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What's Your Dream Camera and Lens?

What's Your Dream Camera and Lens?

Let's play a game. Your rich uncle just gave you his credit card and told you to buy whatever camera and lens (old or new) you want. What do you pick?

A lot of photographers love gear. I mean, modern cameras are pretty nerdy gadgets when you get down to it, and lenses enable you to see the world in ways not possible with the naked eye. Even older gear can be a lot of fun too for a variety of reasons. And while most of us can't just open our wallets and plop down cash for those dream pieces of gear, it is still fun to fantasize about doing so, isn't it? Here are my dreams. If any of our readers really like me, feel free to Venmo me a few (several thousand) dollars (please). 

Camera: Phase One XT With IQ4 150 MP Back

Who wants to buy me one?

I will never be able to afford to even dream about this camera, so I will just write about it here (I feel like this sentence alone just cost me $100). This camera is everything someone who wants to disappear into the wilderness and spend their life nerding out while taking landscapes and cityscapes could ever want. 

Let's get the obvious features out of the way first. The IQ4 back has a massive 53.4 by 40 mm sensor that outputs a whopping 151 megapixels (14,204 by 10,652 pixels), 16-bit color, and 15 stops of dynamic range. Are you salivating yet? 

The XT is a unique system. Whereas most top-level medium format systems are behemoths, placing functionality ahead of svelte form, the XT is compact, meant to be taken with you instead of permanently placed on a tripod in studio. In fact, there is a photographer I know who has one and takes it all over with him, creating some fantastic shots. All the controls are on a touchscreen to help keep the body size down. 

It is the more specialized features of the XT that really excite me. It has 24mm of rise and fall and horizontal shift through self-locking rear movements, allowing for in-camera perspective correction, saving you the resolution loss of correcting it in post and allowing you to correct issues no matter what lens you attach. Furthermore, given the design of the system, you can use it for panorama stitching with no issues involving parallax error and no need to find a nodal point. 

My favorite feature, though, is the automated frame averaging. This takes many images over time and then averages them together into a single raw file. This gives the effect of a long exposure without needing to use ND filters. What's better, though, is that since frames are averaged, highlights are protected and random noise is canceled out, producing images with gorgeously clean looks and a ton of range in post. 

There is also the Phase One Labs program that allows IQ4 owners to beta test features such as Dual Exposure+, which takes an image at the settings provided by the photographer, then another three stops higher and combines the two into a single raw file, producing markedly cleaner shadows. 

Oh, and the system also pairs with fantastic Rodenstock lenses. Altogether, it is my dream setup.

There is only one issue with the Phase One XT system. It costs $56,990 with the IQ4 back. Alas. 

Lens: Sigma APO 200-500mm f/2.8 EX DG

Look. at. this. lens.

If you asked photographers what the longest consumer lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 is, I bet most would assume it is a 400mm f/2.8 prime lens, but they would be wrong. The longest consumer lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 actually reaches an astounding 500mm. Oh, and it goes down to 200mm at the wide ("wide" used in a very relative way here) end, because this crazy lens is a zoom. That is right, it is the Sigma APO 200-500mm f/2.8 EX DG. The green whale. The Sigmonster.

This lens is a bit of a legend for a variety of reasons. It is pretty much impossible to find any more than just a few sample photos in the wild, which I am going to guess has something to do with the fact that this thing costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000. That kind of money will get a really, really nice full frame kit from pretty much any brand you wish or even a nice medium format kit with a few lenses. I don't care. I want this lens. Don't tell me how to live my life! 

Ok, so what does all of that money actually get you? The Sigmonster uses an apochromatic design with 17 elements in 13 groups, including two extra-low dispersion elements and one SLD element for reduced aberrations and increased clarity, a Super Multi-Layer Coating for reduced flares and ghosting, an internal focusing and zooming design (you know, so it does not compromise its compact design), and a nine-blade diaphragm for smoother bokeh. It also comes with its own battery to help move around those massive elements for autofocusing and zooming. Additional features include an integrated LCD screen that shows focal length and distance, rear drop-in 72mm filters (the size that most often goes on the front of lenses), and a dedicated 2x teleconverter that converts the lens into an equally absurd 400-1,000mm f/5.6.


