View Full Version : Does a shoulder bag need a handle?

Jim Domke
04-29-2009, 01:18 PM
Is the handle strap needed on a shoulder bag? Looking at the camera bag is a working tool, not simply a storage container, but something to help you take photos, it is only natural to see that if you are holding a bag you can’t take a picture. So who needs it?

For me, I want to capture the image ASAP, time is important to get all the best composition, best light, etc. and if I need to change lenses or get to the camera quickly I want to reach inside the bag and grab it fast. Without looking. So when I'm taking picturtes I leave the flap unbuckled.

While designing the bag I saw how most handle straps are sewn onto the flap, this didn’t make sense, it led to accidentally dumping everything out if you forgot to securely clip the flap shut. One solution would be to sew the strap onto the body of the bag, but this meant you had to stop and take the time to unsnapping the handle before you could open the flap, then Velcro it toether after you took something out, or let the handle hang down under the bag and trip on it.

If it's a shoulder bag, who needs a handle? The first Domke Bag didn't need any handle strap. Anyway, that’s what I thought in the beginning.

Seeing how heavy the bag got, Philadelphia Inquirer staff photographer Sara Krulwich (now at the New York Times) asked me to make a backpack strap. This led to adding a ring at the base of the shoulder strap along with other rings in back. (Yes, the rings on the back of the F2 are for the backpack strap, not the tripod!)

Always trying to be multifunctional, I realized the rings at the base of the shoulder strap might be the perfect place to attach a handle strap!

With the addition of a handle strap to the F2 Original, i discovered how it was easier to take the bag off your shoulder and pull it off the car seat. It made the bag more functional and was a good idea.

It was so useful we added a handle to the Super Compact.

At first we didn’t know which way to clip on the spring clip, it looked better when it was pointing down, but we soon discovered the binding on the edge of the flap sometimes would get caught up in the spring clip. So over time it has evolved so the mouth of the clip faces up.

Metal spring clips on a handle strap may not look as hi-tech as a plastic buckle, but they can be opened and closed with only one hand, and without looking! This is important when you are holding a camera, it is raining and you only have one hand free.

Domke Bags understand that no two photographers use their camera bag the same way, so the handle strap is detachable. This gives every photographer the freedom to use it or if it is in the way, and your want the flap to open wider, then simply remove it.

Your bag needs to work the way that is best for you.

04-30-2009, 06:50 AM
With the addition of a handle strap to the F2 Original, i discovered how it was easier to take the bag off your shoulder and pull it off the car seat. It made the bag more functional and was a good idea.

When you're in situations, or environments in general, where you don't have much space, vehicles like you said for example or any crowded place, I personally find the handle very useful.

04-30-2009, 12:05 PM
It also helps when picking the bag up, especially from a table, chair or shelf.

05-03-2009, 08:02 PM
My primary bag is an F-6. For the first several months of use I got by with only the shoulder strap. But there were many occasions where I found myself needing the short strap as well (to use as a "handle") so it soon found itself attached. It simply hangs over the back of the bag, out of sight and mind unless needed. This works fine for me.

05-13-2009, 02:31 PM
I've used many camera bags over the years and I have hardly ever used the handle on any of them EXCEPT my Domke bags. The reason? Exactly as Jim pointed out in his post: most handles are attached to the flap and are useless if the bag is not fully fastened shut (especially when loaded down with glass).

When I got my first Domke (F-6), I didn't really care for its handle because I thought it was going to be flimsy (it isn't). However, I quickly adjusted to the convenience of a handle that was useful even when the bag is open and doesn't add bulk to the bag. In my opinion, yes, the bag not only needs the handle, but it needs exactly the handle is has. Same goes for my F-2.