Be Honest. What Gear Would You Buy If You Were Starting Over From Scratch and Price Was No Object?

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

Trends in Photographic Retailing as Seen in Conversations With One Shop.

I have a friend who has been a photographer for as long as I have known him and that's about thirty seven years. A few years back, in the great recession, he decided to get a job in a camera store. A wise decision, I think. His specialty is working with professionals, state agencies, schools and other areas that are both retail in nature and not directly consumer driven. He handles purchase orders and large order fulfillment and stuff like that. He's a smart guy and he's been around the block a few times. 

I had occasion to spend some time with him this afternoon and I asked him what was new. Now, when I first met him he was an avowed Nikon shooter. At some point, when he became interested in architecture he switched to Canon for the wonderful tilt/shift lenses. But when I talked to him today he told me that, "what was new" is that he just purchased his own Sony A7R2 and he's been shifting his institutional customers away from Canon and Nikon in favor of Sony and Olympus cameras. With dubious innocence I asked him why. His response was more nuanced than the one I have the time and energy to write here but essentially the combination of brilliantly done electronic viewfinders, the absolute accuracy of the on-sensor focusing and the magic of 5 axis image stabilization makes the Sony and Olympus cameras much more usable and virtuous that the cameras with flipping mirrors. 

He mentioned one school district that conceded the superior value of the mirrorless cameras for most things but sighed, "We still need the high frame rate cameras like the Canon 7D mk2 for sports and stuff like that." My friend gently pointed out that the mirror was the roadblock in effective frames per second and went on to tell them that a number of smaller, less expensive cameras had