Photographer Annie Leibovitz
Photographer Annie Leibovitz at her 2008 San Francisco exhibition | Photo by Robert Scoble and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Great photographers don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to be exceptional. That said, it doesn’t hurt. Below find our roundup of 7 famous photographers and their cameras of choice.

1. Annie Leibovitz

Known Cameras: too many to list including the Canon 5D Mark II, Hasselblad with a Phase One back, Nikon D810, and Minolta SRT-101

No list of famous photographers would be complete without Annie Leibovitz. She was the first woman to be named chief photographer of Rolling Stone and went on to work for both Vogue and Elle. Using her distinctive, fanciful style of portrait photography, she’s captured both the personage and personalities of Queen Elizabeth II, Liberace, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Johnny Cash, and countless others.

2. Gordon Parks

Known Cameras: Voigtlander Brilliant and Nikon F2

Gordon Parks was a renaissance man who worked as a photographer, musician, writer, and film director in Civil Rights era America. While Parks made a name for himself as one of the first well-known black filmmakers, he is perhaps best known for his photos of poor Americans taken for Life Magazine. You can read more about his life here.

3. Diane Arbus

Known Cameras: 35mm Nikon, a twin-lens reflex Rolleiflex, and a twin-lens reflex Mamiya

Diane Arbus is known for photographing the marginalized pockets of subculture in New York City. While her career was notoriously cut short by suicide, the brief time Arbus spent behind a camera was focused on the portrayal of castoffs from mainstream society. She used her art to humanize her subjects rather than objectify them; the result is art with penetrating honesty that still resonates today.

4. Dorothea Lange

Known Cameras: Graflex Series DSLR

Dorthea Lange gained artistic acclaim under unlikely circumstances: working for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Over the course of her career, Lange photographed the devastating effects of the Great Depression, the lives of sharecroppers and migrant workers, and, eventually, Japanese American internment camps. To this day, her work remains emblematic of a particularly tumultuous era in American politics.

5. Sebastião Salgado

Known Cameras: Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III

This Brazilian photojournalist began his work as an economist and transitioned to photography in 1973. Since then, he has traveled to over 120 countries documenting harsh living and working conditions. He’s been internationally recognized with a multitude of awards and grants; most notably, he was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2001.

6. Alfred Eisenstaedt

Known Cameras: Leica III

German-born American photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt is best known for his work as a staff photographer with Life Magazine. His work is a testament to the idea that great photographers don’t need an excessive amount of sophisticated equipment to be great. Eisenstaedt’s iconic candid portraits were captured with a 35mm Leica camera, usually with natural lighting.

7. Mihaela Noroc

Known Cameras: Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 5D Mark III

Rounding off our list of famous photographers is Mihaela Noroc. Noroc is a Romanian photographer who spent the last six years traveling to over 50 countries and collecting content for her now published book The Atlas of Beauty. The photo book contains 500 portraits of women meant to capture the “beauty” of each individual and a glimpse of their struggles and dreams.

That concludes our list of famous photographers and their favorite equipment. If you have any other favorites be sure to leave them in the comments below!


  1. Hi,

    Regarding Sebastião Salgado, the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III —the digital camera you list as his “camera of choice”— may be currently so, but that camera was released in 2007, and being as many of the famous and fantastic images which helped establish him as one of the “greats” —including the very one being used to illustrate this article (taken in 1986)— were taken much earlier on film, it might give your readers a more fair perspective if they knew he had also used a Leica “M” camera, Leica SLR and Pentax 645 cameras.

    I hope this adds to the usefulness of your article.

  2. Christopher Nisperos: Salgado used the M6 series Leicas with 28; 35; 50mm lenses when he started out on his career. He famously said that he needed two cameras and those three lenses…..”a Leica doesn’t need many lenses.” Later he switched to the Leica R-E and R6 and used 28mm f2.8, 35mm f2 & 60mm f2.8 Macro lens. I’m puzzled why he used the latter instead of the 50mm f2 Summicron. The 35mm f2 is a Summicron. Film has always been Kodak Tri-X 400iso. When he switched to digital (after 9/11 the airports scanners became more powerful and ruined his films) he asked his assistant to insert grain into the images to mimic the Tri-X. Given his work, it’s not surprising that he prefers cameras with non-electronic shutters (R-E excluded) The R6 must have seemed perfect for him. I’ve been using the Leicaflex SL for years although the meters are dud. I rely on handheld meters. The Leica R fixed focal length lenses are superb. My oldest is a 90mm f2.8 v1 with Series VII filter threads, made 1965, thus one of the four lenses announced with the Leicaflex. Still in superb working order and condition, it’s my best portraits lens. The four R lenses supplied with the Leicaflex are 35/f2.8, 50/f2, 90/f2.8 and 135/f2.8. Slightly later, Schneider Kreuznach gave us the P A Curtagon 35mm f4 lens with 7mm of shift in any direction with Leicaflex mount. This was the first lens I bought for my pair of SL bodies.

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