Emily Cross, photographed by Stuart McConaghy

What cameras do I use?

I shoot with two camera systems. My main “bread and butter” digital camera is my Nikon D800, which I use along with a 50mm f/1.8, and an 85mm f/1.8 lens. The 50mm is my go-to lens, its focal length is close to what the human eye sees, and it always renders a very pleasing image. My 85 is used primarily for portraits and closeups, although I do use it as my main lens whenever I’m shooting fashion. I started shooting with Canon cameras back in the mid-1990s, and still have my EOS 1N film body, but for me the D800 felt more substantial in my hand, and the high 36 megapixel resolution gives me a lot of detail to work with.

You might ask why I use the 50mm f/1.8 instead of the f/1.4. I used to have the 1.4, but after trying out the f/1.8 I realized that the cheaper, lighter lens was actually sharper, and had better image quality. More expensive doesn’t always mean better quality.

My other camera is a Mamiya RZ67 Pro IID medium format camera, with a 110mm f/2.8 lens. The RZ67 is a film camera, and shoots negatives that are close to 3.5 times larger than the old 35mm cameras can produce, so I end up with photos with a stunning amount of detail. The 110 is also very similar to the 50mm on the D800, so I can use both systems concurrently, and get similar results. My favorite films to use with the RZ67 are Kodak Tri-X when I’m shooting black and white, and Kodak Portra 160 when shooting in color. Kodak Portra 400 is another film that is incredibly flexible in use, and has people raving, but I find that Portra 160 has a slightly more pleasing overall look for my taste. The RZ has, like a lot of medium format systems, an interchangeable back, so I can go back and forth between black and white, color, and even instant film without having to use up the entire roll – very handy! The RZ is big, clunky, slow, and weights a ton, but I love it. I call it the Precious (cue Gollum voice).

You’ll notice I don’t use a lot of gear. Most of the photographers I admire are proponents of the one camera/one lens approach, something I firmly believe in myself. While I have a bit of a collection of older film cameras at home, most adhere to that principle of one camera/one lens, and most have a 50mm lens or similar. I occasionally drag the “old boys” along to shoots, especially my older Polaroid instant cameras.

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