The proverbial desert island camera

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One question you tend to see publicly discussed ad nauseam on forums is the one that goes something along the lines of “If you could only bring one camera/lens to a desert island, what would that be, and why?” I’m sure it’s something even we more serious photographers give some consideration to from time to time; if only because one day we might find ourselves facing such an eventuality. In the greater interests of this site’s readership, I put myself in precisely that situation a couple of weeks ago.

Admittedly, I did try to take a short weekend break, and was smart enough to leave the laptop behind…but I brought my iPad to serve as entertainment; bringing any devices at all was a bit of a mistake as I landed up working anyway. I blame part of that on the weather, which wasn’t always sunny. Most of you won’t have noticed any difference in the frequency of posting or speed of responses. (Curiously, the island had better internet than back home; I could even get LTE. Maybe I should move office out there.)

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Said weather did make for some impressive clouds and sunsets, however; and I did get some personal photography in. Since the primary considerations were flexibility and pleasure in use, I had far more freedom than usual in my selections. Weight was a factor too, but not so much so as to be a limitation. The place where I was going is part of a national park, which would mean some nature and birding opportunities. There’s also obviously the aforementioned seascapes/ landscapes/ skyscapes, plus perhaps some underwater or at very least seafront work that might result in equipment getting wet; plus of course the usual holiday documentary. Throw in a little architecture – depending on how interesting the resort itself is – and that pretty much rounds things out. Sounds like a mixed bag, doesn’t it?

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In fact, not really. If you think about it, there isn’t really any special purpose gear you need to bring; leaving out birding, moderate wide to moderate tele would cover just about everything. And since you’re on a tropical island, light generally isn’t a problem; basically, you could cover just about everything with a decent consumer superzoom – either a bridge camera like the Panasonic FZ200/ Leica V-Lux 4 or midrange DSLR. Adequate? Definitely. Fun? Not so much. Two really obvious things come to mind: firstly, if it’s really a desert island, then photography is probably far down the list of priorities after say, oh, food and fresh water. If it’s a desert island in name only – the kind of place where you are stuck with what you brought, and the trip isn’t really about photography – then ultimately it boils down to bringing something that’s fun, won’t get tiring because of its weight, and that you don’t mind leaving in the room or boat unattended when you say, go snorkelling.

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So what did I bring in the end?

For the light and flexible, I went with the OM-D and Panasonic 14-42 X; it served pretty much as point and shoot. I debated adding the 100-300 on the off chance I might feel like doing some birding, but left it out at the last minute because that really wasn’t why I was going on this trip. For fun, I added the Hasselblad 501CM, 50/4 CF FLE and 150/4 CF lenses, the CFV-39 digital back (simply because I hadn’t had a chance to shoot it properly yet) and a tripod (Gitzo GT1542 Traveller without the center column, and an Arca-Swiss P0 head). I also packed my new home-made variable ND – two Carl Zeiss T* polarizers front to back via an adaptor ring; easily good for 10 stops before odd color (blue) shifts start to set in. And no issues with glass quality, flare or reflections; oddly, cheaper than a regular variable ND, too. If that sounds like a lot of gear for a beach trip, and some of it potentially unwise given the environment, it probably is/ was. I admit, my choices were partially motivated to test the CFV-39 under more realistic shooting conditions; I think the results were worthwhile, but I’m not sure I’d do it again next time: to be honest, it felt less like a holiday and more like work on location interspersed with some beach time.

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I think what most of us forget is that there’s only so many sunsets and seascapes and plant pics you can shoot before getting bored; or photos of your wife before she starts getting annoyed (though I suppose that would take longer than you using a telephoto lens and taking photos of other peoples’ wives). Even when survival on a desert island isn’t your first problem – I simply had trouble finding enough subjects to shoot. By the last day, the only time I brought the camera out was for one spectacular sunset. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy shooting with either camera – I did, very much so – so that criterion was met; however, I don’t think I’d do it again. For me, the question has been answered in perhaps the most practical way possible: next time, I’m either bringing the D800E, 24-120/4 and a tripod if there’s any possibility I might want to make prints and sell the images commercially or for stock afterwards, otherwise, I’m just packing the GR V. MT

For the curious, the island in question was Pulau Gaya off the cost of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. The Olympus OM-D is available here (B&H, Amazon) and the Panasonic 14-42 X here (B&H, Amazon). The Nikon D800E is available here (B&H, Amazon) and 24-120/4 VR here (B&H, Amazon). You’re…er…on your own with the Hasselblad.


