What Camera Gear is at the Top of Our Staff’s Wish Lists?

What Camera Gear is at the Top of Our Staff’s Wish Lists?

2200 1238 Jeb Inge

Last week we posted an article that discussed reducing the extra gear in one’s collection. There was a lot of great back and forth on the topic between our writers and in the comment section. Today we’re going in the opposite direction, asking the writers at CP headquarters a question that would only increase the amount of gear in their collections. We asked: “What photographic thing is at the top of your wish list?” Answers could be (and are) varied and without any parameters. It could be a camera, a lens, a film, a process, just so long as it applies to creating images.

When you’re done glancing over our staff picks, share your most coveted gear in the comments below!

Jeb’s Pick: 8×10 large-format camera from Intrepid Camera Co.

There a lot of film-related things I want: affordable slide film, the ubiquitous film lab landscape of the nineties to return, a massive drum scanner for my personal use. The list goes on and on, but always living in a fictional realm of desires that will never be fulfilled.

When it comes to gear, well, yeah. I was the one who wrote about getting rid of half of my camera stuff. One week later, I don’t regret it. But there is still some stuff that gets me excited. When someone asks what gear makes me excited, the answer is two words: large format.

For the last few years, most of my photography has been done with medium format film shot at ISO 80, meaning I have to use a tripod for every exposure. What was at first a cumbersome annoyance has grown into my preferred way of working: stationary, with manual light readings and a shutter release cable. Every shot is framed the way I want it, all the readings were my calculation and the mistakes are mine to own when they happen. (And they definitely happen.)

I’d like to continue this way of working, and I think I’m ready to level up. My gaze has been longingly falling upon large format cameras. There’s nothing slower and more deliberate than shooting in a way that’s completely manual and where the cost-per-frame is in the dollars and not the cents. But with that comes absolutely monster negatives. From my perspective it doesn’t get any better than 8×10 for landscape and portrait work. Plus, some of the photographers I admire most (including Sally Mann and Janelle Lynch) demonstrate the creative and artistic grandeur possible with large-format photography.

Diving into large format feels a little intimidating. It’j just photography, but the process and equipment can make it feel like a different universe. That’s why the camera of my dreams is the 8×10 Mark II from Intrepid Camera Company. For three years, they’ve been making large format cameras that combine affordability with relative portability. The 8×10 weighs an unbelievable 2.5 kg and it offers all camera movements as well as the ability to switch between portrait and landscape orientation. (I’ll take my bellows in blue, by the way.)

Anything that’s been on my wish list for as long as the Intrepid is on the list to stay. Hopefully I’ll get my hands on one, and share the experience of using it here.

[Are you interested in large-format photography, but don’t know where to start? Last year we published a Beginner’s Guide to LF Photography.]

See everything Jeb has written here

James’ Pick: Wet-Plate Collodion

What camera gear would I love to try? Wow, what a question. Where to start? How about here – I assure you that the next sentence of this blurb is written with a complete absence of braggadocio. I have shot every camera.

In the seven-or-so years that I’ve been running this site, I’ve seen the camera-du-jour change nearly every… uh, jour. Remember when everyone needed a Nikon F3? And then it was a Polaroid. Then a Rollei. Then the T2 and Mju II. And then the Mamiya 7 and then the X-Pan. And around and around we go, ushered by the out-sized influence of site’s like mine, and a bunch of studiously hip YouTubers who spout misinformation over the mellow beats of lo-fi jazz hop while shooting vacuous photos of derelict shopping carts fortuitously positioned against the backdrop of the loading dock of their hometown’s tastefully run-down grocery-store. “WHAT’s up guys I’ve been shooting this Hahhsselblahhd 120 millimeter camera for the past three minutes and it is the BeStFiLmCaMeRaEvEr, smash that subscribe button and catch you on the next one.”

It could be argued that we’re doing the same thing here; being overly excited about gear. But at least we get our facts right, and when we wrap up a review we always say who the camera in question will fit, and more importantly, who it won’t. Just because I like a camera, doesn’t mean everyone will, or that it’s “the best camera.” And the X-Pan is a piece of junk. What a ridiculous thing.

