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Competitor Comparision

(Page One of Two)

Related Pages

Media Reviews

Unsolicited Customer Testimonials

My Opinion
A critique of misc. products such as
Sekonic light meters and Calumet roll film backs.

Introduction

Some people might think I am nuts for placing all the names and links of our competition on our Web site. However, I am so confident that IF you take the time to compare features and quality, you will come to the conclusion that we offer the most complete and versatile photo belt system available today. They are designed by a working professional with comfort, accessibility and durability in mind. Because of the technical, modular aspects of our products, I feel that an educated customer is a good customer.
Over the years, we have heard about "niche marketing." The Internet has enabled us to really provide niche marketing to a specific group of people -- shooters looking for a better way to lug around photography and video gear.
This report only covers our niche, which is limited to four product types which we offer:
1) modular photo or camera belt systems
2) camera & lens cases (top load zoom or holster bags for digital or film SLRs)
3) long lens cases
4) bean bags/weight bags

(We do NOT make traditional shoulder "camera bags" or compartmentalized photo backpacks.)

Contents --

Page One (this page):
Introduction to Manufactures (soft goods for the film/video/photo industries)
Product Types (which manufactures make what)

Page Two:
Product Comparison (Kinesis compared to others -- the heart of this report)

First drafted in September 1999 (last revision 12 Nov 2003). Copyright 2000 Richard Stum / Kinesis Photo Gear. We encourage you to link to us, but please do not copy, reproduce, distribute, or quote without written permission.

Listing of Manufacturers

Below is a list of manufacturers that make sewn products including: camera bags, waistpacks, photo backpacks, vests, long lens case products or bean bags for the USA market.

We introduced our first commercial product in the Spring of 1996. About two years after our product released, three other major manufactures also introduced similar competing modular photo or camera belt systems -- they were Lowepro, Tamrac and Lightware.

For other manufacturers not listed here visit this ACE Indexes page or visit this page on the B&H site (you won't find us there as B&H doesn't sell our gear).

Note: "offshore" means countries other than the US such as Korea, China, Singapore etc. and sometimes includes Mexico)

AWB Enterprises A small company owned by Alan W. Brubaker -- otherwise known as FilmHolders.com. They make soft-side and hard-side cases and pouches for the large format photographer.

Billingham They make a series of quality shoulder bags. Their penchant for using canvas & leather and funky clasps & snaps sets them apart from others. Made in the UK.

Camera Care Systems (CCS) Makers of camera backpacks, belt pouches and traditional shoulder bags. Made in the UK.

CineKinetic Makers of the CineSaddle bean bag for the video and motion picture industry.

Crumpler Bags Makers of courier bags with the "big flop over" style flap. Recently (circa 2001) they introduced padded top loader holster bags and traditional padded shoulder bags.

Domke Domke shoulder bags are the tool most photojournalists just can't seem to do without. They also make long lens cases. As a member of the Tiffen or Saunders Group, most of their products are USA made.

Gnass Gear A company is Chino California offering specialized products for the medium- and large-format shooter. They offer pouches for 4x5" & 8x10" film holders and lenses. As of Jan. 2002 their web site was a PDF catalog download.

KATA (distributed by Bogen Products in 2002 or 2003). This company makes some of the best soft-side cases for the video and motion picture industry. They also make a modular vest/belt system (Modular Pouch System or MPS) for cine/audio professionals. A new company going after the market that Porta-Brace has held for many years. Products originated by some guys that provided gear to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Kinesis Photo Gear We have been placed in the "cottage industry" category because of our small volume, but our quality is impeccable. Design and ownership by Richard Stum. For more background information about us, visit this page. All products designed and made in the USA.

Laird Photo A small firm in Montana making long lens rain covers and cushioned tripod leg wraps. Ann Laird is the proprietor. No website, but her products can be purchased through L.L. Rue or Kirk Enterprises.

Leonard Rue Enterprises (L.L. Rue) This specialty mail-order business was one of the first to introduce a vest specifically for the nature shooter. The company is owned and managed by the well-known father/son shooting team, Lennie (Leonard Lee Rue III) and Len Jr. (Len Rue, Jr.). They also make shooting blinds and offer other unusual products in their print catalog or Web site.

Lindcraft A small company that makes specialized gear for the motion picture and video industry. They make grip belts with assorted pouches which attach to a non-modular belt. USA made.