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

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  1. Godfrey says:

    What do I carry when I can only have one camera, one lens, and the purpose of the trip isn’t photography?

    Simple answer: whatever’s sitting out on my desk loaded with film or with a freshly charged battery. I get to where I’m going and make do with it.

    Currently, that will be either the Polaroid SX-70, the Leica CL with 40mm and SuperPan 200, or the GXR with 1941 Zeiss Biotar 40mm f/2 fitted. I’ll grab one of them this afternoon when I head off to a Fourth of July party at a friend’s place.

  2. Ming, reading your decision about the 24-120 lens: would you sell the 24-70 Nikkor over the 24-120?
    As I do have the 50 1.4 and the 12-24 nikkors in my gear, I think about this….. D800e and D700 usually join my shots.

  3. Hi Ming, been following your blog for quite some time now and was intrigued by your thoughts on the Ricoh GR. I’ve owned several Ricoh cameras now, from the Ricoh GRD 3 back in 2009, to the GXR 25/50mm combo, the GRD4, and now I’m at a cross road on whether or not I should be picking up a GR. Is there a huge difference in terms of autofocus speed compared to the GXR 28mm and Leica X2 (current travel camera). I was just in KL over the weekend, and unfortunately did not come across any shops that had the GR on display.

    Please feel free to check out my blog linked below, thanks.

    • Haven’t used the GXR28, so I can’t really say. The X2 was definitely faster than my GXR50 though, and the GR is much faster han both of them.

      • Hi Ming, thanks for the quick response. Your comment has just reinforced my decision to pick up a Ricoh GR before my next travel. I seem to be having issues getting the AF on the X2 to work for me on larger apertures, a bit of 50/50, whereas the GXR 28/50 would give me more keepers. Not too sure if this is related to my current camera on hand, or if they just aren’t as accurate hitting the spot 😦

  4. Digital cameras are bricks on a desert island, so I wouldn’t want one of those. By definition, there is no electricity to charge them. The simplest, most reliable, best image quality while most compact of cameras to use on a desert island? A rolleiflex tlr with a batteryless light meter.

    • Film is also somewhat limited in that you’ll eventually run out, and there isn’t that much chemistry…I suppose you could at least have a solar charger for the digital, though.

  5. luca mariz says:

    I’m particularly intrigued by the two Zeiss T* coating Polarizer filters “home made” connected to form a variable ND filter up to 10 stops….

    • luca mariz says:

      I just read the answer to a previous post.. ebay source of all random accessories!!!!! thank you

    • That’s all there is to it, really. Just buy the appropriate male-male threaded reverser ring off ebay, and you’re done.

  6. Hey! OM-D fan here and also a close follower of your blog! I really like your essays as well as your analytical reviews. Was curious about the title of this article and was crossing my fingers you’d say OM-D! 🙂 and yay!
    One question though, about the last paragraph – you say that in the end you’d probably go with the D800 next time. But the problem that you are describing is that a “desert island” just isn’t fun to shoot – there’s only so many subjects. Why would the D800 make the difference here? After all, it’s still a “boring” desert island. What would it deliver that the OM-D can’t? (in this particular situation, that is)
    Apologies, if I misunderstood. And many thanks for your writing! Inspirational, and exciting!

    PS: Any plans of doing workshops et al. in Switzerland any time soon?

    • Resolution for larger prints 🙂

      I’ve been asked about Switzerland often, but the reality is that it’s really expensive. I don’t know if there’d be enough potential takers at the rates I’d have to charge to make it work commercially and to cover opportunity costs elsewhere. I’m not ruling it out, but perhaps a future poll will be required…at any rate, this year is pretty much full, so it will have to be for 2014.

      • mradosav says:

        I understand what you mean. Switzerland is expensive. Too expensive, in most cases. 😦 unless you try and do it somewhere as a seminar in a university or school, the extraorbitant rates (like for anything else in Switzerland) will probably just end up being the killjoy. Thanks for the reply though! 🙂 Best, Miloš

  7. I didn’t see where you got the adapter ring for your two Circular Polarizers? I’ve done the linear/circular route a number of years ago, but of course that didn’t AF. I ended up going with the Singh-Ray, which of course is quite expensive.

