Chiara Zonca loves her favourite camera so much she bought it twice. Here she shares all of her most beloved gear, from cameras and lenses to filters, film, backpacks and more.
Words and Photography by Chiara Zonca
This year, like many other photographers around the world, I haven’t done much packing or travelling to be honest. I have been spending time in nature, creating work closer to home. My current gear kit is being used for personal projects, I am shooting mostly film these days and moving at a much slower pace. So here’s an update of my packing list for when I don’t do much “packing” in the first place:
Analog camera kit
HASSELBLAD 500C X2
The iconic Hasselblad 500c. I am basically married to this baby. It’s the camera I use for all my film work and I have been using it for years. I just love seeing the world through this camera’s viewfinder. I love it so much that, after nearly breaking it in a very remote area during an extremely long road trip and struggling to find anyone to fix it, I decided to purchase another one as a backup so I don’t end up being stuck in the desert without a camera next time.
ZEISS PLANAR T 80MM F/2
This is my desert island lens for my Hassy. I use it for all my landscape photos and occasionally for portraits, especially where I want my subject to be immersed in the landscape. This lens’ angle of view closely resembles the human eye’s natural perspective of the landscape and this is probably why I love it so much, it feels very personal.
CARL ZEISS SONNAR 150MM F/4 LENS
My second favourite lens. This focal length is perfect for portraiture and details. The lens is also not too heavy and allows me to still shoot hand-held with no issues which is a huge bonus as I like the flexibility of not having to drag a tripod around at all times. Additionally, I find this focal length extremely cinematic, like I am looking at a still from a feature film. Absolutely love it!
“Recently I have been transitioning to analog more and more.”
CANON EOS 300
My trusted “easy” travel camera for 35mm film. It is super lightweight, extremely inexpensive and it is such a breeze to bring along in a backpack. I have been using this one less lately because I am shooting more medium format, however this camera is still a winner when trying to capture candid moments of my everyday life and I cannot wait to be able to bring it along on my next big adventure when travel opens up again.
Digital camera kit
CANON 5D MARK III
My first pro digital camera and one that I still use to this day, it’s just such a workhorse. Battery lasts forever, the image quality is excellent and I just love how easy it is to use. Recently I have been transitioning to analog more and more and when I use digital I prefer to shoot medium format whenever possible but I am still carrying the Canon with me at all times for backup and to test ideas on the go. When shooting film it is so important to have a digital camera with you to see what your shot is going to look like and experiment. This reason alone means the Canon ain’t gonna leave my gear kit any time soon.
And you can purchase the Canon 5D Mark III here:
“Using a CPL filter was an absolute game-changer, particularly to get richer colours out of my work.”
CANON EF 50MM F/1.2L USM LENS
The only lens I need for my Canon. When photographing landscapes I am not a fan of big wide panoramas and much prefer focussing on details and close-ups, trying to find my own way to “frame the landscape within the landscape”. This lens allows me to do exactly that, its focal length isn’t too wide and is just perfect for the type of work I make. The brightness of this lens is also spectacular and goes as high as F/1.2, perfect for those who love playing with depth of field and a strong staple for portraits as well.
You can purchase it on Amazon here:
I still pretty much shoot only Portra, my favourites being Portra 400, Portra 160 and Portra 800 depending on the circumstances. I recently started photographing black and white and my favourite stocks are Delta 100 and Delta 400.
Aside from UV filters, which are a necessity to protect the camera from unwanted scratches, I am an avid CPL filter fan. A CPL filter was an absolute game-changer, particularly to get richer colours out of my work. As time progresses I find I no longer need to edit my RAW files too much in post production. I am much more into the delicate, soft colours with a natural feel, therefore a filter that allows me to enhance colours while shooting is always going to be a winner for me. A CPL allows me to apply less colour retouching in post for a more natural look overall. I use the Urth Duet Kit Plus+, which contains both a CPL filter and a UV filter.
I recently also started using ND filters more in harsh daylight conditions and I love how they help reduce excessive brightness while allowing you to use shallow depth of field or slower shutter speeds. During this extended period of time where I am forced to find inspiration within my closest surroundings, having the artistic freedom to shoot in all kinds of light or weather conditions and explore as many styles and subjects as my heart desires is key to feeling fulfilled as a photographer.
ND filters have been instrumental in the exploration of my creative ideas lately. I use the Urth ND Selects Kit Plus+, and will be writing another article on that soon.
HASSELBLAD 32 AND 56 EXTENSION TUBES
While at home during lockdown I started exploring different ways to capture the limited details around me. I experimented with still life, portraiture, different focal lengths and lighting techniques. One of the most fun things to explore was adding these two extension tubes to the mix for macro photography and close ups. Extension tubes alter your lens’s focal length for a fraction of the cost of a brand new lens which is an excellent option for when you are looking to explore your subject from different angles without spending a fortune by purchasing different lenses.
I personally loved using the 32mm extension tube on my 150mm lens for portraiture close-ups and the 56mm extension on my 80mm lens for macros of foliage, flowers and plants.
URTH NORITE 24L MODULAR CAMERA BACKPACK
No gear packing list would be complete without a carry bag. I recently got this beautiful Urth Norite 24L Modular Camera Backpack and I absolutely love it. I haven’t had the chance to try it on the field just yet so I am going to write down my first impressions. I love the design as it doesn’t look like a camera bag which is super important for safety reasons when travelling. It feels sturdy enough for me to carry my two vintage Hasselblads and lenses. I also love that it has a separate compartment that is completely detachable for carrying gear which is not always the case for these types of backpacks. I am planning to use it for those trips where I need a camera bag as well as a hiking backpack but don’t have a lot of space to carry both at the same time.
“It doesn’t look like a camera bag which is super important for safety reasons when travelling.”
ZEOLITE TECH ORGANIZER
Another item I have introduced to my packing list is the Urth Zeolite Tech Organizer. I can be really untidy when travelling and having a little organizer where I can put all of my exposed film or filters and other tiny bits that would get lost quite easily will be super useful on my next trip.