I just got back from a quick road trip to see the world’s largest travertine natural bridge. Located right in the center of Arizona in the Mazatzal Mountains, Tonto Natural Bridge is an under-appreciated natural wonder. While winding through the evergreen forest along Highway 87 between Payson and Pine, you’d never guess that the place was even there. An unassuming side road steeply descends into a canyon, which is where the park is located; however, even after parking it’s not obvious what you’ll find. Only after a very short hike is the natural bridge revealed. A longer hike will take you right up to it, and even through it if you want.
The actual reason for the trip was more than just a chance to experience this Arizona State Park. Even though it is now autumn, it is still hot like summer in the Phoenix desert, but the higher elevations offer a reprieve from the heat. The temperature at our cabin was 30 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than in the valley where we live. Also, we hoped to photograph some fall colors, which isn’t something commonly found in the desert.
So we (myself and my family) found ourselves among the pines in Pine, experiencing cooler temperatures, looking for autumn leaves, and visiting the largest travertine natural bridge in the world. It was great! I wish it could have lasted longer than just one weekend, but, alas, we could only stay but for a short time.
Upon returning, I realized that all six of us—myself, my wife, and my four kids—had all done some photography on this adventure. I mostly used my Fujifilm X100V, X-E4, and X70, while my wife used her X-T4. The two of us also at times used the RitchieCam camera app on our iPhones, as did each of our four kids.
As it turns out (and just as it was intended to be), RitchieCam is great for the whole family! It’s super easy—even my five-year-old had no problems figuring it out—yet robust enough that we felt comfortable using it to capture more serious photographic moments (as well as the silly ones sometimes). RitchieCam is an app for everyone, including kids, and is especially well suited for family adventures.
I thought it would be fun to share with you some of the photographs that each of us captured with RitchieCam on our trip. I used it specifically for the 65:24 XPan aspect ratio. I found it interesting to see what the rest of my family had captured with the App on this short trip to the mountains.
The Fujifilm X70 is so small that it fits into my pants pocket, making it convenient for carrying literally everywhere. When I head out the door, no matter where I’m going, I shove the X70 into my pocket, along with my wallet, keys, and phone. I don’t always use it, but sometimes the opportunity presents itself, and I’m grateful to have a camera with me.
I was recently out running some errands with my wife, Amanda, and the kids. After we finished our tasks, Amanda asked, “Want to go to Lake Pleasant, just to check it out?” I’m always up for an adventure; besides, over 20 years ago, Amanda and I used to go to this lake, and we hadn’t been back since. So I eagerly answered, “Let’s go!”
I hadn’t been to Lake Pleasant in a long, long time. The drive out there was vaguely familiar yet a whole lot different. Much had changed. While the body of water is still outside the city—way out in the lonely desert—the city sprawl is inching closer and closer, and the lake has seen quite a bit of development. I’m sure it happened slowly, but, because I hadn’t seen it in so long, it was a bit shocking to me. There weren’t many people there, but I’m sure on a holiday weekend or during the summer heat the place is probably extremely crowded. We didn’t stay long, but because I had a camera with me I was able to capture these 15 pictures.
You never know when photographic opportunities will present themselves, so it’s best to always be prepared. I would have been disappointed that I didn’t have a camera if I hadn’t had the X70 in my pocket. Instead, because I did have it, this impromptu trip to the lake yielded some interesting pictures, which will serve as reminders to this quick adventure for years to come.
I mentioned at the beginning of this article that I had also put my phone into my pocket, which is an iPhone 11 with the RitchieCam camera app on it. For those who don’t know, I have my very own iPhone camera App, available in the Apple App Store. Even if I had failed to bring a Fujifilm camera, I would still have had my phone. Or, in the case of this particular trip, in addition to the X70, I also had RitchieCam on my iPhone (selecting the Sunny Day filter), and I used both to capture pictures.
This post is by popular demand! Ever since I started sharing pictures captured with my new-to-me Fujifilm X70, I’ve been bombarded with requests to compare the camera with the XF10 and the Ricoh GR models. And I fully understand why: there aren’t very many truly pocketable APS-C fixed-lens cameras, yet these are perfect for travel, street, and to just carry everywhere and use literally every day. There’s definitely a draw to them, and I can’t fathom why they’re not even more popular. Every photographer should want one of these, or something like them, but they often stay in a state of obscurity. I find it odd, but that’s the way it is.
We’ll start this off with a comparison of the two Fujifilm models: X70 and XF10. What’s similar and what’s different? Which one is better? Of the two, which should you buy?
At first glance you might think they’re the same camera, because they look very similar, and have nearly identical dimensions. The XF10 is lighter than the X70 because it has more plastic in its construction, and it feels like a cheaper camera (which it is). The lens is optically the same, but the X70 has an aperture ring while the XF10 doesn’t. The X70 also has a tilting rear screen, something not found on the XF10. And then there’s the dial: PASM vs Shutter Knob—regular readers of this blog know already that I don’t prefer PASM (putting it mildly), but maybe you do. The XF10 doesn’t have a hot shoe, or C1-C7 Custom Presets. The X70 has a 16-megapixel X-Trans II sensor, while the XF10 has a 24-megapixel Bayer sensor—I think, as far as image quality goes, they’re pretty similar, and I wouldn’t call one output “better” than the other. The XF10 is newer, released more than two-and-a-half years after the X70.
