PhotoPlus 2008, Day One

Papa's got (another) brand new bag

The first mission at PhotoPlus was always going to be finding a hook for the lead report for the Guardian, but after that, there was some of my business to take care of, the kind of business you can only get done when pretty much every major photography vendor is in one huge hall, desperately keen to talk to you about their products.
I spent some of that time
bitching chatting with supplier representatives about some niggling issues I'd been having with their products.

At Westcott, it was a gripe about the plastic cap that they ship on the tip of their large folding Apollo softbox (a cute but poor design that cracks far too easily), and the design of their right angle clamp for these boxes, which is either a hex shape or a milled screw type, neither of which is particularly easy to tighten by hand.
You really have to be an Apollo user to understand these issues, but if you are, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

At Tenba it was all about some curious design decisions they made with their Gen 3 Photo/Laptop Messenger bag that I bought at last year's expo. After some fairly tame travel, the front pocket seams began to separate from the main bag body. I don't mind some wear and tear in my gear bags, but this seemed to me to just be shoddy stitching on a bag that was pitched to professionals.

Pros should expect their gear to stand up to more than a few shoves into an overhead compartment.
Took the opportunity to chat with a bag designer about these issues and some others that I've noted over a year of using the bag and got a hearing, though it seemed kind of pointless since Tenba didn't even bother to bring this bag line to the expo this year.
That took their Gen 3 sling bag out of the running for me, since part of the Thursday mission was to get a smaller sling bag to use for covering the remaining two days of the Expo.

The Gen 3 bag is a gift when you're moving from country to country or from the studio to a big assignment setup, but it's a bulky hunk of nylon and padding hoofing it around a show floor.
Tenba was busy hawking their new line of sling bags, the Shootout series .
This line is, shall we say, inspired by LowePro's popular sling bags. I bought one of those last year and sold it off quickly after finding it both a poor fit for my body type (massive) and right-handed orientation.

Here's a tip list for anyone trying to make a killing in the sling bag market.
  • Many of us aren't the size of the slim young men of medium height that you advertise using your products. We are bigger, rounder and much more fussy about the gear and how it fits.
  • One man's right-handed draw is entirely inappropriate to another shooter's and this sometimes has more to do with habit than which hand he favours. I eventually sold off the LowePro because I didn't like the way it hung on my shoulder.
  • Padding. I realise that it's difficult to pad the entire length of the sling strap, but at least try to cover the most commonly used area. I dismissed several slings because at six and a half feet tall, the padding on the strap didn't even reach my shoulder properly when the bag was hanging the way it was supposed to.

Kata's D-3NI-30 sling bag. Photo courtesy Kata.

So what did win out?
I needed something light, wearable as a sling that could carry the basic equipment that I was using to cover the Expo and give me quick access to it.
After a number of try-ons, the
Kata D-3NI-30 sling finally wooed me successfully.

It isn’t quite as small as I would have liked, but the two smaller models just didn’t fit my frame. Positives in the D-3NI-30’s favour included a generous sling length, partly the result of a design decision to have a second strap available that makes the sling wearable as not just a backpack, but as a backpack with crossed straps.

Padding on the sling is reasonable, but not really generous and there’s a sliding pad that you can move around to increase your comfort with the bag.

It’s no secret that most sling bags have abandoned alternative designs in favour of the success and obvious utility of the basic LowePro sling design. That gives you a bag that tends to be long and narrow that slides around your hip to your front, giving easy access to camera equipment through a side load port that becomes a top load port when you bring the bag to your stomach.

The dual sling design of the D-3NI-30 follows through to the access ports. There’s one on either side of the bag, essentially putting one on the bottom when you’re in sling mode. The Kata representative on the floor at PhotoPlus promoted this as a feature that allows you to make use of dead space in the bag for equipment that isn’t being used as often. Getting to it isn’t easy though, and you really have to take the bag off to get to gear on the secondary port.

I’d like to see Kata think about beefing up the padding on the active sling, perhaps with an adjustable and removable padding wrap that you can zip or velcro to the strap. Kata’s design style includes an electric yellow cloth for their interior padding and while I’ve warmed a bit to brighter colours on the interior of bags, opening a Kata gear bag still feels like opening a glowing Pandora’s box.

The D-3NI-30 is a worthwhile design break from the LowePro lozenges and given the size and capacity of the bag, adding a small slot for carrying a 13 inch laptop doesn’t seem as if it would have taken much room at all. That would make it an almost perfect runaround bag for photographers on quick shoots who need to download and transmit files in the field.
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