Warning, this page is only of interest to photographers & the gadget obsessed 🙂
I’m very, very particular about my gear. I have a vision in mind of a set look that I want to achieve in my wedding photography, and have spent untold number of hours evaluating & testing gear to end up with a setup that allows me to achieve this, but still be discrete and fast on my feet at weddings.
Very briefly, my general methodology is use light, fast quiet cameras with fast prime lenses throughout the candid parts of the day where I can blend into the background – and then during the location shots with the couple I pull out the big medium format with carefully selected older lenses that give an utterly amazing look that just cannot be replicated by modern systems.
Digital Camera Bodies
2 x Fuji Xt2 & assorted lenses
I love these little guys! They are small & incredibly light and really get out of your way when shooting. Changing settings on them is extraordinarily fast, with the analogue style dials at top and old fashioned aperture ring right at your fingers. I can change my vision for the shot in an absolute blink of an eye, and the weight of the cameras means I can keep pushing hard photographically right until late at night, when the weight of a larger camera system would start to take it’s toll.
The most amazing thing about these little Fuji’s is the silence. Even when using the mechanical shutter it’s still extremely quiet – but you can go one step further and switch the electronic shutter on, in which case the camera goes completely silent. I can’t begin to tell you how liberating it is as a photographer to be completely silent, and therefore inconspicuous during the day. The quality of my candid shooting just went through the roof when I bought these cameras, and it also allows you to take a lot more shots in a ceremony or during speeches than I would have dared to with my old Canon 1 series slr’s due to the complete lack of a loud shutter noise.
I currently use the 16-55/2.8, the 35/1.4, the 56/1.2 & the 90/2. I’ll typically have the 35/1.4 on one body, and the 56/1.2 or 90/2 on the other. The zoom is for the odd wide angle, and the odd ceremony where I’m a bit cramped for room. These are all very, very good lenses and beautiful to handle.
The electronic viewfinder is a great asset for your exposures and manual focus. As much as I love my big medium format I’d kill to get some of the modern features that you get in a mirrorless system in my larger system.
1 x Pentax 645z medium format
This camera system is magic. During the location shoot with the couple I’m really looking at making some magical moments, and this enormous camera never lets me down. The image quality on this thing is staggering. It is extremely high resolution, but I’m not honestly not that concerned with megapixels. What it does have that I value is a large surface area, and a 4:3 aspect ratio, resulting in beautiful photos with incredible control over depth of field. The dynamic range on the camera is near 15 stops, and it really is one of the best quality producing cameras available at any price point.
More interestingly, the larger lens mount lets me tap into a treasure trove of older lenses. One example is I paid a fortune to have a Contax 645 80mm f/2 adapted to this camera, and though being very hard to use it produces the most drop dead gorgeous photographs you could ever imagine, very similar to the old discontinued Contax 645 medium format film system. I also use a series of native Pentax lenses, and also the ridiculous Hasselblad 110mm f/2 lens.
Medium format lenses
Hasselblad Carl Zeiss 110mm f/2 Planar – This is the holy grail of portrait lenses. A bit hard to use, but the most unbelievable background rendering, colours & overall look. This lens is fairly old, and correspondingly the glass isn’t as well coated as modern lenses – which means it produces the most beautiful background sun flare effects. This is the most amazing lens I have ever owned. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s different in looks to any canon or nikon glass and is worth having the medium format gear alone by itself. Manual focus only, luckily I have pretty decent eyesight but this lens is definitely not for everyone. The depth of field at f/2 is so minimal that great care must be taken when used. It is extraordinarily flexible and is equally as good at portraits at shallow DoF as it is with longer range landscape shots, where stopped down (at f11 to 16) it is just staggeringly sharp and right up there with the most sharpest modern day lenses. It just consistently pulls a unique look with the level of contrast it gets & it’s bokeh rendering.
This lens is so valued by me that I have 2 of them, both look like new and one is kept permanently in the safe as they aren’t made anymore.
Contax 645 Carl Zeiss 80mm f/2 (modified to fit Pentax 645 mount) – I had a company in Poland take a Contax 80mm f/2, & remount it in a different lens housing with a Pentax 645 mount. This cost an awful lot but is absolutely amazing. It’s surprisingly sharp at f/2 but more importantly has beautiful colours & the most extraordinary bokeh close up & looks just like the magic from the film Contax 645 bodies.
It is HARD to use. It produces harsh bokeh at distance, but move up close to the couple and it becomes magical. However because you are close up, f/2 at 80mm on medium format is seriously shallow DoF and the difference between a well focussed shot & a unusable one is measured in the millimeters. It’s worth the effort, with a growing number of my favourite shots appearing from this lens.
Pentax FA 150mm f/2.8 – A absolutely stunning lens on medium format, the shallow depth of field and colours is just beautiful. I actually use this one so much I have 2 of them! The DoF at f/2.8 is extraordinarily shallow, but you still get some beautiful texture in the background which I love. This lens is not massively sharp – it’s a bit soft at 2.8 – but it really doesn’t matter. It’s like this was made for weddings.
Pentax DFA 645 55mm f/2.8 – This is one of the new lenses released for digital. It has a real punch to it optically. Colours are vibrant, and the sharpness on a well focussed shot is startling. Beautiful bokeh & rendition of background highlights (i.e. flare/lights etc). This lens produces beautiful detail shots, and excels in outdoor wider shots. I’ve used this lens at f/10-16 for landscape shots and the prints are so sharp they nearly jump off the page. Only real gripe is the AF hunts quite a bit. I find it a bit of an odd focal length so it doesn’t get used a huge amount which is a shame.
Pentax FA 75mm f/2.8 – The pocket rocket! Absolutely tiny lens, looks pretty comical mounted on the big 645z. It has it where it counts though – This lens behaves somewhat like a 50mm would on a 35mm based system. It is decently sharp wide open and produces beautiful colours and bokeh. I use this a lot for indoor work where I want a touch more compression than the 55mm gives, or outdoors when I want something wider than the 110 or 150mm. It fits the gap between those 3 lenses nicely. If I had to take the 645z somewhere for a whole day and could only take one lens, this is it.
Pentax 120mm f/4 macro – An extraordinarily sharp lens for closeup macro shots. A tripod is mandatory and slow steady vibration free camera operation is a must. Stunning quality. The detail & sharpness you get out of this lens is so high it’s almost getting silly. Ring shots with this lens are just incredible. If there’s a better macro lens out there, I haven’t seen it.
Pentax DFA 645 35mm f/3.5 – Initially bought for my landscapes but started using at at weddings when I realised how incredible & flexible it is at all apertures. Extremely sharp at 3.5 but stopped down between f/5.6 and f/16 it goes to another level and is pretty much optical perfection. The colours out of this lens are just beautiful – punchy & vibrant and in the right environment the results are jaw dropping. Prints from this lens, probably more so than any other lens I own – have a level of detail that makes you walk up to the print and just stare at it. This lens is up there sharpness wise with the greatest by Hasselblad & Phase one.
2 x 600EX Canon flashes. I don’t often use flash except very late in night but run these guys in manual mode on my Fuji for funky dance shots.
2 x Cactus V6 flash transmitters/receivers – for off camera flash, which very handily lets me use my Canon 600EX flash units on or off camera with my Pentax which lets me not carry 2 different sets of flashes. The Cactus V6’s are beautifully reliable, and incredibly consistent. I’m quite a fan of late night off camera flash shots, and these guys feel a bit flimsy but have worked beautifully for me.
Other assorted bits & pieces but the above is the main setup.