There are some things, such as Snapshot, that I like about the XF10, but there are some things, such as a generally sluggish performance, that I don’t. Between the two, it’s clear that the X70, despite being an older model released in 2016, is the more premium option, and it is the camera that I prefer of the two. The X70 is a keeper if you’ve got one; the XF10 is dispensable. With that said, the X70 can be hard to find (those who own them rarely sell them) and are often expensive. The XF10 is much easier to find, but finding a bargain on one can still be a challenge. If you are on a tight budget or don’t have much patience (and don’t mind the limitations of this model), the XF10 is a very good runner-up, but if you want the better option of these two, the X70 is the one to go with. Both models have been long discontinued, so don’t expect to find one brand-new, and if you somehow do, know that it will come with a premium price tag; otherwise, you’ll have to be satisfied with something that isn’t new but is new to you.
How does the X70 (and XF10) compare to the Ricoh GR cameras? I’m most known for my Fujifilm Film Simulation Recipes, but lesser known are my Ricoh GR Recipes; I know a thing or two about both brands. I own a GR and a GR III. The GR II is essentially the same camera as the GR (just minor improvements), so everything that I say about the GR in this discussion will apply to the GR II. The GR IIIx has a different focal-length lens, but is otherwise very similar to the GR III, so what I say about the GR III applies also to the GR IIIx. I hope this makes sense and helps to simplify things a little.
The Ricoh GR models are not as pretty as the Fujifilm models, but what they lack in beauty they make up for in compactness. While the X70 and XF10 are small, the GR cameras are really small, which makes them even easier to carry with you everywhere. The GR III is just a little smaller than the GR I & II. Functionality and feature wise, all of the GR models are more similar to the XF10 than the X70. The rear screens are fixed. There’s a PASM dial. There’s no aperture ring around the lens. The GR cameras aren’t laggy like the XF10, though, plus there’s a hot shoe.
Image quality on the GR cameras are similarly good compared to the Fujifilm models. My opinion is that the GR, which was released in 2013 and features a 16-megapixel camera, has the “worst” technical image quality of all of these cameras, but there’s some sort of pixie dust that gives it a special quality—I’m not exactly sure what it is, but there’s an unexpected appealing quality to the images (this applies also to the GR II, released in 2015). The GR III, which has a 24-megapixel sensor and was released in 2019, has superior technical image quality over the GR, but lacks a little of that pixie dust. Is technical image quality more important, or that hard-to-define special quality? Your answer will reveal which GR camera to consider. I personally like the GR III a little more than the GR.
What’s better, though: Fujifilm or Ricoh? That’s a really tough decision. I do like Fujifilm’s JPEGs a little more than Ricoh’s, but they’re both very good; the “color science” and approach to JPEG output is different, so you might prefer one over the other (I personally prefer Fujifilm’s, no surprise, but everyone is different). Between the XF10 and any of the GR models, I would go with Ricoh, but Ricoh isn’t the hands-down winner—the XF10 is nearly as good, but the GR cameras are slightly better, in my opinion. Between the X70 and Ricoh, I give the X70 the edge, because the design and shooting experience is superior. Even though the GR models are noticeably smaller and fit just a little easier into my pockets, I’d choose to take the X70 with me instead, as it’s more fun to shoot with. The GR III is the only model that you can still buy brand-new, so if you don’t want to purchase a used camera, it’s your only option.
The best case scenario is if you can own multiple cameras, because each have their advantages and disadvantages. There are times when each of the models discussed in this article could be the best choice. If you own a Fujifilm camera and a GR camera, that allows you to choose which one you think will work best for you in the situations you anticipate encountering. However, if it can only be one, I recommend the Fujifilm X70 (even though I’ve only owned it for a short time), followed very closely by the GR III, then followed very closely by the GR or GR II (get the GR II if the price is the same), then followed very closely by the XF10. Some might disagree with that ranking, but that’s my opinion. I do hope this article is helpful for those trying to decide which one to get.
None of these cameras are perfect by any means, but they are all perfect for shoving into a pocket and carrying with you everywhere. Can’t afford any of them? Don’t worry, just use your phone—if you have an iPhone, be sure to try my RitchieCam camera app! This can serve a similar purpose, and since you already have your phone on you, it’s not necessary to also carry a camera. While I have a phone with RitchieCam in my pocket, I’ll often have a Fujifilm X70 or Ricoh GR III in a pocket, too.
Ricoh GR III
This post contains affiliate links, and if you make a purchase using my links I’ll be compensated a small amount for it.
