The best and most convincing proof of performance is, of course, a picture
Over the years one accumulates loads of photographic stuff, and in the end, when replacing, storing or reselling it. Here I only intend to focus on main equipment I have been really using. My bottom line is that equipment does not take good photographs. It’s the photographer’s eye, irrespective of the equipment used. Good stuff just helps.
My starting point with photography was my father’s extraordinary medium format Rolleiflex 3.5 camera, with a Schneider-Kreuznach Xenotar 3.5/75 as taking lens and using 6x6 120 film. The Rolleiflex double lens camera was a standard during the early 60s and every photographer would have one of its models by then. This model was built in 1959. I used it in my youth during the early 70s. I latter used a SLR Asahi Pentax Spotmatic F with a set of lenses (28, 50 and 135mm) that belonged to a friend. It was by then that started using the dark room for printing B&W.
I was 14-YO then, and photography as a hobby was irreversible for me. During the analogue period I became a Nikon user, using the manual FM and F2, and latter F90X. With these cameras I used a variety of glass, such as Nikkor AI 20mm f3.5, Nikkor AI-S 28mm 2.8, Sigma 21-35mm f3.5-4.2, micro-Nikkor 55mm f2.8, micro-Nikkor AF 105mm f2.8, Nikkor AI-S 70-210mm, among others. I have none of these lenses left except the 55. At the time I was shooting mainly slides, such as Kodachrome 64 and Fuji Velvia and Provia. I started printing colour in the lab of a friend photographer, mainly from slides using Cibachrome/Ilfochrome method.
For a while I went again mid-format using a Bronica ETRS system with Zenzanon EII 75mm f2.8 and Zenzanon MC 50mm f2.8. In fact I used it mainly for professional purposes, mounted in a frame to take pictures of the intertidal substrate to analyse biological communities. The resolution of mid-format was amazing, but due its size and weight I rapidly putted it back on the shelf, where it remains.
I continued the analogue era up to now, using a Leica M6 TTL with a Carl Zeiss M 35mm Biogon. I use this on occasions but regularly, usually for casual street photography during weekends. This keeps me sharp on thinking photography while shooting. No immediate visualization and manual setting. Always a good exercise. Its like a warming up or gym session before the match. And plenty of nice photos! I digitize negatives and the pile of old slides using a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000. The ICE filter helps for the long years of storage and bad handling.
I was never much an underwater shooter, but diving quite a lot for marine biology research I used a Calypso/Nikkor II and a Nikkonos V with a W-Nikkor 35mm f2.5 fitted with Ikelite Substroke Ai/n TTL flash. This was on the 80s, when underwater camera housing was limited. Nowadays, cheap housings can be found for most DSLR cameras.
I started the digital era with a Nikon D200 body, with which I used micro-Nikkor AF-S ED VR 105mm f2.8G, Nikkor AF 24-120mmD f3.5-5.6, and DX lenses such as Nikkor AF-S DX 12-24 f4G ED and Nikkor AF-S DX 18-70 f3.5-4.5G ED. I went into full frame with a Nikon D700, and I shoot only primes these days. My primary shootkit currently includes a Carl Zeiss Distagon 21mm f2.8 ZF.2, PC-Nikkor 28mm f3.5, Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2.0 SLII Aspherical, Leica Summicron-R 50mm f2, Nikkor AF 85mm f1.8G, Leica APO-Macro-Elmarit-R 100mm f2.8 and Nikkor AF 300mm f4. For me photography is all about glass. Cameras get thrashable very fast these days, and the permanent evolution of digital systems makes them out of date rapidly. Investment is better on quality glass. I convert the Leica R mount into Nikon F mount with Leitax; a relatively simple operation that works perfectly. The R lenses are fantastic and durable, and can be found used easily.
I shoot always in manual mode (focus and exposure). For this I substituted the D700 focusing screen for a KatzEye Optics, allowing to better focus manually. I do not use much flash, but often need a fill in light. I accomplish this either with the built in flash or a small Nikon SB400. For macro shots I use the Nikon S1R1 kit. Often I use a Nikon D5 vertical eyepiece for low level shots, and usually a remote and Mirror Up. Support is fundamental. I use a Really Right Stuff TVC24 carbon fibre tripod with BH-40 ballhead and Arca-Swiss compatible plates. For panoramas I use a Nodal Ninja 5 pano head with base rotator and leveler. But often I go handheld with available light.
When shooting in the field I carry a TT Speadfreak, that fits camera body and 3 lenses, and the belt allows for more modular bags if needed. This gets the weight out of my back! Travelling I put most of the stuff in a TT Airport Airstream that fits in the lockers of plane cabins. I try to limit post processing and get things solved when shooting. But minimum processing, such as dynamic range and sharpness in usually needed. On the other hand most of my B&W comes from colour files. I use Photoshop Lightroom for most operations and Photoshop when necessary (eg B&W). Sometimes extra dedicated correction software such as PTlens.
I keep changing equipment. Photographic technology evolves fast, and so the photographic needs. However I find myself going often to discontinued material (mainly glass) that has no current match, such as the Leica-R system. Although Portugal has a very limited second hand market, there are reliable shops online that can provide excellent used bodies and lenses, such as Grays of Westminster in London, Leica Shop in Viena or Ffordes in Scotland, among many others. I also buy at Ebay.co.uk using care, so far a good buying experience.
Pro level photography is clearly moving to mirrorless systems. The launching of the Sony A7R II (42 MP) is a milestone for photographic equipment as we know it. The advantages are multiple: smaller and lighter, the possibility of using lenses from any brand (including Leica-M), high-resolution sensors. Quality is no longer a limitation in small systems. I now photograph with the fantastic Sony A7R II, here pictured with the Leica 50mm Summicron-R. Excellent EVF (electronic viewfinder), precise and easy focus with focus magnifier, tilt screen and loads of advanced settings. I keep all settings manual, including focus.