Wait, I’ve gone off on a real tangent. Jeb, what was I supposed to be writing about? Ah, right – what would I like to shoot.

Well, after all this time and hundreds of cameras, the one thing that I’d really like to shoot is the one that I know very little about. It’s more accurate to say that I know nothing about it. I’m writing about the bizarre process known as “wet plate collodion photography.” I guess it’s also called tintype photography. I barely even know what to call it. To me, it looks more like alchemy than photography.

From what I’ve seen, to make a tintype photograph the photographer treats a piece of metal (probably an ancient artifact excavated from a tomb) by pouring onto its surface a lacquer-based emulsion (which I assume must be brewed in a cauldron). The plate is loaded into a magical wooden box with a 150-year-old lens attached, and a photo is taken. The photographer then takes the exposed plate into a darkroom, invokes the graces of ancient devils through a series of enchantments, and emerges minutes later amidst a plume of smoke and god-rays with an amazing looking positive image seemingly burned into the metal plate.

From afar, it looks like an amazing process. I’ll never do it, because I’m a coward. But it would be fun to try.

See everything James has written here

Joe’s Pick: Leica M10 Monochrome

In the world of photography gear there is a never-ending list of things to try: Fast new lenses, new high-resolution cameras, adapters to give old lenses new life, more old cameras than anyone can count and any number of other combinations that can lead one’s own G.A.S. down a bank-account-draining journey that goes on for eternity.  There are plenty of pieces of gear that I would love to have and use that I’ll likely never get my hands on, but right near the top of that list would be the Leica M10 Monochrome.

In my time deep diving in the world of photography I have yet to shoot or use any Leica cameras or lenses. One day that will change, but I won’t likely ever justify the expense of something so incredibly niche as the M10 Monochrome. I have an affinity for black and white photography that grows and deepens by the day and is something I continue to lean into more and more in my own work. So a dedicated high-resolution digital camera with a black and white sensor is extremely intriguing and perpetually tempting. Would the images it creates be as unique and high-quality as advertised? Would it fundamentally change the way I approach my black and white photography? Is it likely that my Monochrome shots would be “better” than what I can shoot on my Sony a7riii and convert to black and white?  My guess is a very hesitant “maybe, but probably not.”

For what I’d pay to try the M10 Monochrome I could shoot many more than 1,000 rolls of Ilford HP5 in any of the 35mm bodies I already own, and all I’d need to do is continue to refine my ability to “see” in black and white. I could upgrade my digital setup to the new Sony a1 and still have plenty left over for a new lens and still have money for a few hundred rolls of film. I could even get the Leica Q2 I’ve been coveting, a slightly more prudent investment. And that’s all just playing with the price of the M10 Monochrome body. It doesn’t even consider what I would need to spend on a nice M-Mount lens. I’ve justified plenty of different photography purchases, some of which made a lot more sense than others, but I have a feeling the M10 Monochrome is going to continue to sit in the “would love to have but never will” category for the foreseeable future.  I guess it’s time to just load up another roll of HP5 and go for a walk.

See everything Joe has written here

Charlotte’s Pick: A tilt-shift lens

In another life, in another city, I took property photos for a trendy lettings agent. The apartments ran the gamut from “tiny weeny damp apartment, please make it look habitable”, to “once lived in by Beatrix Potter, don’t touch anything”. One of the cornerstones of interior photography is straight lines – particularly vertical ones. No-one wants a prospective tenant to feel dizzy looking at a kitchen made of converging verticals. This often meant I had to crouch in a corner at waist height, or stand outside a building with my DSLR as high as it would go on the tripod, trying to view the screen on my tiptoes.

The problem of converging verticals would have been handily solved with a tilt-shift lens, the first examples of which were produced in the 1960s (large format cameras notwithstanding, where movements like this have been available since the beginning). A tilt-shift lens does exactly as the name implies; it allows you to tilt the plane of focus relative to your sensor or film, or shift it parallel to the sensor or film. For architecture, this means that your film would line up with the straight lines of the building being photographed. It results in perfectly rectangular buildings, rather than those that appear to be falling away into the background.

