gear

Initially, it was all about the gear. I was an 11 year old child entrusted with what was described to me as one of the best professional cameras of all time. It was not hard to make the connection and think that if I am carrying a pro camera, I must be a pro myself! Yes, I know, it doesn't work like that, but, rest assured, it did for a while and it does so for a surprisingly large number of people, even adults. As time went by I started changing cameras to suit my needs and what follows is the progression of these changes from then to the present.

1980 - Nikon F2A Photomic with 50 f/1.4 and 85 f/1.4

Built like a tank and weighing just about as much as one, the F2 was the successor to the venerable F and the precursor of the wildly popular F3. One would think that as the middle child, it might have some confidence issues, but it did not. An incredible camera with pro specs, changing focusing screens and, what’s probably more important, a body that would work with all F-mount Nikkors, of which I had the pleasure of shooting with the 50 mm and 85 mm variants, both fast primes at f/1.4. I stuck with this camera for a long time, because I couldn’t do a whole lot better than the F2 by switching to a newer model, not to mention that I had not yet been attacked by Gear Acquisition Syndrome! With hindsight being 20/20, letting this one go was a huge mistake, but at the time it seemed like the thing to do; read on!

1996 - Canon EOS 50 with Tamron 28-200 f/3.8-5.6

Being a Nikonite in a Canonite house wasn’t easy, I’m telling you… My father initially was shooting with a Canon F1 (with an assortment of lenses, including a 55 mm f/1.2 and a 20 mm f/2.8) and he then switched to the EOS 5 film camera with what was a full arsenal of lenses and accessories. I decided to join the bandwagon in order to piggyback on this whole system, so around 1996 I switched to the Canon EOS 50, which sported “Eye AF”, i.e. it focused when you raised it to your eye. Yes, it was an innocent time back then and gadget freaks could be easily entertained. I heard that there is a lens that does it all and it was pretty small and inexpensive, so I slapped a Tamron 28-200 on my Canon and I was off to the races. Needless to say, the old Canon system (F1 with lenses and EOS 5) is alive and kicking, thank you very much!

1999 - Contax G1 with Zeiss 28 Biogon, 45 Planar and 90 Sonnar

Around 1999, I decided that I will try something completely different and I became really fascinated by the Contax G1 and its array of stellar prime lenses. It was a small, but weighty rangefinder with AF and Zeiss had created a series of lenses just for it. I opted for the “holy trinity”, i.e. the Biogon 28 mm, the Planar 45 mm and the Sonnar 90 mm. Here was a chance to boost IQ, I thought! The lenses were of impeccable build and optical quality (the Sonnar had some focusing issues, but not my sample) but the camera itself was a difficult piece of kit, at least for me at the time. Even though I was elated to be shooting with it, especially with the Planar 45, I knew that this set was not for me and eventually I parted ways with it and rangefinders in general.

2005 - Sony DSC-R1

The year was 2005 and we were already into the digital era so my next camera was my first of the kind. I was sold to the “Zeiss optics” mystique and I thought that since electronics were increasingly of the essence, one could not go wrong with Sony. This was a “bridge” camera, i.e. with a lens permanently attached to it, and what a lens it was! A 24-120 Zeiss T* lens at f/2.8-4.8 that was a gem at the time and certainly much better than the Tamron all-rounder I had before. A large sensor (APS), 10 megapixel and a tiny little screen (articulating though) was the rest of the package. I loved that beast of a camera but I eventually got tired of carrying around all that weight and bulk, just to make sure I had a lens that could cope with anything that I stumbled upon.

2009 - Canon PowerShot G10

Around 2009, I was ready for a change and there was a lot of raving about the G-series Canon; one article went so far as to proclaim that the recently announced G10 is a modern-day poor man’s Leica. When I handled the G10, coming from the R1, I knew I had to have it! A 50% megapixel boost, a 28-140 zoom lens, a 3″ screen and all this in a package I could have with me ALL THE TIME! Here, take my money! They did and I had a blast with it. The G10 got me back into shooting more, because it was just there with me. I used it more than any other camera I had up to that point and there is a special place in camera heaven for it.

