What's on your "photographic" Holiday wish list? What do you hope Santa drops (gently) down your chimney?

Martin Burke and Meredith McCall in a series of images
marketing "Santaland Diaries" at Zach Theatre.

It's a tradition for photographers who blog to do a laundry list of stuff they recommend to their readers. I presume that the conceit is that you would never have heard of these products if talented bloggers had not brought them to your attention. And now that you've been informed the smart thing to do is to click through the links supplied and make sure you get that perfect camera, lens or light before the stores run out. Or before the companies making the goodies decide to give up and move on to greener pastures; like the design and marketing of innovative new microwave ovens and smart phones. 

I thought I'd take a different tack and ask you what you are actually interested in getting for yourself during this holiday season. And I thought I'd start the ball rolling by letting you know which two or three things I have bouncing around in my head right now:

1. Since I'm a sucker for the "idea" of really good lenses the first item is a "want" and not a "need." I have my mind set on thinking-about-getting (as opposed to actually getting) that Sigma 24-35mm f2.0 zoom lens I rattled on about a few weeks past. I love big, heavy zooms because the implication is that fewer compromises in design and construction were made. My fantasy for this lens is that every time I need a wide angle of some sort I'll be able to put one of these amazing lenses on a D810 and out image the hell out of everyone else.  Buildings will be sharper and more three dimensional, faces more animated and products made more desirable just from having been photographed by this two pound wonder lens. The fantasy continues all the way through post production when I will hand a finished print to a client who will be so impressed, and content fulfilled, that he or she will faint onto a convenient settee and need to be revived with smelling salts. 

The reality might turn out to be that I buy one and compare it to my ancient, Nikon 25-50mm f4.0 and realize that the old lens is at least 90% of the new lens but is already paid for and nicely broken in. But by then I'll be too embarrassed to sell the new lens or return it because of the amount of uninformed gushing I have been doing on my blog.

2. All of a sudden I want a Nikon D4S. Don't know why. Maybe it's a reaction to all the pixie cameras I've been buying and using over the past five years. Maybe I believe that if I spend obscene amounts of money on a camera that it will have special imaging powers that most people don't understand. Maybe I want a camera with a battery that lasts all week instead of all day (or just a couple of hours). 
I'm pretty sure I'm not going to buy one of these either. But I'm sure if I wore it around my neck all day as I walked around downtown two things might happen: a. A lot of people will ask me if I am a "full time," "professional" photographer. And, b. I will have a very sore neck by the end of the day. 

There are things to like about the big camera. The finder is extremely nice. The sensor is supposed to be extremely good, and it will most likely take more of a beating that a more reasonably sized and priced camera.

All very rational stuff but I'd still like to find one in my stocking this year ---- unless those people at Nikon want to buy me off for a while by sending me a D5 for free instead. I'll take a prototype, as long as the firmware is upgradable...

3.  I would dearly love to have a Leica M4. The original M4, not the "P" version. I'm a little light on M bodies since I lost one in that horrible Range Rover accident in Lisbon. That's what I get for loaning equipment to Henry White.  If you are sending me one as a gift for all of my hard work and brilliant (and funny) writing here on the blog, save yourself some money and don't send along a 50mm lens for it. I already have one that will work. This is one camera I would buy, if I had the money and could find one in mint condition (black, enamel, please). 

Those are all my camera, self-gift fantasies for right now. Sad (or happy) thing is that I can't really think of anything I need, photographically. Nothing I can point to and say, "Not having this is holding me back!" But it's nice to think about what I would buy if I got all capricious and silly and went on a spending binge. But that will have to wait a while as most of my extra cash goes off to a college somewhere. 

So, this is the interactive part. Is there some cool stuff that's not on my radar? A camera out of the mainstream that we haven't written about? Some product or finely crafted tool that you think all VSL readers might need to know about? What do you want for the holiday? Tell us in the comments.

(and yes, I think all of us would list PEACE ON EARTH, and all the other planets too...)

Coolest lenses?
Coolest cameras (existing or imagined)?
Coolest lights?
Coolest light modifiers?
It's kind of an open forum: Go!

Sorry. No gratuitous links. You'll have to look up your own "must have" gear.


  1. Sorry, no Leica M's here. But, I'll be happy to send you the Argus C3 I bought for myself around 1963, while I was in the US Air Force and stationed at Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island. It might need a little CLA, but heck, I got 20 years out of it before updating to a Canon SLR.

