Bag & Case Reviews

I took delivery of a Leica SL2-S a couple of weeks ago and felt that it’s austere design would benefit from some kind of case, to protect it from daily knocks and scuffs. The camera is solidly built so this was more of an aesthetic choice to protect the paintwork from damage. Leica do not offer a case for the SL camera line, so I had to look at the third party market to get an idea of what was available. There is a surprising amount, ranging from very cost effective solutions to more luxurious designs.

At the penultimate Photography Show in Birmingham, held before the pandemic changed the way we live our lives, I had been attracted to the Tenba stand by their DNA range of shoulder bags. At the time I was looking for something very small that I could use to house my X113 (or TL with 1 additional lens), charger and spare battery as well as travel documents for city breaks. Its purpose was nothing more than this, and meant I could keep weight to a minimum as there was no room for ‘accessory creep’. The DNA 8 was my choice but I loved the style and quality of Tenba’s other products.

ONA are a brand I have been aware of for years and often admired the luxurious finish of their products. But for some reason (probably cost related) I had never considered adding one to my ever expanding collection of camera bags for every occasion. Things changed recently when I received a Leica CL with custom deep blue leather finish, for a birthday present. This is a seriously beautiful camera that begged to be showcased in something equally individual. The original plan was to get a ubiquitous semi-hard case, something I tend to purchase with every new camera. But the CL was too nicely finished to be covered by something as functional as this. It was at this point I considered a small bag that was also suitable to be used as a permanent camera case.

Shoulder style camera bags are something I have never really got on with, having a preference to spread the load evenly across my shoulders. But it hasn’t stopped me from trying a few out over the decades – from Billingham’s beautifully tactile products to unknown budget brands… I have owned a few. Except for the Billingham, none have stayed with me more than a year or so, and the Billingham only survived longer as it had become a repository for seldom used gear.

Inevitably, the purchase of a new camera system has triggered the shift towards a new bag in which to store and transport it. Post Leica T purchase, I found myself once more lusting after something more utopian that those I already own. Having just used a Leica X for the last few years, I always found my Clik Elite Cloudscape and Vanguard Arlen 49 back packs suitable for the job as they did not need to house much in the way of additional lenses and equipment. At present I could still use either of them as my system is still small (one body and two lenses) but looking ahead I can see myself with at least one, if not two more lenses as well as a few more peripheral items. Additionally, my TL 35mm f1.4 lens is pretty large when the hood is attached and this really does impact on its storage at the moment. Given one of my future purchases is likely to be the 60mm f2.8 macro lens, which has the same size hood, I will soon be running into problems. I also have a Billingham 335 bag which will house the system going forward, but I find shoulder bags heavy and cumbersome.

Continuing my life long search for the perfect camera bag resulted in a great Christmas present this year. My ‘go-to’ bag for the last five years or so has been a Vanguard Arlen 59 (also reviewed on PhotoArk) backpack that has served me well but has a couple of niggles that, whilst not insurmountable, led me to search for something new. The Arlen is a beautifully made pack and has many years of service left in it, but I needed to address the following points;

Vanguard are well known for their tripod and binocular ranges, but they were a manufacturer I initially overlooked when searching for a photo backpack. Being a keen walker, I spend a lot of my spare time in and around Derbyshire’s Peak District so it goes without saying that I always have a camera with me. Up until a few years ago, I had been using large 55 and 80 litre backpacks to lug my walking and camera gear around in. But none offered dedicated protection for my cameras and lenses. So after writing down a few pre-requisites, I began an evaluation of what seemed like an endless array of different models. My pre-requisites were;