improve your Fujifilm user experience!

Obviously if you use the Rear Command Dial for something else already, this might not be a good solution for you. And this won’t work on every Fujifilm camera. I have my X100V, X-T30, and X-H1 programmed this way, and I much prefer this method for switching between C1-C7 Custom Presets. I think some of you will, too.

If you do program your Fujifilm camera this way and find that it works better for you, let me know in the comments!

Fujifilm X-H1 (X-Trans III) Film Simulation Recipe: Ilford XP2 Super 400

Freightliner – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1 – “Ilford XP2 Super 400”

I was asked to create a film simulation recipe for Ilford XP2 Super 400 monochrome film. This is a currently-available black-and-white negative film that’s designed to be in developed in color negative (C41) chemistry. While this is unusual it’s definitely not unique. I’ve shot with some of these films before (namely Kodak BW400CN), and they’re surprisingly good, but a disadvantage is their archival characteristics. While I’ve used many Ilford films in the past (Delta 100 and Delta 400 were my two favorites back in the day), I’ve never shot with XP2 Super, and so I have no firsthand experience with it. Thankfully, I was able to find some good sample images (and other information) to help with the process. The film is somewhat contrasty and bright with fairly fine grain. It can be shot anywhere from ISO 50 to ISO 800, although ISO 400 is what Ilford suggests to shoot it at; whatever ISO you choose will affect the exact outcome.

I wasn’t having good luck with this recipe at first, but as I experimented, I stumbled into what I believe is a fairly accurate facsimile to the film. The White Balance settings (combined with Acros+R) turned out to be the key. Getting the exposure correct can sometimes be tricky, depending on the light and scene, so that’s why the “typical” exposure compensation is such a wide range.

Farmington Train Station – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1 – “Ilford XP2 Super 400”

This “Ilford XP2 Super 400” film simulation recipe is compatible with all X-Trans III cameras, plus the X-T3 and X-T30. If you have a newer X-Trans IV camera, you can use this recipe, but you’ll have to decide on the Grain size (I suggest Small).

Acros+R
Dynamic Range: DR400
Highlight: -1
Shadow: +4
Noise Reduction: -4
Sharpening: -2
Grain Effect: Strong

White Balance: 10000K, +7 Red & +7 Blue
ISO: Auto up to ISO 12800
Exposure Compensation: -2/3 to +2/3 (typically)

Example photographs, all camera-made JPEGs captured using this “Ilford XP2 Super 400” film simulation recipe on my Fujifilm X-H1:

Francis Peak on a Sunny Day – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1
Waterway – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1
Reed by the Lake – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1
Swan Season Closed – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1
Do Not Block Access – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1
Boat Launch Area – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1
Littering Prohibited – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1
Long Road to Nowhere – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1
Rural Tractor – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1
Cat & Honey Bucket – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1
Caterpillar – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1
Tractor – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1
Lamp & Side Mirrors – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1
A Y – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1
Empty Benches – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1
Tracks with no Train – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-H1

See also: Fujifilm X-Trans III Film Simulation Recipes

Find this film simulation recipe and many more on the Fuji X Weekly — Film Recipes App!

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Coming Soon: The Fuji X Weekly Creative Collective

Soon you’re going to see more content published on the Fuji X Weekly blog. I usually post between 15 and 25 articles each month, but soon there’ll be even more than that. Shortly I’ll be typing with increased fervor!

As you might know, I’m not sponsored by anyone. Fujifilm doesn’t sponsor this website, nor does B&H, KEH, or anybody else. I don’t get paid for the content that I publish, other than a little ad revenue, which isn’t much and barely covers the expenses of web hosting and such. Going forward I’m taking a different approach, which I hope makes sense to you.

Very soon I will be launching the Fuji X Weekly Creative Collective. The Creative Collective is a bonus-content subscription, where you’ll have access to extra articles. What kind of content will be a part of the Creative Collective? These articles will largely be exercises in creativity. They’ll be experiments, focused on trying new things, and they’ll be invitations for you to do it, too. We will dive deeper into settings and techniques. We’ll go down some rabbit holes just to see where they go. This will be a journey, and it will be interesting to see what we discover together. Whether you are an experienced Fujifilm shooter or brand-new to photography, there will be something for everyone. If you want to adventure with me on this, the Fuji X Weekly Creative Collective will be only $2 (USD) per month.

I’m going to continue to publish 15 to 25 posts each month, which will be available free to everyone—this includes film simulation recipes, and much of the other content that you expect to find here. The additional articles will be for Creative Collective subscribers only as bonus content. If you don’t subscribe, not much changes for you. If you do subscribe, there’s going to be even more Fuji X Weekly articles for you to enjoy. Additional details coming soon, so stay tuned!