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View Full Version : Hi tech gear likes low tech cotton canvas


Jim Domke
08-14-2008, 12:11 PM
In the beginning, I had been using canvas fishing bags and army surplus bags for years, so it didn’t take a lot of research to decide on what to use for the Domke Bag, it had to be # 8 Duck.

The Domke bag is for working photographers, so when the Philadelphia Inquirer said they would buy 20 bags in 1976, I went to work turning my fishing bag into the perfect shooters bag.

The first thing was durability. The bag had to be more rugged and hold up to covering daily newspaper assignments.

Second, photographers need to get to their equipment fast and they don’t want their bag to slow them down. Nobody wants to miss getting that front page photo, because they were fighting their camera bag to change lenses, get the flash or find a filter.

Unlike leather, canvas is lighter, requires low maintenance and is less expensive.

Nylon was new in the Seventies and it was thinner, didn’t have the body of cotton duck. Nylon felt like sandpaper and needed to be waterproofed. But like the cotton tents, canvas naturally absorbs the water, swells and keeps everything dry inside.

You don’t see the little drop of rain or drop of sweat on the camera, this drop can short out the camera and the canvas sucks it off the camera. When it is dry the canvas “breathes,” and avoid any condensation forming on the electronic camera.

A working camera bag it is constantly rubbing against your body and canvas is less abrasive than nylon so it won’t harm your clothing.

And, be careful not to carry your bag too low, carry it next to your waist not your hip or thigh. It might make sense to have it at arm length, so you don’t have to bend your arms and you can carry a camera on the same shoulder above the bag. But your legs are constantly rubbing against it.

Rubbing is rubbing, and rubbing against metal rivets on jeans will wear out the bag faster than if it was higher up nearer your waist. With digital cameras and the zoom lens, there’s no longer a need to carry 5 camera bodies, so keep the camera on the other shoulder.

#8 canvas duck is best for camera bags, it’s the perfect thickness to hold its shape yet flexible to hug the hip, and give a little so you can even get that souvenir you just bought into the bag.

Photojournalist Jean-Pierre Laffont liked his Domke Bag because he could fold it and pack it inside a suitcase. He often travels to third world countries and worries about leaving valuables in his hotel room. Not wanting to carry a heavy camera bag around everywhere with him, his carry-on luggage is a custom-made metal case.

It was strong enough for him to stand on, when he needs to take pictures over the heads of a crowded event, or to sit on while waiting for his luggage at the airport. Once settled into the hotel, he works out of his canvas Domke Bag and/or a photo vest, and all the extra lenses, passport, traveler’s checks stay safely chained to the bed.

Cotton canvas isn’t old fashion. It’s environmentally friendly and not a petroleum product, so save the planet and carry a canvas Domke Bag. :D

Tgalem
08-29-2008, 08:26 PM
Hello Jim,
I just signed up a few minutes ago .....
I bought two of your canvas bags back in the early 80s when I was just starting my new hobby, since then they have become worn and faded but I have never seen the need to replace them since they have always protected my gear even after the big bag was thrown to the floor , the board in the bottom broke and I cracked a filter but the three Nikons were just fine, in fact I still have those too, maybe someday I'll go digital but for now your bags and my cameras just keep on ticking ....

the bags look like your F10 and F8, but I thought the big one was an F2
I can't recall it's been too long since I had to worry about it.

Thanks for a great, well made, long lived product




Tom

Jim Domke
09-01-2008, 02:25 PM
I'm still using some of the same bags, but they don't last forever. It wasn't the canvas, webbing, or thread, but the the foam and the rubber woven into the webbing. I got a new bag! Now the old one is in the trunk of my car holding the battery cable, first aide kit and flashlight!

#8 duck forever!

-Jim

Jon
10-21-2008, 07:21 AM
I've also got one of the original F-2 bags from the good old days (pre-"Gripper strap"). The outside pockets have gotten bigger over the years, which I definitely appreciate, but I do wish you'd stayed with the metal hardware all around. I've had the plastic loops (connecting the straps to the bag) on at least three of my bags break over the years. I shove a mini-carabiner on in their place, and that also lets me tether stuff to the bag more easily.

The only bag I've yet worn out was an F-805 (wish you still made them!) which I used as a briefcase. The rigid plastic end panels caused the canvas to wear through after about 8 years of schlepping around on trains and planes. Fortunately for me, a guy on another forum had an almost-new one which was too big for his purposes. He's now very happy with the F-802 I suggested in its place. I've had the rubber on the gripper strips give up, but since I'm using the Postal Pad on all of my Domkes, I don't worry about it.

Arnaud
01-10-2009, 03:07 AM
Hello Jim,
I just registered today after our first contact yesterday night (the french).
I agree with the canvas choice.
I like to have two bodies (D3 and D2) 'just in case' and so have a new F-1 wich is somedays a little bit too big but fine for overseas assignements. I am just always worrying a little bit with the cracks at the edges of the straps (buckle level) especially the one which is going around the bag, difficult to fix.
Thank again for bringing our 'legendary' up and up and apologize for my bad english.

