Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘Marty Forscher’:

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

The Ingenuity of Marty Forscher

During the past few months, while we have been working to build the new Visual Departures web site which launched just last week, I knew that a personal blog would be part of the project. I have always been certain that the blog would not be just about our company and its products but about a range of topics including (but not limited to) photography, film and video; the people who make and edit the images; travel; food; and observations that one makes after nearly 50 years of working as a photographer and in television.

But just as we started the design process, I learned of the death of an old friend and one of the truly great people in the history of 20th century photography, Marty Forscher. During the 40 years that Marty presided over Professional Camera Repair Service in New York City (the business continued for about 15 years after Marty’s retirement in 1987 and closed in 2001, largely because of the vast changes in technology), thousands of emerging and established photographers looked to Marty and his staff for support, advice, and the technical skills that kept us going in remote locations or in the studio.

He was always a lovely person, and on the days when PCRS was swamped with customers at its West 47th Street offices, everyone waited his or her turn (usually by reading the bulletin board that was an early ancestor of Craig’s List). To understand Marty’s importance, you have to know something about equipment in the days before electronic shutters, auto-focus, and sharp-as-a-tack zoom lenses.

Nikon (Nikkor) 43-86mm zoom lens

Once upon a time, when only Nikon and Leica were the 35mm cameras of note (with Hasselblad, Rollei, Linhof, and Deardorff as the larger format options), all our gear needed regular maintenance. I used to travel on extended assignments with as many as seven Nikon and Leica bodies and at least as many lenses. Even when the earliest zoom lenses arrived, they were slow, not particularly sharp, and very limited in their zoom range. My first was the Nikon 43-86mm, and it was quickly relegated to the drawer where it lives today.

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