Ming Thein

Commercial, Fine Art | Last Updated: October 8, 2021

Defining what I do is perhaps the hardest thing – commercial/ fine art would probably come closest, though as with all photographers these days we have to wear many hats to make a sustainable business of it. I shoot mainly architecture, product and corporate documentary for my corporate clients, and produce fine art images limited edition prints for private ones.

I also teach workshops internationally, expound philosophically and run my site. I have been shooting for the better part of fourteen years, taking commissions on and off for ten, and listed ‘photographer’ full time on my income tax return since 2012. It’s probably the most difficult but also most rewarding things I’ve done.

At the risk of possibly appearing contradictory, I believe the equipment is only relevant so far as it enables you to capture the images you want. Expensive gear will not make up for cheap technique or composition. My equipment is selected because it is the most transparent I can find: it doesn’t really put a style of its own onto the images, which means I can be as fully in control of the output as possible. It is also the best shooting envelope/quality tradeoff I can make; I chase image quality because of my chosen output: a specially developed Ultraprint process with custom hardware and software that lays down detail at 720PPI, which is twice the resolution of a Retina display. We need as many and as high quality pixels as we can get.

What you see here is my core equipment which would cover about 95% of my work; there are other bits not shown (some infrequently used lenses, additional supports, macro rails, light stands and modifiers, bags, filters, spare batteries, computers, tablets, memory cards etc.)

Nikon D810 – Resolution, tonal control, dynamic range, AF ability, system completeness – the best all-round camera you can buy today

Nikon D800E – My spare or second body for all the same reasons as above; was primary before I bought the D810.

Nikon PCE set – Nikon 24mm f/3.5D PC-E, Nikon 45mm f/2.8 PC-E, Nikon 85mm f/2.8 PC-E  – Perspective control is important for architectural and art work, and depth of field control for product photography. This is the best way to do it without going to a view camera or focus stacking. Excellent optics, too – probably the best of the bunch for Nikon outside the superteles.

Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR and Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR G zooms – Swiss Army Knives for when I have to run and gun, documentary-style, or go longer. Not used that frequently because there’s a noticeable difference in quality between these and the primes.

Carl Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 and Carl Zeiss Otus 85 f/1.4 – Possibly the best lenses ever made. An extremely wide shooting envelope with nearly perfect rendition from wide open across the frame; there are no optical compromises here that I can see. I use these when I don’t need movements. We just need a wide now.

Zacuto Z-finder pro – To use the cameras in live view braced against my face so I can easily shoot and focus the Otuses handheld

Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar – A rare, compact and underrated short tele. Excellent image quality and you don’t notice it’s in the bag til you need it.

Filters – CPOL, 10-stop ND, 1-5 stop VAR ND – You can’t replicate the function of these filters digitally.

Really Right Stuff 24L tripod with Arca-Swiss Cube head and Sunwayfoto levelling base – Support is critical for both maximising image quality and framing precision – the RRS is incredibly rigid; the cube incredibly precise, and the levelling base allows for geared panos without having to sacrifice one of the Cube axes. Not light or cheap, but about the best balance I’ve found so far.

Five Nikon SB-900 flashes – Photography is all about light. Own it. I don’t use the 910s because I started with a pair of 900s and slowly added more as needed; plus they’re much cheaper on the used market. No larger heads because I’d rather have flexibility of positioning and these are much easier to travel with.

Ricoh GR-Digital V (APSC) – Possibly the best compact ever made. If only there was a 50mm version, too.


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