My gear changed — again — a lot in these last couple of years. Quarantine restrictions are finally a thing of the past, but I have now a kid that has become the subject of most of my photography. And my workload — stress aside, very thankful for that! — has shot up a lot, so I don’t have much time to spend in nature or to develop and scan film anymore.
I still love and shoot film occasionally, but rolls and sheets are just piling up on a shelf in the fridge, waiting for the day I will have time to actually take care of them—no good lab nearby.
Luckily, I finally found a few digital kits capable of giving me consistently, and without much fuss, the colors I wanted, at least most of the time. A couple of them are also really enjoyable to shoot with, on par with most of my beloved film cameras!
You will also notice that most of these cameras are relatively low resolution, in contrast with what we are accustomed to these days. This is for a couple of reasons:
- I find — for my taste — new high-resolution cameras way too sharp and clinical. Maybe because I’ve grown up using film, but in general I like better the results from low res cameras (the exception being the GFX 50s II)
- If needed, for really huge prints, I still like better the results of upscaling lower resolution files with the exceptional piece of software that is Topaz Gigapixel Ai. Word of caution: experiment with the various modes and most of all use it on a powerful CPU (I have a Macbook Air M1 and it runs smooth as silk)
Pretty much all of the cameras I now like have pros and cons, so I tend to use each of them on a case-by-case basis, according to the scenario I will probably be in. Some of them are exceptional in good light and terrible in poor light; some excel for people; some are small and portable.
So here is the content of my actual photo bags. Like always, of something I have multiple copies, like flashes, etc. Obviously, I don’t take everything with me all the time; instead, I try to choose the right tool for the job depending on the assignment, the location, the light I’m likely to find, and so on. Some of this stuff simply lives in a particular place, like the car, my jacket during the winter, or in the panniers of each one of my bikes.
On average I carry just a couple of lenses (often just one, either a 28mm, 35/40mm, or 50mm) if I already know something about the place where I’m going to shoot; on a multi-day hike, or if I’m clueless about the location, I can bring up to 4 lenses and a couple of bodies. When I carry more is usually some kind of “special effect” lens, like a fish-eye or a long lens. This happens usually only if the location or the subject call for it, or if I’m working on a specific project for which the look of this kind of lens is needed. A tripod is almost always with me if I am shooting landscapes, and I keep a cheap, small, and super lightweight one in the car “just in case”.
Lastly: yes, I do indeed have too many lenses and camera bodies. Some I keep because different lenses and formats will give you different looks, like for a painter different shaped brushes, or because it is always useful the ability to choose the more appropriate instrument for each particular job; others quite simply because I like them. Remember: every art form is, at its core, not only a form of communication, but a form of play, so you better be having fun with toys that you like!
So here you are not going to find everything, just the stuff I use the most, i.e. for 90% of what I do.
Canon Eos 5D Mark I “Classic” and Mark II
The “Classic” was a surprise and became an instant favorite of mine. Together with the Mark II, it is the only camera where —with my settings— I can use the Jpgs straight out of the camera. Regarding the Mark II, I had one years ago, and looking back at the pictures with modern software and much more experience I realized I utterly loved the rendering. Bought it back, haven’t regretted one bit my decision.
Once upon a time I bought the first X100, and I hated it. Flash forward many years, and once I tried the X100s it was way nicer. I use it for travels and vacations, mostly because my wife usually carries the Panasonic.
Fujifilm GFX 50s II
Found a screaming deal on this one, so I jumped in and I bought it, to replace the Hasselblad H3DII-22 (I had to put on glasses to change anything, it was way too heavy and cumbersome, high ISOs were abysmal). IBIS, well thought controls, excellent ergonomics, nice large viewfinder, it is phisically smaller and way sharper than a D800. I am talking about pixel level sharpness, not just the added megapixels; even with my legacy glass it is so sharp I tend to keep the sharpening slider in Lightroom at 0! The most amazing rendering of all digital cameras I ever used. Its files respond exceptionally well in Lightroom and with very few touches —or a preset— you can make them look pretty much exactly like film, the only camera I’ve ever used that does this so well. Really good high ISOs. Thanks, probably, to the fairly large pixel pitch, even so-so legacy glass tends to perform exceptionally well. All the pros of a Fujifilm (colors, tonality) without the finickiness of X-Trans sensors. What’s not to love?
Bought one for a steal. It is hands down — with the Fuji GFX — my all time favorite digital camera to carry around. It is like shooting with film both in terms of the experience and in terms of results (after you process the files in Lightroom, not straight out of the camera).