M-Rock Their products are made for smaller "consumer" 35mm SLRs and camcorders, rather than pro-sized cameras. Their products originally had one pouch sewn to the belt, which, in my opinion was not a true modular system. Since the original design, they have offered a "naked" belt where you can attach various pouches. Michael Rockwell, the owner, is based in Denver. Their products are made offshore.

Lightware They are noted for their semi-rigid rectangular cases for still shooters and recently (fall 1998) introduced a modular belt line called the GripStrip™. Most of their belt pouches are small in size, designed primarily for a single lenses, light meters, Polaroid® backs etc. They have no cases for a SLR with a lens attached. Their line is geared toward the commercial shooter. They also have a series of soft-side long lens cases and rain covers which they have sold for years, but do not integrate into their GripStrip belt system. Paul Peregrine is the owner. Offices and manufacturing in Denver.

Lowepro Lowepro is the sister company to Lowe Alpine who make fine mountaineering packs. Although they share a common name, oddly they have little or nothing in common. Lowepro has been the leader in the "system" backpack market, selling their ever-popular Trekkers. They released a modular belt and bag system in the spring of 1998 called Street & and Field™. The belt system is designed primarily for the 35mm shooter and have few (if any) products for the medium or large format photographer. Part of their new Street & Field™ system is a series of shoulder-bags aimed at the photojournalist market currently held by Domke. Their products are made in Korea & other offshore locations. Uwe Mummenhoff is the company president.

Moose Peterson Moose is a wildlife/nature photographer who shoots with Nikon gear. In 2003 he introduced a system backpack. I haven't had a chance to review his gear, so I cannot provide an opinion on the quality.

Newswear A new company (2002) that makes a product called the Chestvest designed for photojournalists.

OmniPod Makers of a camera support bean bag with built-in threaded screw mount. Introduced in 1998.

Op/Tech USA Makers of a quality neoprene camera straps. They also make tripod staps, small pouches for lenses, cell phones etc. All products are made in their Montana factory. The President is Terry Jackson.

OutPack Several years ago the Saunders Group bought the econo long lens case called the ScopePACK™ from the original owner and added it to the OutPack® line. George Lepp is the big-name nature shooter that puts his signature on this line. The OutPack products are made offshore, and in my opinion, do not live up to the standards of the USA-made Domke products. OutPack is a division of The Saunders Group, a large photo conglomerate.

Pelican Products Not a competitor of ours as they primarily make hard-side cases. Listed here as many photographers use their products for airline travel.

Photo-Fax Makers of long lens rain covers. This site also has a used equipment buy and sell listing. Somehow related or owned by Penn Camera.

Photoflex They make light banks and a few shoulder bags. They also make a Chestpouch bag and some lens pouches to go with it. Not a true modular system. Many outdoor shooters think their product is sweet stuff because Galen Rowell has his name plastered all over them. Most of their products are poorly-made offshore.

Porta-Brace This company has been the standard for video & motion picture soft-side camera cases for years. They make cases for practically every pro video/cine camera ever made. The quantity of models they offer is staggering -- practically custom-made. Although their products are well-made, their belt system ("system" is big complement) is nothing more than a piece of 2-inch webbing with a a few pouches that sleeve on. No products for the still shooter. All USA made with their venerable navy-blue nylon fabric.

Sundog They sell product through outdoor retailers such as REI, Campmor etc. They don't have a modular belt system, but have some good zoom cases, backpacks & a few waistpacks designed for amateur-sized SLRs & camcorders. I haven't seen much of their system backpacks lately. At one point, they used Art Wolfe's (famous nature photographer) name on their products. I believe their products are still made in the states.

Tamrac This well-known company manufactures, dozens of quality-made, compartmentalized shoulder bags. They also make system backpacks. The bad design of their original "Half Moon Hip Pack" helped inspire me to design our modular belt system (Lowepro had a similar bag but discontinued it). In the summer of 1998 they introduced their modular belt system, called the Modular Accessory System™ (i.e. M.A.S.). It designed primarily for the 35mm shooter. Their shoulder bags seem to be better made than the M.A.S. belt system. A California-based company with products made in the USA.

