Photographer's Vest

A LONG time ago, Kate gave me this photographer’s vest for Christmas. I’m not a clothes horse, but it took decades for me to not feel self-conscious about wearing it.I finally did, though, last Columbus-Day weekend in Peterborough, New Hampshire. It was their annual “Artists’ Open Studios,” and I decided to take two small cameras: a Kodak Retina IIa and Panasonic Lumix ZS100.

Of course, I had to bring all their support gizmos too. But I wanted to keep my hands free while walking all over the place and handling peoples’ handiwork. So there’d be no camera bag this time.

Love at First Use

And I LOVED the freedom the vest gave me. Nearly all of its nearly two dozen pouches, pockets and attachment points were filled, but it almost felt like the vest wasn’t even on. I didn’t have to fight a bag strap that constantly slid off my shoulder. And when a camera strap tried to do so, I could “Velcro” it under an epaulet.

The vest kept everything you see here organized and easy to access:

Vest with contents

These items included:

  • iPhone (used to take the photo)
  • Lumix ZS100
  • Memory-card wallet
  • Extra battery
  • Retina IIa
  • B/W film
  • Pilot light meter
  • Series VI Wratten 23a filter (in press-on collapsible lens hood) for Retina
  • Series VI Yellow filter
  • Sunny-16 and Retina hyperfocal-distance reference cards
  • Vintage clockwork shutter-release (for hands-off Retina shots)
  • Cable release
  • Vintage Kodak tabletop tripod
  • Vintage rangefinder accessory
  • Lens cloth and brush
  • Pocket knife and mini Maglight
  • Pen
  • Cap and thin gloves
  • Open Studios Guide (not shown)
  • Artists’ business cards (not shown)

NOTE: I kept the Retina either on my shoulder or around my neck, and carried the Lumix ZS100 in one of the vest’s large front pockets (it was lighter than the Retina).

Not Expensive Either

As you see, the film camera generated most of the vest’s contents. And if you happen to be a new (or returning) film photographer– or anyone who needs to juggle lots of small things– consider one of these. The company that made mine seems to have migrated from clothing to camping equipment. But this vest (and similar designs from other companies) can be found online for from $10 to $60.

It’s a beautiful thing… and mine isn’t going back in the closet any time soon!

–Dave Powell is a Westford, Mass. writer and avid amateur photographer.

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