2011 - Panasonic Lumix LX5

By 2011 I knew that (a) small(er) cameras are a blessing, (b) megapixels are overrated, (c) I am not the long tele guy that wants to capture things a mile away and (d) electronics firms partnering with optics legends are a marriage made in heaven. I had no troubles with the G10 but I “needed” a change (it is called GAS, you know…) so when I laid eyes on the Lumix LX5 I was overjoyed because it ticked all the aforementioned points: even smaller than the G10, 10 megapixels, 24-90 lens, made by none other than Leica! Sold. The only thing missing was a EVF and I was not (still am not) used to shooting with the rear screen and the camera so far away from my body. I fixed that by attaching an add-on EVF by Lumix (DMW-LVF1). Problem solved and there was another camera I had tons of fun with. I took it to trips as my sole camera, shot macro with it (especially capable in that department!) and it soon became an extension of my hand and my eye.

2011 - Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 35 f/1.8 and Nikkor 18-200 f/3.5-5.6

Maybe I have always had a soft spot for Nikon after my intro to photography with the F2. Maybe I am a sucker for the grass being greener on the other side. Maybe I just thought, why not? I mean I had the LX5 for carrying around all the time, but what about having a more “serious” camera for special circumstances? A system camera, a D-SLR! I got the D7000, 16 megapixel, APC-S sensor camera with two lenses: an all-rounder 18-200 mm (third time’s the charm!) and a fast / light / cheap 35 mm, as that specific focal length was fast becoming my favorite. I shot the two cameras side by side for a while and I discovered that I am not really the person to have more than one camera; it just confuses my mind and makes want to find specific use cases for each of them so that they don’t “feel” left out. Yes, I know I am seeing someone for this affliction and I am doing much better, thanks for asking!

2012 - Sony NEX 7 with Zeiss 24 f/1.8

So, back to the drawing board… It was 2012 and I would have one camera with a good lens (preferably a 35) and I would again trust the electronics – optics marriage of Sony and Zeiss. The top of the line NEX camera at the time was the NEX 7, a 24 megapixel APS-C camera of simple beauty; it was small, easy to use, articulating screen, ergonomics to my taste, so I was ready to pull the trigger if only I could find a lens. Enter the Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 (a 24 mm on APS-C sensor is close to a 35 mm on full-frame). And what a lens it was! If you have heard the term “3D pop” for Zeiss lenses, this lens is what they had in mind (well, not really as this is a much newer lens than the term, but you get the point!). Again, I was happy with my choice and for a while I thought that I will be the Sony-Zeiss guy, investing in this ecosystem and growing with it.

2014 - Sony a7R with Zeiss FE 35 f/2.8, FE 55 f/1.8, Sonnar G 90 f/2.8

By 2014 I was ready for full-frame and so was Sony apparently with the introduction of the a7 series. True to my Sony-Zeiss dogma, I got the 36 megapixel a7R with 2 Sony-Zeiss lenses, the 35 mm f/2.8, a compact 35 for all times, and the 55 mm f/1.8, which was touted as one of the sharpest lenses ever tested. My preference for the 35 made me use it about 85% of the time, especially since the 55 was not exactly complementary to the other. Weird choice of two lenses two have, but I was going to fix it, since I was investing in the system. And because I have always had a thing for Zeiss and Contax, I got the Sonnar 90 mm  I had used with the Contax G1 again (a black copy this time) and used it with Techart’s GA-TA3 AF Adapter. The a7R with its 36 megapixel was a beast and I was very confident in my tools, not to mention that with the small 35 it was not heavy or bulky; close to perfect, until…

2015 - Sony a7R ii with Zeiss FE 35 f/2.8, F3 55 f/1.8, Sony G 90 f/2.8 macro and Sony G 70-200 f/4

… they came up with the a7Rii in 2015! With 42 megapixels and a large FF sensor there was no limit to what you could with it. IQ was excellent and the ability to crop as aggressively as one wanted meant that you could get sloppy with composition and still have an image left in post; what I meant is that you could use cropping in an artistic fashion… Well, back to the camera! This second series improved on the ergonomics and infancy issues and Sony introduced many new lenses to beef up the system. Given that, I got the 90 mm macro and the 70-200 mm, both Sony G series. So this was now a system indeed, into its second generation for me and nothing would get me out of this, right? Well, read on!