Arnaud
02-14-2009, 12:54 PM
Jim, a simple question : what your choice between all the colors available and why ?
Is the sand color a real color or just the natural tint of canvas ? In that case, is the durability better ?
Thnaks for any answer ...
Arnaud

Jon
02-16-2009, 08:51 AM
I'm not Jim, but personally I prefer sand as a more nondescript colour than black, navy or brown which also doesn't show wear as much as the darker colours do. It is a dyed colour, not natural canvas.

Jim Domke
02-17-2009, 01:02 PM
It's a matter of taste. Back in the old film days, Ansel Adams thought that technically, the camera bag ought to be white on the outside to keep the film cool in the desert and black on the inside to keep bright sunlight from fogging sheets of film in a film holder.

Today it is a matter of taste. The sand (or tan) bag shows dirt on the outside and looks bigger, but there is more contrast with the black lens caps, cables, sensor, lens hood, filter, battery, data card, etc. so you can get to the , little things at the bottom of the bag and avoid dropping an expensive lens onto your car keys and scratching the lens.

Black makes the bag disappear, become a shadow on your side and not call attention with shooting in crowds. It looks good whether you are covering a wedding or football.

The Navy color was offered because many people love blue and simply liked the color.

The brown and new stone washed looking bags try to be both. Dark enough so that it doesn't stand out or show dust, but contrast with black lenses, strobes, etc, so you can find things inside the bag.

My favorite story is how some high school students were visiting Europe and the train they were taking stopped at the border between Romania and Italy. Everyone was told they had to get off and to leave everything in the train. It turned out this wasn't customs inspection, but robbers. They looked through all the suitcases, but thanks to the worn beat up brown Domke Bag, they didn't bother to open it. All the students passports were in the Domke Bag!

I also heard that in a war zone, the green Domke Bag looks more military and soldiers will want to look inside it. Photogs are stopped more than those carrying a black, navy or brown bag.

Arnaud
02-18-2009, 04:34 AM
Thank you all !
Jim : you started all with sand, is it still your prefered color ?

Arnaud

Jim Domke
02-18-2009, 02:36 PM
The Domke bag was always offered in 2 colors: dark brown or sand. Many felt sand would keep the gear/film cooler and safer, but for the photojournalist the darker brown didn't call attention to them. And it also fit in with blue jeans or business suit. (The canvas isn't abrasive to slacks, but over time it will fade and not look as nice with a suit and tie as it did when it was new.)

Navy was added for those who wanted something that didn't look as "outdoorsy" or rugged. They all had the same sand trim and straps.

I waited to add black, because I felt it would be harder to find things inside the bag and it meant that I could no longer use the same color webbing on all the bags!

Arnaud
02-20-2009, 02:05 AM
I did'nt knew that the offer was sand and brown from the beggining.
I started my career with a sand F2 (at the time of 'Under fire' movie) but now want to choose between black and sand for another one (I feel my F1 too big for non overseas assignements). That's the reason I ask for your personnal preference.

Shyam
04-16-2009, 07:07 AM
although the black bag makes it harder to find stuff sometimes... the simple fix would be to add a liner to the insides off the bag.

I used a piece of orange plastic and cut it to the right size to line the inside of the bag so everything remains perfectly visible in low light conditions too..

Trius
11-01-2009, 06:43 PM
Jim,

I just joined a bit ago. First, I appreciate the forum and your participation. While I am now a "former pro", I now have more fun (!) and part of that fun is having Domke bags ... seriously. They work really well, and I am a BIG believer in canvas for all the reasons you stated. I have an F6 and F5X-B in sand always liked lighter colours due to it being less of a heat sink, and I don't think my F6 or F5X-B show dust badly. In fact I have a white car precisely because not only is it cooler in summer, but it hides dirt WAY better than a black or very dark car.

Another proponent of canvas was Bill Mason, the late dean of canoeing. Even though pack manufacturers gave him packs made with nylon and other synthetics to try, he kept using canvas as his personal choice due to its properties.

Plus, canvas just feels "right".

dafiryde
11-04-2009, 11:42 PM
i am no pro, but i have changed bags as fast as i have changed underwear.
no matter what i rather, or which i prefer., i end up with that Domke canvas bag. its not big, bulky, fat, long, ugly, heavy.
my preference is the F3x, starts out big, and empty, i fill it up with my gear, give it a pat on top, a pat on the side, and a pat in front. it becomes small, slim, light and comfortable.

i saw on DP review that Kata has a competition for photographers to design a perfect bag, so i submitted the Domke F3X ruggedwear :D


Dave

Jon
11-30-2009, 01:20 PM
On the F2? They probably could, but you might find them too deep to be convenient once you'd removed the first few.