Slow Tools Camera Bag
An Unlikely Solution
The Quest Concluded
Finding the perfect camera bag is almost as hard as finding the perfect picture. At the recent Photo Expo in New York City, companies from around the world were showcasing their newest fabrics, removable pouches, and secret compartments for the endless amount of gear that photographers tote about the world. In my personal quest for the perfect bag, I have just about given up on anyone who designs a bag to carry a camera. As I look at the pile of bags in my studio, it is clear that I must be a “Camera Bag Farmer,” because the pile keeps growing. After years of frustration, I believe (knock on wood) that I have found an answer to my bag woes.
The solution to my bag problem came in the most unlikely of places, a small shop in Osaka Japan named Slow Tools. Part of the reason its so challenging for me to find a bag is that there are a few things that I like in bags that are not popular enough for companies to cater to.
What do I want in a bag
Light Weight: I don’t like a bag with padding. I know, you are thinking this guy is crazy, but in the battle between weight and protection, weight wins for me. All I need is heavy canvas and I’m good.
Good Color Options: A bag should not stand out and unless you dress like a ninja, black is high visibility. I prefer browns, greens, and grays because they tend to blend in with the clothes I wear while shooting.
A Leather Strap: Since I shoot a Leica system, I don’t carry a ton of gear. At maximum its two bodies and three lenses, but as anyone has ever seen in my workshops, its not uncommon for me to go out with just a camera and a single lens. I want a strap that does not fray (this was the failing of my last bag) and will age nicely.
Better with Age: This is another reason I don’t use black bags…I prefer things that age nicely. I like something that looks like it wants a little dirt on it.
Internal Pockets with No Zippers: When I reach into my bag, I want to be able to grab anything without opening another compartment. Its too fussy to have zippers.
No Velcro: Velcro is for children’s shoes, mountain climbing harnesses, and anything else that does not need to be silent. Nothing worse than tearing velcro in a tiny temple or intimate meeting. I’d take a button over silent velcro any day.
Hand Picked: This is a harder one to articulate, but I want every part of the bag from the copper rivets to the vegetable tanned leather to be specific to that bag and not just be the “leather that the manufacture has access to.” I appreciate people who go the extra mile to used heavier gauge thread, specific hardware and pull it together is something that you could wear with a suit rather than a military deployment.
Personality: When possible I enjoy, in fact I down right love, meeting the people who make my goods. If people spent more time buying and supporting small shops there would be a lot less waste in the world and companies could stop trying to solve everyones bag problems and specialize because most camera bags are a water down solution from what they should be based on the market.
So where did this magical camera bag come from? While I was at Capsule, the men’s fashion trade show in NYC this summer, I came across Ichiro Nitta of Slow Tools. based in Osaka they are primarily a fashion bag brand. When I told him this would make a great camera bag, he was a bit surprised. At the moment they do not distribute in the United States, but you can find their bags at the Japanese store Beams and a few other select locations. Since Capsule, Slow Tools has ramped up their online presence because I don’t think I was the only one who found their bags amazing.
When I arrived at Anteroom Hotel, in Kyoto, there was a package waiting for me. Four months and forty emails later, I was delighted to finally find my perfect camera bag. It has got to be the best bag for a Leica system I have come across to date. It was great to use all over Japan from Maizuru to Sakai. And with all of my excitement two of the photographers in the workshop decided to order bags too. The happiness was contagious.
It feels like after years of searching I can finally put this quest to bed. Between the copper rivets, leather details, perfectly weighted canvas and the single button flap, we have reached camera bag Shangri La. I hope that everyone finds exactly what they are looking for and if you are interested to learn more about Slow Tools, check out their website here: http://shop.slow-web.com/?pid=64360187
The Slow Tools Small Shoulder Bags goes for 13,500 ¥ or about $135 USD.