Micro Lens Pouch
Some folks prefer camera bags, some prefer lens pouches and cases. The beauty of the latter is that you can toss your lenses into pretty much any bag, such as a backpack or messenger bag and they take up very little space, especially considering the size of most M lenses. The problem however, is that most lens pouches are designed for larger SLR lenses and/or are of questionable quality and protection. Leica provides leather padded lens cases with their lenses which are wonderful, if not a little on the large side - and doesn't help you if you have lenses from other manufacturers such as Zeiss or Voigtländer.
Fellow Leica shooter Todd Hatakeyama has developed the answer to these problems - the Micro Lens Pouch. While not designed specifically for M lenses alone (they also work well with other small lenses such as 4/3) they are the primary target. In fact, several sizing charts to properly size the Micro Lens Pouch to particular lenses are provided - which come in small, medium and large. We're going to take a look at this brand new accessory in this review.
Materials and Construction
What sets the Micro Lens Pouch apart from the rest (besides the aforementioned design to accommodate smaller lenses) is both the high quality of their construction and the very unique material they're made of. Most cheap pouches are made from low quality neoprene, leather or fabric which do little to really protect your lenses. Combined with poor workmanship they just look and feel cheap as well. Instead, the Micro Lens Pouch is made from a "specially-fabricated synthetic material, which has the look and feel of neoprene but provides more cushioning for greater protection." We'd say this is an understatement. Even the best current neoprene pouches (made by Zing!) don't exude the plushness and confidence of the Micro Lens Pouch and are generally made for larger SLR lenses.
The material resembles neoprene at first glance, but once you touch it - the difference becomes very clear. It's very smooth to the touch and almost feels like a gel. You get the immediate impression that you could drop a lens (or an egg for that matter) in such a pouch off the roof with little concern. In fact, that little voice in the back of your head might lead you to want to jump into a huge pile of this material. It's that cool.
The construction of the pouch is somewhat interesting in that there are two layers of the material - in effect, the pouch is doubled up. You could effectively turn it inside out and end up with exactly the same thing. Not sure if this would be useful; having a "reversible" pouch... But might be interesting in the future should additional colors or designs be introduced. Worth mentioning is the lovely material, being as smooth as it is - let's the lenses just slip in and out of the pouch with minimal friction and effort.
The closure of the pouches is via a thick, soft nylon drawstring that is kept tight with a high quality cinch closure. It's fast and easy to cinch the pouch closed (or get it open again). Containing no metal as might be the case with zippered pouches, there's nothing that can damage your lens inadvertently. As with any such solution however, you do need two hands to open and close the pouches (unlike say, a camera bag where lenses can simply be dropped in).
The stitching is very robust, looping seams tightly and completely from end-to-end. You won't find any gaps between stitches or exposed material edges here. Cheap neoprene pouches available from eBay are generally of a thinner neoprene material with wide-spaced stitching that often reveals the edges of the neoprene and can fail more readily. Here's a close-up of one popular eBay pouch for comparison:
The pouch material only comes in a dark grey with black stitching, drawstring and cinch closure. Simple, understated and won't get dirty looking like a lighter color might.
The three sizes that are offered, small, medium and large - will allow you to tailor your pouches to whatever lenses you wish to protect from the Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 (S) all the way up to the Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH (L). They can be ordered individually or in two- and three-packs containing multiple sizes. The difference in size from one to the next isn't huge but enough to custom fit to your lenses if you want to save as much space as possible. When choosing a size, consider the lens hood when attached. Obviously this won't matter on lenses with retractable hoods (such as the Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH) but most definitely will on beasts such as seen on the Summicron-M 28mm f/2 ASPH.
We'd like to see an even smaller size, perhaps an "extra small" for lenses such as the Voigtländer Color Skopars - which are downright tiny. Or perhaps a rectangular "body only" configuration. You could then stow an entire system in pretty much any bag, along with your toiletries and clothes for that weekend getaway, knowing full well that your suitcase would have to be run over by a truck before worrying about its contents. When we mentioned these ideas to Todd, he was one step ahead already and if things go well, we can expect these (and perhaps additional) versions.
Finally, mostly for fun but also out of sheer curiosity - we decided to go all Mythbusters-like on the Micro Lens Pouch. As you can see from the photo, we took a standard (American) 75w soft white lightbulb and placed it inside the (large) pouch. In the interest of full disclosure, we did place the lightbulb in a lightweight plastic sandwich bag so as not to get millions of glass particles and dust all over the pouch before testing. Then it got interesting...
We dropped the pouch containing the lightbulb from increasing one foot (1') increments onto a concrete surface until it broke... The problem was, we quickly ran out of tape measure and ability to go higher than 8'. We dropped it from 1' - laughable. Then 2' and again, nothing. Quickly going up to 3', 6' and finally 8' before having to give up on accuracy. Like the Mythbusters, we weren't stopping until something either broke or blew up. We tossed the pouch about 10' in the air and again, it landed without a peep from the lightbulb. It took a second toss into the air, reaching a height of approximately 12' before it landed and finally popped the lightbulb!
Obviously a lens is another matter as it has one thing the lightbulb distinctly lacks - mass. Nevertheless, this is a pretty impressive performance. We joked earlier about dropping an egg in the pouch but don't see any reason it couldn't survive a drop from several feet. The important thing is that the contents are protected from abrasion and corner-first impacts (for example) which typically cause the most damage when dropping something like a lens.
With all the new interest in Leica equipment these days, it's nice to see accessories that cater to this platform. And considering the cost of your average Leica gear and lenses, even more so see such a high quality product. Perhaps the icing on the cake is the very reasonable pricing of the Micro Lens Pouches. The protection they offer in light of this makes them essentially a "no-brainer" purchase. We heartily recommend these pouches for safely storing and transporting your lenses.
Where to Buy
The pouches can be purchased via the Micro Lens Pouch website or directly through the following links:
2-Pack (S & M)
3-Pack (S, M & L)