  8. I’m in love with your photos. You are a great photographer. Bow!

  9. Leica M6 with 50mm f 1.4 asph lens and a brick of velvia 50 & Leica M Monochrom with 21mm f 3.4

  10. When US astronauts went to the moon they could only bring one camera. It was a Hasselblad
    A little info on the Hasselblad space cameras:

  11. My desert island camera would be a Polaroid SX70. It requires no batteries or film processing. It’s an SLR so it can focus quite close and accurately – making it suitable for a wide range of subjects. It’s fairly compact and easy to bring along and is a beautiful object that is a pleasure to use. Most importantly – you’ll be able to see the pictures you take with it!

    I’ve made a few trips bringing minimal gear and here’s what’s worked for me in the past (in order):
    Nikon F2 50mm f1/.4 – heavy but a joy to use. The feel and sound of the shutter alone makes you want to keep taking pictures. I like SLRs because you can get close
    Minolta CLE 40mm f/2.0 & 28mm f/2.8 – very light and silent.
    Contax T3 – most compact
    Konica Hexar AF – might be my favorite experience bringing one camera. took some great portraits and beautiful landscapes. amazing lens.
    Disposables – shocked at how “immediate” and “real” the pictures feel. of all the cameras the images from the disposables always put me back in the scene. much more so than “real” cameras
    Leica M9 – so compromised for a digital camera yet fits in nicely with the rest of these
    Polaroid 600 – if you bring 4 packs of film, you know you have 40 pictures you can take. I never took the same picture twice. brought this to Tahiti and it kept me from shooting sunsets and mountains because I know they just don’t read well on a little 4×4 instant print. Forces you to look for strong images that translate even on a small format.

    • Interesting suggestions – film really discourages duplication. I think its the psychology of limitation that forces us to work that bit harder…

  12. When US astronauts went to the moon they could only bring 1 camera. It was a Hasselblad. 60mm lens with built in Polarizer.
    Here’s a little history on Hasselblad’s space cameras:

  13. Great photos and a great location. Were all these shots take with a tripod, especially with the E-M5 since it has the 5-axis stabilization?

  14. Rain S. says:

    Frankly Ming, I’d say I would bring a Film camera like the Olympus Trip 35 a odd 40mm that doesn’t require the stress of having to charge batteries at all and you’re limited to certain amount of roll of film as well.

  15. Frans Moquette says:

    You know, I always browse through your articles to look at the pictures first before reading the text. When I read “Admittedly, I did try to take a short weekend break, and was smart enough to leave the laptop behind…but I brought my iPad to serve as entertainment” my first thought was “Wow! How did he make these fabulous pictures with an iPad!” 😉

  16. The moment I read your intro I expected you’d bring the OM-D, but didn’t expect that you’d conclude with ideas of the GR V for next time. Enjoyed the images (as usual) including the lovely second-to-last B&W that’s attracted comments, but your image of the boat came to be my personal favorite of these.

  17. Stephen Scharf says:

    My desert island camera would be my Fuji X-Pro1 and Fuji 18-55. Better image quality and dynamic range than the OM-D (which I own and love, but the X-Pro1 is still better), yet still enough focal length flexibility to cover almost all situations, as you describe at the start. Most importantly, the X-Pro1, more than any other camera, makes me want to pick it up and get out and shoot. It’s a pleasure to work with…

    • how are you processing your RAWs Stephen, and how do you find the process? I have a X100 which I don’t use since the D800, but keep being tempted by Fuji’s offerings …will be watching the XM-1 with interest

      • Stephen Scharf says:

        Ian, I am using Capture One Pro, the current version being 7.1.3. It provides the best RAW conversion I used so far, and produced really superior quality images. Email me at if you’d like to see a hi-res RAW conversion. Also, Adobe has really improved Lightroom’s RAF conversion, and I am getting very good conversions for almost all photo using the current version of Lightroom (just updated to 5). Not quite as good as Capture One, but for anything but the most demanding conversions, it works very well.

