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Camera bags...

Discussion in 'General Equipment Chat & Advice' started by Geren, Aug 30, 2021.

  1. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    My current camera bag is no longer fit for purpose. Not only have two zippers come away, taking fabric with them but the innards are really far too soft and it doesn't really carry enough - one body, possibly 1 extra lens and one flash. I need something bigger, more robust, but light. Any makes models that anyone's aware of these days? It has been so long since I bought a new bag I feel as though I don't know where to start!
  2. IvorETower

    IvorETower Little Buttercup

    How much do you want to be able to carry? On the basis that one bag is never enough I can recommend some bags from Lowepro and Vanguard based on personal use. Are you looking for a shoulder messenger-style bag, backpack or something else?
  3. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

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  4. PentaxManiac

    PentaxManiac Well-Known Member

    I go for shoulder bags rather than backpacks: being a wheelchair user the latter are impractical. With that in mind, I've found bag buying frustrating in recent years because manufacturers seem to favour backpacks these days, except for the expensive likes of Billingham. I used to like a lot of the shoulder bags Lowepro made, in particular the Nova 190 AW is a great choice for a medium-sized selection of kit. These are sometimes advertised as available new on eBay but I'm not sure they're genuine.

    The most recent bag I bought was a Vanguard Veo 38 which I really like. This would take the gear you mention and more besides. There's a very big section along the bottom which can take one of Vanguard's tripods (they fold down very small) or a good selection of additional kit. I got mine on special offer but they are available on Amazon for £89 or, strangely, £69 if you order from Amazon EU rather than Amazon UK.
    Geren likes this.
  5. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    They're always a compromise, apart from Billinghams, which are the photographic equivalent of armoured personel carriers for both toughness and weight. They are priced on a similar scale as well...

    Leica and Rollei from right.jpg

    the least bad compromises that I've come across in recent years are the Tamrac Rally series. I have a 5 and a 7 at the moment and they're surprisingly tough and equally surprisingly light...

    Tamrac camera bags TZ70 TZ70 P1030611.JPG
  6. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    Thanks all. I should have said that I’m looking for a backpack to distribute weight evenly to mitigate against neck/shoulder problems. Kate that looks like a good option. And I like the price too! (Would love a Billingham but need a winning lottery ticket for that methinks!!!)
    Catriona likes this.
  7. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Choosing bags is always a not-quite-win activity. Best is to take the kit you want to carry down to a shop and try them out in a quiet period. Display bags tend to be full of paper so it is a bit of a phaff and not best done when the shop is busy. I've got the LowePro Nova type bags. I can't say they are very comfy to carry.
    Catriona likes this.
  8. SqueamishOssifrage

    SqueamishOssifrage Well-Known Member

    I was about to wax all lyrical about the Lowepro Slingshot series, wot I got two of, only to find out that it is now the Slingshot Edge, gone all up-market, including the price and loss of features. The original Slingshot series was a back-pack type, that by unclicking one strap could sling around as a shoulder bag for ease and speed of access. Surprisingly, it all worked rather well.

    They are still available on eBay, but I don't recommend that approach as they don't suit everybody so a trial run is essential.
    Geren likes this.
  9. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    [apologies in advance if there's any egg sucking education below, I just needed to write something to distract me from pain this morning]

    One quick query, is it for carrying gear to a location to then unpack and take shots, or, for wearing 'while at an event or on a walk and allows access to gear as needed', or both, and do you want space in it for non-camera stuff.

    (I'm mostly asking to give you things to think about when you look for a bag).

    My two main bags aren't big enough for your needs, and you can't buy them any more (how helpful am I), but I love them. They're good backpacks, have a bottom camera compartment, and a top compartment for 'other stuff'. One is 16 litres and the other 22 litres in capacity. They're Lowepro Photo Hatchbacks. Here's a review for the 22L one.


    Here's the camera compartment on the 16L one.


    And the 22L one.


    What I like is that they have room for other stuff in the top, so can be used a day packs. I can wear them, carry food, a light jacket, another lens, gloves, etc. in the top compartment. The bottom compartment opens on the side against your body, which means no one's just unzipping it and running off with the contents. Also, they don't look obviously like camera bags.

    What is less convenient, is that you have to take the backpack off to change a lens, get a new battery out, etc. I've learned to work with this.

    In the 22L, I can put a 7d2 (or 6d, or EOS R+adapter) with the 24-105 attached, another full frame lens of a physical length similar to the 24-105, and batteries, lens caps, etc. I often carry the 70-200 in it's soft bag in the top compartment if I want it with me. I can at a push get a flash in. The 16L is really just for one camera and some batteries, but if I'm out with the EOS-M series then I can fit a whole bunch more in there obviously.

