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Monday, August 10, 2009

The High-Tech Camera Bag

Balancing protection for your valuable gear with functionality requires innovative high-tech solutions

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Some photographers like the fit of a shoulder bag, but may find traditional bags a bit too bulky for their liking. Manufacturers have modified shoulder bag designs into briefcase-style bags (which are narrower than typical shoulder bags) and messenger-style satchels that lay flatter against the body and can be easily repositioned on the side or the back.

Top-loading shoulder bags, like Lowepro’s Toploader Pro AW line, offer streamlined storage and easy access. These bags also are convertible, so they can change from shoulder-style to be worn at the belt or even fitted to the chest—a position in which the top-loading access makes the camera easily accessible for photographers who work in physically demanding situations. A simpler innovation also translates into usability: They’re designed to position the camera on its side, making it easier to grab on the go.

Modern bags are filled with thoughtful innovations that make them infinitely more user-friendly. Kata is a good example of this, designing its bags around a decidedly nontraditional ergonomic fit, utilizing extra material protection built in to corners and edges (for shock- and water-resistance from proprietary TST materials), as well as a bright yellow interior. Why the neon fabric? Because most camera gear is black, and rooting around in a dark interior to find a lens cap or CF card is nobody’s idea of a good time—particularly when the client is waiting. With a bright interior, camera gear no longer can hide.

Photographers out in the elements prefer a popular innovation in modern bags—the weather cover. For years, camera bags utilized DIY weather covers, aka trash bags. But modern dust- and rainproof ponchos are often built in to the bag, making it impossible to leave home without one. Photographers who work out in the weather often prefer another innovation—a style of bag that represents another simple yet inspired innovation: the backpack.

Domke F-8
Domke F-8

Domke’sTimeless Solution
Old-school and low-tech can be just right

Sometimes the best camera bag option is a classic design—like Domke’s F-8 Original Bag. Available in two basic colors, black or tan, the bag is deceptively simple. Based on the original bag Jim Domke built for his own photojournalistic needs, the F-8 is designed to provide immediate access to equipment. It’s nothing flashy, but it works.

Sure, the company innovates new designs and materials across its product line, but the classic bag is such a beloved product that the company dare not change it. (Remember New Coke?) These canvas bags may not be ultra-padded, but
they’re ultra-efficient, designed for working photojournalists who don’t feel the need to baby their gear.

The real key, though, is that the Domke F-8 offers protection of another sort: subtlety. The camera bag that doesn’t look like a camera bag, Domke’s Original likely is to remain a staple among working photographers for years to come. No matter what improvements abound in bag design, there’s something special about a simple canvas shoulder bag that offers lots of camera storage, plenty of pockets and easy access without having to take it off. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s the beauty of a timeless design.


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