Cameras And Adventures | A Fantastic Life

Canon 5D Mark II camera and Canon 24-105mm f4 L series IS lensThree of the hardest and most beautiful days of my life were spent walking the paths of Huangshan (i.e., Yellow Mountain) in China during the middle of winter.

Over the years I’ve had the good fortune to travel widely and experience a variety of exciting adventures on five continents. Since my early days working in a camera store, running a wedding/portrait studio and working as a newspaper photographer I've enjoyed owning a range of cameras.

My first overseas travels were undertaken with Canon F-1 cameras that I was loaned by Canon in Australia. Subsequent expeditions were undertaken with a range of Hasselblad and Leica film based cameras.

Over more recent times I've travelled and photographed extensively with Canon 5D and Canon 5D Mark II, Nikon D800e, Leica M9 and Sony A7Rii digital cameras.

I believe I'm correct to say that, since the beginning of my career in photography, the cameras that I've owned include the following:

  • Nikon Nikkormat FT-3
  • Pentax K1000
  • Kodak Handle (instant picture) camera
  • Canon AT-1
  • Nikon FE-2
  • Mamiya RB67
  • Polaroid 600SE
  • Rollei SL66
  • Hasselblad 500CM, 503CW, 903SWC, X-PAN and X-PAN II
  • Leica M6, M7, M8
  • Leica R6.2 and R8
  • Canon 5D and Canon 5D Mark II
  • Panasonic Lumix (I'm unsure of the model)
  • Leica M9
  • Nikon D800e
  • Sony A7Rii

A medium format image, from the early 90's, made on a Hasselblad 500CW camera with a Hasselblad 150 mm Sonnar f4 lens. A beautiful Buddhist monastery (i.e., gompa) in a spectacular landscape on the shores of Pangong Tso in Ladakh, India.


I’ve also owned a 4”X5” large format (folding) field camera, though the brand name escapes me. It was a beautiful thing, all wood and brass with the removable lens being attached to the camera via an accordion-like bellows.

But, while beautiful, that camera was frustrating to use and leaked light like the proverbial sieve. What’s more the lens I’d bought, second hand, to go with it broke down at critical stages, including while on a trip to Ladakh (Land of the Passes) in far northern India.


A medium format image made with a Hasselblad 500CW camera and a Hasselblad 150 mm Sonnar f4 lensFisherman on Taungthaman Lake near the town of Amarapura in Myanmar (i.e., Burma).


What's Most Important When You Buy A new Camera

So, nostalgia aside, reliability, stability and easy of use should be essential considerations when buying camera equipment. This is a lesson I learned, the hard way, on several occasions during my formative years as a travel and documentary photographer.

While technological features are a key consideration when buying a new camera it also needs to be comfortable to hold and carry, relatively easy to use and built to withstand the rigors associated with travel and photographing under a wide variety of environmental conditions.   

My Journey From Film To Digital Cameras

My first two DSLR cameras were Canon (5D and 5D Mark II) largely because, at that time, Canon were the only manufacturer to make full frame DSLR cameras. In fact I entered the DSLR market later than most photographers because I wanted a full frame camera at a particular price.

I finally made the move to digital in September 2005, when I purchases an original Canon 5D camera and a bunch of lenses. Why Canon? Nikon had no full frame DSLR cameras and Sony didn’t exist on the DSLR market back in those days.

Unfortunately, when I made the move to digital the re-sale value on film cameras and lenses was very low. I lost a lot of money selling 3 Hasselblad bodies and 6 lenses as well as 2 Leica bodies and 4 lenses second hand.

I made this image with a Leica M9 camera and Leica 24 mm Summilux-M f/1.4 lens. People enjoying a drink amidst a vividly lit street scene in the old town of Salzburg on a wet summer's evening.

While relatively new, and in excellent condition, the majority of the marketplace had well and truly turned to digital. What’s more I had to find extra money for a new Canon kit. And that’s in addition to probably $40,000 spent on computers and associated peripherals over the years. Moving to digital, at least in those earlier years, was very expensive indeed.

Once I’d bought my Canon 5D I needed to purchase several lenses and flashes. Once you’ve bought into a system it’s expensive to change. So, despite significant technological advances from Nikon, I stayed with Canon when I upgraded to the Canon 5D Mark II. And, for the most part, I was happy with that decision.

I employed my Nikon D800e camera with a Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 lens at 24 mm to make this image of the afterglow, following a spectacular sunset, above Mitre Peak on Milford Sound in Otago, New Zealand.

But things change and, after many years, I came back to Nikon. My very first SLR camera was the Nikon Nikkormat FT-3 which I believe I purchased in 1979. I purchased a Nikon FE-2 a few years later, but it wasn't until mid-2012, with my purchase of a Nikon D800e and associated lenses that I, once again, joined the Nikon fold.

I photographed the spectacular Gásadalur Waterfall on the edges of the sea on the island of Vágar in the Faroe Islands. The image was made with my Sony A7Rii camera with a Sony/Zeiss 24-70mm f4 lens at 26 mm.

Why I Use And Recommend Sony Mirrorless Cameras

In the later part of 2015 I entered the mirrorless camera market with a Sony A7Rii. I've added to that the excellent Sony/Zeiss FE 16-35mm f4 and Sony/Zeiss FE 24-70 f4 lenses. This is a wonderful though, quite complex, camera system. The improvements in handling, size, weight and highly programable functionality are staggering and several of Sony's lenses are absolutely world class.

I'm very happy with Sony, although I very much enjoyed using a Leica SL camera which I believe to be a simply stunning mirrorless camera.

A Warning About Bias From Well Meaning Folk

For me it's never been about bias. I'm neither a Canon nor a Nikon fan boy and, as I've just indicated, I'm not particularly bonded to Sony (although it is a camera system I highly recommend). I'm only interested in what camera system provides me with the flexibility and quality I need for the work I'm producing at the time.

However, after owning so many cameras over the years, I do have an innate understanding of the workings of so many camera systems, which has proven to be a huge asset when it comes to teaching folks how to use their own cameras.

While it's wise that the research you undertake into buying a new camera includes seeking opinions from trusted sources it's always important to expect bias on behalf of even the most well meaning friend or mentor. The camera that suits them best is not necessarily going to be the best option for you.

In fact the word best should probably be avoided. What good is it buying the world's best camera if, for example, it's so large and heavy you can barely carry it.

Please don't base you're purchase decision on camera specifications alone.

What matters most is that the camera you purchase is the one that’s most appropriate to your own specific needs and budget; has dials and buttons that you’re able to access easily and with confidence; and a menu structure that makes sense and doesn’t overwhelm you.
— Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru

An interior view of the dome at the magnificent Frederik's Church, also known as the Marble Church, in Copenhagen, Denmark made with my Sony A7Rii camera and Sony/Zeiss 16-35mm f4 lens at 16 mm.


Camera Logic And The Way You Think

All cameras were not created equally. Some brands and models will suit the way your own brain works more so than others. The accessibility of particular features may make far more sense on one camera than on others. 

It’s particularly important, when buying your first DSLR camera, to understand that you are also likely to be buying into a particular brand logic and system. All the more important to understand which camera logic best suits the way your own brain manages and navigates data. This is where actually spending time playing with a range of cameras, before you buy, is of such critical importance.

Remember that once you buy a few lenses and, maybe, a dedicated flash you’ll find it more difficult to change brands down the track.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru