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View Full Version : Is there any such thing as a classic camera bag?


Roger Hicks
06-26-2011, 01:48
Or of course case? (Not ERC). I strongly suspect not. Maybe 'timeless' is a better word than 'classic'. Bags are always of their era. Sure, there are always good, even great, bags/cases such as the leather hardside fixed-divider attaché cases of the 1930s, the ones with movable dividers (and 'makeup bag' styling) in the 50s, or Billinghams since the 80s, but as far as I can remember, nothing from today resembles anything much from (say) 50 years ago.

Cheers,

R.

Nomad Z
06-26-2011, 02:25
Maybe it depends on what one means by a 'classic'. If it's something that everyone once used, or desired/coveted, then maybe it doesn't apply to camera bags as much as to cameras. I think, with cameras, it's easier to define a classic (eg, Leica rangefinders, Nikon F SLRs, and Rolleiflex and Hasselblad for medium format). With bags, there doesn't seem to be the same 'shining example of the type' thing going on.

In terms of stuff that's still in production, I guess Billingham is a classic, but I think they still appeal to a certain subset of people looking for camera bags - I don't get the impression that they're the dream camera bag for most people. You either like the canvas and leather style, or you don't, and I suspect Billinghams look a bit odd, or retro.

sevo
06-26-2011, 02:26
Fifty years ago, "bags" weren't really a thing to have - a man wearing a bag was either homeless and derelict, or out in the wild hunting or angling. It wasn't until the hippies popularized peace logo re-styled Vietnam war era accessory equipment bags that men could be seen in town wearing anything non-rigid and non-leather - even now, parts of our culture still consider the murse an effeminate no-do.

As far as photo bags are concerned, it wasn't until the eighties that Tamrac/Lowe style camera bags spilled over from hiking travel and press photographers to the general public - the "messenger bag" thing did not even popularize until the late nineties.

Essentially, the genuine options for 50's era "vintage" camera wear range from hard case to suitcase, by size - anything else is faux vintage...

Lflex
06-26-2011, 03:47
The Billingham style borrows from the classic English fishing bag which has been around for quite some time - at least since the 30's. One of the manufactures, Brady, has the following note on their homepage regarding the 60's era "...news men and photographers found the bags convenient to carry their heavy equipment around in." Although not concieved as a camera bag, the fishing bags were adopted by photographers and the design has survived as a camera bag for at least 50 years.

dave lackey
06-26-2011, 04:30
The Billingham style borrows from the classic English fishing bag which has been around for quite some time - at least since the 30's. One of the manufactures, Brady, has the following note on their homepage regarding the 60's era "...news men and photographers found the bags convenient to carry their heavy equipment around in." Although not concieved as a camera bag, the fishing bags was adapted by photographers and the design has survived as a camera bag for at least 50 years.


You are correct in that trout fishing bags by Hardy and others were used 50-70 years ago by photographers because there was no other choice at the time. Folks here seem to think 50 years ago was an eternity. It was actually in the 1960's when most people were lucky to have enough money to own a house and a car.

These days, people spend obscene amounts of money on everything from cars to cameras and think nothing about it except to buy yet even more. So, we have evolved from WWII with simple needs to complex desires in the market place.

It wasn't long ago, that bicycles were never something a grown man would ride in the US, let alone invent man bags to carry with them. Times change.

But, even Billingham copied the original fishing bags, so I suppose the old Hardy trout bags were the "classic" bags for photography if one can call them that.:angel:

kshapero
06-26-2011, 05:02
Those Artist & Artisan seem pretty damn classic to me.

http://www.artisanandartist.com/bags/images/acam1000-open.jpg

http://www.artisanandartist.com/bags/images/gcam1000-main.jpg

ReeRay
06-26-2011, 06:14
+1 and +2 for the Billingham. Had mine for 25 years and still use it most days.
May not fit "classic" or "timeless" but sure was/is bang for buck.
Traveled more miles than I care to remember. Housed everything from rangefinders to medium format. This bag is the longest serving piece of photographic equipment I have and will NEVER be replaced.
Aaargh - now I'm getting all nostalgic!

klapka
06-26-2011, 06:22
Those Artist & Artisan seem pretty damn classic to me.

http://www.artisanandartist.com/bags/images/acam1000-open.jpg

http://www.artisanandartist.com/bags/images/gcam1000-main.jpg

Bought one of this last Friday. Have spent 3 days choosing a perfect and convinient leica bag. So this is it according to me. But I took not the one made of glove lether but the one from canvas - hope it will last longer.

The biggest con of this bag - high price, wish it was cheaper.

Traut
06-26-2011, 08:54
Back in the 60's to early 70's the classic bag was a soft leather mail pouch style. The lenses were wrapped in cloth or socks. I use the same stlye now but augmented with Domke or Billingham inserts.

The travel cases were aluminum Halliburtons for the most part. This is when I worked as a PJ.

back alley
06-26-2011, 09:17
how old does something have to be to qualify as an antique?

how old does something have to be to qualify as a classic?

i'm pretty sure that i fit into one of those categories...

yoyo22
06-26-2011, 09:24
(...)

But, even Billingham copied the original fishing bags, so I suppose the old Hardy trout bags were the "classic" bags for photography if one can call them that.:angel:

Martin Billingham made fishing bags but was also a keen photographer. When he heard that their fishing bags were used by photographers in New York, he decided to make camera bags too. Since his camera bags got very successful, Billingham stopped producing fishing bags.

So I would say Billingham bags are classic camera bags.

Red Robin
06-27-2011, 04:00
The bag I use most often now is a Diamond Gady-it Bag (0814) . This handi (genuine leather)bag is about 9"tall x 4"(5-1/2 if you add the outside pocket)x11"wide. This bag seemed a bit Spartin inside so I added some extra covered foam padding from some other bags. The leather is in very nice shape,even the strap and brass-in-cloth zipper appear as new. I applyed a bit of mink oil polish and Bob's your Uncle. This LT. brown case is small, only large enough for my Canon P RF, 1 extra lenses tube, a hand-held light meter, and a few extra rolls of film. Found at a 2nd hand store, the previous owner had taken fine care of this old camera bag. Best two dollars I've spent all year, plus it looks even more retro than I do! (for those urban hipsters)

Vince Lupo
06-27-2011, 04:23
how old does something have to be to qualify as an antique?

how old does something have to be to qualify as a classic?

i'm pretty sure that i fit into one of those categories...

'Antique', at least as I know it, is supposed to be at least 100 years old. 'Classic' (as far as the car market, anyways) is 50 years old. Of course, our own personal definitions of both will probably vary!

And how about 'Vintage'???

presspass
06-27-2011, 16:41
Anybody remember the Benser cases for Leicas from the late 1950s and early 60s? The case was a somewhat flexible leather, with inserts made for specific lenses and bodies. The insert for the DR Summicron even came with a little compartment for the goggles. I had one and tossed it when the stitching all gave out - the only things left are two cardboard sleeves each made to hold four rolls of film. A bag for its time, for sure.

Vilk
06-27-2011, 17:43
hmmm... oh-keee... so how 'bout this--let's all agree it's the F2 and then let's try and rewrite the relevant definitions (and history if necessary) so they fit the one-and-only true classic

:D

eli griggs
06-27-2011, 17:46
When I think classic camera bag, it's a well divided Lowepro magnum bag, with room enough for a pair of F1s with motordrives and lots of big Canon 'L' glass, a couple of meters, film, clamps, fliters, monopod and a small microwave on good days. The only Canon lens I owned that I couldn't fit in with the rest was a sizable 300mm but that never slowed me down.

I also used this type bag for a 500 cm 'blad, spare a12, a70 and polaroid backs and several lenses. Other than the time I dropped/threw a fully-loaded Lowepro hard onto a large water moccasin on a narrow path through a swampy area, damaging a meter as I made my retreat, did I have any issues with damaged gear from years of near constant carrying. Of course, the painful curve in my spine is part of the price I now pay for such excess but those bags were always good performers and I never had one fail or fall apart.

Now days, I think an English-style fishing bag-type would serve me better than most of the medium and small no-name bags I have. I still want to carry multiple lenses for my Barnack but most of these are so small, they could go into my coat pockets. I do think dark coloured materials are a big mistake for any bag but a small canvas or soft leather Billingham, etc with small lens sacks would be more than adequate for my needs.

mathomas
06-27-2011, 19:12
Domke F-2.

Celesta
06-27-2011, 19:43
If you like Billinghams, maybe you would like Tenba messengers?

http://static.bhphotovideo.com/images/images345x345/509009.jpg

A small or mini would be a good fit for a classic rangefinder, imho.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/509009-REG/Tenba_638_224_Laptop_Messenger_Bag_Small.html

Roger Hicks
06-28-2011, 01:28
Generally, a 'classic' is (a) something most people agree about and (b) something that stays in production for quite a long time. My thesis is (a) that camera bags are often fashion items and (b) that very few camera bags from (say) 50 years ago are treated with the same respect as cameras of the same era. In fact, most of us wouldn't consider using most of them nowadays. The case 'Benser' (as it was always described in the catalogues) is a perfect example, even if the stitching hadn't perished.

Cheers,

R.

Harry S.
06-28-2011, 01:44
I think half-cases and ever-ready cases (is that what they are called?) are pretty classic. The fuji one that came bundled with my X100 is pretty much the same design as those 30 or more years old.

Ben Z
06-28-2011, 10:49
Generally, a 'classic' is (a) something most people agree about and (b) something that stays in production for quite a long time. My thesis is (a) that camera bags are often fashion items and (b) that very few camera bags from (say) 50 years ago are treated with the same respect as cameras of the same era. In fact, most of us wouldn't consider using most of them nowadays. The case 'Benser' (as it was always described in the catalogues) is a perfect example, even if the stitching hadn't perished.

Cheers,

R.

Well you have to remember that cameras themselves have undergone quite a bit of change since the 60's. In particular, SLR's, the mainstay of both professional and "serious" amateur small-format photography, grew in size. Compare a Nikon F with an F5! Also, zoom lenses proliferated and eclipsed primes in popularity. Bags had to adapt. They got deeper, the partitions got roomier, and (thanks to new synthetic materials) the bags got lighter without losing strength. The popularity of backpacking starting in the late 60's brought about padded versions for camera carry.

