Special Report: photokina
Bags And Cases Page 2

Hard-side waterproof cases remain popular. Pelican introduced a big, waterproof cube for lights or other bulky photographic gear, while Storm Case (www.stormcase.com) announced several new sizes of American-made resin hard-side cases with purge valves and specially designed extra strong latches. They are unconditionally guaranteed for life. G.T. Line (www.gtline.com), an Italian company looking for US distribution, has a strap-on backpack harness for their hard plastic, waterproof Explorer cases. The harness isn't designed for long-term trekking, but it is a boon when you need your hands free, for example at the airport.

New Materials, Too
New materials appeared at this photokina, too. I saw a really interesting material called Air Cell. Imagine bubble wrap, but with a strong outer fabric which prevents it from popping. This gives excellent resistance both to vibration and to shocks. I mentioned it to Mike Hess of RoadWired and he disappeared into a back room and came out with three sample bags incorporating the new material. "You see," he said, "Shutterbug has only to suggest it and here it is!" The laptop compartment in the new bags is lined with Air Cell.

Vanguard (www.vanguardusa.com) had an anti-shock material which was also fascinating. It feels rather like a very thick neoprene, but when you squeeze it, it doesn't bounce back immediately. This means that it absorbs and then slowly dissipates any shock to your camera. The pouch they showed me would accommodate a small digital camera, a mobile phone, or a personal organizer.

Then there are fabrics. Vantage and Cobra bags (www.vantagesalesinc.com) will now be made with American DuPont Cordura, while Crumplers (distributed by JOBO, www.jobo-usa.com) have new, bright, unusual colors and even greater versatility. I was particularly impressed with an orange backpack which had lift out modules for camera gear and laptop.

There was the usual profusion of small pouches and bags for compact cameras (digital or not). Some were more luxurious, to match the ever-increasing price of fancy digital compacts: for example, Kodak Gear (from The Tiffen Company; (www.tiffen.com) had some very handsome leather pouches. My favorite, though, came from OP/TECH USA (www.optechusa.com), for a rangefinder body without a lens. A set of small soft pouches such as this can allow you to pack your gear without having to rely on divider systems: the dividers are not always as versatile as they seem, especially if you use a camera system other than the one the bag designer had in mind. A rangefinder body and three lenses will take up about the same space as a Canon EOS Digital Rebel with a zoom lens, but not in the same way.

This can be very important with airline carryons, especially outside the US: in most of the rest of the world, cabin baggage restrictions are actually enforced. More than once I have seen this cause serious problems for American visitors who have just flown in from the US with bags that were waved through at their home airport.

My vote for the most unusual bags, though, goes to Sakar "Sound Cases" (www.sakar.com). Their pouches with built-in amplifiers and speakers for CD and MP3 players are impressive enough, but more impressive still are their briefcase-style bags with built-in amplifiers and speakers for your laptop or DVD: these allow you to set up a presentation anywhere, anytime. They even have a backpack with two amplifying speakers for a CD player, but I would recommend caution in using it. Attracting attention to a backpack full of camera gear is not necessarily a good idea. Nor is playing your music too loudly in the wrong place.

An ingenious cable and lock system from RoadWired, the KeyCard Travelock, is based on keycard technology. The package consists of two keycards, a short cable and lock, a long cable, and a laptop lock. You can keep the keycard in your wallet or on your keychain. Photocopy the card, or do a tracing, when you first get it. Then, if it is lost, contact RoadWired
for a replacement.