It is ‘seeing’ a picture that really counts, not the type of equipment you choose to accomplish its capture.
My late friend, colleague and former business partner Robin Adshead (below left) was frequently asked by aspiring defence photographers, “What is the best camera to use to get great military photographs?”
“f/8 and be there!” was his acerbic response. You’re always going to miss that great image if you haven’t got a camera, but even with a humble Box Brownie, or its digital equivalent, you are streets ahead of the man (or woman) with nothing.
Whilst using a wide range of equipment over the years, my constant companions have always been Nikon cameras. Why? Well, they have always been built to very high standards and just go on working, whatever is thrown at them. I’ve only broken two, but then no camera can survive being shot or dropped from a helicopter on to a tank like my Nikon F2 Photomic with MD-1 Motor Drive, below.
Starting with a Nikon F, followed by a Nikon F Photomic FTn with the ubiquitous F-36 Motor Drive (above), through the F2, F4 and F5 range of film cameras (bypassing the F3 which I never really liked) to my first digital Nikon, a fantastically expensive 1.2 mega-pixel E2, I’ve used or owned a large part of the range of Nikon equipment. Lately I've been tempted by the nostalgia groups to dip my toes back into the film market. I briefly found a degree of solace there before all the memories of why I hated film so much came flooding back! You can see what I thought of it here and here.
Today, I use full-frame Nikon digital SLR cameras, along with a wide range of lenses including the Nikkor AF-S 16-35mm f/4G VR and the Nikkor AF-S 200-400mm f/4G VR. Additionally, I use the outstanding Nikon LS8000 Super Coolscan (now sadly out of production) for scanning 35mm and roll film. I also use the Nikon D810 for group shots, for example, and the results are akin to those achieved when I first started using 5x4 after 35mm - jaw-droppingly good. With the recent announcement of the Nikon D850, with its ultra-high quality allied to high speed framing rates and a plethora of other useful features, I've set my sights on a couple of those too!
Nikon Speedlights with wireless remote triggers, a Nikon MC-36 Remote Control unit, tripods, an ancient but highly prized Mazof VISII Camera Trigger and various accessories are packed in either the Think Tank Airport Acceleration V2.0 or the Lowepro Pro Trekker 400 AW cases, which are both outstanding items of kit. Once I am at my final destination the kit gets moved into mundane looking, but functionally excellent, Domke bags.
Where you get the kit from is also important I feel. There are any number of impersonal on-line stores, but nothing beats personal service in my book, even if you pay a little extra for it. Grays of Westminster providing exclusively Nikon with expert guidance from Gray Levett, along with Mifsuds Photographic in Brixham, are the undisputed cream of the crop in the UK, in my considered opinion. Calumet Photographic in Bristol look after my everyday photographic requirements, whilst KEH Camera in the USA offers really outstanding service for the secondhand market.
But remember, that is purely my personal preference. All the major manufacturers offer superb equipment; the skill is in knowing how to use it to achieve your, and your client’s goals.