This year I’ve had the opportunity to visit five different National Parks! I love going to National Parks to experience the wonder of nature. They’re great for photography, and they’re great for the soul. Anytime the opportunity arrises to visit a National Park, I jump at it. In winter, I traveled to Arches National Park in southern Utah, Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah, and Grand Teton National Park in western Wyoming. In spring, I visited Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah and Hot Springs National Park in central Arkansas. These are wonderful locations that are worth the effort to experience!
While my main cameras are Fujifilm—such as the X100V and X-E4—I also use my iPhone for photography. Chase Jarvis famously coined, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” He was specifically stating that if your cellphone is your only option, then it’s the best option; however, I would go a step further and say that your cellphone can be used in conjunction with your main cameras. Why? Your phone might have a different focal length than the lens on your camera (versatility). It’s quicker and easier to share the pictures from your phone (convenience). You don’t have to think about the settings (simplicity). Your phone is more easily portable—you can have it with you when your camera isn’t as practical to bring along (compactness). It doesn’t have to be either your camera or your phone—it can be both, and I used both on my visits to these five National Parks.
Of course, when I photograph with my iPhone, I use my very own RitchieCam App, which is a streamlined camera app with no-edit filters. RitchieCam is intended to help you capture everyday moments—including those that happen while visiting National Parks—more beautifully while maintaining simplicity (anyone can use it, not just photographers). The app is free to download and use—becoming a RitchieCam Patron unlocks the app’s full capabilities. If you have an iPhone, be sure to download RitchieCam today (click here)!
I utilized RitchieCam on my iPhone to photograph these National Parks, and so did others in my family: my wife (Amanda), my daughter (Joy), and my son (Jonathan)—they used RitchieCam, too! While most of the pictures in this article were captured by me, there are a few that they took. After our visits, it’s a lot of fun sharing our photos with each other. We all love going to National Parks, and being able to share the photographic experiences—thanks to RitchieCam—makes it even better.
Arches National Park — Utah
If you love unusual rock formations, Arches National Park in southeastern Utah is the place for you! Protruding from the high-desert sand are massive red rocks, which form bluffs, pinnacles, balancing acts, and (of course) arches. There are over 2,000 arches within the National Park, which is the highest concentration of stone arches in the world! Several movies have had scenes filmed in this National Park, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Thelma and Louise, and Hulk, among others.
Arches National Park is a great place to visit anytime of the year; however, it can be extremely crowded in the summer (not to mention hot), so the winter is my favorite season. It snowed while we were there—a somewhat rare occurrence, although it does happen at least a few days each winter. I loved photographing the park blanketed in white snow, but it melted quickly, and was mostly gone by the end of the day. While we only spent one day in Arches National Park, we made a lifetime of memories there.
Canyonlands National Park — Utah
The day after our Arches visit, we went to the nearby Canyonlands National Park. While Arches can get packed with people, I’ve never seen a crowd at Canyonlands—I’m sure it happens, but I’ve always found plenty of solitude. The Colorado River goes through both Canyonlands and the Grand Canyon, and they’re both on the Colorado Plateau—both are indeed natural wonders, and there are certainly some similarities between them, yet each offers a unique experience for visitors. Picking a favorite National Park is a difficult and unfair endeavor, but Canyonlands is without a doubt one of my top picks—maybe not number one, but definitely top five.
The reason why Canyonlands was on Day 2 and not Day 1 of our National Parks adventure is because it was closed the day prior due to the snowfall. A dusting of snow in Arches was a blizzard in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands, which sits about 6,000′ above sea level, and about 1,000′ higher than the terrain below. Thankfully, by the time we arrived, most of the snow had melted, and we had a fun day hiking, taking in the incredible canyon views that this park offers.
Bryce Canyon National Park — Utah
In southwestern Utah is Bryce Canyon National Park, which is known for its vibrant red hoodoos. While I’ve visited the nearby Zion National Park a couple of times, I had never made it to Bryce Canyon until this last spring. Wow! I was really missing out—Bryce Canyon is absolutely incredible! It’s a National Park that everyone should experience at least once, if they can. While Zion is quite nice, too, if you only have time for one or the other, I would go to Bryce Canyon.
The elevation of the park varies between 6,600′ and 9,100′ depending on where you’re at. Despite “canyon” in its name, Bryce Canyon is technically not a canyon, but a series of natural amphitheaters. To really experience the park you’ll want to put on your hiking shoes; however, don’t expect an easy trail, as the paths are often steep and full of switchbacks. It’s completely worthwhile, though, and, if you are physically able to do it, I highly recommend going down a trail or two while you’re there.
Grand Teton National Park — Wyoming
The Grand Teton National Park in western Wyoming is an amazing sight to behold! I had been once before—in late-spring several years ago—and this was my first winter visit. Unfortunately, the park was much less accessible this time, due to snow. Jackson Hole is a ski destination, so there were lots of tourists, but most of my favorite photography spots (that I was hoping to return to) were closed. I would say that it was disappointing, but when you view the towering range, despite the conditions, it’s impossible to be disappointed—it just made me eager to come again in a different season.