The real fun of tilt-shift lenses for me would be using the tilt functionality to create areas of focus we don’t usually see on 35mm photography. By tilting the lens relative to the film sheet on the vertical axis, for example, we can throw the sides of an image out of focus, and pull attention to the middle of the frame. This is the technique used for all the “miniature” images created of cities, horse races and cute villages full of people, and similar to the freelensing technique which I’ve explored before.  Large format cameras can often do this easily with their ranges of movement, but having the ability to tilt on a 35mm or even medium format camera would be magical.

See everything Charlotte has written here

Alex’s Pick: Contax T2

For me, the only camera I really long to use is a Contax T2. To be honest, I don’t believe it could possibly live up to the hype. I grew up loving snapshot style photography (closely tied to being in college during the golden age of Tumblr), and I’ve cycled through quite a few higher-end point-and-shoots over the years but have never landed on a T2. 

The problem is that I can’t justify the current price, so I pass on it, and every time I pass, that price increases. It’s a vicious circle. Want the camera, too expensive, pass, want the camera, even more expensive, pass again. 

I have almost given in to the idea that I will never own this camera, because anything from this point onward would make it the most expensive piece of photography equipment I own, and that totally goes against the entire concept of snapshot photography that I fell in love with in the first place.

Nick’s Pick: Zeiss ZX1

Shortly after its announcement at Photokina 2018, the Zeiss ZX1 began to feel like a ghost. First months and then years passed without it being released. Every so often I would visit the slick website heralding its concept and was reassured that it didn’t only exist in my imagination. By the time it was released in December 2020, it had approached a somewhat mythic status. Never mind that it sports a fixed 35mm f/2 Distagon lens paired with a 37 megapixel full-frame sensor, what makes the ZX1 unique is that inside this photographer’s digital camera beats the heart of a Android smartphone, giving the ZX1 in-camera Adobe Lightroom functionality.

The ZX1 shooting experience is instantly familiar and functional thanks to the exposure triangle control layout consisting of an aperture ring, shutter speed and ISO dial. The body design is kept sleek and minimal by having the balance of controls to the left of a single button and the very slick angled touchscreen. Zeiss is so confident in their concept that the ZX1 forgoes an SD card slot in favor of an internal 512 MB SSD. The camera can be linked to Adobe’s Creative Cloud (*subscription and wi-fi required), and editing happens in the mobile version of Lightroom. Edited photos can then be shared directly to Instagram from the camera.

It may seem odd to prioritize workflow when choosing a camera, but there’s never been a camera (to my knowledge) that incorporates it as robustly as the Zeiss ZX1. I see it as a camera/smartphone hybrid that, at best, blends elements from both to create something novel, but at worst could be a regrettable Frankenstein’s monster, like the keytar or alarm clock radio. The ZX1 would have to execute its concept perfectly to be worth what it costs, as it would have to render my laptop, and even smartphone redundant for photography. Every attempt at incorporating wi-fi sharing or editing in-camera that I’ve come across has been clunky and unreliable, especially when compared to the smartphone’s ability to seamlessly shoot, edit, store and share. I won’t know for certain if the ZX1 has achieved its potential until we give the ZX1 a proper review (and James is working on it).

See everything Nick has written here

Hemant’s Pick: Infrared photography

I’ve long had an interest in infrared photography – specifically, its possibilities with astrophotography and shooting the night sky. Everything about infrared is fascinating, from capturing the rich colors of nebulas to the very otherworldly look it renders and the creative effects it gives simple things like leaves and people. Unfortunately, because of expensive filters and specialized gear, accomplishing this with digital equipment is no small feat. Many people jump in the deep end and completely convert their cameras to operate in the infrared spectrum. 

It’s slightly easier when using film. Specialized infrared-tuned films existed for documentation uses, including Kodak Aerochrome and ORWO TC-27 and were used for surveying, astronomy and other scientific purposes. But beyond the scientific, infrared film has found a niche among film photographers for its unique look, the most notable example of which coming from Richard Mosse in his book “Infra.”

Kodak discontinued Aerochrome in 2009 leaving Lomography’s Lomochrome Purple and Ilford’s SFX 200 as the only remaining films to carry the spirit of infrared film. Anyone wanting the classic experience will have to survive on expired film still available online. (And if you do buy some, don’t forget to read up on the filters that make shooting infrared a much more enriching experience.) 

