Special Report: photokina
Bags And Cases

Versatility is the key trend in camera bags. Manufacturers, like photographers, know that any camera bag is a compromise. There are cases with compartments for a laptop computer and other digital accessories; with divider systems which lift out so the bag can double as a suitcase; with zip-off compartments so you can carry chargers and other accessories, to be removed and left in your hotel when you go out for a day's shooting; with wheels; with integral or removable backpack harnesses; and with backpack harnesses and wheels for the best of both worlds, at a slight weight penalty. For storage of the cases themselves there are cases which fit inside other cases...

Rolling backpacks are more compact and more comfortable than ever. The various bag designers have different but effective approaches. Both Tamrac (CyberPack Express; www.tamrac.com) and Pelican (the D'Exec Series; distributed by Brandess-Kalt-Aetna, www.bkaphoto.com; also visit Pelican's website at: www.pelican.com) made their major introductions last PMA but at photokina Lowepro (www.lowepro.com) introduced a new, slightly bigger rolling backpack to their Rover series. It has a harness which can be adjusted to fit almost any torso size. The lower compartment has adjustable dividers for your cameras and lenses, while the upper compartment holds other accessories or clothes or whatever you need.

Non-backpack rolling cases are great for big professional gear. And again there are lots of different approaches to design. Check out the three in the Pelican D-series, Pelican's hard-side roller, or RoadWired's Roadster Convertible (www.roadwired.com) with its multiple compartments and removable interior. Or you might prefer Tamrac's CyberPro Express or their Rolling Photo/Computer Briefcase. Another rolling case that caught my attention, albeit only in prototype form, was Dr. Gilde's (www.gilde-kamera.de) new case with folding "aircraft undercarriage" wheels.

Porter Case (www.portercase.com) added an accessory to their rolling cases: a giant Cube for carrying really bulky equipment. The Porter Case is the hard-side case with the handle which folds through 90Þ to make a trolley. The slots where the handle normally fits are then empty. The new Cube is molded to fit into these slots so it can be carried securely on even the smallest case.

A fascinating concept comes from Israeli company Kata (now distributed by Bogen Imaging Inc., www.bogenimaging.us, in the US). They call it the Insertrolley. A number of different bags (including backpacks) slip onto the same trolley. You can use the trolley separately as a luggage carrier or with any of their bags which incorporate the trolley sleeve.

Big over-the-shoulder bags increasingly combine computer and camera bags. Many of them have special laptop protectors which slip out of the bag--convenient for airline security. A good example is Tenba's new line of ProDigital bags with three different models to hold different-size laptops (12-17") and camera gear: the bigger the bag, the more camera gear it can hold, too. ProDigital backpacks have interesting features such as a removable workstation with a stand-up easel back and easy access openings for lenses and laptops. Tenba (www.tenbagear.com) is now allied with the MAC Group (www.macgroupus.com), as is RoadWired.

As far as the smaller, more conventional cases go, there is an important trend. Since digital has come on the scene bags have been getting smaller and smaller, but manufacturers now reckon that they will have to start building bigger bags again because they anticipate rapid growth in the digital SLR market. I heard this first from Tamrac, and then from several other leading manufacturers. Tamrac, incidentally, went both big and small with their Velocity sling packs: the Velocity 9 holds a professional digital SLR plus lenses and the Micro holds a compact digital camera or camcorder.