This was tougher than I thought. Going through my cabinet, I had to bypass some personal favorites, such as several Rolleiflex TLRs, a Rolleiflex SL66, a Zeiss Ikon Contarex and a number of Kodak Retinas. After thinking about it for a while, here they are ... my five favorite cameras. By the way, I make changes to this list, now and then:
1. Contax IIa: Hands down, this is my favorite. I like its feel, its operation and its lenses. I can pick up the IIa, lift it too my eye and start shooting immediately. I love the photos it produces. If I had to give up every other camera, this would be the one I would keep. Equipped with the 50mm f/1.5 Carl Zeiss Sonnar, of course.
2. Agfa Optima-Parat: It pains me to replace the Tenax II, but lately I've fallen in love with the little half-frame Optima-Parat. What's not to love? A sharp coated Solinar lens, excellent programmed autoexposure and a small camera. Plus, it has an excellent auxiliary telephoto lens.
3. Nikon F2A: It's big and brash and in your face. You can take it to a fight, and you know who the winner will be. With a great stable of lenses, this is the one camera that will never let you down. I used this camera daily for about four years, running all kinds of film through it. And it emerged unscathed.
4. Rolleiflex SL 35 E: For now, I'm replacing the Rollei 35 S with its much bigger brother. I like the size of the camera, and the Carl Zeiss lenses for it are awesome -- from the f/1.4 50mm Planar to the f/4 18mm Distagon to the f/2.8 85mm Sonnar, which is an excellent lens.
5. Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 530/2: This camera -- the Super Ikonta C -- replaces the 520/2 Ikonta C (the non-rangefinder model), which I had listed here previously. My comments remain the same: Every photographer should have at least one medium-format camera. Although it hails from the mid-1930s, the Tessar lens is excellent, easily holding its own with the more complex designs of today. Get a look at a 6x9 chrome, and you'll see what I mean. Although certainly no lightweight, it folds flat and tucks easily into a briefcase.
* Why just five? Well, 10 is too easy. Selecting your five favorite cameras of all time requires you to think really hard.