    • The workflow is what kills the X-system for me: I just can’t get what I want out of ACR, and SilkyPix takes all day – which I don’t have time for. In the end, even if the potential is there, if you can’t easily process the files to taste…it’s wasted. I’m pretty sure it’s just me though, judging by the ever increasing number of X-system users…

      • Stephen Scharf says:

        Ming, I must admit I’m surprised at that, because I’m very “fastidious” too about image editing, and I am getting superb results from Capture One and excellent resuls (for 80% of my images) with Lightroom 4.4 or 5. Also, I don’t know if you have shot extensively with the APS-C sized X-trans sensor cameras, e.g. the X-Pro1, but as an X-Pro1 *and* X20 owner, I’ve found that you can’t judge Fuji X-trans RAW conversion from files from the X20’s 2/3″ sensor, and most likely, from the XF, either. Something is “lost” when the the X-trans sensor design is utilized a sensor as small as the X20’s, but in the considerably larger APS-C X-trans sensor, the file quality from the X-Pro1 surpasses anything I’ve shot with to date, including the Canon 1Dx (I haven’t shot with the 5D III or any of the Leicas yet). It’s absolutely magical…be happy to send some files for you to view if interested.


        • You may be right – but workflow matters, and I just don’t have the time, money or inclination to re-establish a new method of working when there isn’t anything I’m missing from my current equipment and methods.

  18. You certainly take lots of equipment when traveling “light.” What about Sony RX100 and GR?

    • Sold the RX100 waiting for the GR, which hadn’t arrived at the time. Wanted to get to know the digital back before using it on a commercial job, and this was the only time I had free.

  19. Michael Matthews says:

    Hi, Ming….a quick question about the double polarizer = variable ND setup: was that for the Hasselblad? Or the OM-D.

    I’ve been puzzled by the over-the-water views showing no or minimal glare and that beautiful see-though clarity. I believe you’ve said in earlier entries that you avoid filters. Does the Panasonic X lens handle bright, reflective conditions that well on its own?

    • Without hesitation D800 and 70-200 2.8 (plus the canon 500d dioptre and TC2 mkIII that always come with me, and my Singh Ray variable ND filter/polariser, if all of that isn’t cheating!). To be fair I have only been shooting for just over a year and havn’t accumulated mountains of gear yet, so it isn’t too hard of a choice! With this set I reckon I could tackle most things.

      Seeing quite a few mentions of the Nikon 24-120 f4 here…have to admit the focal range and VR make it an interesting proposition – walk around with this, and the 70-200 with TC attached permanently for 24-400 in 2 lenses. My current wide option is only 28mm – the Nikon 1.8G. I never really considered wide zoom before (“primes are better, and you zoom with you feet”), and in the past would have gone with the “you don’t need VR on wides” crowd…but the more I grow to love what I can do with the 70-200 the more I think dogma be damned. How are folks finding the 24-120 optically? Would love a lens of this sort of focal length on par with the quality of the 70-200.

      • Oh, goes without saying, but I should say it anyway…beautiful images, I hate you MT 😛

      • It’s not on par with the 70-200 II or f4, but comparable to the I. Lots of CA in the corners, but easily removable via ACR. Some odd distortion that’s less easily removable. Good sharpness from about f5.6 onwards, though. I certainly use it more than I thought I would, even in studio settings – that extra 50mm over the 24-70 is more useful than the extra stop of aperture afforded by the other lens, since you’re working stopped down with lights most of the time anyway.

    • That was for the ‘Blad. The OM-D goes to 1/4000s, and I think of it primarily as a handheld camera, so it doesn’t really need it; plus filter sizes are odd. All of my ‘Blad lenses are B60/62mm.

      No polarizer on those water shots, just the right time of day. And yes, the X lens is remarkably flare resistant and high-contrast. I think it’s the relatively simple optical design and the coating.

  20. Jorge Balarin says:

    How to have nice holidays without doing some pics ? For me it is not possible : )

  21. David Meyers says:

    I think people are taking the “desert island” thing too literally. When people ask “If you could only take one to a desert island, which would it be?”, they’re not really asking about a desert island. The question really means, “If you’re going to be stuck with only one for an extended period of time, which would it be?” The location isn’t the point so much as the inability to switch your choice for something else after awhile. What book could you stand to read repeatedly? What music could you stand to listen to repeatedly? And so on. Electricity is beside the point. We photographers are faced with question every time we travel. How much gear can and should we take? Will we wish we brought less to carry (and/or secure!)? Will we wish we’d brought something we thought we could do without?

    Anyway, for me, the “desert island” camera answer would be my D800 and 24-120mm f/4.