Tenba They make semi-rigid rectangular bags similar to Lightware for the commercial and traveling photographer. They also make long lens cases, long lens rain covers, sytem backpacks and holster bags for SLRs, and some wimpy-looking waist packs (not modular). They recently (1999) introduced an alternative to the modular belt system called the Photo Kilt, an unusual waist bag/apron with integral suspenders and built in pouches. They are based in New York with most products made in the USA. In 2003 they merged or got bought by the photo giant Mamiya America Corporation.

Think Tank Photo A modular belt system introduced in 2005. This company was started by former Lowepro designers. Their attachment method mirrors the Lowepro Street & Field system. Their marketing emphasis is toward the photojournalist with their so-called "Modulus Speed System."

Versa-Flex Versa-Flex began in 1991. Their cases utilize a steel reinforced, corrugated polypropylene shell and sewn with upholstery grade stitching. Similar in purpose to the rectangular cases made my Lightware and Tenba. They also make some soft-side tripod and stand cases.

Vertex Photo A new company started by the former owner of Vested Interest. They sell the Molar Bean Bag and a few other products for the outdoor photographer.

Vested Interest Photo vests for video and nature photographers. Because they they only do manufacture-direct sales, you will not find their products in photo stores. In January 1999 they introduced a bean bag product with a similar name to ours: the Safari Bean Bag. John Stanford was the original owner/designer but sold the company in 2001. All products made at their Texas facility. 

ZERO Haliburton Although not a competitor of ours, they manufacture the venerable aluminum hard-side cases. In Hollywood movies, a silver Haliburnton briefcase was often seeing changing hands with large sums of money enclosed!

Zing Designs (a division of Tiffen) Manufactures of neoprene pouches for consumer SLRs and point and shoots. Other products for laptop computers etc. 

Product Types

Modular belt systems for still shooters

Kinesis, M-Rock, Lightware, Lowepro & Tamrac & Think Tank

Belt systems for video/motion picture

 

Lindcraft, KATA, Kinesis, Lightware & Porta-Brace

35mm SLR holster cases
(also called top loader or zoom cases)

Crumpler, Kinesis,
M-Rock, Lowepro, Tamrac & Tenba

Misc. non-modular lens or other pouches

Crumpler, Gara-Gear, Gexar, Outpack, Zing & numerous others

Pouches for large-format photographery gear
(i.e. lens boards, film holders or Polaroid backs)

AWB, Kinesis and Lightware

Long lens cases
(for still photogs using 300/2.8 and longer glass)

Billingham, Domke, Kinesis, Lightware, Lowepro, OutPack, Tenba & Versa-Flex

Rain covers for long lenses while in use.
(We make them for the belt system only.
For info on generic pack or long lens case
rain covers visit this link.)

 

Laird, Lightware, Op/Tech, Photo-Fax, Tenba & Vested Interest

Beanbags or Weight Bags
(i.e. SafariSack™ -- sand bags not included as there are too many off-brand makers to list)

 

CineKinetic, Kinesis, Omni-Pod, Vertex Photo & Vested Interest

Tripod accessories & cases

Gara-Gear, KATA, Kinesis, Lightware, Op/Tech, Porta-Brace, Tamrac, Tenba, Think Tank & Versa-Flex

System backpacks
(A system pack is a "carry the kitchen sink" approach. They typically have padded Velcro dividers for storage or transport of any entire photo system. Primarily for use by still photographers. We now offer a hybrid pack for the digital photojournalist or traveling photog.)

 

CCS, Moose Peterson, OutPack, Lowepro, Tamrac, Tenba & Think Tank

System shoulder bags
(bags with Velcro dividers for an
entire photographers system)

 

CCS, Billingham, Crumpler, Domke, Kinesis, Lowepro, Tamrac, Tenba & Think Tank (there are numerous low quality import bags that I have not listed)

Accessories for large format shooters
(lens pouches, film holder/back pouches).

Gnass Gear, Kinesis

Soft-side cases specifically designed for
video/motion picture equipment

 

KATA & Porta-Brace

Soft-side "airline shipping" or
everyday "around town" cases
(semi-rigid fabric-covered rectangular shipping & shooting cases with moveable dividers)

 

Lightware, Tamrac, Tenba & Versa-Flex

Hard-side "airline shipping" or
everyday "around town" cases

 

Pelican, Storm Case & ZERO Haliburton

Photo vests or chest carrying systems

 

Domke, L.L. Rue, Lowepro, KATA, Newswear, Tamrac, Tenba & Vested Interes

 

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