I would love to use infrared photography to expand my creativity beyond (literally) what I can see with my own eyes. If I could have anything, it would be a proper, fresh infrared film stock filling my refrigerator.

See everything Hemant has written here

Jim’s Pick: A Soviet rangefinder

Truth be told, I already have my dream camera. I was sold on Olympus cameras by the David Bailey adverts in the 70’s. “David Bailey? Who’s that?” When my eldest brother bought a Pentax ME Super I told him I would rather have an Olympus OM-1. He said I would never be able to afford one, but I swore I would have it one day. That day came 40 years later. It’s one of my “I told you so!” moments, even if it took me a while. So now I have to choose a new dream camera. And so the OM-1 has been replaced by a Soviet-made rangefinder.

I returned to film photography in 2017 after a downturn in health forced me to park my beloved motorcycle for a while. I spent a few months in 2016 talking to a friend about the best way to get back into film photography and the conversation came around to the Soviet Union’s camera industry. For reasons I have yet to figure out, Soviet rangefinders intrigue me. How they got away with copying Leica’s products so brazenly is a true mystery and the early models from FED and Zorki are said to be exact copies of the Barnack Leica.

I know people who use these early Leicas and won’t use anything else, but there are also those who say the same about Soviet copies. Why? (Connor recently gave his own answer to this question.) What’s the big deal about these and how close did the clones come to the source material? One day I will have a FED or a Zorki and find out for myself. Then I have to find someone daft enough to let me use their Barnack Leica for a day so I can test them side by side. (I suppose hell would probably have to freeze over before they would let me!) Oh well, that’s why we call it dreaming.

See everything Jim has written here

What pieces of gear are at the top of your dream list? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jeb Inge

Jeb Inge is a Berlin-based photographer and writer. He has previously worked in journalism, public history and public relations.

All stories by:Jeb Inge
  • I had a chance to play with a Leica Monochrom about five years ago. It really is as amazing and different as you’ve heard. The only other way I’ve achieved such smooth, buttery tones was shooting on slow medium-format film. When I win the lottery I’ll buy a Monochrom, THEN pay off my mortgage.

  • I’ve always wanted to try my hand at wet plate portraiture with a large format graflex.

  • Honestly I would love to find a space or build a shed just to get to make darkroom enlargements again. I develop and scan my own stuff but the magic for me was always seeing the image form on the paper. as far as gear goes, I have two cameras I would like to try. 1. The rollei 6008 seems like it would be amazing. and the second camera is the nikon fm3a. I have an fm2 but the idea that I could have aperture priority and mechanical speeds if the battery dies sounds awesome. I have a leica m7 now and have had the batteries die on me and that is not fun at all!

    • Peter Bidel Schwambach May 14, 2021 at 1:05 pm

      I hear ya man, I’ve been wanting an FM3a since I got back into film for the same reason of already owning an FM2 and being enticed about an even more capable version that elevated the series to legendary status.

      Yesterday, I actually traded in an OM2 and a small collection of Olympus lenses plus a few accesories, for a brand new FM3a still in the original box. Not a scratch or dent in it, and the camera is simply amazing.

      The only appropriate way to describe it is as if the gods of photography themselves took an FM2 and reshaped it into something worthy of the divine. That’s the FM3a

      • When I reviewed the FM3a years ago, it was on loan to me from another of this site’s writers, so I unfortunately was required to send it back after a few months. I’ve wanted one ever since (but my fiscal responsibility has always stopped me). Congrats on getting yours! The silver model in its original box is the one that I’d buy, too! I hope you enjoy it for many years to come.

        • Peter Bidel Schwambach May 19, 2021 at 12:32 pm

          Thanks! That review was actually one of the deciding factors to talking myself into looking for an FM3a, or rather, failing to talk myself out of it!

  • Even though I have two “Texas Leicas” and what James called “the best M mount camera around” (Minolta CLE), I don’t have a real Leica. I want a real Leica. Maybe an M3. This has to be nearly pristine, rarely used, a roll run through it every year or two for the past half century, otherwise kept in the back of a sock drawer, given to me to reduce the clutter and because I like old cameras. I’m waiting.

