With cameras getting smaller and growing numbers of photographers using cameras in new and interesting ways, we were curious how bag manufacturers are changing with the times.

We spoke with Darren Long, Product Marketing Director at Manfrotto UK, about how Manfrotto approaches design, why its bags have been successful and its plans for the future.

What is your most popular style of bag and why do you think it has been so successful?

We have a number of popular styles, depending on the type of equipment which needs to be carried and in which environment. In terms of sales, the MOST popular would be our 3N1 Series, which consists of 2 models: 3N1-25 & 3N1-35.

What makes these popular is the harness system, which can be configured in three different ways (hence the name 3N1).

It  can be a Sling Bag (left or right), Backpack or Cross Backpack at the switch of a buckle, so they are incredibly versatile.

Replacement models were announced at the recent Photokina exhibition, 3N1-26 & 3N1-36, which build on the current design and introduce a host of new and improved features, including the ability to configure internally to carry DJI Phantom drone kits (* 3N1-36 only).

The new models are expected to hit UK retailers for the beginning of December 2016.

Your off-road series includes a bag, tripod and other accessories. Do you plan the same for your street style ranges?

Interesting question. The simple answer is no; we have no plans to introduce supports or accessories under the Street family banner.

That said, a number of the Off Road sub-branded accessories such as the Stunt poles, Stunt Cases & Off Road LED are in fact aimed at the Action / Urban Sports market.

What features do the new Pro Light bags have that you think will most appeal to professionals?

The new Pro Light 3N1 bags are – as touched upon in a previous question – replacing a current best-seller, so the improvement to features and functionality has needed to be carefully considered.

I think the design team have done a fabulous job of improving the bags whilst retaining the original DNA.

Two features which stand out are: 1) The new tripod carrying system, which in my opinion is easily the best I’ve seen; and 2) With the larger model, the fact that it is designed to suit not only a Pro DSLR or Video set up but also a DJI Phantom set up.

With drones becoming increasingly popular with the Pro crowd, this is sure to be an attraction.

On any bag what is the feature you always look for?

It’s quite simple for me. I look to three points: 1) Is it going to protect the gear? 2) Is it going to be comfortable to carry; and 3) Is the gear easily accessible?

This is the ethos with which Manfrotto approach the design of all their bags. After that, the features are applied in line with the target camera & customer.

What three bags would you recommend to a club photographer with a standard SLR, 50mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm and a couple of accessories who wants to use her camera on a morning walk, day hike and holiday?

Morning walk: Advanced BeFree Messenger. With room for camera gear and personal items, there is also a dedicated expandable pocket which can accommodate the BeFree travel tripod. The top zip means there is easy access to your camera when needed.

Day Hike: Off Road Hiker 30L. Part of the range that has been specifically designed for photography and hiking, this has several key features. There is side access to your camera and the removable camera compartment has interchangeable dividers so you can adjust them according to what you are taking with you.

The camera strap on the front of the backpack allows the camera to be kept secure when hiking and also avoids neck strain. The harness system has been designed to be breathable so the bag is a comfortable carry on hikes, and it is water repellent with a rain protector for when the weather turns.

Holiday: RedBee 210 (Has sections for Tablet & Laptop) With sections for a tablet and a laptop as well as camera gear, this is a multi-feature, lightweight bag.

As well as having room for camera and personal gear, the multiple access options (side access and top access) mean that you will be ready to capture shots quickly and easily.

What bag would you suggest to protect your gear at home?

I would suggest one of the hard sided fabric Rolling models, either Professional Roller70 or the new ProLight Reloader55.

These both have lots of space and versatility in terms of arranging the gear, plus the physical shape is conducive to storing away.

With cameras getting smaller, how is this influencing your design strategy?

We are bringing more and more models to market which are suitable for CSC and compact DSLR cameras. These models are often used by ‘Social recorders’ rather than ‘Enthusiasts’.

This has influenced us to deliver designs which – as well as delivering the Manfrotto DNA of Protection, Comfort of Carrying and Accessibility – offer aesthetics in line with current trends and lifestyles.

A good example of this is the new Windsor series which hits stores at the beginning of December.

With airline size restrictions getting smaller, how do you design a bag that meets these regulations but still holds the essential gear a photographer needs?

This is the ‘Grail’ of every photographer out there. The fact is, the kit needing to be carried will always determine the size of the bag, so, if the kit’s too big, the bag’s too big.

Of course, we do always try to design the bags in such a way that the internal space is maximized to carry the most kit possible, for instance our new Reloader 55 (which is BAA carry on sized) uses a clever system on the telescopic handle so as not to be too intrusive into the bag itself, allowing optimum space for gear.

Maybe we should be looking at bringing Mary Poppins into our design team.

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