I started off in photography at the time when there were rangefinders and manual focus cameras. One of the first cameras I played around were Nikkormat EL and Canon A1 and AE1. Both were manual focus but had an inbuild photometer for exposure reading. Effectively both these cameras had the option to shoot at Aperture priority. I was quite fascinated by canon's EOS series which was just about launched. Had come across the leaflet of EOS 650. well, there not internet and no official stores in India. Being a sophisticated computerised camera everyone around suggested not to go for it as it may be a problem in India in case repair was required.
The first camera I bought was Canon AL 1. It was one of the first or probably the first camera to have focusing indicators inside the viewfinder. This feature made it very easy to focus. As you rotate the dial in one direction the spot would illuminate to indicate that the focus is achieved. This camera also had a Backlight button. Simply by pressing this button, the exposure would get compensated by one and a half stops letting you shoot against the light with quite an ease. I recall shooting Portraits with a long focal length lens, against the light but pressed the backlight button as well. There were no previews as that time. learnt after the film was processed that there is no need for compensation with long lenses as they are only reading the light reflected from the subject and there is no area in the frame that is too bright to mislead the exposure.
It was time to upgrade to the next level. Hasselblad is of course a name everyone is well familiar with. Went for 501 cm which was a again a manual camera with a waist level style of shooting. I recall the first time I loaded the camera with the film, I was not quite sure how to do it as it's entirely different from regular 35mm film cartridges. Unlike today, there was no Google to refer to. So rushed to the processing lab to get a quick lesson on how to load a medium format hasselblad camera with film just before the shoot. One needed to see through the ground glass at waist level to focus. It was not too heavy and one could easily shoot handheld as well. However I soon started facing the problem of light leak in the camera and it was time to move on. Hasselblad did not have a built in photometer so an external Seconic photometer had to be used.
In the meanwhile, it was important to upgrade to an Autofocus camera as well. Although I liked canon systems, went for Nikon systems as Nikon cameras were considered much more professional as compared to Canon. I bought my first Autofocus camera, F 801s along with Nikon F501 as a backup.
On the medium format front, I opted for Mamiya RZ 67 II camera as it was a bigger frame as compared to Hasselblad. Also while shooting magazine covers or double spreads, I used to keep two vertical sheets in the ground glass to convert my frame into a vertical / horizontal frame for better composition for covers and vertical magazine pages.
Scanned reproduction of Mamiya RZ 67 II shot on either Kodak or Fuji transparency (Most likely Fuji Provia or Velvia )
So effectively I was using 6x4.5 instead of 6x6 cms. Mamiya on the other hand was 6x7 cms with Bellows for macro work. Went for two lenses, one for Fashion and general work and one wide angle for interiors. Now the great thing about this camera, though it was manual focus, was that I could attach a Digital Back to it. I had already used Phase one Digital back with Mamiya systems in New York. Digital had already come in but it was still time before it could get more popular.
One of the Magazine covers shot on Nikon D 100. Friday is the lifestyle Magazine of Dubai based Gulf News
Nikon D100 was one of the first professional digital cameras from Nikon and I set my hands on it when it was launched. Digital changed things a lot on the personal front for all photographers. There was much more to try out and experiment as no cost on film was involved. Had D 200 as well before I switched over to Canon. Since the time of Canon EOS 5D, have been using mark II to mark III and maybe soon mark IV, if I do not switch over to Mirror less. And it will be Sony for sure if I go for mirror less.
meanwhile, it was time to move over to medium format digital as well for high end Fashion and Advertising photography. At the time of Film, Small, Medium and Large format were more familiar terms to people who mattered. However, with Digital photography and with the advent of internet, crop sensor and Full frame became more familiar terms.
Phase one was the obvious choice as was familiar with the brand in New York. Since my medium format did not have autofocus decided to go for a new camera as well. Hasselblad and Mamiya were the two options. Hasselblad had some heat issues and I wanted to buy all lenses together so that I could cover from extreme wide to Tele and not to miss the Macro. My overall costs were lower with Mamiya 645 AFD II and I could buy all the lenses, mostly fixed focal length lenses. Phase one P 30+ was my first medium format Digital Back and have shot several photographs with this medium format back on Mamiya 645 AFD II. There has not been much development in autofocusing systems on medium format cameras so the focusing on AFD II is not all that great with only one focusing point. maybe I will soon be upgrading to Phase one Camera for faster focusing or may explore some other cameras but have not yet done any research as this camera and back are anyways serving me very good and I am getting great sharpness and Dynamic range.
Munish Khanna was featured on the Phase one website
I have always been very conservative and liberal at the same time while buying and upgrading my equipment. I am not into wildlife photography so I may not explore a very fast camera. For Fashion or street, a fast camera is fast enough and one does not necessarily need the fastest camera on the Earth. Don't ever compromise on the lenses and always go for the Best ones.
Upgrading is endless. As mirror less cameras are advancing in technology, there will be time very soon when the features of a mirror less camera will become way more attractive than a DSLR and it will be time to upgrade yet again before some new technology knocks the door once again.
Munish Khanna is a new Delhi based Advertising and fashion Photographer who started his career as a Photographer around early 90s and continues to shoot on various Photography projects besides teaching Photography and shooting films.