  2. The coolest lens this year for me is the Nikon 1 32 mm f/1.2. It is really a great lens that takes the Nikon J5 images very close to the output of a high end FF DSLR in good light.

    The J5 is the coolest camera of the year in my opinion. The dynamic range and color depth has been raised substantially compared to previous Nikon 1s and that can really be seen in the images. Also the articulated touch screen is very good, including touch to auto focus and shoot which is sometimes very useful.

    Now I'm just waiting impatiently for the Nikon V4 with the same sensor as the J5, but with a built in view finder.

  3. Don't carry your dream/imaginary D4s around your neck. Put the strap over neck and arm/shoulder. Adjust strap length so it comes tight as it rests in front of your eye when you shoot. So head and one arm through strap, when not shooting it'll sit on front of back of hip. Weight on shoulder rather than neck but with no risk of it slipping off your shoulder. I carried and used my D3s for many years in this fashion with no issues.

    That D4s is a desirable camera for sure, awesome AF would work well for your theatre work too. I'm waiting to see what the D5 offers over my D3s.
    A D5 is on my wishlist, but only if it offers a substantial advantage over my D3s.

  4. No needs, just wants. I have a nearly mint chrome M4, a 500C/M, a Rolleiflex Automat (Tessar!), a Minolta Dynax 7, a Minolta XD7 and a Konica Hexar AF. So I am well set on the analogue front with more than I need and regularly can use. What I don't have is a digital system. I do have the very nice compact Ricoh GRD III which is the only digicam I have ever held which feels like a camera and not a computer. Computers are charmless tools. And I have the Pentax K-01 with a very sweet 31/1.8 Limited, which has been my trial cam for a possible future system. Nikon and Canon are too big. I don't want m4/3 and don't trust Sony. Which leaves me with Pentax, for which I already happen to have some lenses old and new. So, Pentax K-3 II. This is what I actually wish for and may actually get. Very boring, so not cool but supremely functional and I see a lovely 77mm Limited in the future as portrait lens. All the best for the holidays and many thanks for a continuosly interesting blog!

  5. Im finding it really hard to find anything I want though I do need to find some small sized light modifiers. I want books, monographs by artists, photographers and that is really it, I love books.

  6. Coolest imaginary camera? How about a EVF equipped digital Mamiya 7 of sorts, with a 55x44mm sensor, 40 to 50 megapixels, and auto-focus lenses (I'd even take adapted Mamiya/Phase One 645 lens if it would bring this pipe dream any closer to reality). I'm a 4x5 ratio addict, and it confuses me to no end why mirrorless cameras, regardless of sensor size, do not include this as an in-camera crop ratio. Seems like it would be fairly easy firmware addition, although I suppose the demand is just not there. A real shame, I think 4x5 is a much more useful ratio than 16x9 which seems to have become a standard issue option.

    I'm seriously considering the D810 for its ability to crop to 4x5 right in the (optical!) viewfinder. Kirk, have you ever played around with this feature?

  7. Well lets see, for film cameras there are still a few I would like to own. A Leica M3 or M5, maybe one day but I have managed to resist the urge so far. And for sure a nice 6x9 Fuji GW690III, nothing like a gigantic negative with loads of detail. But I have so many film cameras as is that I cannot possibly use all of them on a regular basis.

    Digital, I would really love Nikon to release the D400, which for some reason they are not doing...very strange. I love my D300 though and will continue to use it for the majority of my digital work. The Nikon DF with a proper manual focusing screen would be the bees knees. Lighting lighting and more lighting. I need more leds, some light stands...a proper tripod. So much gear, so little time, and money.

  8. After a lifetime of gear lust, it feels strange to not need, or even really want anything. Well, maybe an Oly 9-18 for my M4/3s system. But that's about it.

    Actually, I kinda miss the gear lust. It was impoverishing, but enjoyable.

  9. I've been using my old Minolta Rokkor lenses on my Fuji X-E1 camera for a while now, and thinking about the new Fuji 35mm.

  10. It's comforting to see I'm not the only one with no real gear lust - though I'd be safer if a certain blogger would stop raving about the the FZ 1000.

    I would like a studio with great window light, but not sure Santa could get it down the chimney.

