The Camera I’d Buy If Money Were No Object

The most I’ve ever spent on a single camera is £150.

This seems to be some kind of invisible door stop, which I’ve bumped right up against on three or four occasions. A Pentax K30, A Ricoh GRD III and a Sony NEX 3N come immediately to mind, all costing £150 or a shade less.

Oh wait, there was one that was more expensive, the first “proper” digital camera I bought after years of using camera phones, a Nikon Coolpix P300, which I think cost £299 at the time.

But that was a rare anomaly in my photographic spending patterns.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve only spent a few hundred pounds on cameras in the last decade though.

If you add up all the bargain film bodies, lenses and digital compacts that cost only £10-20, plus a handful of more expensive ones from £50-100, it still goes into thousands.

I just haven’t ever even considered spending that kind of money in one go, on one camera. And, I’ve been fortunate with re-selling, so most of the outlay I’ve got back.

But what if I did suddenly win big on the lottery or otherwise have thousands of pounds burning holes in my pockets? Which camera I would rush out and buy?

My first thought is some digital Leica. Perhaps an older one with a CCD sensor, like an M9.

I’d be curious at how some of the near fabled attributes of such a Leica played out in practice, like the image quality, build, simplicity and feel. And that 18MP Kodak CCD sensor.

Or perhaps the Leica Monochrom, the only camera I’m aware of optimised purely for black and white photography.

But honestly, my desire for such a camera is very low.

I don’t need it.

I know it wouldn’t suddenly make me a far better photographer – if better at all.

And I’d likely be constantly paranoid about scratching or dropping or breaking it.

Plus I’ve learned over the years that the most expensive gear isn’t always (or ever) the most enjoyable to use.

The DSLR I’ve enjoyed the most is probably my Pentax K100D or similar Samsung GX-1S, which each cost around £25, and are delightful with lenses like my original Helios 44-2 that set me back £7.

These are the two cheapest DSLRs I’ve bought.

Perhaps put another way, any barriers I may have to enjoying photography more, aren’t financial ones.

So an expensive camera holds little allure, other than a passing curiosity, as with the Leicas mentioned before.

How about you? Which camera would you buy if money was no object? How do you think it might change you as a photographer?

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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24 thoughts on “The Camera I’d Buy If Money Were No Object”

  1. Since I’ve decided to shoot with my phone cam for at least the rest of this year (and maybe permanently), it should be a “better” mobile camera. So in my case the new Sony Xperia 1 III. However, the differences are marginal, and I am very happy with my 5 II – so no lust for an upgrade. In addition, my rule has always been to never buy a camera that you cannot afford to replace in the event of damage or theft. So perfectly happy with what I have 🙂

    1. That’s a good rule for cameras! Phones seem expensive, but when you consider all they can do, and the quality of camera you can get in them these days, they’re usually still great value. I think I just don’t like to outlay a great deal of money on anything!

  2. Good question….perhaps a Contax S2 as it has many of the advantages of my 139Q but is completely mechanical and should outlast most electronic cameras with care. And if I really won a lot of money a Contax 645 for the medium format goodness with those delicious Zeiss lenses. 😉 But truthfully I am pretty happy with what I have!

    1. Ooh yes! When I was deeply into Contax (around mid 2016 I think) and had tried four of five different bodies, with the 139 Quartz being my favourite, the S2 was top of my wishlist. It seemed to be like the 139 Quart but even smoother and classier, even better made and luxurious feeling. That era has passed for me now, but I know they’re highly regarded cameras, with the S2 arguably the pinnacle of their 35mm range.

      No knowledge of the 645 but if it’s Contax no doubt it’s pretty special!

  3. There isn’t one camera out there in the “money is no object” category that I’d buy. This is because none of them fit the bill for doing everything I want. Such a camera is not made and probably never will be. There are several I’d like to try and some of them I might even keep, but really I have all but one that I need and the allure of pwning large quantities of anything has passed me by.

    1. Marc, what do you think would be the minimum number of cameras to cover all occasions? And the best all round camera you have now, what percentage of situations does that work well (if not perfectly) enough for?