Within Grand Teton National Park are eight peaks that are over 12,000′ above sea level. The location of Ansel Adams’ famous Snake River Overlook picture is well marked and (normally) easily accessible—I had to hike through some knee-deep snow to get to it on this trip. Definitely worth seeing, but perhaps winter isn’t the best time.
Hot Springs National Park — Arkansas
Perhaps the strangest National Park I’ve ever experienced is Hot Springs National Park. Located in downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas, this park is free to visit (although the observation tower has a fee to access), but there’s not much to see. You can self-tour one of the bathhouses (which is now the visitors center). There are a couple of rather-ordinary springs that you can view—unfortunately, most of the springs are oddly capped with metal encasements. There are some trails that twist up a hill (along with a road), and at the top is a tower, which offers breathtaking views of the southern Ozarks. None of it comes close to the grandness that I have come to expect from National Parks, or even many state parks.
I was surprised by the beauty of this region. I liked Hot Springs. The National Park was a good place to spend a few hours. But I left wondering why in the world this was a National Park, because it doesn’t seem like it should be. It’s worth visiting if you’re in the area (and the area is worth visiting), but I wouldn’t make a special trip just to see Hot Springs National Park. Still, we had a good time, and made some family memories, and that’s what really matters.
There are 63 National Parks in America, and someday I hope to visit them all. It will take years—probably a lifetime! Five in one year is a good lot, and maybe the opportunity will arise to visit even more before January rolls around. I hope so. And if I do, not only will I bring my Fujifilm cameras, but my iPhone, too.
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, and robust enough that even seasoned photographers should find it satisfying. Visit RitchieCam.com to learn more. Also, be sure to follow RitchieCam on Instagram!
What’s new in this update? There are three new features: drag to switch filters, 65:24 aspect ratio, and straight-down level indicator. Each one of these is discussed in detail below. There are also several small improvements and refinements, which will mostly go unnoticed—the most obvious is the enlarged EV +/- switch, hopefully improving its ease of use. Many other features and improvements are in the works, but it takes time to bring them to fruition, so be patient if this update doesn’t include what you were hoping it would—for certain, many great things are coming down the road.
Let’s take a look at the three new features!
Drag to Switch Filters
There’s a new way to select your desired RitchieCam filter even faster—simply drag your finger across the viewfinder! If you are a RitchieCam Patron, far-left is Standard Color, far-right is Dramatic B&W, and the 16 other filters are in-between; otherwise, left is Standard Color, middle is Analog Color, and right is B&W Negative. This is a quick and fun way to get to whichever filter you want to use, or to see which filter might be the best fit for the scene.
The video above is a screen-recording I made using this new feature. Just picture a finger dragging across the screen, left-to-right. I was trying to be slow and smooth, but this is a snappy function, so it is as quick as you are—you are in control of how fast or slowly you swipe through the filter options.
Drag-to-switch is a new way to find and select filters, but the previous methods still work as they always have. I think a lot of you will prefer this new method, but it is completely optional, so nothing changes for you if you like your current process; however, if you ever wished that there was a quicker way to switch filters, now there is!
65:24 XPan Aspect Ratio
The 65:24 aspect ratio was made popular by XPan cameras, a joint venture between Fujifilm and Hasselblad. I received a lot of requests for this aspect ratio, so I am happy to announce that it is now an option on RitchieCam! You can capture panoramic pictures straight from RitchieCam, no cropping required.
Currently there are six aspect ratios to choose from: 4:3/3:4, 5:4/4:5, 1:1, 3:2/2:3, 16:9/9:16, & 65:24/24:65. The panoramic 65:24 ratio can be challenging to use, but also highly rewarding, producing cinematic feelings that are only possible by going wide—give the XPan ratio a try today!
Level Indicator for Straight-Down Photography
If you ever do product photography that requires you to shoot straight down, it can be difficult to get the camera level. I’m always off by a little, tilted slightly one way or another. But RitchieCam is here to help!
Now, when the phone is flat (parallel to the ground), the gyroscope activates a white and yellow plus that, when aligned (indicated by the yellow plus as the only one visible), lets you know that the phone is level, not tilted in any direction. This feature is always on, so anytime the phone is flat when using RitchieCam, the pluses will appear. Some of you might not ever use this, but for some of you this is a really big deal.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
This review of the Moment Tele 58mm cellphone lens is long overdue. When I started developing the RitchieCam iPhone camera app about a year ago, I figured it would be a good idea to get some external lenses for my iPhone 11, which would come in handy when needing to capture the example pictures. While there are a number of companies that offer lenses that can be attached to your cellphone, the Moment offerings stood out to me as the “better” option, so that’s what I chose.
To use Moment’s lenses, you must also use their phone case, because that’s how the lenses mount to your phone. They have a case for many phone makes and models, so there’s a good chance there’s one available for your device. The case is good quality, and has survived nearly a year of heavy use and abuse. I cannot tell you how many times that I’ve dropped my phone and thought it was done for, yet it survived unscathed, without even a scratch! While I’m sure there are cases that offer more protection, I’m pretty darn impressed with how good the Moment case has been.
