Mr. Kandimalla, you served for many years as CTO at an IT firm before becoming a photography consultant. In what ways has your previous career shaped your current job?
Cameras and photography occupy a big part of my life. I can almost say that I became an IT specialist in order to become a good photographer. Thus it is not an overstatement to say that knowledge of IT has been of great help to me in becoming a photography consultant. You see, the inside of a modern camera is like a computer, so familiarity with information technology certainly helps you understand how a digital camera works. Plus, because I am an electrical engineer, I really understand the finer points – from how the sensor and image processing engine work, to the smallest details of how a digital camera functions.
The knowledge I have acquired so far has given me a significant advantage when teaching at workshops or when writing magazine articles. My career in IT has benefitted my work as a photographer. In that sense, both my careers – as an IT expert and as a photography consultant – are equally important to me.
What do you first teach beginners in photography?
Many people have taken up photography as a hobby after digital cameras came out. At the same time, however, few are aware of the fundamentals of photography. Because of that, many end up losing their interest in it. I want those people to enjoy photography for a long time, so I have been trying to put them on the right track and teach them properly about the fundamentals.
Of course, it’s true that being an avid Nikon fan was behind my motivation to start as a photography consultant. When I talk about digital cameras, I want to convey to as many people as possible my fascination for photography through Nikon cameras, the brand which is most familiar to me.
If you were to recommend a Nikon to participants in a workshop or at a lecture, which camera and which lens would you choose?
I could not limit my recommendations to one combination of lens and camera, simply because the best combination depends on what the person wants to shoot, what they want from photography.
For instance, if they are into shooting landscapes or portraits, I would recommend the D750. If they have more of a photographic background, then I would probably suggest the D810. For the lens, a 24-120mm or even a wide-angle prime lens such as the 35mm f/1.8 would be good.
If someone is into wildlife photography, I would definitely suggest a telephoto zoom – 80-400mm for animals, or 200-500mm for birds. In the past, I used to recommend the D7200 to people; however, now I tell them to go for the D500, the flagship model for the DX format.
If the person is a complete beginner, then they should pick the D5000 series. As for the lens, I would like them to try the 35mm f/1.8 or 50mm f/1.8 because each is a good prime lens that can create bokeh effects and perform well in low-light conditions.
What do I like about Nikon products?
Their reliability and design.
What do you think makes Nikon products superior, and what makes them so appealing to you?
The feature I like best about Nikon products is their reliability. There are some friends of mine who own only one Nikon body. “This is a Nikon, so no worries. It won’t fail me,” they say. I personally have been using Nikon cameras for a long time. I can always rely on them and feel safe using them in any situation.
Next is the beautiful design. By design I mean the ergonomics: they think carefully about how all the controls are placed. And then there’s the physical appearance, the shape. If you look at the original – the first Nikon SLR, the Nikon F – you can see very clean lines, like some beautiful piece of architecture. And if you remove the lens, you discover the wonderful organization of triangles, lines, squares and circles. Nikons are beautifully designed and fun just to look at.
Another advantage is that Nikon cameras are easy to learn and use. All the ergonomics and menus are well thought out, which makes it easy to understand what is what. And the terminology that Nikon uses is consistent from one model to the next, so at first glance you know how to operate it.
I am also very much satisfied in terms of functionality. The high sensitivity and high-speed performance are excellent. And, best of all, many of the old lenses will fit the latest 2017 camera body. That’s what thrills me about Nikon.
What are your 3 favorite Nikon cameras in the collection?
That’s a very difficult question to answer. Performance-wise the most impressive one I have is the D750. But my real favorite is the Nikon F2 Photomic AS, which came out in 1977. It was a sheer coincidence that this camera came to my attention. I had gone into a camera shop and found a man who wanted to sell it. I thought about the camera for one night before buying it. It was in very good condition. And as soon as I used it I realized it’s a great camera.
The camera is equipped with a mechanical shutter that allows long exposures of up to 10 seconds. This is the only camera I have that’s able to shoot at such slow shutter speeds. It’s tough as well. If you throw it on the floor, the floor will break. You can even hit it with a hammer (I’m just joking).
My next choice would be the Nikon FE2. When one model is discontinued, many people are happy to switch to the new one. But that was not the case with the FE2. When it was discontinued, many found it hard to accept that Nikon would stop making such a fine product. I was no exception. The FE2 is very simple and easy to use. The viewfinder display is wonderful: it shows your settings so you can check them at a glance. That must have been a very welcome feature for photographers when it first appeared.
I’m an engineer
that I’m so keen
on mechanical shutters.
I hear you are especially keen on collecting Nikon cameras with mechanical shutters. Why is that?
The reason I have always been keen on mechanical shutters is that I was an engineer. Like most engineers I’m fascinated by finely engineered machines. And the camera was exactly such a product. I was especially taken with the accuracy and precision of Nikon cameras with mechanical shutters. So I decided to collect all such models. I looked everywhere for them, searching online auction and shopping websites, and even travelling all the way to the US. It took me 15 to 20 years to complete my collection, but now I am very happy with it.
While collecting Nikon cameras, did you have any experiences that made a lasting impression?
I went to a great deal of trouble to get hold of one particular model – the limited-edition Nikon FM2 that was released in 2000. This model comes as a set, body and lens having the same serial number. I searched all over for it. It was not imported into India at that time, so I asked around at many places, and finally found it after two months. Even though the quoted price was quite high, that did not bother me at all. No other model has been such a challenge to acquire.
The Nikon FM2 Kit Millennium Edition,
limited to 2,000 sets, was sold in Hong Kong in 2000.
What would you like to see from Nikon in the future? What kind of products would you want?
I would really like to see an FX-format mirrorless camera. I’m sure that many Nikon customers must have requested this. Another wish is for a compact camera with a good lens for street photography. I would love to have one if it came with a sensor as large as the DX format.
It is a great honor to be invited to address Nikon directly like this. I know the company must have worked tremendously hard to develop so much goodwill, trust and prestige. And I am sure Nikon will continue doing the same, for its customers as well as for the future of the industry. I wish Nikon all the best. And, if I may, I would like to make a request – that is, for Nikon to bring out a new mirrorless camera. Also, please do not forget us old customers. We love to try out our old lenses with the latest camera bodies. (Interviewed in March 2017)
Mr. Ashok Kandimalla