Tuesday, January 29, 2008

In Praise Of A Modest Sized Over The Shoulder Bag

Last night I set out to photograph my model railway crew. I knew I'd be indoors, needing a wide angle lens. I wasn't about to lug my 30 lb. backpack with it's long and zoom lenses, macro and tilt and a variety of backets.

I carried just the camera, but didn't have anything to put it in or protect it. I'm going to pick up a moderate sized over the shoulder bag, something that can lie on the ground open, with the equipment readily available, yet if it is picked up without closing it, I can safely transport the contents short distances without complete disaster.

While the backpack is ideal for carrying large weights long distances, it sucks at just about every other function. Unless you open it entirely, stuff at the bottom is hard to reach. The parts that get dirty when it's open are the same parts that go against your back when you carry it, it isn't safe for carrying unless entirely zipped, even for short distances. The weight of large lenses or my 1Ds2 cause the velcro dividers to rip out of position if there are any empty spots below - it really only works well when every container has it's full contents, then the top spot (usually for the camera) has enough support. You can't access your camera without taking the bag off your shoulder (unless you are looking at those fancy new rotating bags which seem too small for my whole bag's contents.

Something in the way of a shoulder bag that would hold camera and three lenses and a few accessories would be ideal.

It should be light in colour so lying in the sun it doesn't bake - not that this is as big an issue as with film, but still...

It should have a really good grip on the shoulder and be sufficiently padded that I can swing my tripod over the shoulder strap. It needs to be waterproof and I damn well don't want two clips to close it, one will be just fine. It better be useable while on my shoulder.


Ed Z said...

check out the Naneu Pro "Lima" (or one of the larger ones)


it meets all your criteria, and is just a great all-around bag. I use it 99% of the time unless I really need to carry a *lot* of gear (specific assignment etc...) but it easly holds my SLR with a 2.8 standard zoom attached, a med. sized telephoto zoom, and one or two smaller primes. I can even throw in a strobe or two if I forgo the larger zoom. Nicely padded shoulder strap, and easy access either from the shoulder or on the ground (it is nicely freestanding)

And the quality is very nice as well. But the best part is that it doesn't look like a stereotypical "camera bag" which is great for traveling when you don't want to scream "hey I'm carrying 10k worth of camera gear!". I've been using it for almost 2 years now, and I havent seen the need for any other "mid sized" bag.

chap said...

I'm a big fan of the Domke bags. I have an F2 and an F3. The F3 is what I carry nearly all the time generally with my 5D (no grip) and 3 or 4 small primes. It would probably be a tight squeeze with the 1d.

The F2 would easily carry it and several lenses, though. I used to get the 5D with grip and 4 or 5 lenses (including a 70-200/2.8) in there.


doonster said...

I'd suggest looking at courier bags such as from Timbuk2 or Crumpler. There are also photo versions. I use my Timbuk2 as a lightweight camera bag which protects to camera fine without padded dividers. There's a whole range of sizes to choose, most have options for padded shoulder strap. Definitely don't look like camera bags, either.

KC said...

I have heard good things about the crumpler bags. I have been thinking about getting the "6 million dollar" bag to use for the purposes that you describe. It is a nice size to carry a body and a few lenses. It also has the benefit of not looking like a camera bag to help avoid unwanted attention.

George Barr said...

I think the local camera store carries the Crumpler series which would make it easier to be sure of a good fit - thank you all for your suggestions, I have been checking them all out on the web. Now to do some serious testing.

Bruce J said...

I know that The Camera Store in Calgary has a large selection of camera bags. I found the Crumpler and Think Tank bags (which they have an extensive stock of) to be excellent and ultimately picked up a Crumpler "the six million dollar home" because it looks less like a stereotypical camera bag. That said, I think any reasonably informed camera thief would recognize that Crumpler makes camera bags so I'm not deluded into thinking I'm fooling anyone. I really like the bag, I've only two minor complaints. Firstly, the velcro closure is too noisy. That issue can be resolved by cutting a sheet of velcro in the same shape as the velcro on the bag and 'velcroing' it on. That way I can have no velcro, only the buckle to close, when noise could be an issue (church, plays, etc.); or not, as I please. The second issue is the strap. It's not bad, but I have straps that I would prefer to use and while the Crumpler's strap is removable, all my other straps attach to rings and the Crumpler's strap attaches through a thin slot which is incompatible with my other straps.

I'd like to offer one other option for you to consider: the E530 bag from Kinesis. It's versatility is unmatched: you can attach it to their modular belt system, you can use a shoulder strap with it, or my personal favourite--attaching it to the chest straps of a backpack with the Y303 adapter straps. I trekked in Nepal for nearly a month with this setup: a proper backpack (not a heavy photography beast) on my back with this bag hanging from the chest straps. In the bag I had an Elan 7 with a 17-40/4L attached and a 70-200/4L in the next compartment. A few extra rolls of film, LensPen, polarizers, etc. were also stuffed in there. It worked better than I ever expected. Mostly though, I use the bag to carry 2 or 3 spare lenses on a belt or over one shoulder and my camera with one lens mounted over the other shoulder, ready to shoot. I must say that this is how you'd have to use it because you can't fit a larger camera like the 1D series cameras or a smaller camera like the 40D with grip attached into the bag with a lens attached.

When I want to travel with a shoulder bag I grab the Kinesis when I can, but use the Crumpler if I require the larger bag. I prefer the Kinesis bag because it's curved back hugs the hips better and being 1/2 as thick as the Crumpler, it's got a really nice, thin, non-intrusive profile. The Crumpler is more for when I really want to pack the camera in the bag (i.e. I don't want to carry both a camera and a bag) and want more than one extra lens.

Good luck finding the perfect bag - it's not an easy quest!

P.S: I'm looking forward to the arrival of your book, I ordered it a couple of days ago. Between books authored Daryl Benson, Darwin Wigget and yourself, a suprising percentage of my books on photography are by fellow Albertans. Good luck with the project.

Roger said...

I recently got a Think Tank Urban Disguise 40. Large enough for three lenses (including a 70-200 L), two camera bodies, flash and a few other accessories. But the thing I really like about it is as it's name implies it doesn't look like a camera bag.

But it is black.