      1. Dan, I think 500 cameras ought to … but no, seriously it would depend on what you shoot. Not everybody does portraits or landscapes or astro or sports or … whatever. If you divide up your shooting into categories you can come up with a number, realizing that for some of those categories the same camera will do nicely on more than one.
        For me the best over-all camera is the Nikon P610, which can handle most categories fairly well. It utterly fails at night photography, except for close-ups of the moon, because the sensor is so small. Likewise it isn’t great for landscapes or portraits or any situation where hi definition is an advantage. It’s a bit slow for sports (bird in flight) pictures too. The fact that the focus keeps failing is a matter of its age rather than design. If I could I’d replace it with a Canon sx70.
        Over-all I’d say six cameras is probably the practical maximum. Mine are all different, which means having to memorize 6+ control sets as even the Canons aren’t consistent across models. More than that would probably be a nightmare just trying to remember how to set things!

      2. Marc didn’t you have a new (used) camera on the way a few weeks back when we spoke? Yes I don’t think many (or any) photographers aren’t into shooting sports and the night sky and portraits and long exposures and more. Most of us have a more limited style and subject matter that means we can focus on finding and optimising the cameras that suit those requirements best.

        And yes even with five or six cameras, if you don’t use one in a couple of months, there’s a relearning process when you go back to it. I don’t like that, I much prefer to just use it instinctively. Which means having fewer cameras, and using them more often.

      3. The new camera would be the Canon 1Ds which I’ve been shooting with fairly regularly since getting it. I quite like it, particularly as a stand-in for film. It is fantastic with the old Super Takumar 50mm and does a great job in infrared as well. The only down side to it is the sheer weight of the thing, which exceeds any 35mm SLR I ever encountered. We’re talking Graflex poundage!

      4. Just had a quick Google, that sounds advanced for 2002, and I always thought the 5D was the first Canon full frame digital, apparently not! Wikipedia says they were nearly $8k when new!! It does look a hefty beast.

        I do look at the original 5D from time to time. They’re about £250 these days from a reputed dealer. Still too much for me, but I’m intrigued at how it would perform with my M42 lenses, like the Takumars.

      5. I have the same problem. A Canon 5D Mk II would be ideal, but they command premium prices to put it mildly. Just not worth it for playing around. I like the results I get from the 1Ds with the 50mm, but not so much the 35mm or 28mm. Odd, isn’t it? Possibly the wide-angle aspect is unappealing. I had a 40mm Canon EF lens which works well on it too, but it is noticeably not as sharp as the old Super Takumars!

      6. Yes I guess you’d get most of what you paid for a 5D back, they still seem quite sought after, and really in the big scheme of things, £250 for a camera isn’t a great deal if it’s something you enjoy using, especially if you want full frame to old 35mm lenses without any crop factor. The MKII seems to still be around £350-400 for a decent one from a dealer. Some of the simpler, lower end (and APS-C) Canons like the 20D, 30D, 40D, can be had for absolutely peanuts, well under £50, and they’re a tempting proposition. But then when I have my Pentax CCD DSLRs, there’s really no need for another APS-C, except perhaps to explore a different mount (the Pentax bodies are K mount, and I have an adapter to shoot M42) – the Canon EOS mount is highly adaptable to all sorts of other mounts…

  4. I already have all of the cameras I want, but I recently passed on a Nikon 35mm lens for my screw-mount Leicas because of the cost. And it would be nice to replace a couple of our Nikon Non-AI lenses with their AI or AI-S equivalents so they would work on my wife’s F6.

    1. So if you’d have had more money available would you have bought the 35mm Nikon lens? Or was it just too expensive a lens to have, regardless of whether you could afford it or not?

      1. Hi Dan, The asking price for the lens was fair, and it sold quickly. I have several cameras in the queue for sale. If I had sold one of them I would definitely have bought the 35mm Nikon lens. I am trying to
        keep the net cost of my photo hardware at or near zero.

      2. That is an excellent plan in my book, and something I managed to do for a while when I was using a high number of cameras and lenses. Alas I overdid it and just got so sick of the selling process, more than I would have liked accumulate instead. Still need to sell off a few hundred pounds worth of stuff I don’t use or need.