2018 - Fujifilm X100F with WCL X100 ii and TCL X100 ii

This has got to be the pendulum effect, right? I go from system cameras to all-in-ones like there is no tomorrow. Is it ever going to stop? The X100F came in 2018 alongside the a7R ii as a take-everywhere camera, since by now the “system” weighed as much as a small child. It is an extremely capable camera, truly enjoyable and almost pocketable. It does have the 35 mm lens and full manual controls in true Fujifilm style for us old geezers that learned photography in the film days. Shooting with the X100F is fun and, at the end of the day, if you are not a pro, fun is a pretty serious factor in choosing a camera. Critics say that it is soft wide open; I say, who cares? I also say that if pixel peeping is one’s thing, they wouldn’t be getting the X100F (APS-C, 24 megapixels)in the first place. It has a digital zoom but it also has 2 add-on lenses, a wide angle and a telephoto which you can use in conjunction with the digital zoom for further reach. It has the film simulations that Fujifilm is famous for and it excels in SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) jpeg’s, especially when shooting people. So, that’s how I am using it: jpeg’s of people, mostly using the Acros film simulation, little or no post processing.

2019 - Leica Q2 with Elpro 52 close-up lens

I liked that little X100F so much that it reminded the joys of not having to lug around all the weight associated with system cameras, just to be ready for “the” shot, if and when the mythical creature appears before your eyes. So, in 2019 I sold my Sony-Zeiss gear and got the Leica Q2, a full frame compact camera with a 47 megapixel sensor and macro capabilities that were further enhanced with the addition of Leica’s Elpro 52 close-up (add-on) lens. The camera has a fixed prime lens on it and it is a Summilux 28 mm f/1.7 with options to use it with a digital zoom for 35, 50 and 75 focal lengths (with the apparent drop in megapixels). Is this the end game? Is this the perfect camera? It looks like it, but if you have read thus far, you probably know that this honey moon is eventually going to be over, like every one before it! But for the time being, the Q2 is perfect for me! I am learning to use the 28 mm, getting out of my (35 mm) comfort zone by avoiding to use it as a 30 megapixel 35 mm lens. I simply love the simplicity of it and its minimal nature, not only in aesthetics but also in use. It is not pocketable, but it is not hard to carry around all day or have it as your sole companion on a trip. If you need to reach farther than 75 mm, you need to look elsewhere, but if you don’t, this little fellow has you covered. Finally, in early 2021 I found the nerve to sell the X100F and keep the Q2 as my only camera. Maybe the Holy Grail for me is one camera – one lens (and a fixed prime at that)! We shall see…

The (not so immediate) future...

Nobody knows what the future brings, but I can cetrainly share with you some cameras that have already captured my fancy. Of course, that could change as new models arrive or as needs (with or without quotation marks) change…

Fujifilm X-Pro 3 with 23mm f/2 lens

Fujifilm GFX 100S with GF 45 mm f/2.8 lens

Hasselblad X1D ii 50 with 4/45 P lens

Leica SL2 with APO-Summicron SL35 f/2 Asph lens

The (not so distant) past...

Not talking about my past here, since I did that extensively above, but rather the past of photography. There are cameras I would like to get for collection purposes, though I am much inclined to shoot with them as well. Some of them are below.

Nikon F3

Canon AE1 Program

Contax RTS III

Leica M3M6M7

Leica R4

Hasselblad 500 C/M

Mamiya 7

Rolleiflex TLR (any variant…)