One cool thing about the Moment case is that it has the “MagSafe” stuff built-in. I have this tripod-mount accessory that attaches to the case (via magnetism), which has come in handy a number of times. It’s a really good method to mount your cellphone to a tripod, if that’s something you do. There are a number of other accessories that you can buy that also use magnets to attach to your case, but the only one that I personally have used is that tripod accessory.
I had never used an external lens before with a cellphone, so I was definitely a novice when I started—I didn’t really realize how it all worked. On my iPhone 11 case, the lens mounts only over the main camera. The iPhone 11 has two rear facing cameras: 1x (26mm full-frame-equivalent) and 0.5x (13mm full-frame-equivalent). The Moment lenses cannot mount over the 13mm lens, only over the 26mm lens.
I have two Moment lenses: 18mm and 58mm. The Moment lenses are actually “conversion” lenses, and the millimeter numbers don’t actually mean anything. The 18mm is a 0.5x wide conversion lens, and the 58mm is a 2x tele conversion lens. Using the 18mm lens on the 26mm camera actually makes it 13mm, which is the same focal length of the second camera. In other words, the 18mm lens is pointless for the iPhone 11; however, I’m sure it makes sense for other cellphones. The 58mm lens makes the main camera 52mm, which is a very useful focal-length. The focal-length that these lenses will be on your cellphone depends on the focal-length of the cameras on your cellphone (either times by .5 for the 18mm lens or times by 2 for the 58mm lens). Clear as mud? I think if Moment had simply called the one lens 2x teleconverter and the other .5x wide-converter (instead of using millimeter numbers) it would save a lot of confusion. As you can imagine, the Moment Tele 58mm lens is the one that I used by far the most.
Initially I was disappointed by these lenses. I think my expectations were significantly askew. I figured that I’d be impressed by the image quality when using these lenses vs. not using them; however, the image quality will never be greater than that of the lens permanently attached to your cellphone. These lenses won’t improve on what the manufacturer installed on your device. Instead, what you get is either a longer or more wide-angle focal length without a loss in image quality. It’s much better to use the 58mm lens than “zoom by cropping” (a.k.a. digital zoom). The image quality produced by these lenses is determined mostly by the image quality produced by your phone.
The reason to use the Moment Tele 58mm lens is to double the reach of your built-in cellphone lens without degrading the image quality (or, if it does degrade the image quality, it’s extraordinarily minimal and not really noticeable). That’s what this lens does, and it does it well. It doesn’t do much else, so keep your expectations in check.
When I carry the 58mm lens with me, I get three focal-length options on my iPhone 11: 13mm (using the 0.5x camera), 26mm (using the 1x camera without the Moment lens), and 52mm (using the 1x camera with the 58mm lens). Those are all excellent focal-lengths to have available. While I prefer to use my Fujifilm cameras over my cellphone, as Chase Jarvis coined, the best camera is the one you have with you, which is sometimes my cellphone. When I do use my cellphone for photography, I appreciate having the Moment Tele 58mm lens, because it affords me additional flexibility.
I said two paragraphs ago that this lens “doesn’t do much else” which isn’t completely true. There’s a small amount of pincushion distortion, which, when combined with the distortion in the iPhone 11 camera, can do some weird things to straight lines when photographing brick walls. The solution: don’t photograph brick walls. There’s also some interesting lens flare that shows up sometimes (see picture below), which I personally like, but maybe you won’t, depending on how you feel about lens flare. The Moment lens is also softer in the corners than the 1x iPhone camera.
The build quality of the Moment Tele 58mm lens is excellent, made of metal and glass. It has six elements in four groups, and the glass has multi-layered anti-reflective coating. It comes with a lens cap and carrying bag. The lens is small enough that you can easily take it with you, although when attached to the phone, it’s unlikely that the phone will fit into your pocket (unless you have particularly large pockets).
I have used the Moment Tele 58mm lens for nearly a year now. It’s not an essential cellphone accessory, but it’s certainly nice to have around. I found the lens and the Moment case (that you are required to have in order to use the lens)—plus the tripod-mount accessory—to be useful to me. If you do a lot of cellphone photography, you might want to take a closer look at these Moment products, and consider if they might be useful to you, too. Like a lot of things in the photography world, these products are not cheap, but if you think you’ll use them regularly, they might very well be worth the cost. The best place to find these products is on Moment’s website.
This post contains affiliate links, and if you make a purchase using my links I’ll be compensated a small amount for it.
Moment Tele 58mm lens B&H Moment MagSafe Tripod Mount B&H
What is RitchieCam? It’s an easy-to-use streamlined camera app intended to bring one-step photography to the iPhone. You’ll find 18 analog-inspired filters so that you don’t have to edit your mobile pictures if you don’t want to. I think you will appreciate the app, yet it is designed for anyone and everyone with an iPhone, and not just photographers. You can read all about it at RitchieCam.com. The app is intended to be a useful free tool, yet for $9.99 (USD +Tax annually) you can unlock all of the filters and features for the best app experience.
