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Friday, December 1, 2006

The Story Behind The Bag

Camera bag designs are based on very real photographers' needs. Here are some of their stories.

KATA HB-205No piece of camera equipment says more about its owner than the ubiquitous gadget bag. They come in all sizes and colors, every shape and configuration, and they have been constructed from just about every material under the sun. The best gadget bag designs are born from photographers' needs. Every major bag company has cultivated a network of users who provide real-world input and help refine product development.

Listen To Your Customer

"If we get an e-mail from a guy who wants a bag to carry a Hasselblad and a poodle, it's probably just him," says Ryan Cyr, the man behind the Tamrac brand. "But if we get five, there's probably a market."

The idea for one of Tamrac's all-time best-selling bags, the Super Pro 14 (Model 614), was rejected the first time Cyr heard it. It was during the mid-1970s, and Cyr and his wife Jesselyn, the woman who founded Tamrac, were attending Photokina in Cologne, Germany. "Photokina exhibits were set up like fortresses, and consumers weren't allowed inside a manufacturer's booth. My wife and I chose to meet with consumers while our distributors met with retailers," Cyr explains.

"About halfway through the show, we were approached by two burly Germans—rough-looking types wearing jeans with holes in them," he continues. "We had a bit of a language issue, but they were telling us that they wanted a huge camera bag—actually, an enormous bag. We listened politely, but we told them that the bag they were asking for was too big. A bag that large would weigh 45 to 50 pounds full—no one would carry a bag like that.

"So they told us that they had made such a bag themselves and left," Cyr says. "We thought that was the end of it. It wasn't. They took a train home and brought back their homemade bag—packed full of equipment. We took a close look at it, and my wife and I said to each other, 'These guys are really committed to this bag.' So we developed it for Tamrac."

Adds Cyr, "For many years it was our top seller. I thought no one in their right mind would believe anyone would carry around that much gear. It shows that you really have to listen to your customer."


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