    I, too, really like the boat-and-trees photo and the last B&W.

    Keep up the good work, Ming! Love your site and visit it regularly.

  22. M- As an avid reader and someone who enjoys your work I would of bet on the OM-D. One question: How the heck did you get that perspective for the second photo (boat between two trees)? You back a 20 feet ladder or up a tree? (::—->)). All the shots were great- Thanks- Daniel.

  23. Ming,
    You mentioned that if you had to do it again, you’d probably go with the D800E, so that you can make/sell commercial prints. Just curious, is it because of a plain and simple resolution/dynamic range difference versus smaller sensors…? Or is the issue more that your customers want to purchase 36mp prints…? Have you had any luck selling commercial prints from your OM-D…? Tks!

    • You never know when somebody might ask for something wall-sized.

      As for commercial and fine art prints – one of hose in the recent print sale was from the OM-D, and I’ve got quite a lot of stock racked up on it too.

  24. I am new to your site and am blown away by your photos!

  25. The Desert Island scenario is interesting. On one level it’s fictitious and artificial. You can create a scenario where film is much preferred, such as you are on the island for a year, no electricity of any kind, but there is coffee on the island. So you bring a suitcase of Tri-X, your Hassy, and an old Weston meter. Then you can shoot and develop your negatives. Where Digital cameras would die after the batteries run out. That also presupposes that there are no computers, iPhones, or anything like that. Ones imagination can create many such scenarios favoring what ever gear you choose.

    On the other hand, every photographer faces this same choice every time you leave your house. I am not going to pull three Pelican 1510 camera cases every where I go. When you travel, the scene gets even more extreme. Will the hotel have enough plugs to charge my batteries, will I even be in a hotel tonight, I might be on the train. Any where you travel, there are limitation to what resources you have available. So the question becomes what camera do I take to get the best photos I can in this new location?

    This last question turns the silly desert island question in to a useful exercise in preparation for real life adventures.

    • It’s the second paragraph which inspired the article – in the context of the trip, what to bring? How much do we really need? And splitting out ‘want’ vs. ‘think we need’ is very important too…

      • Well about three weeks ago I went on a weeks journey in to the mountains of western Szechuan. I stayed with local people, and walked in mountain trails everywhere I needed to go. No power (earthquake a month before), so I could not charge my batteries. Luckly I had the insite to bring extra batteries. So I shot on the batteries in my bag. Ten batteries to run a M9 and Monochrom. Just about used them all. One or two left. This is the flip side trip planning, and the reality of want vs need.

        • No idea how you managed that. I’d have gone with a hand crank charger and something even more power-efficient, or perhaps film. When I had an M9, it ate batteries like crazy – two per day, or more. I think a D800E or D4 would probably last me quite a few days, though.

          • Yes, M9 eats batteries, and a hand crank charger probably would not fit in my Billingham. I took one small roller-bag, and my Hadley pro. I just had the foresight to bring extra SD cards and extra batteries, and it worked out. I was not aware that there would be no power, but I had this uneasy feeling… but back to our desert island, in this case it was stone rubble, not water, but the concept is the same. The normal 7 hour drive, took over 15 hours to make.

            • We need to make one of those view cameras out of a tent, magnifying glass, and some grass – you know chlorophyll is photosensitive, right? 🙂

    • Scorpionic1 says:

      Just bring a solar powered battery charger…..

  26. Hi Ming, can you please explain your choice to darken up the foreground in the first image? Would it not have made for stronger leading lines if the water (wet ground) was bright and sparkling all the way up to the front? Thanks!

    • No, it would lead the eyes out of the frame instead, and make the bottom too ‘light’ – the scene needs a visual anchor to help orient the viewer’s especially when there’s a dynamic balance towards either foreground or background.

  27. Tom Liles says:

    My favorite is the picture of the spaceship from PROMETHEUS rising from behind the lumpy tree line. Amazing capture, it must have been awesome when the cloud and vapour trail cleared away from the vessel’s hull. Wonder why you didn’t get a frame of it.

    I’m joking of course. Not about that frame being my fav though!

    I think what most of us forget is that there’s only so many sunsets and seascapes and plant pics you can shoot before getting bored

    This so encapsulates the desert island / beach resort experience for me. Never mind photography for a moment. I feel like this just from the sights I see with my own eyes. After two or three days I can’t take these places much more.

