How Adam Smith Found Inspiration in the Panasonic FZ-20

My name is Adam Smith. Photography has been part of my life, as it has been for many others growing up. Film cameras came everywhere with us on family outings in our home state of Michigan and other states around the Great Lakes. At this point, photography was a means of keeping a record of memories—not an art form. I became seriously interested in photography in 2009 when I was gifted a Nikon P-90 for Christmas by my wife and mother-in-law. It replaced my Nikon L-4 (I purchased from my older brother) and transformed my view of what is possible with a camera. The Nikon L-4 was limiting. I took the Nikon P-90 everywhere with me. To the store, on walks and hikes, and to the skate park where I enjoyed afternoons on my BMX bike. I took so many pictures with it. The camera inspired confidence. It told my story. But my favorite camera is the Panasonic FZ-20.

I received many compliments on my work, at one point even selling prints. I was able to share my love of the outdoors and adventure.

I was hooked.

Since 2009, I have cultivated my current creative vision through many years of experimenting and finding my style. I have done weddings, senior portraits, and other paid work. However, most of my work has been dedicated to the out-of-doors and its spectacular beauty. Northern Michigan is rich in natural areas and preserves and is where I spend a great deal of time. Though I am by no means the first, my current creative vision is fueled by my desire to share the beauty in what may seem ‘everyday’ or ‘mundane.’ Every living being on this planet is important. Humans are not on a pedestal. We are part of—not apart from—the rest of the planet’s inhabitants.

I find inspiration in the countless individuals around the world that share my love of the outdoors, in those who are true to themselves as photographers (such as Thomas Heaton), and to those photographers who came before us. I am inspired by my belief that compact digital cameras are not outdated and incapable of photographic tools. While I can certainly see the value in modern gear, I feel that older gear still has a place in 2021. New is not always better. I want to show the photographic world that a digital relic can produce results.

Image quality is not everything (as seems to be the popular notion within the industry). I have placed a greater focus on what I refer to as ‘memory quality.’ After all, is that not an important aspect of the photographic process? Memory quality is the ability of a camera to match the vision within the mind’s eye. It’s a bit spiritual. Qualitative over quantitative.  Compact cameras can deliver this quality.

Above all, I am inspired by my wife. She is always encouraging me to pursue my passion for photography and self-expression. I cannot thank her enough.

My favorite camera is currently the Panasonic Lumix FZ-20. It has many of the features that deliver the memory quality I seek. These features include a constant f2.8 aperture Leica 12X lens (with a manual focus ring on the lens barrel), a metal tripod socket, a factory adapter tube and lens hood, and an intuitive menu system. The camera also has ergonomics that fit my hands perfectly–an important consideration in sharp images when a tripod is not always convenient. I also find that the left-side EVF is ingenious. As a bonus, the camera has a classic look.

The camera produces images at 5 megapixels. Yes, it is 2021. Five megapixels is so 2004…right? However, I don’t require a ton of pixels for the work I produce. I don’t crop (hardly ever) and never print anything larger than a small poster. So why bother with extra pixels that will just take up space on my computer?  I love the way the camera renders images. So beautiful. Five megapixels are plenty.

Most importantly, the camera inspires me. Why use a camera that does not inspire?

I came across this camera while looking through an online auction site. I had recalled the praise other Lumix cameras received from family members over the years and became instantly interested. I read the reviews, articles, and other content and just had to have one. Even just to see what all the hype was all about. I understand now.

I am always on a quest to find the camera that best fits my needs as a photographer. I have tried D-SLR’s (still my go-to for paid work) and many other digital compacts. For the longest time, my go-to camera was the FujiFilm S-9100. I still love that camera (who can argue with a cable-release shutter button). In fact, I often use that camera to this day. However, the Panasonic just has that certain something that makes the camera right for me. It’s the combination of weight, balance, ergonomics, memory quality, responsiveness, macro performance, and style…perfect for my needs.

And of course, there are no lenses to switch out, which is important when each moment is different. One moment I will be photographing a flower, then the next, the light breaks through the clouds, and I need to be ready before the light disappears–then right back to the flower. Compact cameras excel here. A lens affixed permanently to the camera also means no dust or moisture on the sensor. I don’t want to spend time addressing an unclean sensor.

And finally, models such as this had no connectivity to WiFi. Though social media was by no means what it is today, I head out with my camera to stay away from the connected world. That is what my smartphone is for. I am sure many will disagree. My last concern whilst out in the middle of the woods is how I will share my images.

The camera is still with me today. I use it all the time. In fact, I have purchased a second FZ-20, just in case my primary unit sees an untimely demise. That is how much I enjoy this camera and is a testament to its ability to meet my needs as a natural history photographer.

I wish camera companies would go back to what made their cameras stand out. My take-away from the industry in 2021 is that everyone is trying to be like everyone else. There is so much focus on—well—focus speeds, burst rates, 8K capability (get a video camera if you need true video capabilities), pixels, and connectivity. I can understand the need to compete and the innovation that comes with competition, but at some point, the camera companies need to step back and really reflect on what made them who they are today. And more importantly, who they want to be in the future.

There is a lot to be said about brand loyalty and culture.

The Panasonic Lumix line has been so well received over the years by users and critics because they spend time producing thoughtful products (for example, the LX and TZ Lumix series). The same can be said for FujiFilm.

Be sure to check out Adam’s blog, Terrascriber! Also, check out how you can be featured!

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.