Some 20 months ago, quite by chance, I walked into the Greek Leica importer’s store in central Athens. Spiros Skiadopoulos, whose name hangs above the store, is a long-time Leica enthusiast and runs a successful college for budding photographers which he calls the Leica Akademia. Unlike the Leica Akademies around the world, this is not a Leica-sponsored affair, however. But, instead of catering for the seasoned and well-heeled Leica enthusiast, the Athens Akedemia trains young people, many of whom are unable to find work in the crisis-ridden country. The enthusiasm is palpable. Some of these students go on to be professional photographers and will never forget the Leica name.
On that day, 7 May 2015, I met Spiro’s daughters, Denise and Natalie, who manage the store. They told me that later in the afternoon one of their customers would be bringing in some camera straps he had just started making. Thus began a friendship with that customer, Evris Papanikolas. I didn’t meet him on that day because I had an appointment over the Akademia to meet Spiros for the first time. But I had expressed my interest and Evris was soon in contact with me and sent over some straps for evaluation.
This was the beginning of TieHerUp straps, a startup which has gone on to great things. Evris’s products are now stocked throughout the world and have been approved by such luminaries as Thorsten von Overgaard, our own Jonathan Slack and bloggers including Steve Huff. Sales have boomed and Evris, now based in Cyprus instead of Greece, is turning his hand to other leather products for computers and cameras.
I met Evris in person for the first time last October when he visited London and he, Ivor Cooper of Red Dot Cameras and I went to dinner at Malmaison in Charterhouse Square. During earlier discussions, Ivor had shown Evris a Leica soft leather pouch designed for the D-Lux and Ivor suggested a larger version, capable of handling the M range, could be a success. Evris went back to Cyprus with the idea buzzing around in his head and this is the result.
His new Soft Nappa Pouches are not a new idea. Leica and other manufacturers have sold them from time to time, usually for a specific camera (such as the D-Lux as mentioned), and the concept has a lot of merit. Half- and full-cases, which are always popular, have the disadvantage of being camera specific. A soft leather pouch, on the other hand, is generic and can serve for years as you buy and sell cameras.
Evris sent me a black pouch which I have been using for several weeks. It is designed primarily for Leica M cameras but will accommodate any mirrorless camera of a similar size. The nappa leather is very fine, glove-like if you will, and has a double thickness of leather to add to protection. The camera (including a small lens, more on that later) is simply placed inside and the flap is wrapped around to form a secure housing.
A narrow leather tie is then wound around to keep the pouch closed. Unlike earlier Leica designs, however, the securing tie is fixed to the body of the pouch — the bit that holds the camera — rather than to the flap. I would prefer to have the strap fixed to the flap so that it can be pulled tighter more easily. Just a small point but this doesn’t detract from the overall utility and effectiveness of the design. Evris, however, explains the reason for this. He fixed the tie to the underpart of the pouch and not the flap because it is a generic pouch for a camera with interchangeable lenses. The versions with the tie fixed to the flap were intended for smaller, flatter cameras.
The pouch is great for transporting a camera, especially if you are carrying a second body. It works if you are using a backpack or general-purpose bag as opposed to a camera bag (such as a Billingham) with protective inserts. Just wrap up the camera and throw it in the bag. It is far preferable (and more aesthetically pleasing) than an old sock or a spare tee shirt.
Click on the images below to enlarge
I’ve tried the pouch with a variety of Leica lenses. It handles and M with a 35mm Summicron (without hood) without problem. A 50mm Summicron also fits but the Summilux is a tight fit — as is the 35mm Summilux with its screw-on hood. The pouch accommodates a Panasonic GX8 with pancake lens or an Olympus PEN-F with 17mm f/1.8. Although I haven’t had the chance to try it, I have no doubt it will handle most Fujifilm bodies up to the X-T2, probably with the 35mm f/1.4 (again without hood….).
All in all this is a very useful accessory for any enthusiast. It is superbly made and makes a great impulse buy or present for another photographer. It comes in black, red and beige (called Whisky) and costs £115 including VAT.
The UK stockist for the pouch and other TieHerUp products is Red Dot Cameras in Goswell Road, London. I am grateful to Francis and Ash of Red Dot for the excellent product shots used in this review.