I just released the first “major” RitchieCam app update. For those who don’t know, I created an iOS camera app to simplify and streamline your iPhone photography. The app is free, and is intended to be a useful free tool, yet becoming a RitchieCam Patron unlocks all of the filters and the best app experience.
There are a lot of features that I want to incorporate into the app, but it takes time and work to implement them all, so they will roll out over time. In other words, RitchieCam is just going to get better and better! I just released the first significant update—if you have RitchieCam on your phone and it didn’t automatically update, be sure to manually do it in the App Store now.
One new feature is the volume button—either up or down—as a shutter release. Depending on how you hold your phone, this is a more convenient way to take pictures. Instead of tapping the circle shutter at the bottom, you can press either volume up or volume down to accomplish the same thing. The ability to use the volume buttons to capture photographs was highly requested, so I’m pleased to be able to include it in this update.
Another new feature is additional aspect ratios. Originally, all RitchieCam photos were in iPhone’s standard 4:3 aspect ratio, which is necessary if you want to use the full resolution of the sensor. But if you prefer a different shape, there are now five aspect ratios to choose from: 4:3, 3:2, 5:4, 1:1, & 16:9.
Here are some photos, all captured using the Standard Film filter on RitchieCam, illustrating the different aspect ratios:
4:3 / 3:4
3:2 / 2:3
5:4 / 4:5
16:9 / 9:16
RitchieCam saves the pictures in Apple’s High Efficiency Image Container (HEIC, also called HEIF) format, which maximizes image quality while simultaneously taking less space on your phone. It’s also necessary for implementing some new features down the road. The downside to HEIC is that it is less universally compatible with non-Apple programs. For those who prefer JPEG over HEIC, you now have that option—tap the Gear icon, and you’ll find the Format toggle about halfway down.
The other improvements are less obvious. RitchieCam will now remember the last Flash and EV settings used (as well as the aspect ratio), which will hopefully improve the user experience for some of you. There are several behind-the-scenes optimizations to improve speed, stability, and quality, which you’re not likely to notice, but micro improvements add up over time, so they’re important to continuously work on.
And that’s the update! Already work has begun on the next one. If the feature you were hoping for isn’t in this one, with any luck you won’t have to wait too long for it, but I do ask for your patience, because these things do take awhile. In the meantime, I hope there’s something in this update that you find helpful to you.
There’s a photographic wonderland in the Pacific Northwest that everyone should visit if they have the opportunity: Fort Stevens State Park, which sits at the furthest northwest corner of Oregon where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. It’s about a 25 minute drive west of Astoria. There are many great picture opportunities at this historic location. If it’s your first visit, you might not know what you’ll find or where to begin—this article is intended to be a guide, so be sure to bookmark this if you think you might go.
Let’s take a look at what you’ll find at this incredible apex of Oregon!
Peter Iredale Shipwreck
Probably the most famous and most photographed landmark is the Peter Iredale shipwreck. This ship was a four-mast barque sailing vessel made of steel that, in 1906, was enroute to Portland from Santa Cruz, Mexico, with a load of rocks. High winds pushed the ship off course, and it ran aground at high tide near the Fort Stevens military base. Nobody was hurt, and for whatever reason the ship was left abandoned. What’s left of the ship can still be seen to this day, and is now an iconic picture location.
There are basically two times to photograph the Peter Iredale shipwreck: higher-tides and lower-tides. At higher-tides, the boat is partially covered in water and the waves crash into the metal remains. It’s less accessible and more photographically limited at high-tide than low-tide, and you’ll definitely want a telephoto lens, but it’s still worthwhile to capture some images. You can use the grassy sand-bluffs to frame the ship. At low-tide, you can walk right up to the ship—heck, you can drive right up to the ship! It’s most ideal if you can catch the shipwreck at low-tide and at sunset (this tide chart might be helpful), and a wide-angle lens will be your friend. Most likely you won’t be the only one at the boat, and it takes some patience to not get other people in your images (or yourself in their pictures).
Finding the shipwreck is super easy. Enter the park on the Peter Iredale Road and follow the well-marked signs (Google Maps). The parking lot is not far at all from the shipwreck, so it’s easily accessible. At low-tide you can drive right onto the beach (I suggest 4-wheel-drive), which makes it even more accessible.
Fort Stevens Military Base
Fort Stevens State Park has an intriguing past—if you are a military history buff, this is a must-see place! Fort Stevens was an active military instillation from 1863 to 1947. On June 21, 1942, a Japanese submarine fired 17 shells at the base. While several of the shells hit Fort Stevens, aside from several severed power lines and some damage to a baseball diamond, they didn’t do any major destruction and nobody was hurt. This was the only attack on the 48-contiguous states during World War II.
