Look what I found gathering dust in a corner of the studio….I can still smell the fixer now as I begin to reminisce about film, dark rooms and red lights. Miscellaneous collection of cameras used over the years and now (mostly) redundant. Although the old Hasselblad lenses work a treat on the Phase One 645/IQ180 system.
First up, the old workhorses from the newspaper days: Nikon F3 and two FM2s. Built like battleships and took some battering too (as you can see) – although fortunately they never had to ‘take a bullet’ like McCullin’s old Nikon F. Which reminds me, you must check out Jacqui Morris and David Morris’ film ‘McCullin’ – released last month and well worth seeing. A reminder of what great photojournalism can be and why it is so important. Both the F3 and the FM2 were superb cameras designed for hard work and never let me down. Seen better days now though!
And the two that were permanently on my shoulder from those days until fairly recently: Two Leica M6’s. I’d had an M4 when I was just starting out (couldn’t afford the M6), but as soon as I got hold of these I was never parted from them for 20 years or more. Still use the lenses on the M8. Once shot a picture on one of these that was given the whole of the front page of the Independent newspaper in the UK. As I recall it was hand held at 1/4 sec at f1.4 on Kodak Tri-X pushed to 1600 – and still pin sharp. Was there ever another camera that could be handled like that?
Another classic, the Hasselblad 500C. Either with a waste level finder or the prism viewfinder the 6×6 format was a joy to work with. For me one of the key things about different cameras is that you take different pictures. The way it feels in your hands (or on a tripod) completely changes the way you work. I feel the same now about the Phase One and the IQ180 – an absolute pleasure to use and image files are second to none – once again it feels like a camera designed by photographers for photographers (takes the old Hasselblad V lenses too which is a little bonus).
When I was shooting for Rick Stein’s Seafood Lover’s Guide, we decided that we needed some wide panoramic images across double page spreads. I picked up this Toyo Art Panorama 170 and had a lot of fun with it. It was a bit tricky to use and due to the wide nature of the format the lenses needed a centre weighted graduated filter. It was a nightmare to focus and kind of awkward in the way you had to wind on the 120 film and sort of guess where the next exposure should be made, but the results were fabulous. I recall shooting a whole series of panoramic landscapes on the Isle of Colonsay in Scotland as artworks for the hotel and also using it for portraits in a metal bashing factory in New Jersey. One of the last jobs it was used for a was a big Barclays Bank campaign. It got about a bit!
But for unrivalled quality and versatility, the old Sinar Norma was the one – heavy though and once my Ebony field camera had been stolen, I even used it for some landscape work believe it or not!I’ve seen this next one described as the ‘best camera ever made’ – The Mamiya 7ii. An extraordinary idea in that they took the Leica rangefinder principle and applied it to a 6×7 format camera. This made it incredibly easy and fast to handle and the image quality was getting close to 5/4 film. Of all the cameras though I have to say this was a bit of a luxury. It sort of went against the point I made earlier on in which you make different pictures with different cameras. To all intents and purposes this handled like a Leica (ha ha, I’m a poet!) but gave you massive 6/7 negs. The problem was that it was not small and inconspicuous like the Leica and when I wanted the bigger negs or transparencies it was generally for work that I would prefer to shoot on the Hasselblad or 5/4. People still love the Mamiya though and I’ll maybe not ebay it just yet!and finally….
this one was from way before my time but I bought this little beauty from a friend who just had it in a cupboard. Leica iii g with collapsible Elmar 5cm lens. To be honest it’s had more use as a prop than a camera, but it’s a fine piece of engineering and I like to see it in the studio. I did use it a few times and the lens quality was second to none. Not a battery in site either!