Even if you’re not familiar with the Domke name, I’ll bet you’ve seen the bag. Domke is the classic canvas shoulder bag that virtually invented the idea of the camera bag that a photojournalist could shoot out of. That are known for being rugged, lightweight and loved by professional photographers for decades.
The camera bag industry never seems to stop moving. There are new designs and new materials every year. Companies like Tenba and Think Tank Photo have everything from shoulder bags to rolling cases made from the latest water resistant materials. The Domke canvas shoulder bag was beginning to look a little long in the tooth compared to the space-age offerings from other manufacturers.
Meet the Next Generation…
The Domke Next Generation shoulder bags are not entirely new bags as much as a modern redesign of the classic Domke shooter’s bags. There are four different lines of Next Gen bags. I have been using the Ledger bag which is part of the Journalist series.
The Ledger is the smallest in the Journalist series. It is a typical shoulder bag shape with a shoulder strap and a very useful handle on the top. The one I have is “Military” colored (OD green) waxed canvas that Domke calls Ruggedwear. I think the green is the best looking, but the Journalist series bags also come in black and khaki.
The interior measures 11″L x 6.5″W x 7.25”H. It can be challenging to find a camera bag that is not too deep to accommodate the smaller micro 4/3 lenses, but I found the Ledger to be just about right. It is wide enough to fit two lenses front to back. Many shoulder bags are not quite wide enough for that, which creates odd narrow spaces that can be hard to fit gear into. At 7.25” high it handles my tallest lens (LUMIX 100-300mm), but it’s not so deep as to have wasted head room with other lenses.
The ledger only comes with two dividers. I added another Domke padded divider and a little velcro pocket to hold a memory card wallet. I also added a velcro divider from one of my Tenba bags to create a shelf so that I can stack lenses. While I like the dimensions of the bag, the usability would be greatly improved by including more dividers.
The pockets on the front and both ends of the bag are definitely a highlight. The two end pockets have expansion zippers that more than double their volume. With the zippers closed they fit an external hard drive, but with the zippers open they will fit a lens or even a LUMIX GX7 with a lens attached!
The front pockets are also expandable, but not to the same degree. They each have a snap on one corner that allows them to hold thicker gear. There is a thin zipper pocket behind the two snap pockets as well. There is no pocket for a tablet. You have to move up to the next bigger size to have room for your iPad.
Covering the top is the ubiquitous flap with two metal clips. A welcome addition to the Next Generation line are velcro tabs to keep the flap closed without fastening the clips. There are silencers to cover the velcro if you need to be stealthy about getting your gear. The flap has a full-width zipper that allows access to the main compartment without opening the flap. Another welcome addition is the trolly strap on the back that loops over your rolling suitcase handle.
Overall I think the Domke Next Generation Ledger bag is a good fit for a mirrorless kit. It is made in the USA and definitely seems to be built like a tank. The lack of included dividers is a down side, especially for a smaller camera kit. The idea is that the bag is flexible for many different shooters, but that means you have to buy more dividers (at $20 each) to make the most of it.
Speaking of buying… Domke bags are known for being well made AND expensive. That made-in-the-USA craftsmanship comes at a cost. The Ledger is the smallest bag in the Journalist series and it lists for $319. I’ve had more than one client see my bag and go to buy one, only to be turned off by the high price. It kind of makes me think of Leica cameras… If the Domke bag is what you’re looking for I guess the price won’t matter. The Domke Next Generation series marks a nice update of the classic shooter’s bag.