Whats in your bag? Kyle Michaels

Hope everyone had a great weekend. Today on the blog, we are gonna have a look into the bag of Kyle Michaels. I cant remember exactly where I met Kyle. Maybe it was on Instagram, maybe it was on Facebook, wherever it was, our paths crossed and I couldn’t be happier. Kyle shoots a lot of expired Polaroid film. He also shoots with a few of my favorite cameras, the Mamiya Universal he shows off below, but also with a Speed Graphic. The latter of the two is what got us talking online and I’m still jealous of his rig. You can see more work from Kyle and follow him online at the following links.

Instagram | Facebook | Flickr


When the fine folks over at Snap It See It asked me to share what’s in my bag, I was more than happy to oblige. However, I must admit every time I pack up my gear to go shoot, I feel like a parent playing favorites among my children. I’m a strobist at heart and a heavily-film-leaning hybrid shooter as well. That being said, I pretty much always bring a separate bag to hold a simple lighting setup and tripod to go along with my camera bag. When I go out to shoot for a personal project this is what most consistently ends up in my bag(s). After trying out tons of different systems, each one of these items has proved itself in it’s own way to make it into the final lineup.




Mamiya Universal Press – Shoot full frame polaroid at f/2.8? Check. Sync flash at 1/500th with leaf shutter? Check. Shoot 645, 6×6, and 6×9 on roll film? Check. Look badass while doing all of these? Definitely. There’s a reason it is called the “Universal.” This camera can handle almost anything I throw at it and it’s virtually indestructible. This is the first all manual instant-capable camera I owned and it remains my favorite. The Planar-type 100mm f/2.8 rivals my 178mm f/2.5 Aero Ektar for speed and sharpness and it’s a million times easier to use. Aside from the dedicated Fuji 6×9 rangefinders (Texas Leicas), this is probably also one of the easiest 6×9 cameras to use. The rangefinder window is huge and bright. I’ve practically shot in the dark on this camera and been able to get good results down to 1/8th with fp3000b. I always keep a spare Polaroid back so I can be shooting color in one and bw in the other. I also always have the 120/220 6×9 roll film back with the proper adapter. This double the usefulness of the MUP so instead of carrying a MF camera and a pack film camera I can just use one with interchangeable backs. There’s a whole array of lenses for this system but my favorites are the 75mm f/5.6, 100mm f/2.8, and the 127mm f/5.6. The 75mm is hands down THE sharpest and most contrasty lens I have ever used for instant film, so I keep it and it’s finder with me when I need . The biggest downside to the MUP is it’s size; I have to break it down into it’s components every time I want to put it back in my bag.


Minolta Instant Pro – I received several packs of Spectra film in a trade so I purchased this camera on a lark. It was only twenty-some dollars but it has secured itself as one of my most used instant film cameras. It is my only autofocus/autoexposure instant camera but it does so much more than that. The Minolta has the unique feature of letting you take multiple exposures and doing the math for you. In other words you can make up to five exposures on one frame and the camera will calculate it out so it is properly exposed. Not only that but it lighten/darken controls, backlight compensation mode, built in timer, and built in intervalometer. Not to mention with the handy close-up attachment I can get mere inches away from my subject.


Polaroid SX-70 – This camera is a classic. I got the original SX-70 with the chrome finish and the tan leatherette but it had definitely seen better days, so I refinished it myself with real hardwood. This is by far my most stylish camera and it always produces magic with whatever impossible film I happen to have on hand at the time.


Canonet QL17 – This 35mm rangefinder is infamous for being cheap and easy to use. It’s my go to for 35mm since it’s super compact and lightweight and has some relatively fast glass. The meter is accurate and easy to read and it syncs with my strobes at 1/500th. What’s not to like for a $40 camera?While I’m sure we’d all like to shoot a Leica, this suffices when I can’t lug around a 35mm EOS system.


BW/Correcting Filters – I shoot a lot of expired pack films and most of them have a characteristic color-shift that is specific to each stock. Because of this, certain films can become overwhelmingly monotone. With correcting filters, I’ve found I’ve been able to warm up or cool down different film stocks to give them a slightly more balanced appearance. In addition, using these filters with black and white film can really accentuate the sky or brighten skin tones.


