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News & Insight

A Pro Fashion Shooter’s Favorite Camera | Why Size & Softness Are Good

By Kishore Sawh on April 24th 2015

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If you’re into fashion photography, or perhaps if your beau or sister has ever made you sit through episodes of Next Top Model, you’ll likely be even vaguely familiar with Nigel Barker. He’s been a professional on both sides of the camera, and certainly it’s his work behind them that he is known and will be remembered for.

When you’ve reached this level of photography, this sort of iconic status where you make up part of the small group at the top, you’ve clearly been exceedingly good at what you do. Part of that is understanding your equipment. You may scoff at that statement thinking it’s so obvious it needn’t be mentioned, but it’s one of those horrible things I see all too often, that working photographers often don’t have a good grasp of their tools.

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Nonetheless, at this level you’ve also probably had the good fortune of using any camera you like, so it’s always interesting to hear what the favorite is of these guys who have access to it all. As Barker divulges in this episode of #behindtheglass, it’s the Mamiya 67 Pro ii (he doesn’t specify if it’s the D variant or not). For those who may not know it, it’s a behemoth medium format camera that’s been around in some form or another since the 80’s. The RZ67 Pro IID has an integrated interface that allows for communication with digital backs, and as such, it’s still a popular choice among fashion shooters – fashion shooters with a nice budget, because as you know digital backs don’t come cheap, and neither do leaf shutter lenses, typically.

Interestingness

Barker notes two very interesting points in his explanation for his affection for the camera system that I loved to hear, because they go against the grain of what you’ll see and hear preached from many photographic educators. We typically hear that large cameras are intimidating, and it’s usually said in a negative manner. Barker feels that sometimes when a large camera is used, that very intimidation can make a subject feel special, or glamorous, or ‘lucky’ to be the focus of such a machine. There is, I feel, some real truth here. How many times have you seen people associate anyone with a big lens on a DSLR with being a professional just given the look of the camera?

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[REWIND: Nigel Barker On Retouch | A Fashion Photography Icon Speaks Honestly About The Controversy]

The next, is how he notes the slight softness of the lenses, and appreciates that fact. We’re forever bombarded with questions about the sharpest lenses out there, but it warrants a mention that you don’t always want the sharpest lens or, in fact, the sharpest aperture, especially for people, and maybe hearing it from someone of this caliber may get it to sink in.

You can learn and see more from Nigel here.

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Frk W

    LOL… oh c’mon, Nigel Barker has got to be trolling the scene
    All that talk then Sony a900+SAL70200G through the clip…

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    • Joshua parker

      well he said favorite camera and that season of the show was a long time ago. he is also an ambassador for Sony so he would probably get some type of contract violation for not using them especially in a video of him shooting

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  2. Ryan Bartels

    I also love the RZ (and P67) but only use it with film. I found it a tad ironic that the B roll on the video is all Sony gear he’s shooting with and not the Mamiya…

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    • Anders Madsen

      Spot on – and also very telling that a fan of medium format has moved (at least in part) to 35 mm digital, even though many medium format users will tell you that the “look” of medium format cannot be replicated with 35 mm.

      My guess would be that he is using the A7r, and there is no doubt that Sony, Nikon and later this year, Canon, are working their way into the medium format market with their high pixel models.

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    • Ralph Hightower

      The Mamiya RZ 67 is on my wish list. But like you Ryan, I’d use film with it.

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  3. Emilio Savov

    I sooooo agree about the sharpness! I really don’t like that absolutely crazy sharp images that are done now a days. The perfect softness/sharpness mixture of film is simply amazing. Maybe I am an old-timer, maybe I don’t know stuff very well, but I do know that I love the dynamic range and softness/sharpness of the film! :)
    Thank You, Nigel Barker :)

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  4. John Cavan

    The view of the camera is something I totally buy. I remember walking in the woods with my Pentax K5 and Sigma 120-400mm lens and having this guy just rave about how impressive it was and how great it must be to shoot with it. Made me laugh, but it illustrates the point that the big beast impresses the viewer.

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