    They both have built in rain covers (attached and hidden in the base, you pull them out and over the bag, I get a lot of use out of them).

    I also bought a Lowepro Fastpack 350, which is a front/side opening backpack with a separate compartment on top and a laptop (stroke tablet) compartment between the bag and the body. Here's a Wex review, https://www.wexphotovideo.com/blog/reviews/lowepro-fastpack-350-review/

    As you can see in that review, you can store a 70-200 mounted on a camera, if you want. I learned quickly it was too big for me as an 'all day wear', and if I was just moving gear from one place to another for something else, then I didn't need a backpack. At events or crowded places, it sticks out too far and makes moving around very difficult. And one problem with all backpacks, they're awkward to carry in the hand should you need to move through narrow spaces.

    I have a Canon 10EG Deluxe Gadget Bag

    (amazon picture, this does not represent the current packing style of my bag, which is mostly empty and covered in dust)

    which I bought early on when I thought I needed one, which is handy for storage and for when I want to move quite a bit of kit. I also have a bag for carrying lighting equipment (because I obviously own a bunch of light stands and light modifiers I've never used). Lastly, I own a messenger bag style, which I've used twice, once I hated, and the last time it worked quite well but I was sat unmoving for most of the time watching horse jumping so it fit in better than a backpack would have.

    I have a friend who has tried,

    1. sling style bags with one strap that you can 'spin around' your body to open. He hated it. Killed his shoulder when it had anything more than one camera in and was less useful than a backpack.
    2. a big backpack with just camera gear space, but he never wore it, and ended up using it for storage in the house, because it was just too heavy to walk around in.

    For me, I'm now working on this basis,

    1. I need a bag I can wear all day that has just enough gear for that event / day and the 22L lowepro can be made to work, I've been out with that bag, two DSLRs, the 70-200 and the 24-105, but you need to compromise on how much you put in the lower compartment and how much you put in the top.
    2. I need a bag I can use to shift lots of gear from one place to another (like when going away for a few days in the car), and I use the Canon bag and the backpacks stuffed beyond carriable status, and then pair them down when I get there.
    3. I don't need a bag I can carry two bodies, three lenses and a tripod with me at all times.

    I like the Lowepro bags, they're good quality, but they're not cheap (probably around the middle of the price range), but they work for what I do.

    So I would ask,

    1. do you want to wear it all the time with everything you need or
    2. is it for moving gear around
    3. is it both those things (this is a tough ask on the bag and the body)
    4. how do you want to get access to the gear while you're wearing/carrying the bag
    5. do you want just camera gear or would a non-camera compartment help

    Photographers with bag purchase regret do sell them on ebay from time to time (often in very good condition). You can buy the Photo Hatchback bags from Hong Kong still it seems,


    which is about what I paid for mine (£65) but you can't get anything like it now at that price from a name brand. Lowepro's website has a good long list of bags, none of which fit every purpose (it's almost like they design them that way so you have to buy more than one), and is a good way to see what form factor you like before finding cheaper options.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2021
  10. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

  11. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    Wow, thanks for that very detailed reply Tony! Actually you've given me food for thought and I've assessed what I already own to see what the 'gap' is.

    I own four items for lugging camera gear around at the moment.

    A rolling case which holds an immense amount of gear but which isn't as portable as you might imagine and although it works brilliantly for going from my studio to a shoot by car where I'm going to be working indoors, that's not something I need very often.

    A small shoulder bag that fits one old crop frame camera and its kit lens which I was given and which I think is neither use nor ornament.

    A Manfrotto backpack (AP Monthly comp prize) - much loved for when I was at art school as it carried a full frame DSLR with 24-105mm lens attached, flash, batteries, cards etc, laptop, note and library books, lunch, train pass, kitchen sink in the top part and was not too bulky for public transport crushes. It just doesn't hold enough gear for a proper shoot. I'll be keeping this though and it will be my 'walkabout' bag because I can wear one camera and keep a second in the bottom compartment quite comfortably.

    The old, broken, knackered, flumped Canon backpack that I'm looking to replace with something just a tiny bit larger and more flexible.