  • I’m also interested in a tilt-shift adapter for Minolta MD -> Sony E-mount, would love to use that for architecture shots.
    (And also a complete setup for bulk scanning film negatives, if Santa’s listening)

  • Peter Bidel Schwambach May 14, 2021 at 1:16 pm

    Mine’s not as exotic or hardcore as some on this list, but I’ve wanted an FM3a since I got back on the hobby, and as of yesterday, I’m the owner of a pristine silver example still in the original box. Got it in a trade with a local collector for my OM2 plus small collection of Zuiko lenses and accessories that I mentioned in last week’s article about shedding gear.

    I don’t really know why I wanted one so badly, considering I already have an FM2, and that’s pretty much my idea of a “forever camera”, but I guess it won’t hurt having a spare FM body. And the fact that the FM3a feels like an FM2 that was reshaped into divine perfection by the photography gods themselves, that’s also pretty neat.

    Right now, what I’d like the most would be to try my hand at home developing, processing and enlarging photos the old fashioned way, but tharlt requires a kind of structure, and associated costs, I’ll probably never be able to procure or afford.

    I’ve though about medium and large photography as well, but I guess I just enjoy too much the kind of flexibility afforded by 35mm to go down that route. It may not be the most detailed format ever, but I can bring if with me on a vacation trip or even a walk around the neighborhood, or set it up on a tripod for low light urban or landscape shots if I feel like it.

  • The first camera I remember using was my grandfather’s Arcus C-3 and I was 9 or 10 at the time. Since then, photography has been my main hobby and I have owned, probably, too many cameras over the years.

    In the last few years I have winnowed my own camera pile to just those few that work well for me and what I enjoy using.

    There are now maybe two or three cameras I’d like to try. Not necessarily to own but, these days there are effectively zero chances of me being able to borrow any film camera. So, I would have to buy them.

    The one(s) that continues to tempt me is a Rollei 2002 or 3003. Rationally, I honestly don’t expect either of those to truly be able to do anything I can’t do with my current 35mm set up but, man oh man, that form factor is VERY appealing to me.
    That one has all the potential weirdness and unusability one could ask for: uncommon lens mount? Check. Uncertain battery availability? Check. Wildly over featured for what I like to photograph? Check. Interesting and expensive color variations? Check. Somewhat overwhelming “system” component options? Check.

    Realistically, for myself, I have a very short list of thing I will be adding to my gear.
    >I need to get a good three way head for my tripod–I’m a happy owner and user of an Intrepid 4×5 mk II and have learned that I really dislike ball heads for shooting that one. I want to be able to move the camera in one axis at a time. So, I will be getting something this summer.
    >I traded my well sorted Zorki 3m for something else a couple years back and will need to get another one. That camera has become my favorite rangefinder and I miss it.
    >I don’t shoot very much 120 film these days and have an Arax 88cm for when I feel the need for square format but I am also building a 6×12 format pinhole camera for the more appealing (to me) framing. I have been idly looking for a 6×12 roll film back I can use on the intrepid, if I find a sufficiently enticing deal I will add that to my gear.

    The other thing that I’d like to find is a workshop relatively close to me that would teach large format slide film processing. I’m basically content with my BW processing set up but have not (yet) attempted slide film with my 4×5.

    Thanks for another good article, folks!

  • Great !
    Of course no digital cameras!!! If one : the Sony Xperia 1 III
    Of course no camera made in actual dictature 😉
    Only one, I can not find for a good price … … Rolleiflex 2.8 FX-Nprototype (20 have been made)
    I love film, and there none digital camera which can be a dream for me, also if I will have a huge budget, … I do not like digital, I use, because we must live in our world, but I do not like it !!! So now, I want less digital, electronic things. A Sony Xperia 1 III will be with a screen monitor, a micro SD of 1tb, a keyboard the digital to replace digital camera, computer, and pad : too much electronic things … it is noit green.
    May I have a thought for India and people all over the world who suffer for this Covid19 …

  • In response to Soviet Rangefinders as a Dream Camera Pick…My experience from the days when FSU cameras with lenses were $25 on ebay, is that the bodies work well when lubricated and the rangefinder is superior to LeicaiiiF. Lenses…well, potentially just as good as Leitz glass in some cases, but many lenses are lemons from the factory in terms of absolute sharpness. Additionally, lenses which appear to be direct copies of Leitz lenses may have nuance characteristics different from the copied lens. Without testing it seems like the uglier the design of a soviet lens is, the better it performs ie Industar-22 50mm/f3.5 Rigid I have which is outstanding vs my ‘superior’ Jupiter-8 50mm/f2 which is soft. Lack of slow shutter speeds bothers some on Fedz, but notta me. The joy of shooting with a very cheap camera can be creatively liberating.