    But funnily enough, living in a rural area in the middle of nowhere with not much to do is my idea of “it.”
    [I grew up in such a place. Though I love the big city, I long to go home: maybe it’s that place in time, once and forever, that I miss?]

    • Sorry, it was hidden by the haze that’s currently blanketing most of SE-Asia.

      Rural area: same thing, with pasture/ forest instead of sea, no? Isn’t that equally boring after a while? Perhaps it’s what we’re conditioned to be used to as children.

      • Tom Liles says:

        Absolutely. If you approach it logically, it makes no sense at all. Amazing what our childhoods do to us [good and bad; and you need both].

        Random Off Topic Tea Break Ramble
        I’m super busy at work and in private these days, but, I made the time this lunchtime, to, wait for it, drum roll please, take my used D7000, wiped down, burnished, lovingly wrapped up and put back in its box with all the trimmings, took it to the camera shop and swapped it for a brand new AF-S 85mm 1.8G. Yes! [Couldn’t do it yesterday and day before because we had torrential rain.]
        My eyes nearly popped out of my head when they said how much they’d buy the D7000 back for. I had it for about three months, took over three thousand frames with it [and it started out at 65,000 when I got it], but the depreciation was only 10,00 yen! I went in expecting I’d have to add about 10,000 ~ 15,000 JPY onto whatever they bought it back for, in order to get the 85 1.8… in the end, it only took 470yen! This can’t be usual [considering how camera shop staffs’ default disposition seems to be stone hearted]. I think I was just very lucky. I didn’t ask many questions; just get the cash, get the lens and get out of dodge before anyone notices what’s just happened. This can’t be right. Is it really this easy to buy/sell fellas?

        85 1.8 is proudly mounted on my D3 sitting on my desk next to me. Just from a few snaps taken about the office: this is going to be amazing. I have a laundry list of images I want to go out and make RIGHT NOW. Can’t wait to get out and shoot something!

        P/S That completely destroys the colorchecker test I was going to do today [D7000 was the camera I was principally using, so…] Will give it a go on the D3, but on my very short experience so far—the colors are a different ballgame with the D3 [though the Nikon presets, “landscape,” “portrait,” etc., seemed very close to each other on both cameras, all Nikons?].

        Apologies for the diversion. Back to the photos.

        • Yes, it’s that easy. But I think the D7000 should be worth more; here at least I’d have expected to get some cash back for the trade. Japan’s deltas between used and new are a lot greater, though.

          Give the cinematic stuff a go with that combination. Presets are close – deliberately, for consistency – but you can still use the colorchecker. Just make sure you’re shooting in 14bit mode.

          • Tom Liles says:

            Thanks MT. Wrote a short reply, but it ended up being about sensors and colors again, so I posted it at the bottom of yesterday’s thread, so as not to make a nuisance here. Thanks again—now to take a few more snaps with the best camera… IN THE WORLD.

  28. A camera on a desert island ? No, thanks. I’d definetely take my brushes, enough watercolors, oil paint and paper/canvas and happily paint away. The second shot is my personal fav, Ming – outstanding !

  29. Ming Thein: Great collection of pictures, esp. the B&Ws. As for my pick of a camera, I’d take my iPhone, so I could call for help and then take pictures while awaiting rescue. Vonn Scott Bair

  30. My first thought was for a manual film camera that did not require batteries. Of the cameras I have now, I would probably take my 1937 AGFA Jsolette, because it is a very compact medium format camera. Given the choice of buying ahead of time, and considering tropical weather, probably a Nikonos would be a better choice.

    The other thing this post reminded me about was Les Stroud, the Survivorman. He takes two video cameras with him on his adventures. So that would mean a solar charger, hand crank charger, or a few extra batteries. It seems to work for him. May as well document your adventure somehow, so you can have a great story and images when you get rescued.

    On battery dependent cameras, I would take my Bronica RF645 and two lenses. Then I get 16 shots per roll of 120 film. Since the batteries are small, I could take a couple along. 🙂

    • I think we’re overthinking things. If the abandonment was voluntary, perhaps it wouldn’t matter what camera we had since nobody would see the images. If involuntary, I’ll take whatever comes in the back of those satellite phones…

      • I think you read my mind. I had typed satellite phone and then erased the comment. 😀

        • Haha. This raises deeper philosophical/ psychological questions over a) why one would be abandoned there in the first place b) why one would want to escape if happy and c) would photography really be the first priority?

