Bags And Cases
Everyone has to carry their equipment, and a good bag makes it easier to work quickly and efficiently, and saves your back, neck, and arms from unnecessary discomfort. It therefore follows that although bags are sometimes seen as unexciting, they are of fundamental importance.
When you are climbing mountains or hiking in the wilderness, you need a good bag to carry your food and water, to say nothing of waterproofs, climbing gear, and possibly camping equipment as well. A number of photographic bag manufacturers started out in these realms and only later moved sideways into photographic bags: probably the best known is Lowepro.
Using the technology developed for one application, these companies worked with professional photographers to come up with new solutions to old problems. This sort of crossover is still happening. For instance, Mountainsmith is 27 years old but was showing their wares at PMA for the first time. As you would expect, they have backpacks and waist packs with a lot of emphasis on proper support and comfort.
Camera Bags Plus
But the crossover doesn't end there. With the advent of digital photography, manufacturers of photographic bags started to make bags for electronic equipment and by the same token the manufacturers of bags for laptops, CDs, and electronic peripherals started to move into the photographic market. Just as the manufacturers of mountaineering gear brought their knowledge of ergonomics and weather proofing to the photographic market, the manufacturers of electronic bags are bringing new materials and new design ideas with them.
Because of the crossover, not every carrying case at PMA was designed solely for cameras. Some of the most memorable were for MP3s, iPods, CD players, or DVDs. Cases that caught my eye included some with speakers from Vantage Sales and Sakar. The one from Vantage incorporated a new material which they said acted as an amplifier!
Backpack Camera Bags Plus...
To get back to actual camera bags, the competition in backpacks is tremendous. More and more backpacks allow you to carry a laptop computer as well as your camera gear. And as laptops have grown bigger screens but thinner overall, the manufacturers have responded by making different shaped laptop compartments. Harnesses are improving, getting more adjustable and more comfortable. I have already mentioned Mountainsmith; they have different backpacks specifically designed for men and women. Other examples were Lowepro's descriptively named Rolling CompuTrekker Plus AW, Kata's new R-103, and Tamrac's Expedition series. The fit of a backpack is extremely important and Tamrac has complete instructions on how to adjust the backpack written on the tag.
Small daypack backpacks are also popular and there were plenty of new ones, some incorporating hydration bladders (water bags, in plain English) and once again loudspeakers--just the thing to make you popular in the wilderness. For a classic photographer's daypack check out Lowepro's redesigned Orion Trekker II. For daypacks with hydration bladders or speakers look at Vantage Sales or Soundkase (Scosche). And for a no-nonsense daypack which doesn't look like a camera bag there was Naneu Pro, which uses camouflage material; they are planning to introduce them in floral designs as well. A great advantage of such materials is that they don't look like camera bags, some of which might as well have STEAL ME blazoned on them in fluorescent letters. The Naneu Pro U-110 is a very compact little backpack, about the size of a daypack, but with many of the features of a full-size backpack and space for a laptop, too.
Digital SLRs are making quite an impact on bag design, too. Up until photokina 2004, the emphasis was on smaller and smaller bags to accommodate digital point-and-shoot cameras, but now with the rise of digital SLRs the manufacturers are beginning to produce bigger bags. Almost every manufacturer had them. Tamrac had three new Digital Zoom Packs. Lowepro's new Rezo AW series comes in five sizes. Crumpler has a new series with seven sizes: the Million Dollar Homes. To find the right size and specifications for your camera, log onto their website (www.crumplerusa.com).
Canadian readers may want to check out two new lines of bags which are being distributed by Gentec: Roots and Optex. The Roots line has three sizes of very handsome high-end leather bags for digital SLRs.
New design ideas from Case Logic were incorporated into their digital bags. Most impressive of the new features is a suspension system which protects the camera from knocks and bumps, and has scored extremely well in drop testing. Also important is a waterproof material on the bottom of the bag. Omega/Satter is distributing a new line of APE bags including three sizes designed especially for digital SLRs.
Another new line of bags for small- to medium-size cameras comes from Werner Hollingsworth Photoware. The designs are simple, they are all made of 1680-denier nylon, and all come with a two-year replacement warranty.
A new line of Pelican soft-sided cases, some of which fit inside Pelican hard cases, will be distributed by Brandess-Kalt-Aetna. These are very handsome bags of 1680-denier nylon with leather trim. They are called the Adventure series and come in eight sizes including two wheeled bags.