Mr. Skuntanaga, while being a businessman, you are also a very well known photographer who roams the world with Nikon cameras. What triggered you and how did you get into photography?
When I was young, I encountered a photobook that inspired me and lead me into photography. At the time, I was looking through the photobook without knowing who the photographer was. When I had grown up, I went back to the photobook again and learned that the collection was taken by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX). I was so touched to know that our King Rama IX was so talented to shoot such wonderful photos. All of the photos in the book were meaningful. It may not be easy for foreigners to appreciate this but as a Thai, it is such a wonderful experience to be able to touch upon the works of His Majesty. Ever since, I have been admiring him.
I am proud of having the Nikon S2 model in my collection. That’s because the Nikon S2 model was one of the cameras that His Majesty used in a very crucial period in time. I remember that the king took this camera everywhere. Looking back, there were so many historical events that were taken by the Nikon S2 model. I’m sure many people may have seen photos of His Majesty with this camera on his lap, or of him shooting with this camera. Many Thais reminisce fondly about him through these images.
As a Nikon user over many years, how did you feel when you heard that Nikon was establishing its core production line in Thailand?
As a Thai person and a big fan of Nikon for a very long time, I felt very proud. The fact that Nikon chose Thailand to be its production base means that Nikon believed in the skills of the Thai; that we can produce high-technology cameras worthy of Nikon.
Compared to brands that have no connection to Thailand, and are there just for the business, the people of Thailand have a better impression of Nikon as a brand that highly regards Thailand and is trying to create a deeper relationship with our country. Personally, I think that further investment in Thailand will create a stronger bond between Nikon and Thailand.
It feels like I want to
have Nikon with me all the time.
Which model was your first Nikon camera? Tell us about your first experience with Nikon.
I still remember the first time I was in a camera shop in Japan to choose my first camera. Every single brand on earth was in the store, and you could literally reach out and touch every one of them. I tried out all the single reflex cameras in the store, one by one, to look for the right sensation. That “this is it!” moment came for the first time when I held the Nikon 801S. The impression I had of my first Nikon camera was that it’s so robust and durable; a perfect match for me.
What kind of photos are you taking with Nikon cameras?
Usually, I love playing around with photography without limiting myself to any specific style. However, I do prefer some styles over others. As I travel a lot, I always count photography as part of my trip whether it’s for leisure or business. Many of these photos are scenery; the nature, the new and exotic places that I encounter at each destination.
As for the subject matter, I am very much keen on solar eclipses right now. I consider myself as a “solar eclipse chaser” as the solar eclipse takes place about once a year at different locations across the globe. One of my experiences in 1995 was when a total eclipse of the sun occurred in Thailand. I used the film camera Nikon F801S, together with the AI AF Zoom- NIKKOR 80-200 f/2.8D ED, which was one of the best-known lenses by Nikon back then. My second solar eclipse shooting was at Shanghai, but this time I took it with a digital camera. After two successful shootings, I dreamt of capturing every solar eclipse occurring on earth with my camera. From then until now, I have taken eight eclipses in total, six total eclipses and two annular eclipses. I will continue to capture that moment when the sun hides behind the moon.
Has any incident left a lasting impression on you while taking pictures on the go?
I don’t simply choose an ordinary location for taking pictures. Take a look at this photo. This was taken at an Everest Base Camp. Certainly it is not a typical location one would choose. In the region, you can face temperatures ranging between minus 10°C and 20°C, even minus 30°C can occur frequently. But because the starry night from the Base Camp is ethereal beauty, I had to capture it. So I tried extended exposure shooting leaving the camera outside of the tent for about three to four hours. My Nikon camera was working from the moment I pressed the shutter until I retrieved it, and it had recorded every moment of the starry night without breaking. I was amazed. This was one incident where I realized first-hand the exceptional durability of Nikon cameras.
Which is your current favorite camera?
My first professional digital camera was the D2X. Back then, it was considered one of the best cameras around. Nevertheless, model upgrade is essential for digital cameras as the performance continues to improve year after year. Currently, I’m using a Nikon D5 model as my main camera. The D5 camera is currently the camera with the highest level of performance, offering a combination of high-speed and high-resolution. I think this is the right camera for me at the moment.
Tell us which is your favorite camera in your collection
When the Nikon F4 came out, it gave me the feeling that something big was happening in the world of cameras. The F4 was the first Nikon camera to feature auto focus, besides the F3AF. Back then some photographers would say “auto focus wasn’t good enough” but the F4 was Nikon’s game changer. It was the camera with an auto focus function that went beyond what people typically said about it. Personally, I think F4 is also one of the all-time best designed cameras by Nikon.
There were also some rare, hard-to-find models. For instance, the “Year of the Dog” model was a model produced in 1994, named after the year according to the Chinese zodiac. It is a Nikon FM2/T model carved with a dog silhouette, with total production of only 300 sets, making it truly rare.
Let’s talk about lenses too. If you open a NIKKOR lens catalog now, I own just about all of the auto focus lenses in the catalog. For the old-school NIKKOR lenses, I really like the AI Noct NIKKOR 58mm f/1.2. This particular model is a lens for night shooting, which was launched some 40 years ago. Nikon had gone through a single model change and after that, Nikon never produced this kind of lens again. For this reason, it is a very rare item and is considered to be one of the most expensive lenses in the normal-range lens group.
It isn’t just about cameras and lenses either; I collect every single item that has the “Nikon” name on it, including accessories such as t-shirts, caps, and anything else I can find. I even took photos of a commercial billboard featuring the brand; I feel like I want to be with Nikon all the time.
My ideal camera would be
the modern version of Nikon F4.
What would you like to see from Nikon in the future? What kind of products would you want?
I can say that Nikon and I have been spending lots of time and growing together, spanning a few eras from film cameras till today. Just as it did before, I believe that Nikon with its innovative ideas will continue to come up with better and more modern things all the time. Nikon’s attitude for continuous innovation feeds its power to develop new products ahead of its competitors. I still believe that Nikon can go further... The future of Nikon is still so bright.
At the moment, I am very much interested in smaller professional camera models. The professional cameras like the D5 are all highly reliable and durable so they can definitely demonstrate their full performance. Right now, I would like to have a smaller camera with the same quality and performance. Just to mention, it would be something like a digital Nikon F4 that could be transformed in many ways. Perhaps in the future, I’d be happy to have a modular camera that allows the type of sensor or size of viewfinder to be changed. Something like a robot where you can remove or change various parts of its body, the back cover, and so on. That sort of modularization is synonymous with Nikon. If we can put that Nikon identity from the film era back into digital cameras, it would be my ideal camera.
It isn’t easy to find a 100-year survivor, either as a human being or a company, especially in this fast changing world. 100 years have passed since the company’s foundation. I’m confident that Nikon can go even further by sticking to its core DNA. And, it will be the leading camera brand forever. If I could live another 100 years, I would use Nikon for another 100 years without any doubt. I chose Nikon the first day I stepped into the camera shop. I feel the power of Nikon through all the cameras and lenses. Certainly, I will never change my perfect choice – Nikon.
Mr. Pong Skuntanaga
Nikon established the first full-scale overseas production base in 1990, the Nikon (Thailand) Co., Ltd. in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Thailand. The company started with manufacturing interchangeable lenses and went on to manufacture the Nikon F-601, an SLR film camera, in 1994. Then in 2004, the company engaged in the production of a digital SLR camera, the D70. Today, its main manufacturing includes digital SLR cameras and NIKKOR lenses. As a key manufacturing base that makes Nikon’s main products in the camera business, Nikon Thailand supports Nikon’s overseas production system.