Where can I buy quality camera bags?
"Leica style" canvas bags
Leica of course make a range of high quality (and expensive) bags. There are cheaper alternatives however which may be just as good.
Based in Boston USA, they make a canvas satchel bag which is an updated copy of the canvas Leica bags manufactured in the 1960s and 70s. They feature the original bag's appearance, but the design has been improved to feature stronger construction and use of more durable materials. For more information, see their www site at: <mclassics.com>
In Jan 2005, Emanuel Lowi noted the following about the new line of M-Classics bags:
I just received the latest version of M-Classics' bag — modelled after one marketed by Leitz way back when.
The bag is now made out of the same cloth used for high-end convertible ragtops (Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, etc.) making this great bag even better. It fairly reeks quality, yet also has the most practical design of any two M-camera shooter's bag I've ever seen.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the new bag carries the classic Leitz script logo of yesteryear. I asked M-Classics owner Seth Levine about this, and he explained he has acquired the trademark registration to the old name and logo, and is working to revive the Leitz brand for quality aftermarket products for Leica users.
These bags are also popular, especially for the tough, waterproof and yet smooth-to-the-touch canvas materials used. Some people hate the built-in, non-interchangeable strap, but what is to stop you from cutting it off, stitching on 38mm stainless-steel D-rings and then using any clip-on strap you like? (Which is exactly what I did to my Hadley (Small) bag so I could use my favourite heavy-duty Portabrace HB-40 strap.)
Another worthwhile modification, especially to the "Hadley Small" bag, is to remove the inner pocket and cover the canvas bag interior with fuzzy velcro material. Use a flexible acetone-based craft-glue and it will stiffen the bag's sides and yet remain soft and flexible enough to protect your camera and lenses. Furthermore, you will now be able to attatch velcro-based divider tabs directly to the interior surface of the bag, giving you much more interior room and a bag which moulds to your body more easily. (BTW this is exactly what I have done to my bag!)
General Hadley links and reviews:
Here is a tip for USA-based Hadley buyers from Douglas Kinnear — buy your bag from Robert White Cameras in the UK and have it delivered, depending upon currency fluctuations you may end up saving $US 50-100 off the US store retail price.
Courier & other photo bags
Although the Hadley bags are nice, they can be pricey and a bit too "man-bag" like. For a lower-key approach, consider using a (padded) courier's satchel instead.
Australian Crumpler bags
Their laptop/camera bag models are well padded and cost half the price of the Hadley's. They also have the advantage of being made of indestructible 1000D Cordura® material and — most importantly — don't look anything like a typical camera bag!
In July 2002 Marty Deveney noted the following about these bags:
[Get] the "Steamer", it fits an M6 and three lenses plus a useful amount of film nicely and the "Lollybag" (it's, well, you know, mobile-phone sized!?). They look pretty, too, if that matters. To be honest, so as to be nicely inconspicuous, I got a flame-red one with bright blue edging, so I don't need to walk around the streets screaming "I am a photographer and I am taking your picture NOW!!!" anymore.
There are a large assortment of Crumpler bags in different styles, sizes and colours, so it's best to physically check them out for yourself. In Feb 2003 I bought a bright blue Roll-o-Notes, which was padded and big enough for a couple of cameras + a book or magazine or two. In May 2003 I also bought the smaller (black) Budgie Smuggler, for those occasions when the "RoN" was too fluoro for low key use.
In 2010 I now use a black/gunmetal Hee–Goer for laptop/DSLR work and the Moderate Embarrassment for smaller outings. The product names may still be childishly silly, but the bags themselves are excellently made.
In May 2000, Dan Honemann remarked:
I just ordered an "Incognito" camera bag from <courierbags.com>.
[…] I ordered the extra small version (9.5 x 14 x 5.5) which is just slightly larger than the Domke F-803 camera satchel (9 x 13 x 4). It costs nearly twice as much as the Domke, but I like the look of the Courier bag better (from what I can tell on the website), and the camera insert has three compartments rather than just the one with the Domke (though you can buy more inserts for the Domke).
In April 2008 Diana Salyer from CourierWare Inc kindly sent me a Incognito Camera Bag to try out. Although only the "XS" ("Extra Small") size, it is large enough to fit three M bodies with lenses, or a Hasselblad 501cm with a PM-5 45-degree prism viewfinder, or 13-inch Macbook. The "Incognito's" price varies depending on the custom options you choose — my bag was @ $US 155.