One of the nicest cameras I’ve ever used, it renders exceptionally well at least up to 400iso, with wonderful colors and a noise pattern, even at 800, enough reminiscent of film as not being too much obnoxious. Its files uprez beautifully in Topaz Gigapixel. In my mind it is the digital equivalent of a Nikon F4s.
Panasonic Lumix LX15
Positively tiny, the perfect setup to carry when out on the bike or on vacation, if I can live with a limited choice of focal lengths. Practically identical to a Sony RX100, but the Lumix is actually better designed (much faster to operate and much more intuitive) and I love the soft shutter function.
Olympus OM-D E-M10
Thanks to the tiny m4/3 lenses form factor, the perfect setup to carry when out on the bike or on vacation if I might need longer or wider lenses than the 35mm equivalent of the Fuji X100s.
Sigma DP1 & DP2 Merril
They work wonderfully either as a kit or just carrying one of them. In flat light and for natural subjects, you will be rewarded with the most stunning results. Sigma Photo Pro is a bit of a pain to use, but not so much on a M1 CPU. It is way more annoying the impossibility to import the files in Lightroom (workaround: import the converted TIFFs, and move manually the X3Fs in the same folder). Not so great in contrasty lighting or for people that moves around. They are essentially my (almost) pocketable replacement for an Hasselblad.
Sony A7R Mark II
Unlike its sibling A7r, this works as a charm — it’s terrific for black and white — and it has become a “digital back” for my legacy lenses and, with the ZA 35mm f2.8, a nice carry around camera for travels and such.
Contax 139 Quartz
Bought almost only because it was too cheap to pass over (it had no skin anymore) has proved to be one of the nicest cameras I ever used and earned a permanent spot in my toolbox.
Light, well made, nice to operate. The rangefinder patch is visible enough (not like a proper Leica M, but still eminently usable). Mine has a broken meter, a working one would be a nice addition. Works perfectly, also in terms of size and weight balance, when paired with a Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2.
Bought one with the money from the sale of a broken M9. An exceptional camera, and an instant favorite of mine. Somehow just a tiny bit more difficult to hold, for my hands, than the M8 or M9.
“The camera”. Period.
An amazing tool. Small, well built, a joy to use, especially if paired with a nice small lens like the 50mm f/1.8 E Series (almost a pancake).
Contax 35/2,8 Zeiss
A superb little lens, on every metric.
Contax 60/2,8 Zeiss
A superb lens, on every metric. It is fantastic even on the GFX.
Canon 50/1,8 EF STM
Super cheap, but exceptional in every metric.
Canon 50/1,2 LTM
Hazy (my copy is perfect, so a function of lens design), not that sharp, but with a spectacular rendering in black and white. For color I’d look elsewhere.
Canon 70-200/4 EF IS L USM
One of the best lenses for portraits. Even if it is just an f/4 it renders bokeh beautifully.
Hasselblad 50mm f/4 Zeiss Distagon
One of my all-time favorite lenses, period.
Hasselblad 80mm f/2.8 Zeiss Planar
Another of my all-time favorite lenses, period.
Leica Summicron-c 40/2
My all-time favorite lens.
Minolta Rokkor-PG 58/1.2 MC
A spectacular lens on the GFX. Not the sharpest, but it renders in a way almost identical to the faboulous 105mm for Pentax 67.
Nikon 50/1,8 AF
An old model, but it still performs amazingly well, especially on the D2x as a portrait lens.
Nikon 180mm f/2.8 ED Ais
Utterly fantastic lens.
Nikon Nikkor TC-200 teleconverter
It works surprisingly well in conjunction with the 180/2.8 for landscapes, as long as you stop it down a bit.
Olympus 14-42mm f/3,5-5,6 M.Zuiko
Excellent kit lens, a bit weak at 42mm but still competent enough to make huge prints.
Panasonic G Lumix 25mm f/1,7 Asph > Review
Lovely rendering especially at the widest apertures, smooth as butter.
Panasonic G Lumix 35-100mm f/4-5,6 Asph Mega O.I.S.
Basically as sharp as the f/2,8 version, but this one can fit in a jeans pocket.
Voigtlander Ultron 28/1,9 Asph ltm
Beautiful rendering, quite sharp even fully open.
Voigtlander Nokton 35/1,2 Asph
One of my favorite lenses ever. It feels unbalanced on the Leica M8 or M9, but it is somehow a perfect fit for the Leica CL and the Sony A7R II.