  5. Hi Dan, Excellent question, in a heart would have to be the following: a Hasselblad 501cm (plus lenses) for film and a Hasselblad 907x for digital, seen as you said “if money were no object” and to have the above would mean a lotto win anyway, so why not one of each so to speak….the old and the new… to compare and see which I liked….. Now you may wonder why the blad, well when I was about 10/11 yrs old. I went on holiday with my parents to the Vendee region in France, and our next door neighbour was a photographer who had specifically driven all that way to the region known as the Venice Vert, to take photos for a magazine in Sweden… and was using a blad… and from that day to this I fell in love with the styling … the coolness… and that now looked on as retro look… plus that waistlevel way of taking shots…and most of all… it actually added to him looking like a “proper photographer “(remember I was only 10 or 11) and seen as we often talk as photographers about image.. from that day to this that “image” of him wearing farrah fawn slacks,dark brown jumper and jesus sandles, and of course that blad hanging/swinging off his neck will be always there till I die…. and it was that image plus watching him work, (as we became friends when he asked if I wanted to “tag along”, can you imagine that these days, old man with 10 yr old boy …alone……. ) that sparked that small boys imagination into wanting to pursue what turned out to be a love for using cameras… and taking “images” which he told me on day one …was what he took…. not photos… but images….
    Funny how a question like that brings back so many memories… thanks for asking the question Dan, rgds.. Lynd.

    1. That’s a brilliant story Lynd! Have you ever had the opportunity to use either of these Hasselblads, or even handle them up close as an adult?

      1. Hi Dan, if only eh… I would give my right *** for one of those cameras Dan…. even looking at them in google images stirs all the thoughts of that summer in France, I learnt so much that year..the main point being not to rush… infact, take a few moments.. just to get yourself settled before taking that image… of course its far different if your an action photographer, but for us who take still images, that point stuck with me … as for handling one… yes… I did manage to get my grubby little paws on a 501, as a guy at the local camera club had one,but I had to give it him back after a minute or two…. oh and give this a thought Dan, these type of cameras, in my mind, do actually make you slow up… and compose the image as shooting at waistlevel (and yes I have tried this even with a compact with a flip screen) does lets say encourage you to “check” the viewfinder, the corners etc… whereas when its up at your eye I think you are more aware of not being able to see around you, if that makes sense and you have a tendency to rush the image… anyway… try it… and let me know… thanks Dan, kind regards..Lynd..

      2. I had a Sony NEX for a couple of years and must have used 100 different lenses on it with half a dozen different adapters. And that had a flip screen, so most of the time I held the camera about chest or waist level with the screen flipped out so it was horizontal, and took shots looking down on it that way. On a practical level it’s a very useful way of shooting, and you can get lower and closer sometimes than with a standard fixed vertical screen camera, or using a viewfinder, and you can easily see the lens controls (aperture) too. But it was just a bit of an aloof and removed way of making pictures, not as immersive as using a viewfinder, or even having a digital camera with screen held close to your face so you’re “in” the image you’re trying to capture, rather than standing back from it. Hope that makes sense!

  6. Probably something like a Mamiya 7. I’d love to do more medium format shooting, but the medium format cameras I have are all kinda big and bulky. Big and bulky = I don’t carry it often. However the price on these is stupid, so it’s a pipe dream that will remain forever unrealized, and I think I can live with that, but if money flowed rich and plentiful…

    1. Thanks for commenting! I agree about the size, I’ve been thinking about a Fuji Instax camera recently but the one I had before was so bulky and awkward I hardly took it anywhere. It was the biggest camera I’ve ever owned!

  7. It’s not all that expensive nowadays, but I’d get the Pentax 645D for that wonderful Kodak medium format sensor. Still, just under two thousand dollars is not something I’d spend on a camera. And with the lenses it can get really expensive.
    But yeah that’s my dream camera and the one I would buy if money were no object.
    I wouldn’t sneeze at a Leica M9 and lenses either, though that would be even more expensive. But it would be a bit smaller…
    Like others have said, I don’t feel like my gear is holding me back at all. So this is just a rhetorical exercise…

    1. I think if I had a windfall of say a few hundred thousand pounds, I would explore more higher end Pentax digital, including the 645D. But relative to my income now, someone with a family of three young kids, I can’t even contemplate spending thousands on anything (aside from house/garden improvements that will benefit us all, say), let alone a camera.

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