What Camera Does Bill Cunningham Use?

by Buffalo Bob on September 7, 2011

Photographer: Bill Cunningham of the New York Times

Specialty: Street/Fashion Photography

Favored Camera/Lens Brand: Nikon

Other Products Used: Fuji Film

Have you seen the documentary Bill Cunningham New York?


What are you? Some kind of moron?

Watch the trailer now:

Whatever. Bill Cunningham is one of the hardest-w0rking photographers in New York City, peddling around Manhattan all day long to capture fashion trends for the New York Times’ Style section.

And what does Bill Cunningham carry around in his bag?

UPDATE – Bill Cunningham has gone digital, and is now using a low-end Nikon DSLR, possibly a D40X. The current equivalent model is theD3100, which is an absolute bargain at under $600. I’d definitely pair with the amazing Nikon 35mm f/1.8, which is very sharp, fast-focusing, and like the D3100, an absolute bargain — around $200.

Prior post on Bill’s film days here:

Bill is an old-school film dude. He shoots a Nikon FM2, which is a classic manual-focus camera. In his FM2, he loads cheap-but-awesome 400-speed Fuji color-negative film. For lenses, Bill uses a 35mm prime.

Personally, I prefer the magical Kodak Portra 400, which can be shot at pretty much any speed from 100 to 3200. If Apple made film, Portra 400 would be it – sh*t just works!

I’d recommend against manual-focus cameras like the FM2 if you’d like to shoot 35mm film. If you’re going the film route, you may as well go for something a little more advanced like a Canon EOS-1 or Nikon F100, which have amazing autofocus capabilities. They’ll also  work perfectly with your existing autofocus lenses. (FX lenses only, in the case of Nikon)

And for lenses, I’d go with this 35mm for Nikon, and this one for Canon.

Now, if you want a film look to your images without incurring the expense and trouble of shooting film, I highly recommend Nik Software’s Complete Collection for Lightroom and Aperture. (Note: you must own Lightroom or Aperture) The Nik Collection’s Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro plugins offer impressive emulations of classic film stocks from Kodak, Fuji, and Ilford.


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Tobias Weisserth September 11, 2011 at 12:04 am

Interesting blog post. Thanks.


Urban K October 20, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Bill Cunningham has gone digital! But I can’t identify which one of the lower end Nikons it is.


Georg November 23, 2011 at 8:46 pm

looks like a nikon d40(x) and a 35mm MF nikkor lens


Gep71154 February 17, 2012 at 6:25 am


But nice post.


Lainer September 16, 2012 at 4:34 am

If Bill was shooting with a 35mm prime lens on his Nikon FM2, then what is he using on his D-SLR? Is it now a 50mm equivalent? (You stated he uses a 35mm lens on the digital, which would make it about 60mm.) Or does he use a 24mm lens to equal out to 36mm?


Hubsi March 22, 2013 at 9:04 am

After seeing the film “Bill Cunningham New York” I’m doing a short Google-exploration, what equipment he uses. There are some high-resolution images, where its cameras are visible.

The cameras he uses are a Nikon FM2 and a Nikon D5000.

Her lenses are:
AF Nikkor 50mm 1.4D
AF Nikkor 35mm 2.0D
AF Nikkor 24mm 2.8D

I saw the 24mm only on the D5000, the 50mm and the 35mm on the FM2 and yes, he has AF lenses on his FM2.


Brian Pangilinan September 4, 2014 at 10:43 pm

maybe we should encourage people to learn the old fashioned way. manual camera manual lens and single fixed focal length. film is still used today and contains a soul that is not found in a digital image. besides, what a digital image? to me me its a digital video still. it is not organic and so sharp it lacks the essence of what is real. Mary ellen mark said it best when she explained not using digital and photoshop because thats illustration and I am a photographer. simply put, advances in technology are a good ting obviously but the art of photography is deeper than just pressing the shutter. its the process of exposure, processing your film and printing in the darkroom. each action purposed. I know bil gets his stuff developed but we can’t discount the soul he has in his images. its about how the eye sees honeycombs over dots. thats the essence of an analog photograph.


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