One of the few photos actually taken with this lens you can find online.

If you ever get the chance to shoot with one of these behemoths, make sure you bring some really steady support, as the 200-500mm f/2.8 weighs a whopping 34.6 lbs (15.7 kg). Or maybe get a used copy and set aside the savings for a good chiropractor. You are going to need one. 

If Sigma ever updated the lens (it came out in 2008) with all of their new and spectacular optics, I would seriously consider selling my car for one. Or maybe a kidney. I don't know. I'll find a way.  

How About You?

If you were given a blank check for one camera and lens of your choice, with no regards for practicality, what would you get? Feel free to be as absurd as you please. 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Hasselblad 907X Special Edition and Hasselblad XCD 80mm f/1.9 for me.

If I were to pick digital cameras, it would be between the H6D 100C and that beautiful 907x. I'd probably go for the latter.

My dream camera would be 9 full frame D850s, all mounted on a frame that arranges them in a 3x3 grid. Each has a Nikkor 105mm f/1/4 mounted on it. They are all slaved to the central camera to focus exactly the same and shoot at the same time so that I can stitch all 9 shots into one.

I now have a beyond large format digital camera. ;)

Yes... I know it is ridiculous but hey, I'm being a little reasonable! It could be 4x4 with 200mm f/2s ;)

Why do you dream small and don't dream 5x5 Phase One XT? They are quite compact for that.

They won't stitch.

Well if I’m getting a blank check I’m looking for a Canon 1200mm 5.6 L.

That is some lens.


"Inside the metal barrel, two of the lens elements are constructed from enormous fluorite crystals that, according to lore, took more than a year to grow."

Camera: Leica MP Anthracite

Lens: Leica Elcan 66 f/2

Camera: gfx 100
Lens: 16-35 2.8 Sony gm

My dream camera must have ergonomics, size, wight and a layout that me or my wife or even my kids can use. It would need enough resolution that I could print landscape images poster size (2ft x 3ft). At the same time it would have the autofocus and drive to shoot sport and wildlife in action. It should be tough enough to shoot under any weather condition, any season. And would have excellent video capabilities. My dream camera is a Canon EOS R5.

I still want one of the nine (known) 1200mm lenses that Canon made. Just ~10 years ago one was at B&H for $99,000 and five years ago the price had grown to $180,000. So it's a bit out of my budget.

Well, keep checking eBay and maybe you will get lucky.

my dream camera would be Fuji GFX100 with its new ability to output ProRes RAW video via Atomos NinjaV...lenses could be GF100-200mm F5.6 LM OIS WR, GF 45-100mm F4 R LM OIS WR and GF 32-64mm F4 R LM WR. This for me would be a killer hybrid camera/lens combo...great stills, great video.

Fuji GFX100 with the 110 F/2 R M !

Having owned one, I would drop the hammer for a Phase One XF IQ4-150 with the Schneider 75-150 LS BR. I have hated having to sell my XF IQ3-50 kit just to get through the past few months, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

I am happy with what I have, but thanks for asking.

I was thinking the same but responding thusly seemed a little snarky.

Naaa....don't worry about the snarky. It's good to know I'm not alone.

I sat here for about five minutes thinking about the question.

Have you seen the size and weight of the SK BR zoom lenses... they are massive :-)

I had the 75-150 sk br ls lens, loved it

I am happy with what I have, but thanks for asking.

I'd love to have a full set of Olympus OM super telephotos:

180mm f/2.0
250mm f/2.0
350mm f/2.8

My dream would involve me affording it myself.

Canon EOS R5 with Canon RF 28-105mm f/2.8L IS USM. Just being practical. Because 1Dx equivalent R body isn't announced yet.

Rolleiflex HY6 Mod.2 + Carl Zeiss 110mm f/2.0

A house with a built in camera obscura. Do I win?

