Traditional shoulder camera bags have been around almost as long as cameras have been, and despite all of the new designs in camera bags they are still very popular with both amateur and professional photographers alike. Recently Domke, a long-time manufacturer of high quality camera bags, sent me two of their new Next Generation line of camera shoulder bags to review.
There are four series of camera shoulder bags in the Domke Next Generation line with one to three models (eight bags in total) in each series: the Journalist Series, the Metropolitan Series, the Viewfinder Series and the Adventurer Series. In addition to the different models, some of them are available in different materials and colours. The two bags that I received to review were the Ledger from the Journalist Series and the Image Maker from the Viewfinder Series.
As I was unpacking the two camera bags I was immediately struck by the quality of the materials and workmanship that were used in the manufacturing of the bags. I especially loved the look and feel of the RuggedWear® waxed canvas duck material used on the Ledger RuggedWear® Military camera bag that I received; it has a classic, rugged outdoor look.
The Image Maker (40 x 17.8 x 25.4 cm) is a little larger than the Ledger (36.8 x 17.8 x 20.3 cm) and is capable of holding a bit more camera gear. Both can easily hold a DSLR with a zoom lens, two to three additional lenses and other accessories. These two camera bags share many of the same features including: top access with a double zipper, “quiet” system hook and loop silencer, detachable gripper shoulder and grab straps, expandable zippered side pockets, side rain hoods, rear slide pocket and two front pockets (zippered in the Image Maker). In addition, both bags have a padded zippered tablet pocket, with the Image Maker holding a 27.9 x 20.3 cm tablet and the Ledger holding 24.1 x 18.7 cm tablet.
Inside the main compartment of both camera bags are two of Domke’s most innovative features: the GearProtex™ Insert System and PocketFlex™ System. The GearProtex™ Insert System refers to its unique customizable insert system. Instead of each divider having hook and loop flaps that hold the divider in place, the GearProtex™ dividers have the hook surface material incorporated into the edge binding of the divider itself and they can attach to anywhere inside the main compartment. There are seven different sized bendable dividers available that allow you to create any size or shape compartments. I was very impressed with how well the dividers remained in place, and yet they were very easy to reposition. Unfortunately, both camera bags came with only two dividers, so if you want to do further customization you’ll have to order the additional dividers from your local camera store. Personally, I would have liked to see a couple more dividers included with each camera bag.
In addition to the GearProtex™ dividers there’s also the PocketFlex™ System, which is an ingenious system of movable pockets, patches and pouches that adhere to all interior surfaces (including the dividers), personalizing your storage. Both camera bags came with the basic patch pocket, which allows you to create a small slide-in pouch, and there are eight other different ones that are available separately. These include two different sized, water-resistant, zippered flat pockets, a mesh front zip pouch, accordion pleat filter pouch, trifold memory card pouch and patch pocket wraps. The PocketFlex™ System of pockets, patches and pouches, combined with the GearProtex™ dividers, make the Domke Image Maker and Ledger two of the most customizable camera bags I’ve used.
As I’ve already mentioned, I was really impressed with the quality of both the Domke Image Maker and the Ledger camera bags. They look like they will stand up to years of heavy use, while at the same time being very stylish. They’re highly customizable and loaded with features. It’s easy to see why many professional photographers around the world use Domke camera bags. However, that high quality and versatility comes at a premium, with the Ledger costing $424.99 and the Image Maker, $379.99.
To read more of Mark Degner’s reviews and other great how-to articles please pick up the Winter 2015 issue of OPC today, or subscribe!