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There’s a new line of camera bags on the market, but they come from an old, familiar name. Originally founded in 1976 by photojournalist Jim Domke with the introduction of the F-2, the Domke brand has been synonymous ever since with low-profile, high-quality bags geared towards photojournalists, travel photographers, and anyone else looking for a bag that does a great job protecting their gear without drawing unwarranted attention to the thousands of dollars worth of kit hanging from their shoulder.
Domke’s “Next Generation” consists of eight new bags, each available in different choices of materials and equipped with Domke’s new GearProtex™ and PocketFlex™ systems of customizable dividers, inserts and storage pockets. I recently had the chance to spend some time putting The Domke Chronicle (J-Chron) through its paces. One of three bags in the Journalist Series (alongside the Ledger and the Herald), the Chronicle– described as the grandchild of that original F-2– is obviously designed with the working photojournalist in mind, but would also be a great bag for any photographer, professional or otherwise, looking for a low profile or a classic retro look.
Fresh out of the box this bag brought a smile to my face. My dad was a truly amazing photographer. Wanting to make his hobby my own, when I was a kid, we spent countless hours together in the darkroom. This is a bag my father would have loved. Not getting too lost in its retro appeal, though, it’s abundantly clear that a lot of thought and attention to detail went into the design and production of this bag. Available in four different color options, I opted for the Ruggedwear Military/Black. All materials, both inside and out, appear to be of extremely high quality, yet they don’t add any unnecessary bulk or weight. This keeps the bag comfortable on your shoulder, even when fully packed.
It’s well worth pointing out here that the Chronicle could have easily handled several additional items, but I’ve been trying to travel a little lighter these days.
Domke’s new GearProtex system of dividers allows you to fully customize the inside of the bag with dividers that can attach to any interior surface, not just corresponding Velcro attachment points. The PocketFlex system is a collection of pockets and pouches that can also attach to any interior surface of the bag. If I had to pick one area where this bag fell slightly short it would be here, with the dividers. While many companies seem to give you way more dividers than you could ever possibly need, I found the number of included dividers to be a bit lacking for my taste. With only three included dividers and one included pocket patch, if I want this bag to be 100% in line with my needs, I’m going to have to order a few more dividers. Considering the cost of this bag ($349 USD), it might have been nice of them to include a few more dividers. On the up side, however, the flexibility of the dividers, combined with almost limitless attachment points, does help create sections of sizes and shapes I’ve never been able to get with standard dividers.
Here is an option you don’t often see when choosing a camera bag. The Chronicle, as well as every bag in the Next Generation line, is available in a choice of materials and colors. As noted, the bag in this review is the RuggedWear Military/Black option. Also available are Cordura Black/Black, Canvas Khaki/Black, and RuggedWear Black/Sand. While it’s obvious from a quick inspection that the exterior materials are of a high quality and built to withstand the regular challenges our bags face on a daily basis, let’s face it, it’s material and eventually it’s going to get dirty or show some wear. In what was a first for me, I was pleasantly surprised to find a tin of Domke Ruggedwear Refinishing Wax in the bag for those inevitable occasions when parts of the bag exterior might need a little attention.
I really love this bag, particularly its classic retro look. I’ll most likely end up using it more for personal photography than commercial work, but it’s a bag that is well-suited for both. Even though it is the smallest bag in the Journalist series, I never felt limited in terms of what I could or couldn’t pack. This bag should appeal to a wide variety of photographers, from photojournalists and nature photographers, to hobbyists and travel photographers, as well as every photographer in between. The price may be a bit steep for a bag this size, but I think you absolutely get what you pay for in terms of quality, longevity, and adaptability. I’ve given it a 4.5 out of 5 due to not enough dividers.