at the latest camera bag offerings has an extra piquancy when you are in the
market for a bag yourself, as I was at this year's PMA. My husband Roger
Hicks had just bought a new laptop, which was a very tight fit indeed in his
existing camera bag. We needed something new. We ended up with the CompuTrekker
AW backpack from Lowepro--but along the way, I was reminded yet again why
there are so many different kinds of bags, and why there are new models every
The CompuTrekker AW was introduced last year, but this year there is a wheeled
version. It's excellent, but obviously it's heavier than the plain
AW and if you travel outside the US this is often a problem. Many American airlines
don't seem to have carryon regulations, or if they do, the check-in staff
ignore them. Europe is different. More than one American tourist has been badly
upset when they change planes in Europe and are forced to check oversize carryons.
Our AW fits inside the gauge stated on the ticket--45x30x23cm, roughly
18x12x9"--and that is important. Both the AW and its wheelie brother
have a full backpack harness, with sternum strap and waist-belt: slower to take
on and off than a simple knapsack design, but a lot more comfortable if you
are walking any distance. This sort of compromise between speed and comfort
is just one of the considerations that both the designer and the customer have
to take into account.
Lowepro has also extended their Stealth line, with a number of new sizes:
another reminder that even if there was nothing in a manufacturer's line-up
that suited you last year, this year may be different. Stealth bags are shoulder
bags for photographers who also want to carry laptops, digital photo wallets,
and other electronic bits and pieces. This is a definite trend; as one of the
manufacturers said to me, it used to be only professionals who wanted to carry
laptops along with their cameras. Now it's amateurs as well.
Another strong contender for our needs was a Naneu Pro Sierra, but the laptop
was a fraction too big: a Tango would have done it, but they had sold the Tango
just before we got there. Both are essentially shoulder bags, but have a built-in,
concealable messenger strap--their name for a dispatch-rider strap/bandoleer
strap. This is a new idea, and a really good one: it would have been a hard
choice between the AW and the Tango. I really like dispatch-rider bags, and
it seems I'm not the only one: more and more manufacturers are offering
them. The other big trend is wheeled backpacks. Naneu also offered the new Mini-Goombah
in this style: predictably, a smaller version of the original Goombah.
A Bag To Fit Your Needs
I usually carry a rangefinder outfit: two Bessas and up to five lenses. This
means I can get away with a relatively tiny bag such as the small Lowepro SlingShot
100 that I use at the moment. I have been very tempted, for example, by one
of the smaller bags in the Kata National Geographic range from Bogen Imaging
Inc. These have a wonderful 1930s retro look, cotton and hemp with brass fittings.
In a sense they are "lifestyle" bags--bags that say a certain
amount about what sort of person you are, and how you want to live--but
mercifully most of the more vivid and extroverted versions of these have now
disappeared, along with the "designer" labels from people who knew
nothing about taking pictures and carrying cameras. Kata also introduced a couple
of wheeled Organizer Cases, the OC-82 and OC-84, for (I quote) "an hierarchic
and accessible working platform." In other words, you can organize your
kit easily and get at it easily.
Kata weren't the only people with National Geographic. There's
an actual National Geographic brand from Cerf Brothers, all black with a lining
in National Geographic yellow. They're small, well made, functional bags
and pouches--the biggest "Tiger" case is only 9x8x5"/23x20x13cm--and
the "Snake" range consists of soft drawstring pouches or sacks,
from 6x3"/8x5cm to 6.5x8.5"/22x17cm. Of course, a proportion of
money from both the Kata and Cerf Brothers ranges of National Geographic bags
is paid to the Society.
Although black ballistic nylon has made something of a comeback, the days when
this was just about the only option in soft-side cases are long gone. For example,
the Adventure series of photo backpacks and messenger (dispatch-rider) bags
from Tamrac use inset panels of gray or red for variety, though the bag I'd
probably find most useful for my small rangefinder outfit is the new (but plain
black) Velocity 8 - Pro Sling Pack. As they say, it doesn't look like
a camera bag (some of which might as well have STEAL ME embroidered on them)--and
it's another dispatch-rider/messenger bag. Tamrac describe it as "Digitally
Equipped," but remember, this doesn't mean you have to put digital
cameras in it.
The big holdout if you want an in-your-face lifestyle bag is Crumpler, but
fortunately, they do know about carrying cameras and their designers are good
enough to handle the colors. I'm still not sure about the names, though:
The Soupansalad, The Complete Seed, The Fux Deluxe, and this show's main
bag introduction, The Brazillion Dollar Home, described as a "convertible
backpack/shoulder photo/IT case"--another example of the laptop trend.
8 - Pro Sling Pack
Distributed by the Brandess-Kalt-Aetna Group, the Pelican D'Exec series
is now in production and should be available by the time you read this. Initially
there are just two bags in the series. One is a particularly handsome large
camera/computer soft-side bag which will fit inside the Pelican 1550 for extra
protection. The other is a wheeled upright bag which will also take both camera
and computer. The bags are black or green canvas with brown leather trim: my
favorite is the green.