Nuts & Bolts
In Search of the
Perfect Camera Bag
Why is it that photographers
have more camera bags then Imelda Marcos had shoes? Is it the search
for the perfect bag? Is there a perfect bag? Do we search because the
blood of Sir Lancelot flows through our veins. A long time ago, professional
camera bags were made of leather. Then the best of the leather bag makers
found that there was much more money and prestige in making top of the
line golf bags. In the interim between cowhide and the canvas gadget
bags of Domke and Billingham, photographers turned to fishing bags.
Premier among these were the Brady bags sold in London. For a great
many foreign assignments, you flew to London and transferred to a flight
to your final destination. Staying in London for a day could minimize
the effects of jet lag and, more important, give you time to buy a new
Brady Bag. When you would buy a bag, usually the Gelderburne, and the
clerk would realize you were an American photographer off to an assignment,
he would say, "Yes, Mr. McCullin was in here a few days ago, just
before he departed." - firmly establishing the Yankee rebels were
following behind the English photojournalists.
I still have my Brady bags. They have held up at least as well as me.
Should, however, I need a new one I can now buy it on the web at
Rumor has it that
Martin Billingham, the head of the firm that produces Billingham camera
bags, was once the chief cutter for Brady. Some of the Billingham bags
certainly look like they evolved from Brady bags. They are less suitable
for carrying the bodies of wet trout, more suited for the bodies of
expensive cameras. The
Billingham website will let you make comparisons with Brady and
decide whether a phishing bag or a fotography bag is most suitable for
(Nor should we ignore the fisherman's other contribution to our profession,
the vest. The
Campco website is one of the zillion sites that offer a variety
of vests. I list it because they have my favorite vest, the Ranger Vest.
It's small; it's simple, it's big pockets have zippers; its hooded collar
doesn't let neck straps tear up your shirt collars; it's all cotton,
has no mesh and is cheap, $28.50.)
Some photographers, of course, will make the decision of how to carry
their gear based on the feeling that reel men (excuse me, real men)
don't use camera bags. And, while fishing bags are acceptable, military
surplus is even better.
My favorite in this catagory is the gas mask bag, clearly macho enough
to make up for any testosterone deficiency of the wearer. Visit
the Major Surplus Survival website here. At the same site, you can
this web page and this
one for even more military bags.
Fatigues and Surplus Gear website will lead you to a bag advertised
as good for carrying shotgun shells. It's a good small bag (10"x
8"x 3 1/2), quite economical ($9.95) and available, not only in
conventional colors, but camouflage.You can also find shoulder
bags, including a medical equipment bag that is quite good.
Of course, being from NYC, I feel that the real macho men are bike messengers.
Timbuk2 makes bags for bike messengers. The smallest, the Peewee,
is a good bag with a body strap that keeps the bag from falling from
the shoulders of speeding bikers or getting snatched from the shoulders
of naive photographers.
There are larger sizes available along with computer bags, telephone
and radio holsters, ditty bags and socks. Yes, socks; this
is a site that services bike messengers.
It wouldn't be fair to talk about bags and not mention the one man who
wasn't a fisherman, a hunter or a soldier when he designed his bags.
Domke was just a photographer. Still is. They're good bags.