Bags, Cases, And Vests
All Purpose Carriers For All Sorts Of Gear

To detail all the new bags that are introduced at a single show would take up at least one issue of Shutterbug, so what follows is a brief (believe it or not), alphabetical review of the highlights at PMA, with a small rant by way of preface. If you want more information on introductions not described here, check out the web sites.

Now for the rant. Countless bags in the last few years have had the word "digital" printed, molded, or embroidered on them. Why? It seems counterproductive to me. If digital cameras are so popular, then this is tantamount to writing STEAL ME on it. Also, there are some really nice designs which could take a small SLR or rangefinder camera, but many users of conventional cameras will be put off by having "digital" on the bag. Perhaps one might splash "digital" all over the packaging: but not the bag itself.

Ambico had three new lines, mostly for digital cameras, and all in black, some with color accents. Interestingly, Ambico carefully explained to me how they use real nylon instead of plastic imitation nylon.

ALS/Camera Stuff are carrying on with their NASCAR theme, and now include some driver affiliated products. However, they also had a new camera bag line in a leatherlook material which they call Stuffskin. These were black and well designed, not obviously camera bags. An interesting prototype product looked like a black vinyl apron, with three pockets, designed to go over a car seat.

Beseler has been updating all of its camera luggage, and had 15 new models. One of the changes they have made to the Contour line is a new, softer material which feels better and is easier on your clothing than ballistic nylon. Out of the new styles, my favorite bag is the Citipak Monostrap. This is made of neoprene, in lime green or black, and looks nothing like a camera bag. The shape is not that different from a conventional backpack but it sits, very comfortably, at an angle. Even though there is no waist strap it doesn't swing forward when you bend over. Half of the bag is fitted with movable dividers for camera gear, so when you swing the bag to the front the camera gear is on the bottom: good for security, less handy for quick accessibility.

Case Logic redesigned several of their lines this year. One of the goals was to introduce a slimmer profile, so the bags stay closer to the body. They have also added detailing such as protective gussets on the sides of the top flap, which help keep dust out. Another change is stretch PVC pockets rather than mesh pockets on some styles. A particularly interesting design is the modular LSA Adventure Series. These are shoulder bags with smaller bags which fit inside. A pocket on the lining is stitched in such a way that the smaller bags, which have plastic arms, can be secured inside the bigger bag. There are three sizes in the series.

A limited range of CCS/Heritage bags is again available in North America. These handsome canvas and leather bags, many with Gladstone opening, are now imported by Pro4.

Crumpler's Bunion Insert
Crumpler, the Australian bag makers, are now distributed by Jobo in the US. They are well-known for their dispatch rider styles and funny names--and for the fact that sizes are commonly expressed in beer cans. This year their introductions rejoiced in the names of Private Diner, Hedge Driver, Bureau, Heinous, Tube-O-Lager lens cases, Bunion Inserts, and a line of laptop bags including McBain's Lovechild, The Wee Chappie, The Gent, Crisp Suit, and the Old Banger.

The Bunion Insert is a very important addition to the line. It comes in seven sizes and converts many of the Crumpler styles into camera bags. Crumpler is also working on a new digital line which should be ready by photokina. To quote the advice on the bottom of the press release, "If you don't currently own a Crumpler bag go to the web site (www.crum and find out how you can get one."

Domke bags include a modular system called the Image Hunter. You can take the Iguana or the Armadillo, and attach a Roo, a Toad, and a Giraffe. The Iguana and Armadillo are backpacks, the Roo and the Toad are waist packs, and the Giraffe is a chest pack. The colors used for this system are black and lagoon. Although the names are fanciful, the system is a serious kit with lots of excellent features.

New products from f.64 include a portable padded insert that will fit into a briefcase or soft courier bag. They also had media storage wallets, padded tripod cases, and the production models of the backpacks I saw in prototype last PMA. If you need a backpack which can comfortably take medium or large format gear, f.64 is a good place to start looking.

Hakuba had a few new media storage cases, including a line of translucent plastic ones with rubber inserts. There are several different designs to hold the different media--flash cards, memory sticks, whatever. They also had a new line of Chinese-made aluminum cases, less expensive than their top of the line Japanese-made cases. As the Hakuba representative pointed out, because of airline security measures people are having to check more through, and these cases are good protection. Hakuba also had a photographer's vest: it looked like a nice design, but came only in large (or was it extra large?).

New to the photographic trade were Leelanau. They showed a line of handsome, American made, leather luggage, not necessarily designed for cameras but adaptable. They also had albums, notebooks, map cases, portfolios, purses, small envelope bags, and diaries. My favorite from their line-up was a big leather bag with a Gladstone opening.

Lektra Designs had pouches designed for the Hasselblad back, with a special pocket for the dark slide. It will take Hasselblad and Mamiya backs, but it's too small for my big Linhof and Alpa backs. There has also been a redesign of the big Outpack bag. It includes removable pockets and a double opening so you can open it toward or away from your body. Stretching the definition of camera carrying systems, Lektra also has two sizes of car mounts. Rather than describe them, as they are such a specialist application, I simply refer you to Lektra.

A tiny accessory bag called the Kaddy (by Kokuyo) is one of those "I want one [or two...or three...]" products. It is a small pouch which converts to a standup display of supplies. You unzip it, fold down the flaps and it sits up. It holds up to 60 pens (six sets of SpotPens), 30 markers, scissors, brushes, etc. There is a touch fastener inner pocket for erasers, paper clips, or whatever.