How big is the house?

All you need is you current house and a drill

Good thing you aren't my imaginary rich uncle!

Leica M10 Monochrom & 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux

M10M + Nocti 75mm f/1.2 Mmmm...

I want to meet uncle first :P

MY D850 will do thank you. I'm a photographer at heart - not a needy (or nerdy) consumer.

An P1 XT and lenses to go on my IQ4 150, but the ability to go travelling with would be very useful... :-)

My dream lenses is not to demanding, and is a camera brand not much talked about any more.
Not the cooles of choices, but my dream for nature and landscape with my Pentax K1II

PENTAX HD D FA 15-30mm
HD PENTAX-D FA★70-200mm
PENTAX HD D FA 150-450mm

Sony A9 Mark II and a Sony 16-35 GM probably... 🤓

Just any FF camera with 4k/60p video (so hybrid one) and a good autofocus (aiming for Sony A7IV or Canon R5/R6) + few lenses: 85mm f1.4 (or 1.2), 35mm 1.4 or 1.2 and 20mm ~1.8. + 70-200 F2.8 and if possible Canon 200mm 1.8 and maybe better 200-600 than I already have. So I would not stretch my rich uncle credit card too much. I do not need clunky medium format, or huge lenses. Maybe someday, but now I'm even good with my Sony A6600 although I miss 4k60p for some specific events and sometimes low light capabilities.

Sony A9ii and Sony 600 f4. 'Ya know, for social distancing 'n stuff. :)

Unfortunately a 24-85mm f/2.0 with good optics lens does not exist.

Unlimited $$$ hmmm...
Why not an Arri Alexa fully kitted up with a few Arri lenses (whatever they have in stock, its ok to me)

Phase one xt iq4 with Schneider Kreuznach
28mm LS f/4.5 lens

Honestly, i don't care :) I would be happy with any system that gives me perspective control in their lenses or adapter. Nikon, Canon, Hasselblad, PhaseOne, idk. And am able with them do do my job and enjoy taking images.

But if i am forced to chose i would get some hi-tech PhaseOne tethered to 16''MBPr. But Canon + 17mmTS would be more than enough. For 6y of my carer i am shooting on APS-C and nobody noticed except me :D

I'm happy with my camera, so I get to pick 2 lenses. Canon 600mm f4 LII and the 200mm Canon f2 L. :-)

I made a list the other day of all the cameras and lenses I have owned or used over the 65 plus years I've been taking pictures. It is only a couple of dozen cameras, but probably more than fifty lenses -- if you include all the various formats I've used over the years. I do have favorites, like the 120 Planar for my Hasselblad. My favorite today is probably the 16mm full frame FX fisheye. I don't know what the ideal lens would even be like - unless it was a lens whose qualities I could change on the fly. As to cameras, I would be hard pressed to thing of a camera that served my purpose better than my much used and dinged up D850.

I will approach sony and ask them how much they need to develop a 4X5 large format sensor with 150 gigapixels that can be used with my old Toyo camera.

The XT is indeed a nice camera. I feel super lucky to be able to use it time to time.
The Sigma lens is also nice, and I would be happy to be able to use one efficiently. Sadly my time doesn’t permit me to shoot wildlife the way I would prefer to do (weeks long observation of the habitat to learn the animals) so I transformed into an amateur landscape photographer instead.
By the way this Saturnday I’m heading over to the Færøerne with an XT (and an XF with longer lenses). Cannot wait to get there.

Fujifilm gfx100 Mkii - It doesn't exist yet but will eventually

PAired with the 45mm 2.8, 110mm f2, 63mm 2.8

Compact cameras are looking more appealing than ever. I recently bought a Sony 20mm f/2.8 for my a6300. A 23mm f/2 pancake lens from Sony would be amazing.

Other nice cameras I'd like to shoot with someday: Fujifilm X100V, Sony RX1RII.

Leica M10 and Noctilux 50mm f/0.95 (drools).

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