  • I’m forever dreaming of a 35mm digital back (love the cameras really don’t like film)
    tilt shift and infrared for real world ambitions

  • I recently purchase my dream camera. A Nikon F3. Now going to send it off for a thorough CLA. Needless to say, I am excited

  • I’ve had an itch for a 6000 series Rollei since the ’90s, and it seems like every time I look at feebay I get closer to scratching it. I just can’t understand why when the bodies are going for peanuts (relatively) the lenses are still commanding serious bucks. Its a bizarre see-saw, every week or two I tell myself its pointless and I should just buy a GFX, then I add up the cost of the Fuji and 3 lenses and go back to sniffing around Rolleiflexes.

    • @ Robert Craps……I have a Rollei 6006 with Planar 80mm lens, charger and W/L finder. Do have the battery but it needs to be replaced. It doesn’t hold a charge very long. I’ve seen prices online for the 80mm and they are kind of up there. I am selling the whole thing for $675. If you are still interested. But that GFX is very tempting.
      Tim Gasper

  • There are a couple of cameras and lenses that come to mind. I’d like the fairly new Sony e 75-350mm lens for bird photography. I’d like a Leica m6 as I’ve never seen let alone held one. But both of these fall short of the original Konica F. I’m busy collecting a working copy of every SLR Konica made. I’ve got a working FS-1, am looking at a quite rare FP-1 program tomorrow. These have been tricky. But to have a Konica F when probably less than 1500 were made is something that dreams are made of. Just having a 1960 camera with a max shutter speed of 1/2000 seconds is amazing

  • For infrared there’s still Rollei 400IR available and JCH 400 is infrared sensitive to almost 800nm. Works great. Digital wise the Fujifilm F100 original can shoot handheld daylight infrared with amazing quality.

  • I mix a lot of these picks together. I shoot IR exclusively with one camera, a Canon IV Barnack Leica copy using a Soviet Industar 26 lens and one film, JCH Streetpan 400. I also shoot two Barnack Leicas; a Leica 1 with standard B&W films, and a Leica IIIf with color films.

  • Robert Fabricio May 18, 2021 at 9:38 am

    Hey, there hasn’t been A soviet Union since 1989, so you must be talking about a Russian camera.

  • I used to dream of a tilt-shift lens for one of my 35mm SLRs but they’re excruciatingly pricey and not that great when you look at the spec sheet or what they can do. Most modern tilt-shift lenses can tilt 5 to 10° for the best ones. And those will cost 500 to 1,000 USD. For the equivalent of 500 USD, I bought a Topcon Horseman 985 with a 6×9 back, a 6×7 back, a pair of great lenses (65/7 and a 105/3.5) and I can tilt down 25° and tilt up 15°. And I had a lot of fun doing “miniature” pictures using the Scheimpflug effect. And it’s 6×9 so the negatives are absolutely gorgeous. The camera itself is a gem and can do many other things like lateral shift and swing, rise and drop. It also sports a rangefinder for handheld photography on a variety of lenses. The viewfinder is separate because the rangefinder has a ratio of 1:1 but the viewfinder shows framelines from 90 to 180mm and has automatic parallax compensation. The camera can take a lot of different backs, Graflok backs made by Topcon, Linhof, Graflex, and even Mamiya RB67 backs. With an adapter, it can shoot 4×5 sheets but with limited bellows movement. All in all, a better and cheaper option than expensive tilt-shift lenses.

  • Herschel Pollard June 3, 2022 at 2:17 pm

    Sadness, no mention of pinhole photography 😁

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Jeb Inge

Jeb Inge is a Berlin-based photographer and writer. He has previously worked in journalism, public history and public relations.

All stories by:Jeb Inge