          • a) because somehow the “sense of abandonment” will lead to better photos from a photographer working on a project related to the theme of abandonment?

            b) because even if there is happiness, there is no escape from unhappiness, even in the realm of photography? Tom Liles, where are you? Please chime in here 😉

            c) no, because photography shouldn’t really be the “first priority” to begin with? Especially for someone like me who has been diagnosed with having a photography preoccupation by loved-ones even though it’s not even my occupation? haha.

            As much as I love my D800E, OM-D and GR V, my answer to the original question is probably RX100M2, especially now that it has wifi for connecting to my iPhone 5 for instant uploads of SooCs from Sony’s amazing JPEG engine to Facebook, getting immediate likes and comments, especially from those stuck in offices, which should help with loneliness and abandonment issues when stuck on this supposed dessert island with amazing scenery.

            I really should spend more time on processing my photos instead of drafting witty comments on your blog, haha.. But it was such a great question, can’t resist.

            • a) Very, very meta. Perhaps…then you wouldn’t feel abandoned, but you’d feel like you were on assignment – purposeful, get in, do the job, get out. Not at all the same. And then you wouldn’t be abandoned, because being on assignment means no compromises in gear/ support…

              b) Does that mean deep down, everybody is unhappy? That’s depressing.

              c) Eventually you’ll land up like me. Where I land up, I don’t know. 😛

              RX100M2 is overkill for FB. Hell, an iphone 5 is overkill for the sacrilegious things FB does to images…

            • Tom Liles says:

              Hi Ciao!

              Mmm, yes, happiness/unhappiness. Like Hegel, I think you can’t have one concept without the other. Try and define “dark” without reaching for the word, concept or quality of “light.” You can’t. Likewise happiness.

              This said…

              I’m too happy admiring my D3 and 85G to really offer a useful opinion at the mo’ 😀

  31. Ron Scubadiver says:

    I just spent a week on a small island, Ambergris Caye in Belize. I photographed people and buildings in disrepair, a few sunsets, and some marine life from various docks. It was a challenge. I wound up using my D800 and 24-120 most of the time.

    • Was the challenge the lens or the eventual lack of new subjects?

      • Ron Scubadiver says:

        The place is flat and built up helter skelter, three days wiped out by a tropical storm, white skies and a sore back from scuba diving to name a few. Take a peek if you have the time, they start at around the 5th post from the top. I rarely find equipment limiting. The new stuff is so good it is amazing. Sometimes I go out with only a 50 f/1.4 or a 28 f/1.8. It’s all in the mind.

  32. Indeed a good question and it raises several issues,
    Power to charge modern cameras or do we revert to film? I am sure there would be a light/sun charger somewhere or else shooting would be very limited.
    Weight – As light as possible so leave at home the telephotos and tripod!
    I would take my D800E and like your suggestion the 24-120 or my Fujifilm X-E1 and the 35mm & 14mm, Its making the most of what is with you at the time. I have started to go out with one camera and lens, usually the Fujifilm and either the 14mm or 35mm, its amazing what I now see and photograph and dont miss a large selection of len’s. My camera for today will be the Fuji and 14mm

    I love that shot with the boat and trees in the water, definitely my favourite in this series.

  33. My favourite photo has to be the second to last black and white photograph. Desert Island with a Hasselblad and a Olympus, if I’m reading this correctly, that’s a lot of weight – although you did leave the 100-300 at home. In regards to the ‘desert island’ question, it is generally asked as one camera and one camera only. OMD or Hasselblad?

    • Thanks – easy answer, I’d go with the Olympus. I brought the Hasselblad along too because I hadn’t had a chance to do any serious shooting with the digital back yet at that point.

  34. Scott Kelby asked this exact question of Jay Maisel in one of their training videos. “You’re on a desert island. You can have one lens. What is it?” (that Maisel would be using a Nikon DLSR is a given). Maisel laughed and answered “What does it matter? What is there to shoot?” 🙂

    (BTW when he finally answered he went with the 70-300 VR, although on subsequent videos he was using the 28-300. His philosophy of shooting is very simple: the more you take, the less you shoot).

    Like the wide angle b/w cloud shot near the bottom, by the way. Very nice.

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