Saturday, 4 December 2010

In Search of the Perfect Camera Bag: Part Deux

Hello Folks,

After much deliberation, searching, reading of reviews and general though, I (think) I've settled the contenders for perfect camera bag. 

Frankly, none of them are perfect in my view, they all have their own pros and cons. However, if one of these fits what you're after, then it's a safe bet that it'll be the best one you can find.

Let's start the countdown with:

8. All Backpacks

I don't like backpacks. 

Therefore, they all come at the bottom of my list. They're cumbersome and inconvenient. They're terrible for travelling around cities because they leave all your equipment wide open to theft and you're forever knocking people in crowded places.

If you want to 'catch the photo', they're the worst possible bag to take with you. Simply because it takes so long to take the bag off, unzip it, take your camera out of the carefully wedged compartment, zip it backup, put it back on, get your camera ready and start shooting; you'll inevitably end up carrying your camera in your hand anyway, so what's the point in having the bag. This will also leave your camera extremely vulnerable to knocks, theft or just a careless drop by you. 

Backpacks are however, great if you're going on an epic hike up a mountain to get that perfect landscape shot. 

7. Anything made by Billingham

Do I really have to say it? Billingham are the Saab of the bag world.
Billingham bags are for people who have too much money (they cost a fortune!) and think they're buying a cool, classic and functional camera bag.

They are for photographers of a 'certain age', let's say; the kind of photographer who wears a 'photographers jacket' with a million pockets, or a bum bag. 

Anyway, I don't like them and this is my blog so they're at the bottom of the list.

6. The Domke F-6 

Many consider this to be the classic, the must have, the dependable, the best camera bag. 
I think it looks exactly the same as when it was first designed - 1973. 

It's a very functional bag, it will hold a DSLR and 4 Lenses no problem (though it won't hold a Canon L lens) and a flash gun etc.

It's made of durable ballistic nylon (but so are most bags nowadays) and it's quite rugged so it's favoured by photojournalists. 

It's also, for a camera bag, quite good value for money.

On the down side, it's looks are quite dated now and it's a bit small for newer, larger lenses. 

I also don't like the huge rectangular flap that covers the top like a roof, it's too big and makes things inside to hard to get too.

You can pick one up here, if you like that sort of thing:

The next five bag are my favourite ones and broadly on par with each other as far as I'm concerned. There is little bag I can say about them, but some are better than others.

5. Crumpler Brazillion Dollar Home - $295 (£190)

I love the design of Crumpler bags. They're simple, elegant and fun. 
This bag swallows an enormous amount of stuff. It'll take 2 full-frame DSLRs, 2 standard lenses (plus hoods), 1 long lens (plus hoods), 2 flashguns, a laptop and a bunch of other stuff you need. So that's pretty much all most photographers will need for a days shooting really.
I love it's bold orange inside and the very novel idea of 'silencers'. These are where you can fold away the velcro on the big flap so if you're somewhere (a church, perhaps) and you need to be a bit quiet, you can silence the ripping of the velcro. Great idea!

So, what's wrong with it? Well… £190? Are you joking? Sorry, Crumpler, that's too much.

4. ThinkTank Urban Disguise 50 V2.0 - $179 (£114)

This is a very sensible bag. very well designed, very simple but very effective.
It will comfortably carry a full frame DSLR plus 2-4 additional lenses, other stuff, plus a laptop.

I love the simple blackness to it. It certainly doesn't "look" like a typical camera bag, that's for sure.

I love the two large open pockets on the front - they're actually big enough to get a DSLR body in each, that's pretty impressive. 
In summary, this bag does the business, it does the business very nicely indeed. 

The trouble is, in trying to make it look less like a camera bag, they've made it look like a bag in disguise, which is exactly what it is.

I don't know about you but if I was a thief and saw someone with a large rectangular black bag, my first thought would be "there's something expensive in there". 

So for that, and the hefty price tag, it only makes it to number 4.

3. Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home - $145 (£92)

The 7 Million Dollar Home is much like the Brazillion Dollar Home but just a bit smaller. 
It will swallow 1 DSLR, 2 standard lenses, 1 prime lens, 1 long lens, 2 flash guns and a bunch of other stuff. Unfortunately, it won't take a laptop.
However, it has one up on the Brazillion for it's smaller size, which makes it easier to carry, easier to get around with, and easier to find stuff in. 

It also beats it on price, come in at nearly £100 less (that's loads!).

I love this bag. It's funky, it's fun, and it does what you need a bag to do. It's also not *too* expensive. 

2. Naneu Sahara 115F - either $110 (£70) or $162 (£103)

What a great bag! 

I love this design. It's unique, it's rugged, it's practical and it's well made. 
It's also an almost ideal size. The (well padded and well designed) removable inner section is very useful if you don't need to take all your photo stuff with you at once, but still want to take a cool bag with you. 

It will also easily swallow a substantial amount of equipment. Including: 2 DSLRs, mixture of 3 lenses, a flashgun, a laptop and a bunch of other stuff. 

I love the design, it's quite funky and has a couple of unique features which makes it number 2 on this list. 
The first feature is that it's expandable, it goes from 'thin' to 'huge', which is very useful. The second feature is the slot on the back for going over a handle on a trolley so you can pull it through airports or wherever. 
All these combine to make it the number two on my list of top camera bags.

Note: the only UK supplier I could find for these is B&H (click here for their site) and they have the black one on for £70 or the green one for £103. Other than the colour, they seem to be the same, so I'm not really sure why the price difference.

1. Tenba Messenger - $115 (£73)

Finally we make it to the number one slot. My favourite camera bag is this: the Tenba Messenger. 
If I drew my perfect camera bag, it would look pretty close to this.

Unfortunately, the above is the only photo available, but there is this handy video:

What can it hold?

2-3 Lenses
Other stuff

It's not so much the capacity that makes this bag stand out to me, but it's the overall package.

The capacity is about all I need from a bag, but the ability to carry a laptop as well is very useful. It's also the grippy, waterproof bottom; the rip-stop material it's made from; the metal buckles and clips; the handy little pockets on the outside; the top loading zip that means you don't have to open the whole flap to get to your stuff; and the breathable back so you don't get all sweaty, and the removable inside section.

It's also the range of colours it comes in. Not everyone wants a black bag, but if you do, they have it. My favourite is the chocolate one:

Also, at $115 (£73) it's one of the most reasonably priced bags around.

All these combine to make it my top bag.

I hope you have found this post useful in choosing a camera bag. Whatever you go for, just make sure it's what you want and that you're happy with it, don't just go with something because someone else tells you to.

Happy shooting!


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