There are a lot of old military buildings in various conditions within the state park—about 25 structures, some of which are massive—and many of these are open to the public. It could be an all-day or even multi-day event to explore them all, or, if you’re not all that interested, can be briefly experienced within less than an hour. There are three sites: Fort Stevens Historic Area (Google Maps), Observation Pillbox (Google Maps), and Battery Russell (Google Maps). The Fort Stevens Historic Area is where most of the buildings are located plus the visitor’s center. The Observation Pillbox is accessible via hiking trails. Battery Russell is located not far from the Peter Iredale shipwreck, and can be easily explored right before or just after seeing the old boat.
For photography, wide-angle lenses are probably your best bet, and a large aperture option is a good idea. Consider bringing a tripod for shooting in the dark. Those interested in military history or abandoned buildings will find Fort Stevens State Park to be a treasure-trove of photographic opportunities!
There’s about four miles of sandy beach along the Pacific Ocean within Fort Stevens State Park. There’s also additional beach access on the Columbia River side of the park, which is interesting, too—especially if you want to see large ships coming and going—but the vast ocean with its lengthy sandy-beach is the real star.
At the south end is Strawberry Knoll (Google Maps), which is a good place for 4×4 vehicles to access the beach, but for everyone else will require a short hike to the ocean, and there’s limited parking. The easiest beach access is probably at the Peter Iredale shipwreck (Google Maps), which has more parking, but is also the most visited site. As you drive north on Jetty Road, Lot A (Google Maps) has easy beach access and plenty of parking, Lot B (Google Maps) has plenty of parking but it is a short hike to beach, Lot C (Google Maps) has an observation tower, a lot of rocks, a longer hike to the beach, and tons of parking, and Lot D (Google Maps) has plenty of easy beach access and parking, but technically this is the Columbia River side, and the water will be a lot more calm. Any of these locations can be good for photography.
I recommend having both telephoto and wide-angle lenses at your disposal. High-tide and low-tide can be interesting, and sunrise, midday, and sunset all offer interesting light. There’s no right or wrong time to go, and visiting at different times and during different conditions will give you vastly different photographic opportunities. I think one could spend days, weeks, or even months photographing the beaches at Fort Stevens and not run out of inspiration.
There are miles of hiking trails, thick forests, camping, ponds, lakes, and streams within Fort Stevens State Park. There’s abundant wildlife, including deer, elk, sea lions, bald eagles, heron, puffins, and occasionally gray whales off the coast. No matter where you are in the park, there are picture opportunities literally everywhere! The landscape is just incredible, and surprisingly varied. It might be easy to overlook all of this in-between the beach, shipwreck, and abandoned base, but don’t! Keep your eyes open, your adventurous spirit eager, and your camera ready, and you’re sure to capture some amazing yet unexpected pictures.
If you have the time and energy, the Fort Stevens/Jetty Loop/Ridge Loop Trail is great—mostly paved and fairly easy, but at nine-miles is a bit long (you don’t have to cover the whole thing). Coffenbury Lake (Google Maps) is worthwhile, and somewhat accessible from the Battery Russell parking lot.
If you are a wildlife photographer, you’ll definitely want to keep your long-telephoto lens handy. If you are a landscape photographer, wide-angle lenses will often be your best bet. Having a couple cameras, one with a telephoto lens and one with a wide-angle, or perhaps a good zoom lens, is a solid strategy.
Fort Stevens State Park is one of the most spectacular locations in northwest Oregon! It is a worthwhile photographic excursion that can be experienced in a day, but if you have more time to spend in the park you will surely be rewarded for it. Some parts of the park (Coffenbury Lake and Fort Stevens Historic Area) require a daily self-pay $5 parking fee per vehicle, and camping isn’t free, but otherwise the other parts of the park don’t have any fee to access.
I used three cameras to capture these pictures: Fujifilm X-E4, Fujifilm X100V, and iPhone 11. On the Fujifilm cameras I used various Film Simulation Recipes, and on my iPhone I used the RitchieCam app. All of the pictures in this article are unedited (aside from minor straightening and cropping, they’re straight-out-of-camera images), which means that I didn’t spend hours manipulating them in software. This is a great way to save time and make photography even more enjoyable. Capturing photographs that don’t require any post-processing is a wonderful way to streamline your workflow and simplify your photographic life. When traveling, where you’re making tons of exposures and opportunities to post-process those pictures are limited, things that save you time can make a huge difference. If you own a Fujifilm camera, I invite you to try Film Simulation Recipes (check out the App!) on your next photography outing. If you own an iPhone, download the RitchieCam camera app for free today!
Multnomah Falls is an iconic scenic stop along the historic Columbia River Highway in Oregon. Found within the Columbia River Gorge, it is the tallest year-round waterfall in Oregon, and the most visited natural site in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The famous footbridge was constructed in 1915, while the gift-shop at the bottom—originally a lodge—was built in 1925, and both are on the National Register of Historic Places. It is an incredible location to experience, with beauty that rivals what one might find within National Parks.
