One camera

If you could only have one camera to shoot with for the rest of time what would it be? One camera, one lens. For ever.

It seems like a simple question and the temptation is to cite the latest high end professional equipment, but Is this really the best camera to shoot with forever? It seems strange to select something you have yet to even handle before as your long-term photographic companion. Sure, with 100k to spend I would probably put a nice Leica M9 kit together but it would be unlikely to become my goto camera for every situation.

My first choice would be a Nikon F3 HP with a Nikkor 35mm f2.0 lens.

Ok this ^ isn’t an F3, but I don’t have one to hand to photograph

I chose this camera for a number of reasons,

– It is one of the few cameras ever made that is likely to last as long as I will. I feel this is an important factor and easy to overlook so I have put it at the top of my list. I know an F3 will work wherever I want to take it.

– It handles like a dream. Simple and intuitive controls that just let you get on with the business of shooting. Because it’s a 35mm film camera it has a big bright viewfinder with a simple exposure readout, as much information as you need and no more.

– 35mm is the perfect one-focal-length-for-evertything lens. Wide enough for landscape and architectural shooting while still being suitable for portraits, and generally 35mm lenses focus close enough for close-up and detail shots. Of course a zoom lens will be more versatile overall, but it also respresents a compromise on my next two reasons.

– It’s compact. Another important feature that is easy to overlook. A Nikon D4 with a 24-70 zoom is great, but if you only have one camera then you have to lug it everywhere that you want to shoot. The F3 is not too far from the size of modern high end compact cameras and certainly easy to carry about with a 35mm lens on.

– An f2.0 lens is fast. This means a bright viewfinder for composing the focussing the image, the ability to control depth of field precisely and the capability to shoot in low light without being forced to use high ISO film.

So my one camera turns out to be high quality and compact, with huge flexibility and simple intuitive controls that are a delight to use. This could be considered as the design goal for just about every new camera for decades now, but very few get it right and even fewer manage to tempt me.

The whole reason I wrote this post is because I have been asking myself this question recently. I found myself with the means to actually obtain my ideal camera, but I stopped and wondered whether there was something better. My Nikon FE with a 35mm f2.0 AF-D lens is as near as dammit to the above just without the kudos.

In the end I chose something else.

Second choice: A Fuji X100 (I actually bought one of these).

All of the reasons I list above apply to this camera with the additional usability (and time saving) benefit of being a digital camera. I am still getting to know it, but it does seem to be something special.

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2 thoughts on “One camera”

  1. It took me one year to discover, find and posses my ideal camera… It’s a Leica M2 + summicron 40mm f2.0

    The Leica M2 also covers all your points, and its a dream of a 100% mechanical camera to look at, operate and take with you everywhere.

    Plus I expect to leave it to my 2 sons as a special gift when I pass away! 🙂

    1. I haven’t tackled Leica yet…. But I can see the attraction. I think that of the truly legendary cameras I am more drawn to a Hasselblad 500C than a Leica M, but as a ‘one camera’ proposition the Leica has the better potential.

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