Polaroid Cold Clip – You’ll experience color shift with most expired instant film. Some films like heat, some like cold. For 669 I almost always heat up the cold clip and develop under my arm for more balanced color.


Moleskin – I always have at least one of these notebooks in my bag for storyboarding or diagraming lighting setups or just simply writing down exposure settings for certain shots so I can remember them later. I prefer the blank non-lined notebooks.


Le Pen – My favorite pens. Super smooth with a micro-fine plastic tip. It doesn’t bleed or smudge, and I’m fairly certain it’s permanent.




Polaroid 990 – ISO 640 integral film for use in Spectra/Image cameras. It’s medium contrast and pretty expired. I got several packs of these as a bonus in a trade and to my surprise they worked.


Fuji FP-100C – ISO 100 The best quality color instant film available. I find it’s white balance slightly cool so I like to use a warming filter with it, especially during golden hour.


Fuji FP-3000B – ISO 3200 The now discontinued high speed instant film is a must have. Unfortunately after my case of 60 runs out, that’s the end. This film is incredibly versatile and will be missed when it’s gone.


Polaroid 669 – ISO 80 This is my favorite instant film. The cool tones and creamy highlights it produces are so classic. So far I’ve had good luck with 669 and only come across two packs that were completely dried up. Obviously you want to be looking for stuff closer to 2009 expiration date.


Polaroid 690 – ISO 100 Another expired Polacolor film with great character. I find 690 a little more consistent and shifts a little more to the warm end of the spectrum.


Polaroid 664 – ISO 100 This low speed black and white film has great contrast and a beautiful grain structure. Great for when you want to shoot black and white in sunlight but you don’t want to stop down with fp3000b


Impossible PX 70 Color Shade Cool – ISO 125 I haven’t shot a ton of Impossible’s film but of the stuff I have shot, the color shade cool has definitely been my favorite. When it was fresh the colors reminded me of 669 with slightly less contrast.


Impossible Color Frames Edition – ISO 125 This is post re-branding after they stopped using the PX film name. Still the same stuff but supposedly “better” quality. I’m slightly partial to the cool, but this has some pretty neat colored frames!


Polaroid 665PN – ISO 80 You know the New55 project? Well this is the packfilm version of the emulsion they were trying to emulate. It’s unique in that it produces an incredibly detailed negative with super fine grain. I only have a few packs of this so I haven’t really put it through the ranks. I feel like with so much detail this film would be suited well for studio work.


Polaroid 100 Sepia – ISO 1500 This is one of those odd art films that was repackaged by PolaPremium. I’ve shot a bit of the Sepia and Chocolate films and I really enjoy their original look. Surprisingly this stuff can still be found for around the same price per frame as impossible film.


35mm Portra 400NC – This medium speed color negative film is ideal for portraits. I like 400 because I can push it or pull it if I’m in a snap and don’t have another option


35mm E100S – I recently had a roll of E100G processed and I immediately fell in love with slide film. Since then I’ve been testing out the whole range of Ektachrome films. The “S” in E100S stands for saturated. I’m looking forward to some vivid colors with this film (unless I can’t find anyone to process E-6)


120 Portra 400NC – Same as the 35, a classic color negative film. Portra is definitely my go to for color negative.


120 E100GX – Extra fine color reversal film with a slight warm balance.


120 HP5+ – Medium speed black and white negative film. I love the grain of HP5+ and also how well it pushes. I can push this to 3200 easily and still be left with a decent image.






Nikon SB-28 – One of the cheapest full feature TTL flashes you can buy and it packs a punch. I’ve got several of these for off camera lighting and they’re super dependable.


Pixel TD-383 – Dedicated battery pack for the for the SB-28. Before using these I was getting pathetic recycle times and my flashes would run out of juice way before I’d be done shooting. They hold 8x AA batteries to keep you going.


