18 September, 2015

Domke canvas camera bags

Voigtlander 15mm - "Church" - Samford, Queensland [Click image to enlarge.]

Just over a year ago, I said that I wouldn't tell you what camera bag to buy — and I won't. But I will tell you why I like canvas bags. (It just so happens that, for me, that means Domke.)

Camera bags mostly serve three (for me quite separate) purposes: For checked baggage, storage, or carrying. For me it's all about carrying. There's no chance that a camera or lens of mine will go into checked baggage. Reduced kit size is one of the blessings of the mirrorless revolution, so I don't need to. And, I don't have enough gear to store.

A bag for carrying, needs to be comfortable. To be comfortable, it should be soft. For a bag to be soft, it's likely to be either canvas or leather.

I'm not dismissing the benefits of leather. It's weatherproof, beautiful and it can be soft. But gear changes, needs change, and circumstances change. Given the price of quality leather, buying a good leather bag to meet the needs of the moment seems to me to be a triumph of optimism over practicality. I can see, however, that photographers with kits that will serve for extended periods (think, Leica), might find leather a practical alternative. (If I could afford Leica, I could afford leather bags.)

The elephant in the room is ballistic nylon. (I never would have thought that I would get "elephant" and "ballistic nylon" into the same sentence.) If you're worried about shrapnel or if you ride a motorcycle (or both, I suppose), then the "ballistic" level of protection makes good sense.

For me, that leaves canvas. Canvas is "warm" to the touch. It's relatively inexpensive. It molds to circumstances. Canvas is reasonably abrasion and weather resistant. So, canvas is my first choice of material in a bag.

There are a number of canvas bag makers: Domke, Bellingham, ThinkTank, Courser, and National Geographic. I'll also mention Crumpler, named for Stuart Crumpler, rather than an ability to be crumpled. Crumplers are mostly Polyester, but Crumpler is Australian; so, what the hell.

I've carried Domke bags for years. They're canvas and Domke has whatever size and style of bag I might need.

And finally, good bags must have good shoulder straps. Domke bags have shoulder straps with rubber sewn into one side of the weave that keeps the strap from slipping off my shoulder. In my experience, only one brand of strap does a better job of shoulder-holding and that's the UPstrap-Pro series of camera straps. (But, these days I'm a wrist-strap guy.)


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