Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘Ariel Trout’:

A Retrospective on Camera Bags (With a Twist)

Over the past 50 years, I’ve traveled with and depended on a variety of bags, starting in the late ’60s with a fishing tackle bag from Abercrombie & Fitch. Then I discovered the series of beautiful canvas and leather Brady Bags, made by hand in England since the late 1800s. While Brady now makes dedicated camera bags, my career favorites were the Ariel Trout and Gelderburn models, designed for fishermen and still in production. Artisanally made and now quite expensive, I don’t think they’re what I’d carry around the world today.

From there, it was on to the first version of the Domke Bag, designed by Jim Domke, a photojournalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He based his design on (no surprise) a fishing bag that he had been using. He wrote about its development a few years ago, and mentions several names you’ll surely recognize, including our old friends Marty Forscher and David Burnett. The Domke brand has grown (now owned by Tiffen), but new players have entered the market, and to my mind and experience the bags from Think Tank are game changers in many ways. Their latest is a line of camera bags called Retrospective v2.0 (there’s the twist I mentioned), and here’s why I’m such a satisfied customer:

Think Tank Retrospective bag, in profile First of all, they don’t call attention to themselves. As I wrote some time ago, you never want your bags and straps to shout “steal me”. If they do, make it a priority to replace the offending parts… or cover them with several patches of gaff tape so they look worn-out.

Secondly, these bags make the best use of Velcro and useful compartments I’ve ever seen. The available sizes are each designed to accommodate and protect a different configuration of gear, including tablets and laptops, which they make very clear on their website. I find that the Retrospective 5, the smallest in the line, is perfect for carrying my Fuji X-E2, two lenses, an iPad, and various chargers and accessories. My Nikon D800 would be equally well-served by the Retrospective 7.

Think Tank Retrospective bag, open with Fuji camera

Other thoughtful touches abound: Every bag comes with a rain cover even though there is real moisture resistance in the bags’ fabric itself; the shoulder strap is incredibly comfortable; there are zippered pockets where you need them; Velcro-secured flaps can be disengaged where you need to keep as quiet as possible; and the bags really conform to your body while carried over the shoulder.

I suppose I should apologize for carrying on, but I find these Think Tank bags to be nothing short of brilliant!

Think Tank Retrospective bag, as camera support

Connect the Dots (And, While You’re At It, Stop the Insanity)

Events across the photography spectrum in the past few weeks are sort of like the connect the dots puzzles I used to figure out in the pre-television era of home entertainment — all of a sudden the answer is revealed, even though the skill level to solve is merely that of an eight-year-old…

Pentax Q7 display showing 120 color combinations

So: in early June the Chicago Sun-Times fires all its photographers, and equips its reporters with iPhones. More of that to come at other newspapers, for sure.

And Pentax, in its corporate wisdom, feels that in a world of rapidly declining sales of basic amateur cameras, the best way to counter that trend is to release its three latest models in 120 different colors (good luck there).

And Nikon’s president goes public with sales projections for his company’s products, hoping that revenues for the big toys and optics will counteract the precipitous fall in point-and-shoot models (good luck there).

And Nokia shows a 41MP camera/phone that seems to take great pictures.

'B' with his father's Canon 5D mark II + 24-70 f/2.8L

And urban parents with incredibly cute kids and great photographic skills realize that the diaper bag, toys and stroller simply cannot peacefully co-exist with a bulky camera bag filled with hefty Canon L-series glass. (No matter how badly they want it to seem to their Facebook friends that everywhere Junior went, he projected an aura of luscious, buttery bokeh.)

While I love and appreciate my Nikon D800 for some of the things it can do (many more of its capabilities being lost in the 446-page manual), I carry my Sony RX100 pretty much everywhere. A bunch of very well-written posts recently reveal the latent (or not-so) hostility to DSLRs and the DSLR mindset. There are yearnings for the period when serious photographers, particularly photojournalists, made their reputations with an equipment kit that weighed just a few pounds and filled the wonderful Brady fisherman’s bag (I think the Ariel Trout was the standard), canvas and leather, still made in the U.K., with room left over for film/notebooks/reading material.

One of the best posts of this ilk has come from Chris Cookley, not a full-time pro but nonetheless a serious shooter who has a fine handle on the mess we’re in. Good reading! I’m also finding myself (finally) getting past the “full-frame is best” mentality, in part because of the sheer quality of my RX100 (phenomenal in low-light situations).

Fujifilm X-E1

To make things much more interesting, here is Fuji coming to the fore with its X100s (and other fine cameras, too). David Hobby’s long appreciation of this fixed-lens camera makes excellent reading for those of us who understand the real need for a digital equivalent of a Leica M-series camera (without paying the idiotic, collectors-only, keep-it-in-the-box-and-watch-it-appreciate price). It doesn’t hurt that Fuji is clearly putting many resources to address the “growing pains” of their X-Series gear via frequent firmware updates and a furious pace of lens development. At any rate, if you haven’t watched Hobby’s video walkthrough and read Zack Arias’ swooning pair of articles on the X100s, please make time to do so. Perhaps your shoulders will thank you.

Finally, back to what the Sun-Times did, and its long-term effects ….. If you need proof of why photojournalists matter so much, look no further than the New York Times story on Jeff Bauman, grievously wounded in the Boston Marathon bombing, and his path to recovery. Josh Haner’s photographs, coupled with Tim Rohan’s writing, work together and resulted in a memorable piece of journalism. Real journalism demands real photojournalists; as my first assignment editor at the AP said (in 1968), “We don’t take pictures, we make them.”