Pentax User Archive: David Bailey

We take a look at a 1976 Interview with David Bailey from the archives.

15/03/2013 - 00:00

David bailey 1

In the studio David Bailey uses everything from 35mm to 8x10 inch cameras to produce his world-famous fashion pictures. Outside the studio, when pictures like those that make up his book Beady Minces - he works almost exclusively with 35mm. "I've worked with top cameras, Nikon, Nikkormat and Pentax", he says, "and finally I've come back to Pentax."

Bailey's reasons may not be what you'd expect. better metering? Better lenses? No, neither of these. Here's Bailey, professional among professional, telling it as it is:

"The amateur, lucky bloke, takes out his camera, takes a picture, and puts it away again. It doesn't get too much wear. I'm sometimes bashing away with a camera for hours on end, day after day, in all climates, all weather conditions. Anyone can get the right exposure with a modern SLR, and a sharp picture, too. What you can't always get is a scratch-free transparency.

Think what that means in my job. Thousands of pounds are spent on transporting me and my models to a suitable location in some picturesque part of the world, where I shoot for perhaps a couple of weeks, possibly exposing a hundred or so cassettes of Ektachrome. Unless those tiny 1x1.5 inch slides come out perfectly, that's a lot of bread wasted. Time and again, when using different cameras, I've had scratched films - usually with Ektachrome. There's nothing more frustrating, and expensive, than tramlines down all the best shots on a film.

I never got this problem with Pentax. I used Pentax cameras ages ago, then tried Nikon and Nikkormat. Not just a camera, you understand, but four bodies at a time, and a dozen lenses, motor drives and so on. Quite an investment. Why have I gone back to Pentax? Several reasons. First, I don't get scratched transparencies or if I do occasionally I know it isn't the camera's fault. Second, the Pentax cameras I use seem to go back for repair a lot less often than other cameras I've used. Maybe I've been unlucky in that respect, but I do get a feeling of confidence with my Pentax gear. Also, I really reckon the ES II Motor Drives - they handle and function perfectly."

David Bailey 2

David Bailey admits that his experiences are personal, and that other photographers are just as happy working with other camera. "My choice of Pentax" he says "is based on years of hard work and camera troubles. I've ended up using what gives me least trouble, and as far as I'm concerned that's Pentax.

I use a whole range of SMC lenses, but my latest love is the 15mm f/3.5 SMC Takumar, one of the most exciting lenses I've ever used. Just looking through it seems to spark off a train of creative ideas."

Finally, " You know, I'm one of those photographers who uses cameras. I'll sum up my feeling for Pentax in three words, reliability, durability, confidence."

Bailey began his photography with the family box camera, trying to photograph birds and jazz record sleeves. in the Army he picked up a bit of technique and bought a now-obsolete twin-lens reflex. When we asked him what the lenses were he said, deadpan, "soft." Then he worked for a studio, was given a regular spot in the Daily Express, and finally burst on the fashion world through Vogue magazine. How has success affected bailey? It's comfortable, but I'm still an ordinary bloke." On the question of cameras as status symbols he adds: "the only worthwhile status symbol is yourself. All I want from a camera is reliability."

Related Photos


Link Posted 15/03/2013 - 23:24
I wonder if he's bought himself a 645D yet
My Names Alan, and I'm a lensaholic.
My PPG link
My Flckr link


Link Posted 16/03/2013 - 00:32
I bet the 15mm f3.5 lenses will fly off the second hand shelves now.


Link Posted 16/03/2013 - 10:37
I have the K-mount version of that 15mm... amazing looking beast with the biggest most bulbous front element I've ever had.

Kris Lockyear
It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera they are made with the eye, heart and head. Henri Cartier-Bresson
Lots of film bodies, a couple of digital ones, too many lenses (mainly older glass) and a Horseman LE 5x4.

My website


Link Posted 19/03/2013 - 20:08
Was this before his Olympus days?

Peter Elgar

Link Posted 25/03/2013 - 10:51
Whoever 'Sponsors' him the most he will say their gear is the BEST !
been a member of Pentax Club since the Ron Spillman era! Got COMPUTERISED at last - DIGITISED? Taken the PLUNGE - BUT FILM STILL RULES !!!


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