What does a professional photographer pack when they need to be ready for anything? Ambassador Dino Kužnik gives us a peek inside his fully-packed camera bag, including the lens he’d pick if he could only use one for the rest of his life.
Words and Photography by Dino Kužnik
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2020 was a hell of a year, and I am so relieved that we are experiencing a return to (new) normalcy in 2021. Like many, I did not travel as much during the pandemic. Still, I was able to take a mid-pandemic road through Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and California, to escape the lockdown in New York. I am also super happy and fortunate that I could go back to Europe this year to visit my family and friends, shoot in the Slovenian Alps and open my second solo exhibition – Shaped by the West. And whenever I travelled, my photo gear was with me.
I used to pack lightly as even my primary camera, the Pentax 67II, isn’t considered lightweight. But since purchasing a carry-on camera bag with wheels, I fill it full with cameras, lenses, and other things I think I might need — which, to be completely honest, is usually a bit too much, but as my back isn’t under stress, I’d rather be safe than sorry. I also typically travel in a car whenever I am photographing personal work, so packing lightly only comes into consideration when hiking for a more extended period of time or wandering around cities.
When my bag is fully packed, this is what you find in it:
“If I had only one lens to photograph on for the rest of my life, this would probably be it.”
Medium format gear
My primary medium format film camera is the Pentax 67 II, which I pair with the SMC Pentax 105 f2.4 (35mm equivalent to 54mm), SMC Pentax 55 f4 (35mm equivalent to 28mm), and 165 f2.8 (35mm equivalent to 85mm) lenses.
I must say that the 105 2.4 is on the Pentax more than 90% of the time, and it’s the lens that I unconditionally love and use the most. If I had only one lens to photograph on for the rest of my life, this would probably be it. I am a big fan of the 50-70 range, and this lens sits at approximately the 54mm mark, which is equivalent to the 35mm, aka full frame. It’s relatively small and just a joy to use. There’s something about how it renders the image — not clinically sharp like most new lenses. I usually pair it with Urth filters, especially the Stellar Filter Kit, CPL Filter Plus+ and UV Filter Plus+. The majority of my personal work is shot on this lens.
Digital camera gear
My primary digital camera is the best digital SLR I have ever owned – the Nikon D850. I use it in combination with a Sigma 35 f 1.4 DG HSM ART, Sigma 50 f1.4 DG HSM ART (my most-used lens on digital), Nikon Nikkor 85 f1.8G AF-S and an old school Nikon Nikkor 50 1.2 AI-S (which is great for video)
I did have an urge to update my primary camera to either a Fuji GFX or Sony A1 system, but the Nikon is such a stellar performer overall that it just doesn’t make sense. It would be a different story if the new mirrorless systems were more compact overall (like they promised us). Some of the new lens designs are even larger than on the older DSLR systems, and the mirrorless cameras’ battery life is barely up to the DSLRs. So I might wait a few more years to update my primary digital system.
On a few occasions, I’ve been fortunate enough to substitute my Nikon D850 with a Hasselblad X1DII, thanks to Urth’s very own Chiara Zonca and the lovely people at Hasselblad. I love the files from that medium format sensor, and the camera design is stellar. It is the closest I have come to my film look on a digital camera, primarily due to this sensor’s incredible dynamic range. I believe you can find this exact sensor in some FujiFilm GFX cameras, but as I have not tried them extensively, I can not comment on their performance.
It is a mirrorless camera, so I had to get used to the EVF, which was a bit of a challenge to be completely honest. But the more I use it, the more I like it. While it is a joy to use the camera, my only critique is that it’s a bit slower overall than what I am used to. That is definitely not an issue for my personal work, but I would trust my Nikon a bit more in a professional environment.
My Nikon F100 is an analogue 35mm body on which I use all of the above lenses and all of my F-mount lenses. In my early days of film, I photographed on 35mm 100% of the time. But now, I only use it when I want or need the look of 35mm film, which isn’t very often.
This camera delivers, especially with the newer glass. It is a very reliable SLR from the late 90s and has almost the same controls as you would find on newer Nikon cameras. It just does what you need it to do, but Nikon does offer newer, better, and more professional film bodies like the Nikon F6. But they also come with a professional price tag.
For video, I use a Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k with a Nikon to Micro Four Thirds Adapter with all of the above lenses and the Lumix G Vario 45-150 f4.0-5.6 ASPH, which came with the used BMPCC4k. Not a bad lens at all, especially for telephoto shots from a tripod.
I only take the BMPC 4k with me when I am working on video projects. I also have the camera rigged out with a few accessories, but if I start breaking down everything, I could probably write a booklet, so I’ll stop here with the video gear.
You can also find these Urth filters in my camera bag:
1. The Urth Stellar Filter Kit for starbursts on highlights, which I use pretty often for some flair. You can find this in many of my photographs, but it comes to full effect when you print it big and see the small starbursts on the highlights. I love these little effects when used in a proper manner.
2. The Urth CPL Polarizing Filter Plus+ for cancelling out reflections. I rarely use it for the sky as I am not a big fan of deep blue skies in my photographs. But this filter is fantastic, to say the least.
3. The Urth Soft Graduated ND8 Filter Plus+ for suppressing the highlights in the sky. Film can generally take quite a bit of overexposure, and the highlights hold on a lot better than on digital sensors, so I use this one with my Nikon D850.
4. The Urth UV Filter Plus+ for protecting my lenses. Not only are they subtle, but they are also amazing quality and don’t degrade the photograph quality.
Like I mentioned before, I use a wheeled carry-on bag from Pelican, the Pelican Air 1535, with padded dividers. But when I am not using that one, I do love taking the Urth Norite 24L Modular Backpack in combination with the Norite Medium Camera Insert, the Naos Laptop Sleeve, and the Zeolite Tech Organiser. It’s big and sturdy enough to fit my laptop and the cameras when I need them. I use it as my everyday bag, and I am extremely happy with it, especially in combination with other Urth products — it’s just a joy to use. I very much like the design, too, from how the compartments and hidden pocket inside the bag are made to how everything fits in combination with other Urth products.
Here are a few more things you can find in my camera bag that I use quite often:
2. Pixel King Trigger and two receivers for triggering the two speed lights from a distance.
3. Coast HP550 Flashlight for light painting, creative light effects, and chasing aliens in the dead of night through the Nevada desert.
4. An assortment of color gels – from cheap plastic to dedicated gels that I combine with light sources to get creative effects on photographs.
And last, but definitely one of the essential things – film! I use Kodak Portra 400 most of the time, but you can also find a few rolls of Portra 160 and/or Portra 800 somewhere in the fridge. I have become so attached to the Portra look that I use it almost exclusively. I do use some cheaper films like Kodak Gold, FujiFilm Superia, and Lomography Color Negative on 35mm, but Portra is still king in my book.