The Never-Ready Case

on April 16, 2016

Well, that's what we used to call 'em. And we cursed them and flapped about with them and broke them and threw them away for years.

But we still carried them about - and we still expected every Japanese camera we bought to have one. By and large, every one did. And then the age of digital came and...

And now you get a wonderful camera in the box you buy. With a battery, charger, computer cable, silver metal triangle rings, a strap of sorts, and an instruction book. In some cases you get a lens cap or a CD with software on it. But you don't get a never-ready case.

I can't say quite why, though part of it may be the demise of the Asian leather workers who used to stitch the things. Or perhaps the herds of camera case cattle have disappeared. Or the fickle hand of fashion has finally branded them so inexcusably amateur and unkewl as to exclude them from the market. Possibly all three - except for the fact that we can still get them, we can still use them, and By Golly, in some cases we still need them!

Every manufacturer of note still does supply the NRC in some form - even if it is just a half-case that snugs around the body of the camera. Some of these cases are exquisitely made of exotic leathers and carry inspiring prices. Some are well-designed. Some are just as bad as ever they were.

The half-case deserves special notice here - it is the photographic equivalent of those gloves with the fingers cut off the ends. There are few people who really need those gloves - professional ticklers or snipers are the only two that come to mind - but they have been made to look clever in motion pictures and advertisements and people seem to buy them. Perhaps the machinery that knits gloves has worn out and only goes so far down the fingers...

The classic NRC has a leather flap on the front over the lens. This was nearly always embossed with some sort of identifier for the brand. Zeiss Ikon and Kiev made them of pressed leather cups, other people of stitched cylinders, and Praktica tried to get away with a moulded plastic bucket. Yes, you may say " ick " now if you wish. The lens section was a compromise between protection and size - the smaller ones made the case so much easier to sling round. But then you had to dive into a separate leather box for a lens hood when the time came to shoot the picture. Good photographers were also good jugglers.

The essence of the NRC, apart from the frustration engendered when you put the camera into portrait mode and the flap swung around over the lens, was the close fit and protection it offered. You could carry a camera over a shoulder and not look like a Guy or a Post Office messenger. And the better NRC's from the better manufacturers made a status and fashion statement of their own. Together with the bad language when the front flap fell off, it set you apart.

For the retro adventurer in the Sony, Olympus, Fujifilm, Leica, Nikon, and Canon game, we recommend that you come and talk to the staff at the shop. There are a number of alternatives made right now - including Promaster - to get you back into this sort of camera carriage. You'll have to look out your own safari suit, however.