I was thinking about this today as I stood in the middle of Precision Camera and contemplated all of the new camera gear. All of the Leicas and Nikons and Canons. All the smaller cameras and used cameras. The overwhelming wealth of choices that would be available to someone with a totally empty camera bag and a totally limitless bank account.
What would I buy?
I played the game as an enthusiast and artist instead of falling into the tired role of commercial photographer. In this role I would not need an extensive inventory of lenses and accessories. I would not need to impress clients. I would not need fast focus or fast frame rates. As I deleted the preoccupations of my occupation I started to change directions entirely. My needs would be so different.
I wouldn't worry about high flash sync or access to a really cool flash system. I wouldn't need cameras with special modes or bracketing features.
I could sit back and look at the way I shoot for myself and start making some adaptations to help my innate style along. After looking through the exif date of the 140,000+ images I have up on Smugmug.com and the 240,000 images I currently have in Lightroom libraries I can see that, among my personal work, I use four focal lengths almost exclusively. Those are the 50mm, the 85mm, 100mm (+/- 5mm) and the 135mm. Nothing else comes close. Concerned about wide angles vanishes into the void.
So I would want a system that gives me the focal lengths I cherish. Not a zoom or a range of zooms but real, actual prime focal lengths.
I want a body with a full frame sensor and
a simple menu interface. My choice of lenses also strikes rangefinders from consideration since there are so few great focal lengths I like these days that work well with the available finders from Leica. Gone is the .85X finder that made the 75mm and 90mm lenses workable. Now all that's left is the .72X finder. Ho. Hum.
My first thoughts, if money was no object, were to go with the latest Leica medium format camera and the right assortment of lenses but then I realized that if I didn't have to work for a living I'd spent most of my time walking around with the cameras shooting and I really don't want to carry the weight. I scratched it from my list.
I thought about the Fuji mirrorless system because I heard the lenses were so great but I'm not sure about the X-trans sensors and to be truthful I can't get on well with the interface on most of the cameras they make. Things seem to change uncontrollably. I'm sure I could get used to it but if I was rich and choosy why would I have to submit to the camera's fickle will?
The Olympus cameras and Panasonic cameras are nice but lack gravitas and the full frame sensor I mentioned above.
When I really burrowed down I realized that I liked the feel of some of the Nikon bodies but I'd like to mix and match lenses with other makers. I'd go with the Sigma 50mm Art lens for that focal length, the 80mm Summilux of the old Leica R series for that focal length, the 100mm f2.0 from the Canon for that focal length and the 135mm f2.0 Zeiss lens for that focal lengths. In the end I'd probably settle for one camera and one lens, though.
Yeah. Even though I've scratched it off my list it would be a Leica M in black paint paired with a 50mm Apo Summicron. That would pretty much do it for me.
What would your camera and lens choice be if there were no constraints?
I had a big romance with Leica M cameras in the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's. Maybe it's time for the rapprochement.
Added for all those folks who presumed I have never handled an M Leica: