10 years of the same old shit

Crumpler has updated their website to celebrate their 10th anniversary.

They also added a quirky product: The 10th anniversary with this wierd embroidery on the inside:

detail of Limited Edition crumpler bag

Their new site has better access to the photos of the bags. Very cool. There are a few bugs where there are photos missing, or the “magnified version” is the thumbnail. Also it no longer gives you the middle finger when the product is out of stock, opting for the less offensive “thumbs down” with a polite “sorry, out of stock.”

Still, I checked out the photography bucket for the Quarfie and Soupansalad Son-O (typo in their new site, they call it “Soupanalad”) and saw this shot:

Soupansalad Son-O with a bucket designed for the Quarfie

Hmm, since I own this combination:

sport photography kit (closed)

Sport photography kit (closed)
Riverstone Townhomes, Mountain View, California

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1
1/13 sec @ f/2.8, iso 200, 6mm (28mm)

I know it is deceptive. The bucket is actually designed to fit the “Quarfie” which is a lot more shallow than the Soupansalad. So the bucket goes a lot deeper than in the photo. You can use it as padding just fine, but you won’t really zip up this combination ever. (Unzipped you can cram in an SB-800 strobe and the 70-200mm f/2.8 inside, but no camera or anything.)

Mini review

I think they’re fun, quirky bags. Their website, while not very informative, does an excellent job of conveying that brand identity. I’ve seen their bags sold in retail stores like Apple, REI, and high-end bicycling stores. This gives you an idea of the sort of market they are targeted toward.

In terms of word of mouth marketing, they really emphasize the fact that their computer and camera bags are really indistinguishable from their messenger bags. The only way to see the difference is to notice how the latter are stiffer and have more structure. I find this whole “security through obscurity” approach rather funny: “Okay, I’m going to be removing my bright Nikon strap so nobody will steal my expensive dSLR.“ Umm, yeah… Right!

The layout of them is well thought out and the colors are very modern. I love the accents on their bags and I like the bright yellow they put inside their camera bags (Kata does this also) which makes finding stuff very easy.

In terms of specific bags:

The Soupansalad Son-O. I got this because the Soupansalad is rather large and I already have a large bag. This one is a bit too small, but it doubles as a “man purse” where I can just dump a bunch of crap in it sometimes. It is slightly smaller than Caitlin’s InCase Moya and Joseph’s Tumi man purse and it is clearly designed along those lines (because it is more “baggy” and less structured, it can expand to bigger than those). I use it to hold spare lenses when I carry the camera, and the camera when I want something travel light (no tripod and stuff).

The shoulder strap is messengerbag-esqe and not removeable. One detail I missed is none of Crumpler’s bags cinch down the shoulder strap very well—the photography on their website is done to cleverly disguise that reality. In terms of this model in particular, it is missing a shoulder pad that some of their other models have which was disappointing.

The Bucket (BU-01). You need a bucket of these to reinforce the messenger bags for cameras. Without these, the weight of your lenses (metal and glass) will really let you know it is a “bag” in the “grocery bag” sense. As mentioned earlier, this is designed for the Quarfie instead. I prefer the color accent in the Soupansalad line so the Quarfie was a non-starter (I’m paying good money for style here).

For photographers I recommend the Soupansalad over this model, because it is tall enough to hold a 70-200mm f/2.8 lensand camera . It seems better thought out. The model also comes with a strap pad. (I didn‘t get this model because it is almost messenger bag-sized instead of compact.)

The Thirsty Al (large). I got this instead of “the Bundle” (small) because I wanted it to be compact. Because of the lack of a color accent and the neoprene, it isn’t as cool looking. There is a double velcro belt loop that is quite clever. The fact that the Soupansalad Son-O and most of the Crumpler line has a belt loop clearly designed to hold it is doubly clever.

Still, it’s bulkier than it seems and that makes me think I should have gotten a Bundle instead. This model holds my Panasonic DMC-LX1 pretty snugly (good thing it’s neoprene and can stretch). It also has an inner pocket where you can stuff a memory card or spare battery. No worthless shoulder strap here (a plus). Note, for a bit more, camera stores often will sell you a Leica-badged version of The Bundle designed to hold that particular camera model (actually the Leica D-Lux 2). Somehow I think that’s a stupid idea because people are paying crazy-expensive amounts of money for the D-Lux 2 simply for the retro Leica look: seems like a leather case is more in order.

3 Million Dollar Home. Part of crumpler’s super popular line of photography-specific bags. Since this is Caitlin’s, you’ll have to ask her about it. She uses it to hold her Sony HDV-HC1 high definition video camera and a couple accessories(the small one, the large one goes in a Kata bag). It’s probably going to give her something to carry for hiking.

If you like that look and are in the market for a camera or computer bag, take a look at Crumpler and see if it fits what you are looking for. The style is like the complete opposite of Domke.

Bag manufacturing and China

Crumpler is a company based in Australia which is probably why you haven’t heard of them. The bags have generous velcro and strong zippers, obviously influenced by their messenger bag roots.

When I saw the complex construction, I was shocked that this could be done in Australia. But then I looked inside and noticed the “Made in China” mark. Construction-wise they are very similar to Kata Bags, an Israeli camera bag company that also outsources all their manufacturing to China.

In terms of value, I think Crumplers are a bit overpriced in the United States. I doubt that the U.S. could manufacture bags of this quality and complexity, but companies like Timbuk2 simply move the complex stitched products out to China (they still make messenger bags by hand in San Francisco). Of course, a messenger bag is much simpler than a compute or photo bag. A neat compromise.

Think for a second if Levi Strauss still did that? They could still make some models of their Levi’s jeans in the U.S. and charge a decent premium for “the original”, then outsource their Dockers brand and fashion stuff to overseas manufacturing.

Instead they attempted to build exotically expensive jeans to compete with high-end fashion, failed and raced with Walmart to the bottom, and then closed down all their US factories.

Consider this famous mark:

Levi’s famous two horses trademark

The mark is both the strength of Levis (the quality of their jeans relative to Gap or Old Navy) and its weakness (the reason why they can’t touch the ridiculously overpriced market of jeans). Opening a high end store is just envying what you can’t have. All the supply chain management in the world won’t fix the damage done to this mark.

Pure stupidity!

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