Friday, April 17, 2009

fascinated with camera bags (and what's inside them)

So imagine my interest in a recent post over on Char's Ramblins... blog responding to a post on the Ink on my Fingers blog.

I have a bit of a bag fetish to begin with. I can't seem to find the right camera bag. At the moment I have two - a backpack and a shoulder bag. The backpack is great for when I need to haul everything and a tripod (and it has a laptop sleeve which is convenient). The shoulder bag holds just about as much, minus a lens or flash, but is a bit smaller and therefore better suited for walking around.

Both bags are good, but there are drawbacks to each.

The backpack holds a ton and makes carrying the weight a snap, and it has a holster for a tripod, but what it lacks is miscellaneous pockets for holding smaller things like card wallets, extra batteries, filters, etc. The backpack I have is a Kata R-103. It seems like Kata listened to a lot of the complaints about the lack of extra storage so in their new version of the laptop carrying camera backpack, the R-104, they added removable side pockets that mount on the outside of the backpack.

The shoulder bag I use is a Lowepro Stealth Reporter D300 AW. It holds pretty much everything I need if I am out for a day shooting (walking around the city, etc.) but it screams camera bag. I can load it up with all this and it fits comfortably in place:

  • Canon 30d + battery grip with 24-70mm f/2.8 with hood reversed
  • 70-200mm f/4 lens with hood reversed
  • 17-40mm f/4 with hood unmounted
  • wall wart battery charger+ extra battery
  • CF card wallet from gepe (the 4 card one)
  • holga film camera with a few rolls of film

When it's fully loaded it's pretty heavy, but it all fits.

Now, to what I need...

Even though those two bags can carry pretty much what I'd need if I were out shooting, neither bag works if I am out shooting AND sightseeing for the day. There's really no room in either bag for other stuff like a book, a map, raincoat, etc. etc.

So that gets me back to the posts on Ramblins and Ink on my fingers.

Over on Flickr there are a few groups that contain pictures of the contents of peoples bags. There are even groups that are specifically for camera bags. I've been checking out these groups to get an idea of what everyone else is using for bags and what they can hold.

The 'What's In My Bag' cluster

The 'What's In My Camera Bag' cluster

At one time I had a crumpler bag - the 5 million dollar home I think. It was a great bag for a camera+lens but not much else. Recently I saw a couple shots of the 7 million dollar home and that looked like it could handle what I wanted, so I made my way over to the local camera shop to check it out.

The bag definitely held everything that I had in my current shoulder bag, and it even distributed the load better due to the wider shoulder strap and the fact that I could wear it like a messenger bag, but again, with all the gear in tow I couldn't put anything else in the bag.

I must have spent 20 minutes arranging and re-arranging all the bits and pieces of my kit into that bag.

now, where am I going with this...

...I have come to the unfortunate realization that there is no such thing as the perfect bag. I don't think I'll ever find a bag that can hold my whole kit and still leave room for extras - there's just not a bag big enough for that. And even if I did find a bag big enough, would I really want to lug it around?

When it comes to bags and the things they'll carry I need to remember the mantra of less is more. I don't need to bring every piece of gear I have with me when I'm out shooting. I've been having a lot of fun just wandering around with my Holga and an extra roll of film (no bag necessary), and you can't get much more light weight than that.

So maybe it's not the perfect bag that I should be looking for. Maybe I need to just remember that the important thing about photography is just being there, not being there with the perfect piece of equipment.


Julie said...

i LOVE my camera backpack. I seem to cram in a lot more than is advertised for it to fit.

I have the Tamrac Adventure 9 backpack

with some rearranging I have managed to fit.

Canon 5D with battery grip
canon 24-70 f2.8 L
canon 17-40 f4 L
canon 70-200 f4 L
Canon 100mm macro f2.8
Canon 580EX

that is just in the camera part of the bag. I also have all my hoods and flash diffusers in the top of my bag. Where I can sometimes cram my jacket as well if I get warm while out shooting. I don't own a laptop so the laptop sleve is where I shove my wallet (so i don't have to carry a purse) and maps, also my asthma medication, Lol.


One thing I forgot to mention. I am lucky enough to have a husband to carry this beast for me when we are walking for long periods.. Cause it is REALLY heavy.

Burnt Mill Candles and Soap said...

you should check out Crumpler Bags
I sure wish those were around when I went to photo school and bought all my bags.
I worked at a camera store for 4 years that sold these and I can say they rock and people would drive from far away to buy those bags.

Josh Jones said...

I totally agree with you, picking out a bag is extremely difficult, I use the Canon 200eg, its cheap, fairly light, and good enough sized to carry my two bodies, 4 lenses, filters, and a flash, check it out on amazon they are very popular

Christopher said...

have you tried, or seen anyone try, setting up a modular system.e.g. a bag for flash and gear, a bag for outdoor gear etc.
I am an amateur/weekend warrior but I find that I am constantly unhappy with my bags as well.

Also . . . what about the "carry my camera everywhere I go and have what I need to catch those once-in-a lifetime surprise shots, while not looking like I'm carrying a camera or setting it down and forgetting it somewhere" bag?

Like the blog. I subscribed.

Matt Allen Photography said...

Hey Chris - I tried the pseudo modular approach with the first Crumpler bag I had. Since it was so small I ended up getting a lowepro lens case for my 70-200 that, by way of the loops on the outside of the Crumpler bag, attached to the bag itself. It ended up being very akward though.

now as for the "carry my camera everywhere I go..." bag I think that comes down to more of a question of "how small of a camera can I get that will still let me shoot with full control" question.

But that's a whole different conversation - in the end if I only needed a single camera+lens combo I would go back to the 5 million dollar home from Crumpler - that was a great bag, but just too small for me to use if I wanted to carry anything more.

Of course if I only take my Holga it's so lightweight that I can throw it into any bag, but I know I'll want my dSLR if I am on a trip so that brings me back to square one.