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