    So what I'm looking for is something I can wear on my back comfortably to carry gear to a photoshoot when that photoshoot is somewhere I'm going to need to walk to. I don't need it to carry *everything* but I want to be able to keep my options open and would like to have room for 2 bodies, pref. with lenses attached, and perhaps another one, maybe two lenses as well. Flashgun. batteries, cards, reflector/s. I don't mind having to take the backpack off to access the gear. I don't need a 'non gear' compartment. I need something that isn't too rigid but which is more rigid than my old bag has become (which is a bit like carrying around a marshmallow).

    One of my existing clients is a bag designer. I wonder if she'd do me a camera bag?!
    EightBitTony likes this.
  12. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    I've got to say my own favourite for years was a smallish (narrow) canvas backpack, which was comfortable to wear and could be easily accessed for camera and equipment required for a day out.
    I see a fair amount of snazzy canvas backpacks on offer and must admit, they are more inspiring than the obligatory black.
    You don't want something heavy before you pack it! I think the ones that taper towards the top are kinder on shoulder and neck.
    You can always customise compartments or simply padded wraps.

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  13. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    I think @Catriona's first suggestion might be the thing then. The cheap ones are very thin and soft.

    Unfortunately, the type of bag in question is often described as a 'Pro' bag, doubling the price tag. Amazon Basics do a great range of stuff, and although I don't own any of their bags, the stuff I buy seems to be reasonable.


    I have no idea if K&F are any good, but this seems reasonable too.


    Another Amazon Basics one

  14. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    Stylish hat and full change of clothes optional.

    Geren likes this.
  15. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

  16. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    If the current bag was the size and type you need (before falling apart), I would suggest looking at the websites of the retailers who regularly advertise in AP for a current equivalent. Most now quote the internal measurements as well as the external ones.

    Many years ago I decided to buy camera bags based upon how much size and weight I was prepared to carry, rather than keep on buying larger and larger ones that I ended up never using because I got fed up carrying them.

    For the last 30 years I have used cheap camera shoulder bags that sell for £20-£25 (usually from Jessops), and am now on my third one that is 6 or 7 year old. The original could hold a Pentax MX body (very compact), with an attached Tamron 28-200, a Pentax 50 mm, Vivitar 19 mm, a hand held light meter, a polarising filter, 4 rolls of Kodachrome and a small 'lipstick' type lens dusting brush.
    The current version holds a Pentax K-5 APS-C body (much larger than the MX body), plus an attached Tamron 18-250 OR Sigma 17-70, a Sigma 10-20, a folding rubber lens hood, a spare battery, 2 filters and the same lens dusting brush.
    I've never carried a flash unit, but a small one would fit in one of the pockets at either end of the bag.

    If I know I will need a different lens, all of the other ones I own will fit if I remove one of the standard ones, apart from a larger 80-400 that won't fit in the bag and comes out for occasional special trips.

    Beware expensive bags that make a fashion statement and shout 'valuable kit inside'.
    Geren likes this.
  17. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    Oh yes! I hadn't thought about where I was going to keep my heels and makeup bag either.
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  18. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    Brilliant! I'd acutally already looked at the K&F Concept bag - can't make my mind up if this is a brand that's 'here to stay' or if it's just cheap stuff with a fancy logo and a less cheap price. Does that makes sense? I quite like the look of the Amazon Basics one at the top although is it my imagination, does it look TINY on that silhouetted bloke? Is he some kind of giant or was it just a terrible photoshop job?
  19. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    If this one hadn't fallen to bits (and to be fair it has worked VERY hard for the last fifteen years or so), I wouldn't be looking to buy a new one so in many ways a direct replacement would be fine (but it's no longer available) except I've always felt it would be just that bit better if I could get a second body in there as well as the stuff I usually want with me. I've mainly got round it by wearing a camera around my neck and keeping the second in the bag, which is fine if I'm in the streets and walking on even pavements/roads. But for instance, at the weekend I was doing a shoot in the woods and we ended up walking in a shallow stream (in because the the rocks in the stream were easier to deal with than the mud at the side) and I'd have preferred all my gear in the bag out of harms way in case I fell. Which is something I seem to do quite a lot!

    I think your commnet about 'fashion statement' and 'valuable kit inside' is very valid indeed and is why I'm veering towards Tony's suggestion of the Amazon Basics version which could be anything and doesn't shout 'potential source of income' for someone.
  20. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    I got around the problems of having a camera draped round my neck when going out in bad weather or down to the beach.
    I borrowed hubby's jacket (he had enough of them not to notice) and hid the camera under the front. Then it was a quick fish it out to take shots then tucked back inside again afterwards. Yes, it made me a suspiciously pregnant shape but I didn't care!

    PS As for a fashion statement indicating something valuable inside? I would assume the opposite! Ha!

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