Today, the "classic" bag styles seem to appeal mostly to people like us who use "classic" cameras (even if they're digital, like the M8 and M9).

pgk
06-29-2011, 07:56
Martin Billingham made fishing bags but was also a keen photographer. When he heard that their fishing bags were used by photographers in New York, he decided to make camera bags too. Since his camera bags got very successful, Billingham stopped producing fishing bags.

So I would say Billingham bags are classic camera bags.
One of my Billinghams did me years of service before I left it in a local camera shop with equipment in it that I wanted to part-exchange about 20 years ago. When I went back for the bag I found that it had been taken to the west of Ireland as a fishing bag by the owner's father! I got another bag ( a Billingham of course) and as far as I am aware the old one is till in the west coast but probably has a different aroma these days. So I'd say that the Billingham has a classic look which perhaps cuts across boundaries.

rxmd
06-29-2011, 08:05
Well you have to remember that cameras themselves have undergone quite a bit of change since the 60's. In particular, SLR's, the mainstay of both professional and "serious" amateur small-format photography, grew in size. Compare a Nikon F with an F5!

Well here's a 1960s kit:

http://www.leitzmuseum.org/CameraMakes/NikonSLR/1970-Nikon-F-Photomic-FTN-2.jpg

And here's a 1990s kit that does the same:

http://shashinki.com/review/nikon/f5/02.jpg

However, I see your point; these are obviously hand-picked examples.

bigeye
06-30-2011, 06:10
I don't have my dad's IIIf, but I do have the case he used from the early '50s. Added an insert and it's my 'wide' bag.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-Y9zLmEa3WgI/TgyC-bHaKfI/AAAAAAAAHJs/3NC4QH1EWJM/leicacase.jpg
https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-WZ6_eKoFPP8/TgyC-b_fy2I/AAAAAAAAHJo/t4p_NhP19Lw/leicacasein.jpg

It is a very good Leica bag as it is the right size for carrying the 35, 50, 90, body and meter, with great protection.

I re-strapped and re-zippered it a few years ago and it should be good for another 60 years with a little care.

- Charlie

Gadge
06-30-2011, 06:53
Cool case Charlie.

Me....In the house, I use the really well made and nice carry bag that came free with an original Bose Sounddock for an IPOD. It is well made in black material, just about perfect in size for a range finder and a lens or three with a double zipper on top and has a couple of side pockets too for filters etc.

Normally when out and about or needing a carry on plane bag, I take a big old Billingham and take whatever camera gear I fancy using in that too. I bought it maybe 15+ years ago at a camera show for £40 (about $60) and my partner turned her nose up when I bought it home. Nowadays she concedes that it was indeed a massive bargain.

Oddly, I have a Gelderburn Brady fishing bag too which I bought new in Farlows at Pall Mall a long time ago but that is actually used for fly fishing. This is now stained and filthy plus full of fishing stuff (and an old Olympus XA in its original hard plastic case) so never been tempted to use that for normal camera work but I can see that it would work well. It originally came with a studded waterproof liner which you could remove and carry fish home in. I wore that out and chucked it years ago. Otherwise it still does the job intended.

dave lackey
06-30-2011, 06:59
Those Artist & Artisan seem pretty damn classic to me.

http://www.artisanandartist.com/bags/images/acam1000-open.jpg

http://www.artisanandartist.com/bags/images/gcam1000-main.jpg


Akiva,

Which bag is that and what camera is that in the middle compartment?

Ah...nevermind...just found this one on the A&A website. I really like the fact that you can zip things up.

Red Robin
07-01-2011, 04:18
Bigeye, Nice to have your dad's bag. It looks like a larger, more heavy duty virsion of my one camera bag. Any brand name? dimentions?

bigeye
07-01-2011, 06:12
Bigeye, Nice to have your dad's bag. It looks like a larger, more heavy duty virsion of my one camera bag. Any brand name? dimentions?

I think every serious camera was purchased with a bag like this one in the 50s, there seem to be so many around.

This one is the "Sun Valley" by Service Manu. Co. It about the same capacity as a small hadley.

sepiareverb
07-01-2011, 14:54
I don't have my dad's IIIf, but I do have the case he used from the early '50s. Added an insert and it's my 'wide' bag.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-Y9zLmEa3WgI/TgyC-bHaKfI/AAAAAAAAHJs/3NC4QH1EWJM/leicacase.jpg
https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-WZ6_eKoFPP8/TgyC-b_fy2I/AAAAAAAAHJo/t4p_NhP19Lw/leicacasein.jpg

That looks almost identical to my first camera bag, mine had a zippered front pocket instead.

Vics
07-13-2011, 13:13
I keep my Nikon F kit (well, the active parts of it) in on old canvas Domke bag. I'm thinking of replacing it with one as close to mine as I can get. I love that bag, but it's just full of holes. It's always felt like the late sixties to me. A classic!