What Is Your Desert Island Camera Body and Lens Combination?

What Is Your Desert Island Camera Body and Lens Combination?

The Desert Island albums question is a favorite for many podcasts, with the premise altered slightly for the industry in question. So let's see what the answer is for our readers.

Desert Island Discs was a radio show, now podcast, by BBC Radio 4 and has been running since the 1940s. The original question pitched to the interviewee was if you were stuck on a desert island, what eight recordings (usually music), book, and luxury item would you take with you? The premise isn't designed to make you think logistically or to try to outsmart the question, rather distill your music, books, and luxury items down to the bare minimum.

This format has then been slightly re-imagined by all sorts of disciplines and industries in which the question becomes relevant to particular fields. For example: If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have three instruments, which would you pick? Well, for us photographers and videographers, I think it'll be interesting to see which camera body and lens you would go for. Remember, do not bog yourself down in logistics or overthinking. Imagine you have all the capabilities to edit, develop, and view your images, and you're not short of subjects, for simplicity's sake.

Share your choice in the comment section below.

My Top Three Choices

It's a difficult question, but one I think I have the answer to. However, to get our juices flowing, I'm going to pick my top three combinations that I would be choosing from and why.

1. Thinking With My Heart: Fujifilm GFX 100 and 110mm f/2

102 megapixels on a medium format sensor with superb IBIS. The sheer power of this machine means I have a huge amount of flex with cropping and shooting various situations. From street photography and portraiture to landscape and still life, this titan will deliver the highest quality.

Early last year, when I was at Fujikina for the launch, I was blown away by this body. It's big and heavy and not quite as pretty as some bodies, but it can do so very much. The resolution is staggering, and when paired with the 110mm f/2, I just couldn't take a bad image. Even using the GFX 100's predecessor, the GFX 50R with this 110mm f/2, I was beside myself with glee every time I took a shot. With the IBIS of the GFX 100, the ridiculous resolution, and that delectable piece of glass, I doubt I'd ever grow tired of the two. That said, picking a prime to go with any body when stuck on a desert island is a bold and potentially stupid move.

2. Thinking With My Head: Sony a7R IV and Sony 24-70mm f/2.8

As a Sony a7 III user, the a7R IV is an easy choice. Making the switch from my Canon DSLR to the Sony mirrorless was both easy and satisfying, giving me no sense of buyer's remorse or pangs of regret. The body and lens combination does require my mind to do the creative heavy lifting, though.

This combination is far more sensible. Where the Fuji body and lens is thinking with my proverbial heart, this Sony team is using my head. The a7R IV is an incredibly powerful body but significantly smaller than my medium format option, despite sporting great resolution. The IBIS isn't quite as good as other brands' tech, which might be a problem for those long evenings wandering the sands, but it's capable nonetheless. I'd probably replace this with Canon's announced R5 and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8, but as I haven't tried it yet, I'll stay with Sony. Speaking of the 24-70mm f/2.8, I've gone for that for the versatility. Great for landscapes, portraits of other stranded folks, animals, and fast enough and wide enough for astrophotography, which I love.

3. Thinking Outside the Box: Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III and Olympus 12-45mm f/4

It may only have 20-megapixel resolution and a dated sensor to boot, but what it lacks in raw hardware, it more than makes up for in software and unique functionality. Although cropping and pixel-peeing might be off the menu, I doubt there's a camera body that would offer more in terms of creativity

Right, let's push the boundaries a bit. Picking a micro-four-thirds sensor might seem a bit crazy, but hear me out. I did review this camera in Costa Rica earlier this year, before... everything. I went in with two assumptions that I had to actively keep at bay for impartiality: a m43 camera isn't going to be for me and the 12-45mm f/4 will be pointless. I was proven wrong on both counts. The new Olympus body had some of the most interesting tech I'd ever seen in a camera, with features like Starry AF, Live Composite, and Live ND meaning you can be highly creative without much effort. I tried all sorts of things with these functions and only grazed the surface of their potential. While I was being wrong, I had accidentally doubled down, because the 12-45mm f/4, while slow and not what I'd ever usually reach for, doubled as a macro and worked for just about every other application I threw at it, too.

If I could put the Olympus functions in the GFX 100, I'd starve to death on that island a happy man (I don't foresee myself being a particularly proficient hunter.)

What Is Your Desert Island Camera Body and Lens Combination?

It's hard not to delve a little too deep into this question. While I wanted to keep my thought process fairly linear — what's my favorite camera body and lens combination — you do have to factor a few elements in. For example, a key consideration for me was longevity. Not so much with shutter life, as I've allowed for unlimited of that, but rather with using the kit day in day out. It's easy to become bored with your current equipment, which can often lead to a sense of handedness, and that's the true enemy I feel. I want a combination that will continue to inspire creativity. The question is whether that is derived from flexibility of genre and technique or from a pairing that suits my creative tastes, and I'm honestly not sure of the answer.

