In your bag No: 1541 – Michael Dominic K.
MDK also sports a paternal hand-me-down in his photographic arsenal, check it out.
My name is Michael but most people call me MDK. I’m running, together with my wife, a kids fashion brand Pan Pantaloni (http://panpantaloni.com). It’s a relatively small family & friends business were I do photography (among other things, including taking the garbage out, haha).
My setup is pretty minimalistic — I use two Nikon F-bodies with 50mm lens, packed together in a leather bag.
* Nikon FE + Nikkor 50mm 1.4
* Nikon FM3A + Nikkor 50mm 1.8
Like many others before me I got my first camera (pictured Nikon FE + f1.4 lens) from my father, long long time ago. That got me into photography and into running my own darkroom during college days. I stopped photography shortly after, and didn’t return for many years.
Two years ago I found accidentally some developed prints from that era and concluded those are the best photos I ever took… which wasn’t fully true but close enough. I dusted-off the old Nikon and bought an additional FM3A body brand-new from somebody in Lithuania (back in the day I always wanted to have this camera but it seemed ridiculously expensive).
The FM3A is a technical marvel. It’s the final evolutionary step in the F-line, a last-of-a-kind product coming from an age when tools were designed to be used in a specific, optimal way (as opposed to the current trend which seems to be mostly about packing “features” and expecting user to figure out the usage pattern). With it’s 1/4000 shutter speed, big viewfinder, sturdiness and multiple small refinements it’s a joy to hold. I love it.
The FE is old but it does the job. Shorty after picking up analog again I cleaned it up myself and replaced the viewfinder with an FM3A-alike glass for a brighter picture (needs exp correction but otherwise perfect). It trumps the FM3A in one and only only aspect — the shutter speed (a strong, vibrating mechanical “bang”).
I typically carry FE loaded up with B&W film and the FM3A with color film. Sometimes I’d have 2 film speeds loaded for different conditions (say, 400 vs 800). For B&W I’m using Ilford stock, typically Delta 400 or HP5 — but only because back in 2000s when I was starting somebody told me this is “best”. I experimented with other stocks but didn’t like them much.
For color I’m using Portra 160 or 400, usually heavily overexposed. When shooting in the strong sun I find the the overexposed portra look to be superior to all generally available digital solutions.
I shoot film mostly to document my life & family. That said, some time ago I realised I need a bit more of a “beach holiday” camera — something small, lightweight and unobtrusive. This materialised itself after I read Mike Caputo’s Konica Auto S3 review (https://www.35mmc.com/30/08/2015/the-konica-auto-s3-guest-review-by-mike-caputo/):
The Konica is in a complete opposition to the Nikons: crappy mechanical build quality with tendency to jam up, a battery which drains-out very fast (it “runs” the lightmeter all the time by design!), a super-small range finder which lacks precision…
But it holds one ace up it’s sleeve — a terrific 1.8 lens which renders great picture. I’m not sure how it was possible to manufacture this kind of quality glass at such an achievable price and why it’s not possible today. Perhaps it has something to do with the flange distance and the general differences in tolerance between how film reacts to light rays vs. digital sensor reaction (something which is not discussed enough when people adapt film lenses for digital). Either way, it’s hard to beat the Konica “bang for the buck” when taking size + weight + picture feel into consideration — even if you have infinite amount of money to spend (this camera is way smaller than FF Leicas).
Speaking of lenses, I had a Nikkor f1.2 at some point. It sounded like a great idea — “ultimate” lens (f1.2) for the “ultimate” camera (FM3A). In practice I was very disappointed and sold it fast. Comparing to Nikkor f1.4/f.1.8 it exhibits very strange anomalies depending on the light position, something mentioned in many reviews but hard to fully understand. I don’t shoot “full bokeh” anymore anyways, so I find the small f1.8 the best compromise… but f1.2 was worth getting the just to feel the fantastic focusing ring!
I have other bits in my bag which I sometimes carry:
* Sekonic Studio lightmeeter
* Kaweco pen
* TTL flash (FM3A + TTL = ❤️ but I don’t use it too often)
* JCH cases — white for fresh film, black for exposed
* Lens cleaner
* Victorinox for unblocking the Konica
I develop all my stuff at MeinFilmLab (https://www.meinfilmlab.de/en/) — I highly recommend their service to anybody in Germany and around.
A honorable stupid mention goes to Cyber Clean, something I discovered recently:
It’s a great solution to keep photo and other equipment top-notch. It has a clay consistency, smells like vodka and can be hard-pressed into corners, little dents, chinks etc to pull-out the garbage. It’s also great for cleaning keyboards, and other stuff which tends to accumulate gunk. Can be bought cheaply off Amazon.
For digital I shoot Fujifilm X-Pro2 which to me is the closet thing to analog photography (optical viewfinder!). Somebody else here nicely quipped that looking through electronic viewfinder feels a bit like looking through CCTV camera. I share the sentiment!
Fujis can be fully mechanically operated so I can quickly transfer aperture/shutter speed settings from Sekonic to camera. Most importantly — I love the ability to shoot JPEGs with Fujiflim simulations. It feels like film, the picture is mostly done “in camera” during exposure and only certain general adjustments can be later applied during processing. This has been very liberating to me and I mostly don’t shoot RAW anymore.
My dream is to shoot one day our full clothing collection on a medium format Hasselblad (which I almost bought couple times already). The logistics of that feel pretty hard though (developing & turnaround time — things tend to be pretty fast in the fashion industry, even at our small scale). Also, small kids tend to move a lot on a shoot so it’s a focusing challenge… so maybe I should get Nikon F6 then? Hmm.
Till next time!
Some of my photos:
Thanks for sharing your gear with us MDK, thorough write up too. With those two bad boys you can use virtually use every Nikkor lens without adaptors!
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