Something happened in the Japanese camera industry between the time I was a kid working in a camera shop and now - when I am a geezer working in a camera shop. The wonderful skill of encasing cameras has been lost. Or at least it has been moved elsewhere.
When we sold Pentax Spotmatics and Minolta SRT 101 cameras they were always accompanied in their boxes with a standard lens and a leather case. The cases were as sharp as the lenses. The leather work was precise, the fit of the case was tight, and the little details like plush lining and snaps or release fittings were top-quality. These ever-ready cases sometimes meant that the cameras were never ready, but at least they could travel slung around a sweaty tourist neck and protect the contents.
Nowadays you get the camera, a handful of cables and an opportunity to go try to find a bag that will fit the damn thing. This is a boon to the bag manufacturers like Think Tank, Lowepro, Tamrac, and Kata and to be fair when you get the right bag for your new camera it can be a beautiful and functional thing. And some of the tougher bags that hold pro bodies and lenses are really way better at protecting the gear than the old black leather ever-ready.
But elegant? No. The little ones can look like hooker's handbags and the big ones can look like upholstered apartment blocks. There are even ones that look like satchel charges. Oog.
All praise to the Leica people. The cases they sell - separately, it must be said - for the D-lux and V-Lux and X series cameras are superb - all that leather work was and should be. Their M series cases are still the epitome of the ever-ready and I would be willing to bet that the same could be said for S-series cases if there is such a thing. They may have been forced to give up their seat to a clown on the tram with the X-2 cameras that come in colours - apparently there are to be camera protectors, which I take to mean half-cases, in the same pop colours that grace the actual bodies. Let us hope that the the aesthetic is rewarding.
And Hooray for Fuji - I've got a leather case for my X-10 that is all I could want for retro style - and they do similar ones for their X-100, X-Pro1 and XE-1. Their straps are well-finished and the whole thing hangs right.
On a reflective note - perhaps the demise of the fitted leather case happened when the leather workers who worked in Japan retired. They would have been of a generation who worked in leather for military cases prior to '45 and would have been a boon to the camera industry after then. Let us hope a new lot of leather artists arises.