  11. I want a DX 21 mm equivalent wide angle. I need to send my 80-200 f2.8 Nikon D in for cleaning and realignment!!

  12. I just want some time and cooperation to take some great food shots of the feast. Going to try a reflector with indirect sunshine.
    Dream gift? A Panasonic LX100

  13. You and I both need to put a Leica (Panasonic) Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 on our m4/3 bodies. Having what some believe is the reference lens for an entire system cannot be a bad thing. Your love of the 85mm focal length makes this an ideal Christmas present. Who knows, maybe Henry White will give you one as compensation for the incinerated M4 you lost in Lisbon. Just give him the hint.

  14. Thanks to Black Friday Santa came early with a Rebel SL1 and 24/2.8 pancake. I've absolutely loved that camera so far, even with m43 and a Nikon d7100. Maybe some more system consistency would be the best present I could get

  15. is want a set of 3 of the nissin d7100a flashes for sony and the wireless controller, some v flats, a big diffuser scrim, and some kind of fancy led continuous lighting

  16. I'm in pretty decent shape with regard to video/photo/audio/lighting gear (for once). But then you just never see it coming........... We've been working on creating a documentary of an old historic railroad, long ago abandoned. Some of the areas are very remote and require some serious hiking. So, we decided to turn this into an adventure doc of sorts. I bought myself an early present and now have a GoPro Hero4. I don't see us using it much in the project, but as a POV camera to capture some action during the hikes it's actually been an amazing tool. Set up for 45mbps in Pro Tune and we have been very pleased. Obviously it doesn't render in the same league as our larger gear, but for the occasional POV shot it can't be beat. Sometimes simple is just enough.
    ~ Ron

  17. Sold some gear and updated my purse cam (I don't have a smart phone) to the G5X (some blogger sold me on the idea of EVFs), so I'm good for now. Just waiting for the new Pentax. I've been holding off updating my DSLR for that. Keeping the lenses in good working order for it with my seven film cameras. ;)

  18. I wouldn't mind if Santa left an E-M5.2 under the tree. Photographically, I don't need it as the E-M5.1 does what I need it too. I'm just tired of the mode dial changing positions going in/out of the bag or in a light breeze.

    I'd also been thinking of upgrading my Lightroom / Photoshop plug-ins. However, I just don't use them enough to justify it. I kind of like the look that I get with just regular Lightroom adjustments. Now that Lightroom does HDR and panoramic stitching, I almost never use the plug-ins anymore unless I want some sort of "special effect" look.

    There really aren't any lenses that I'm pining for. Which feels ... odd.

    Naw, I don't need those things. Instead, I bought myself a couple of 64 SD cards that were on sale recently. Amazon had some of Lexar's Professional high-speed memory cards on sale last week. The 64 GB cards were around $34. Not bad for a bit of future proving to one of the things that I use the most. My D800 feels much more "roomy" storage-wise now.

  19. No wishes here. For what I do, I have all the cameras and lenses I need.

  20. For Ming, 127,000 DPI....

  21. Red Rider BB gun. Sorry wrong blog.

  22. I got a great deal on a Sony A77ii + 16-50 2.8 kit on Black Friday, so I'm set. This set up cost about the same as the A55 that I bought in 2010(?) that this will replace. I don't need the absolute latest and greatest, and Sony has been lagging with A-mount bodies anyway.

    I agree with you ... after using small bodies (and small batteries) the past few years (Sony NEX, A55), I wanted something chunkier. It's nice to use my heavy legacy lenses again. The big camera puts me into a different mood and I take different style shots. Weird, but good.

  23. I already received my Christmas present. Is it cool to have a camera that everybody says has poor performance? That is made by a budget brand? That blows highlights easily and recovers them poorly? Whose raw files are unsupported by all the major software players and forces you to use the brand's own sucky processor? That has a fixed prime lens on an uncomfortable compact body? That has a max aperture of f/4? That has no video whatsoever? That was released only this year? That costs $1000 yet has only a back screen and no viewfinder, optical nor electronic? That has an APSC sensor? That nevertheless has more resolution than a D810? Welcome to my Christmas present, the Sigma dp0.

    Yeah. Maybe it *is* cool.

  24. As I have gotten older and my kids have become more active, I find myself downsizing on the camera front. I used to carry a Canon 7D and a bagful of lenses and then I added an E-M5 with the Olympus 12-40. Much smaller and lighter, yay!