RadioPopper Jr2 Transmitter – Sometimes I get really excited about a small piece of gear that does something relatively simple. This is one of those things. Most of the time people don’t get why I’m so excited about it. With this transmitter you have can dial in the power of your flashes digitally on a tiny LCD screen… remotely from the top of your camera. Yeh it’s basically magic. The best part is how precise you can get- switch it to percentage mode and you can shift your power to the single percent from 1-99% and control up to four different groups of flashes. With a readily available PC sync to 3.5mm cord I can hook this up to the vast majority of my instant film cameras. Another nice feature is that it can be used to control ANY flash with TTL and almost any studio strobe.


RadioPopper JrX Receiver – I have four of these so I can set my flashes in four groups and trigger them. I had to make custom 3.5mm to Nikon 3-pin TTL cords to plug these in but it was cheap and worth it.


SX2PC chip – Being able to shoot a studio setup with my SX-70 is straight up crazy. I’ve long been under the belief that most integral films looked better with flash than they do under natural light. You get better contrast more saturated colors and an overall crisper image. The downside to dedicated integral film cameras is that the flash is on camera and, for the most part, unflattering. This little chip enables me to plug my Jr2 transmitter into my SX-70 and have full control of off camera lighting. The only tricky part is figuring out what to meter your flash for because you get a constant shutter speed with the chip plugged in but the f/stop varies with the focussing scale. I keep a copy of the corresponding table in a notebook in my bag for exactly that reason.


Sanyo Eneloop NiMH AA Batteries – I always keep a complete set of these in my bag (x4 for the flash x8 for the battery pack). In my opinion, these are the best rechargeables you can buy. They last forever and hardly lose any power while being stored.


Light stand arm – I took this off a broken light stand and use it as a compact boom arm with a umbrella swivel attached. It’s light and small enough that I can hold it in one hand and shoot with the other if I have to. Most of the time I can find someone to hold it though.


Bounce/Shoot Through Umbrella – A simple cheap umbrella for diffusing light. You can bounce with the cover on or take it off to shoot through.


Rosco Gels – Complete set of Rosco color correcting and color effect gels. I use these to match any ambient light or give my photos a certain mood. Just stick them in a name tag holder and velcro to the flash head. Fast and accurate.


Ball Bungee– These things are invaluable. I can’t count the times I’ve been in a situation where I had to strap a light stand to a tree branch or something like that. I keep plenty of these on hand for any kind of quick fastening solution.


Gitzo Reporter Tripod Legs – This was an old item I picked up off of B&H’s used store. To test how much it would hold I extended it to it’s maximum height and hung from it with my full weight. It didn’t even wobble. It’s not light but obviously, by looking at my gear, you can tell I’m not really worried about that.


Manfrotto 322RC2 Tripod Head – Pistol grip tripod head that gives you the ability to swivel your camera in literally ANY direction. Makes lining up horizons or frame edges super easy. All you have to do is squeeze and adjust.


Smoke Bombs – So what if they’re gimmicky! It’s a cool effect and they add a ton of atmosphere to any photo. This is a cheap way to add a stylized flair to any shoot.




That’s it for my what’s in my bag. Seems like a ton of stuff but once it’s all arranged properly I can fit ALL of it into my Langly Alpha Pro and Pelican PCTB28 (although it’s no easy task). A lot of people would probably complain about carrying that much gear but as long as I’m not going straight up a mountain I don’t really mind. I think I’ve fallen in love with big heavy cameras and there’s no going back.


Honorable Mention: There are a few cameras that didn’t make the list but are awesome at what they do. My Graflex Speed Graphic is one of them, however when I’m using that, it is the only thing I pack, because there is no bag that can hold it. The Polaroid 180 is great, but given the alternative, I usually pick my MUP because of the faster glass and versatility. And last but not least I got nothing but love for my RB67 but it too monopolizes all the space in my bag. I can’t get enough of the in-camera diptychs using the sliding Polaroid adaptor I found and focusing on ground glass is a dream.


  1. Hi Kyle, didn’t know you had a QL17 as well. I love that camera, I have the black version

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