Things I like about the "Incognito": its extensive use of heavy-duty 1000D Cordura; the soft and pliable construction which moulds to your body (unlike the Crumpler "Budgie Smuggler" with its hard-plastic inserts); the many internal and external pockets; the optional carry handle; that it looks like a standard satchel instead of a "Look Here Now, This Is A Camera Bag!".
"Incognito" quirks: the sewn-on shoulder strap (that will go ASAP, to be replaced by 50mm D-Rings); the white brand-tag on the front flap (removed by yours truly); the use of both Velcro and clasps to secure the front flap — IMO the clasps alone are enough. Paging Dr Nemeth for another "velcroectomy".
( NB. following my above remarks, CourierWare now offer a Velcro-free flap and detachable shoulder strap as customisable options. )
Otherwise I am very impressed. Remove the padded insert and you have a classy bag for work or university. With the insert you have a camera bag which will never wear out (three cheers for Cordura!). In fact I am so impressed that my "Budgie Smuggler" has now been gracefully retired :?)
Make a less expensive and more generic version of this kind of satchel, in plain canvas. See their F-802 Reporter's Satchel for approx $US 70. Alternatively, try out the much smaller F-5XB — enough room for an M body, a couple of lenses and a blower bulb… just!
- <tiffen.com/DomkeCatalog.pdf> (the entire Domke catalogue in PDF format, approx 5½ MB)
Before I became a Cordura-junkie I used to use canvas satchels for years. They work well enough, but they do wear out.
Personally when I need a larger bag, I use the "S&F Reporter 300 AW" bag. It has a lot of room for two camera bodies, multiple lenses and other bits and pieces, with also a pull out plastic cover to protect the bag and contents from heavy rain or dust. See <lowepro.com> for more detail.
Le sac du Berger
This one is for the "hang-the-expense" crowd. Got a spare € 350 Euro for a very nicely made leather bag? Why not try the "Shepherd's Bag" No.3 or No.4 and become the envy of your Leica-toting lawyer and dentist friends. See <lesacduberger.com> for more detail.
Some people love these things. Granted sometimes, when you are shooting at a large public event, they can help make you "invisible" and "hassle proof" because people assume you are just a photographer doing your job. On the other hand a vest can also turn you into a bullseye for muggers/ assistant-managers/ rent-a-cops when you try to take photos in places where they are not welcome (eg. the interior of supermarkets or malls, on railway platforms, or in the crowd at rights-assigned sporting events).
Nevertheless, here are a few vest-related links:
- Domke "Photog" Vest (USA)
- Adorama black "Tuxedo" Vest (USA)
- Campco Photo Safari Vest (USA)
- S.W.A.T. Omega Cross Draw/EOD Vest (USA)
- SeV Tactical Jackets (USA)
- Columbia Sportswear "Voyager Vest" or "Fishing shirt" (USA)
- Rohan Cargo Vest (UK)
- Billingham Photo Vest (UK)
Here is a photo (JPEG 58k bytes) I took of a vest-wearing pro at the "Volunteer's Thankyou" concert in the aftermath of the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Decide for yourself if this is how you want to look when you are out shooting…
For those who want a less-obvious, "stealthy" vest, the SCOTTeVEST may be worth a look. Although primarily designed for people with lots of mobile devices (cd players, pda's etc.), it has a great number of pockets and sleeves which unzip. It also doesn't look anything like a standard beige camera vest — a definite plus. I question its usefulness in warmer climates though, especially in 6-month-summer Australia, although they claim they also make a light-weight "hot weather" version. YMMV.
BTW if you decide to get the "S.W.A.T. Omega Cross Draw/EOD" vest, don't forget to wear it with a black balaclava mask. Just the thing for shooting weddings or birthday parties, to help keep those pesky uncles and aunts from getting in your way…
Hard ABS cases
Looking for more protective, Pelican or similar heavy-duty plastic camera cases and trunks? Try <cases4less.com>
Alternatively there is always the "Official Gen-X Leicaslacker Bag", although we can assume the grenade, 9-milli and cyber-babe are optional extras:
Bag discussion links
There is no point listing these, as they happen with monotonous regularity on every mailing list. Think at least two threads every week, every month, every year (you would think Leica users didn't have anything better to talk about…)