    Now I have a two-week trip coming up where I will do lots of walking and am thinking about getting still smaller and acquiring an RX100 MK4. I love the idea of a pocketable camera with outstanding image quality.

    Please Santa, I have been extra good! :-)

  25. RX10.2 just because the RX100.4 has me addicted to the flat profile (PP7)

    That being said I can easily see the FZ1000 being my practical choice.

    B-List: For no practical reason a D700 or D610 to use all my old Nikon glass and ... well just no good reason at all.

  26. I went to a camera shop in London, a perfect little den of a place, and tried the new Leica SL.

    Oh my word. What a wonderful camera !

    It has by far the best EVF I have ever seen. it is not just a little bit better than a Sony or Olympus, it is a whole new thing. A stunning technological development.

    It also has a lovely user interface. Hardly any buttons. And a touchscreen.

    Manual focus with old lenses is so very, very easy.

    It is as if someone knew what the perfect camera was, and made it for me.

    Shame I can't afford it...

  27. Camera-wise I'm all set for the time being.
    (although an EM5.2 replacement for the current EM5 would be welcome - but I can't afford it just yet)
    As for lenses, I'm soooo tempted to get an AF Nikkor 135/2 DC!...
    And it's all your fault, Kirk! :)

  28. I'm good. Over the last several years, a dalliance with Nikon, then a series of M43 bodies from Olympus and Panasonic, I finally have the camera I want: a Lumix LX100. Great lens. Good video. Manual dials for aperture, speed, exposure compensation, AF/MF, aspect ratio. Nice looks (I have the silver one). EVF when I want it. And a Lumix LX7 for my briefcase.

    When I have the time and want to just fart around with stuff, I still have a couple M43 bodies, some native lenses, and a variety of adapted film camera glass. Several tripods. Too many bags and cases. Oh, and if I REALLY want to screw around with stuff, there are the film cameras, 35mm, 120, 4x5. And a nice scanner for my small collection of vintage glass negatives.

    So, I'm good to go. Besides, I want 2016 to be my year of printing. I got the Epson P600 months ago, and have not yet used it even once!

  29. Leica SL if it can deliver good video files. Leica Q just because.

    My D3 and D3s continue to serve me well today - I see no reason to upgrade (to a D4s), but a 4K capable D5 would be very interesting.

  30. I wish to get a Leica Sl and a 50mm Noctilux to go with it. That would be a dream come true. Unfortunately realistically Santa needs to get me a 200-500mm Nikkor first. Need it for nature and BIF shots.

  31. I must have been good this year, Santa's already given me a 7-14 f2.8 Olympus lens. Hopefully the shop I traded in my old Canon body and a couple of lenses will make someone else very happy this Christmas. I also saw this a couple of days ago - ipad tethering for Nikon and Canon https://www.manfrotto.com/products/digital/digital-director

  32. The three volumes of "The Photobook: The History"

    But..., I have also looked at two very nice examples of an M4 black enamel

  33. Last year or two I've acquired quite a bit of gear that I'd been lusting after for awhile so it's actually cooling off.

    I'm printing stuff and looking at saving money for vacation or models or moving and trying to be sensible.

    Gear thoughts

    Camera : Nikon D810 but I'm waiting until it comes down to sub $1500 and by that time I might be looking at a Sony A7R2 and/or the Pentax 645Z. The D600 I have has cooled this down.

    Lenses : Tamron 15-30mm 2.8 , Sigma 24mm 1.4 Art , Zeiss 35mm F2 , Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art, Voigtlander 58mm 1.4 , Zeiss 85mm 1.4 , Zeiss 135mm F2 , Nikon 200mm F2 , Nikon 300mm 2.8. From this list you'd never know that I have and love the 85mm 1.4G , 105 DC, and 180mm 2.8.

    Lighting : Profoto Compact 1200 , Profoto B1 , Rotolight Anova Solo 5600K are the whimsical day dreams. Another Einstein w/ Cyber module is the reality.

    Light Modifiers : Mola Beauty Dishes, California Sunbounce Sunswatter and Big Bounce maybe even that light blocking contraption. I recently temporarily "finished" my modifier collection so unless I go Profoto I'm pretty happy and have a lot of different options to create.


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