I recently visited Multnomah Falls, and used my Fujifilm X100V and iPhone 11 to photograph this amazing spot. Unsurprisingly, I had several of my Film Simulation Recipes programmed into my X100V, and I used my RitchieCam camera app on my iPhone. Because there is a lot of mist from the falls, and it was a rainy day (as is common there), having weather-sealed cameras was important—both the X100V (as long as a filter is on the front) and the iPhone can handle getting wet, and both did get wet. Really wet.
While it might seem unnecessary to carry both an X100V and an iPhone, that turned out not to be the case for two reasons: focal-length, and ease of sharing. The X100V has a very useful 34.5mm (equivalent) focal-length lens, while the iPhone 11 has a 26mm (equivalent) camera and 13mm (equivalent) camera (if I had the “Pro” version, it would also include a 52mm camera, but alas I don’t have that model). The X100V was wide-angle enough to capture some good photographs of the falls, but the wider-angle lenses on the iPhone 11 were often better options, and I used it more than the Fujifilm camera at this location. To the second point, I was able to text pictures of the falls to some family and friends immediately—before even getting back to the car—and share with you via social media pictures of the falls within minutes. The X100V pictures were pretty quick and easy to share, too—thanks to the wonderful JPEG output of the camera—but not quite as immediate as the iPhone images.
What’s better, X100V or iPhone? For pure image quality, the Fujifilm camera is hands down better, but that only really matters if you are viewing the pictures large. Looking at them on this website or on social media, the quality difference is hard to spot, and even if you can see it, the quality difference is pretty insignificant. If you were viewing 11″ x 14″ prints of the pictures, the quality difference would still be fairly small, although if you compared them side-by-side you could tell without much trouble that the X100V is superior. But if you are viewing 16″ x 20″ prints or larger, the iPhone images just don’t hold up nearly as well as the Fujifilm. So the X100V is definitely the better tool if you might print the pictures large, but the iPhone is a capable tool if you don’t think you’ll be printing large—let’s face it, most pictures don’t get printed large, or even printed at all.
There’s no reason why both the X100V and the iPhone (or other cellphone camera) can’t both live together in peace and harmony. They’re different photographic tools that have different advantages and disadvantages, and they can both serve purposes within your photography. Film Simulation Recipes make the Fujifilm workflow more streamlined and the process more enjoyable. RitchieCam does the same thing for your iPhone photography. One tool might be better in a certain circumstance, and the other might be better in another circumstance, and perhaps both might be useful in a circumstance like Multnomah Falls.
Do you like the Fujifilm X100V pictures better, the iPhone pictures better, some of each, or none at all? Which Film Simulation Recipe that I used do you prefer? Which RitchieCam filter did the best? Let me know what you think in the comments!
I recently visited the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. This iconic mountain range sits just north of the tourist town of Jackson Hole. If you’ve never been, this is a “bucket list” kind of place that you should absolutely try to see in person if you can. My visit was a quick weekend getaway, and not surprisingly the weather didn’t really cooperate. Still, I wanted to get in some photography, and so I did.
What I don’t want to do is view massive crops side-by-side. The Fujifilm X100V and the iPhone are much different tools, so this will be a very general overview without pixel-peeping.
Technically speaking, the X100V is far superior, and it isn’t even close. For technical image quality, the X100V is the camera to grab, but the iPhone, with its tiny little sensor, is surprisingly good, all things considered. The advantage of the iPhone is that you have it with you all of the time, and you can quickly and easily share the pictures captured with it across the world (especially if you used the RitchieCam app). Convenience and speed are the reasons to choose the iPhone over the X100V, but the X100V is pretty compact and quick, too. For printing or viewing large, the X100V is the right tool. For quick sharing, the iPhone is the right tool. Here’s the great news: you don’t have to choose—use both, or use the one that you happen to have with you.
This is the first in a series of articles where I’ll compare photographs captured with the Fujifilm X100V using Film Simulation Recipes and the iPhone using the RitchieCam app. Below are photographs captured with these cameras at the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. Let me know in the comments which pictures you like best!
What is RitchieCam? It’s an easy-to-use streamlined camera intended to bring one-step photography to the iPhone. You’ll find 17 analog-inspired filters so that you don’t have to edit your mobile pictures if you don’t want to. I think you will appreciate the app, yet it is intended for anyone and everyone with an iPhone, and not just photographers. You can read all about it at ritchiecam.com.
This is a project I’ve been secretly working on for nearly a year. While I always thought it would be difficult and complicated, I had no idea just how much so! I’m extremely happy with how it turned out, yet I hope that this is just the beginning, as there are several new features and improvements already in the works, and even more on my wish-list. I’m very proud of RitchieCam, and I hope that you find it fun and useful. I personally have enjoyed using it over the last several weeks, including on a road trip to Moab, Utah.
RitchieCam is free! Or, really, it’s a “freemium” app, and for $9.99 (USD +Tax annually) you can unlock all of the filters and features.
Some pictures I captured with RitchieCam on that Moab road trip: