BACK WHEN I STARTED OUT road-testing camera gear (no, you don’t need to ask), in one particular review I wrote something about the packaging. The editor of the day, wielding the red pen (literally back then), told me in no uncertain terms that such details were an irrelevancy, and I would do better to concentrate more on the main topic. Yes, boss.
I’ve never mentioned packaging in a review again, but I’ve always inwardly commended any manufacturer who quite clearly went to a bit of effort in this department. Of course, I’ve been fortunate enough to unbox quite a few cameras along the way and – call me strange – I never tire of the thrill, especially if the test sample happens to be brand-spanking new and I’m the first to use it. It’s true that in the past the box was pretty much just a container to hold everything in, and in the bad old days it was basically just a light card wrapper around a nasty lump of polystyrene.
But things have changed. Apart from the environmental considerations which have seen the polystyrene replaced by some ingenious origami with paper-based products to keep everything in place, there’s an emphasis on both style and design. Apple probably started it – those crisp white boxes are elegantly simple and oh-so-cool – and quite a few camera makers have followed suit, creating packaging that not only looks wonderful, but incorporates many clever design elements. So now – as evidenced by numerous U-Tube videos – unboxing a new camera, especially a higher-end model, is something of an occasion. It helps that there’s quite a few more components to include compared to the film days, but camera packaging has become a lot more than just a box.
As in many other categories of consumer products, it’s designed to make a statement. On the surface level – most notably with the styling – it commends you on your choice of brand and model, and reassures you that you’ve made the right decision. After all, it’s saying subliminally, just how good is your taste in cameras? Then, as you begin unpacking, the experiential element promises that exciting and rewarding times with your new purchase lie ahead. If you’re having this much fun even before you switch on the camera, just imagine how fulfilling ownership of this beautifully packaged object is going to be.
So we’re not just talking about the physical packaging here, but what it suggests beyond the paper and printing… which is, we think this product is important enough to wrap it up with all this care and attention because you, as the purchaser, are important to us too.
Not surprisingly, I’m now a bit of an expert on this subject, so I feel well qualified to commend a number of brands on their packaging… in particular, Fujifilm (for the X Series), Sony (notably for the Alpha 7 models) and Olympus (for OM-D). Even the entry-level OM-D E-M10 gets the five-star treatment with its boxing, and the deliciously understated but sharply smart styling is all part of the hugely appealing image Olympus has fashioned for its OM-inspired mirrorless cameras.
But the pick of the packers has to be Leica. Elsewhere in this issue you can read our review of the new Leica Q full-35mm sensor fixed-lens camera where I’ve steadfastly resisted the temptation to mention the packaging, but I’m going to let loose here. The outer carton is finished in the house style of silver with a black insert in which is a keyline rendition of what lies within. Open the lid, and the sides splay out like the petals of a blossoming flower to reveal a black inner carton. There are two front flaps secured with magnetic latches. Opening these reveals what looks like a mini set of drawers. The camera itself sits in a handsome box at the top – which continues the silver and black colour scheme – while below is a shallow drawer (complete with a cord-type handle) which contains the instruction manual and various other documentation, including a little brochure rather excitingly titled “Your benefits as a Leica customer” (owning a new Leica camera is presumably one of them). A second, deeper drawer contains all the accessories and, inside, everything has its own little fabric drawstring bag… in black, of course, and emblazoned with the classic Leica logo in silver.
It’s all quite lovely, and while you wouldn’t expect something costing just shy of $6000 to come in a recycled plastic shopping bag, it’s the attention to the little details that make this ensemble something truly special. Oh, and the camera is pretty good too.
Paul Burrows, Editor