Water Sports
Lowepro's DryZone 200 is made from the same rubber material as RIBs (Rubber Inflatable Boats). One of the manufacturer's tests was to load the bag with concrete and throw it over the side. It floated, and stayed dry inside. It looks like a conventional backpack, with an outer shell of plastic-coated nylon which slips over the rubber bag. The zipper seals using wet-suit technology. There is a choice of outer colors: yellow for high visibility on the water, and black for nature photographers who want to be more discreet. The backpack harness is adjustable so it is comfortable for most adult heights. The bag is designed to hold a 35mm system, a compact medium format system, a small field camera system, or a professional video system.

Other introductions from Lowepro included a Mini Road Runner--a small, compact rolling backpack with the wheels on one side and the harness on the other--and a big Pro-Roller, a heavy-duty rolling case for location photographers. In the smaller bags, they introduced a line of digital video bags, three new lens cases, new laptop options in the Lynx series, and digital media storage cases.

Naneu Pro showed The Four Seasons, a handsome leather-look design that has a rain jacket concealed in a back, zippered pocket. The New Age series consists of foam-lined pouches in four sizes. They all have an "Easy Lock" system to fit on a belt, plus rings for a shoulder strap. Three other series are called Travelers, Outdoor, and Cyber. All bags have a lifetime guarantee against defects in workmanship and material.

Otter cases, the waterproof, hard-shell cases, included two new larger sizes. Features include a compound latch, lock, shoulder strap option, purge valve, and optional "pick and pluck" foam lining. The other introduction is a PDA case. The special screen allows you to use your PDA while it is sealed inside the case. The case is waterproof, airtight, and has a lifetime guarantee.

OP/TECH had several new items. Media Mate leather pouches have loops for batteries, pockets for media cards, and swivel clips for attachment to bags or belt. The Media Holster is a small neoprene pouch for batteries or media cards and fits onto a camera strap. They also had a multi-pocket pouch for the Apple iPod. For those who want to show their colors they had a camera strap decorated with stars and stripes.

Omega/Satter had new bags called RoadWired. There are several sizes and they are well worth looking out for. Two unique items are their media storage cases and lens wraps lined with Corrosion Intercept material, a polymer which neutralizes corrosive gases and will prevent metal from tarnishing, rusting, discoloring, and deteriorating.

Pelican Products
Pelican cases, distributed by BKA, had a range of neoprene accessories including camera straps, accessory pouches, and camera pouches. They also had shooting ponchos and two sizes of camera protector. BKA announced that there are now seven styles of Pelican Soft Sided Bags, five of which fit inside Pelican hard cases.

New rolling soft-side bags include the PCS 161 and the PCS 104. The PCS 161 is designed to hold a 35mm system, or a small medium format system, plus accessories. It also fits inside the Pelican 1610 hard case. As if this weren't enough versatility, it has a backpack harness and a padded back support. The PCS 104 was a prototype last year. This year they had the production model. It can be used for camera or lighting gear. There is a large central compartment and two side compartments which fold out. The side compartments are big enough to hold lighting stands or a tripod, and can be opened from the top even when the bag is closed.

Phoenix had three new lines, the Black Diamond, the Ultimate, and the Blue Dot. They also had two new smaller bags in their Professional series and a new size tripod bag. Most impressive was a backpack, built to accommodate a 600mm lens. It has a plastic outer wall, closed cell foam inner wall, and removable lumbar support.

Prat Paris, the French company who make very handsome leather cases for cameras as well as for presentation, had two new presentation cases. One was patent leather, the other a textured leather with chrome fittings. Sakar's Digital Concepts line is now made of neoprene, rather than microfiber.

Tamrac's newest designs included two new Velocity messenger-style bags; the Velocity 7 Photo Sling Pack; the Velocity 5 convertible hip bag; a new compact backpack; a professional bag (the Pro 5) which will take a 200mm lens plus SLR; a new lightweight addition to the Superlight series; a new 5211 bag for a compact SLR; a redesigned 5200 series; and lots of media storage cases. The media storage wallets have a unique, but very simple feature. Each pocket has a little red flag. If the media card is "unexposed" (empty), tuck the flag in. Once the media card is "exposed" (full), pull the red flag over the pocket. Or there's this incredible invention called 35mm film...

Tenba were celebrating their 25th anniversary this PMA. Good news for smaller photographers: they are now making their photographer's vest in small and extra small. They have also redesigned their little 161 Photo Vision Backpack. The hanging compartment inside is now removable, a zipper around the front allows access to the lower section of the pack. Compression straps take up any slack. It even comes with a water bottle. A larger backpack (the 616 I think) was also introduced: the design was so new that they had no printed information. Among its features are feet which allow it to stand up; a substantially hidden compartment on the bottom for documents; a removable compartment for a laptop; and of course plenty of room for camera gear.
Tokina (THK) has dropped the complete United Colors of Benetton line and come up with a line of just three backpacks, designed with input from working photographers. The design is simple and clean. The outer shell is firm, probably with a plastic shell; the inners are lined with closed cell foam. The larger backpack will accommodate a 600mm lens, the next size down, a 400mm, and the smallest, a 300mm. All three have a special padded pocket for a laptop computer. Proposed retail prices were surprisingly modest, ranging from $89 for the smallest to $139 for the largest.

Vanguard had several new lines including some beautiful textured real leather bags and pouches (the Envoy line), some new slim-line bags and leather-look bags, and new colors including four rich brown digital bags. Perhaps most impressive was a new hard-side rolling case with chrome clad corners and a pick-foam inner. There was also a top loading, rolling briefcase which can be carried onto an aircraft.

Last but not least was another rolling case, this one from Vantage Sales. It is called the Dockmate, and is two cases that clip together. The soft case, which has the rolling frame built-in, is designed for clothes, samples, catalogs, or bro chures. The more structured case is designed to hold a laptop and all the cables, media storage, and accessories. A very secure clamp on each side allows the two to be put together.

List of Manufacturers/Distributors