So now, we move over to you. What combination would you choose and why? Share them in the comment section below.

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25 Comments

Alex Cooke's picture

Oof, that's a tough question. Am I on a literal island? In that case, this is kind of weird, but I would take the a7R IV and the Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro. You would have neverending subjects with the macro capabilities, plus the 50mm focal length is neutral enough to handle lots of other situations competently.

Ryszard Błogowski's picture

5D IV + 24-70/4.0 L
Good, universal zoom lens with a great macro mode + the best compatible body.

Martin Carlsson's picture

I have this and the "macro" function is used way more than I could ever anticipate - great lens and a great combo.

Deleted Account's picture

The contrarian in me thinks I have no audience, no power, no nothing. My concern is survival.

However, Leica XU because waterproof and ruggedised with an APSC sensor.

Mark Hamilton's picture

Leica M10D with a Summilux 35mm. Though if it’s a desert island without an Internet cafe or some way to download my images I’m screwed 👍

Ryan Ringstad's picture

I would have my travel camera. Sony RX100VA.

It fits in a pocket, has 24-70mm F/1.8-2.8 zoom, a viewfinder, eye AF, 24 fps burst, 4K & upto 960fps video. For my use it delivers 90% of what larger heavier bodies will do at about 1/4 the weight & bulk.

Mark Cieslikowski's picture

The Sony would be a great choice, all that detail, grains of sand, flashing water, beautiful 60 megapixel sunsets!
Then after 15 days of fantastic creative shooting ( assuming 50 images a day) One could use the camera to break open coconuts.
Since the battery is dead it’s back to survival... bummer for the creative side.

Jakub Valovič's picture

Rolleiflex with 75/3.5 Planar.

& a tripod :)

Sean Saunders's picture

Pansonic G9 with the Olympus 40-150 f2.8 (plus lots of batteries)
All weather suitable and batteries will last.

william hicks's picture

Fuji X-30

Paul Morrison's picture

For me, option 3 but with the 12-100 f4. The Olympus does a lot of things no other camera does but does it with the best IBIS, weather sealing and unique options of any other choice. IMO.

Olivier M. Mischon's picture

Living on a desert island. Phone and GoPro with clamshell work fine. Astroscaping 7100 with 800mm refractor and a 35mm 1,4 prime and 180mm Nikkor. You get fungus inside lenses. Keep everything airtight in a tote.

Andrew Eaton's picture

One that comes with a sola charger or one with very very good battery :-D

Ben Coyte's picture

Moskva 2 with Fuji Acros Film. Olympus OM4 with Zuiko 28mm f3.5 and 50mm f1.4 lenses and a set of extension tubes (Ilford HP50). Olympus OMD 5 with 12-40 f2.8 Pro and an OM-M4/3 adaptor.

Greg Wilson's picture

Leica Q perhaps

Jasper Stone's picture

The one with endless battery life, endless storage, and weather sealed.

Alex Yakimov's picture

Everything that will last and would require minimum energy - Fuji Instax or Leica Sofort would be my natural answer.

Luca Santirocco's picture

xt-20 or 30 (small body) and 18-55

David Pavlich's picture

Thinking along the lines of durability, a 1DxIII and 70-200 f2.8 L III.

Gilmour Dickson's picture

1dMkIV for durability and good old 24-105 F4 for flexibility.

Bert McLendon's picture

The Canon EOS R5 with the RF 24-70mmis lens. They can ship the R5 to my island when it's available, I'll wait. =P

Celso Mollo's picture

Nikon D850 paired with a 24 -70 f2.8 loved this combo 5 years ago, still live them!

Martin Carlsson's picture

Oh this is true dilemma, but I think I'd settled for what I know and use daily - Canon 5D Mark IV and 24-70mm f/4 L IS USM MACRO, covers pretty much 96.6% of any and all potential situations. This island better be nice, preferably warm and plenty of food and drink, some female company in the shape of my wife would be nice too! /Fox

Owain Shaw's picture

I'm going to limit myself to cameras and lenses I actually own ...

Heart: Leica M4 and 50mm. I'll assume that I packed a good amount of film when I set off on the trip that led me to the desert island. Years later someone can discover my work like a shipwrecked Vivian Maier.

Head: Canon 5D Mark II and 40mm Pancake. Again, I'll assume that I have a laptop to transfer the photographs, otherwise the result is ultimately the same as the first scenario.

chris bryant's picture

Leica M and a 50mm