My current selection of camera bags:
Is there a Perfect Camera Bag?
As many photography sites will attest, getting the perfect photography bag for different setups is a trial in patience and persistence. I, as most photographers seem to be doing, as looking for a camera bag that would give me the gear I need to carry, with the most ease of access and the least amount of weight, but still give substantial protection of my camera gear. Not much to ask of a camera bag. Not to mention the cost of these bags is not cheap. I have not found the perfect setup yet, but have come close with a few bags for particular situations.
This is the first camera bag I bought and it is a medium size bag that works well for a day’s outing or hike. It will carry a fullsize DSLR with several lenses and accessories. There is a full rain cover hidden in the bottom. The downside is there really isn’t any space for carrying a fleece or windbreaker. I end up attaching these to the top with the tripod bungees. I bought a Lowepro side pouch for a small water bottle and then use the belt strap to carry another water bottle in a holder. I put food in a baggie in the front zipper pouch. I used to carry my tripod on the back with the attached pouch and bungees but always felt that the pack was pulling me backwards and pulling at my shoulders. Alas, I saw a tip from RC Concepcion on Dtowntv.com where he slips his small travel tripod through the front side of his straps. He felt this made the tripod more easily accessible. I used this trick on an 11 mile day hike in the Smoky Mountains and found it really relieved the pull and weight on my shoulders. Thus, I now carry my Benro Travel Angel Tripod in this manner. So in short, this backpack, with some modifications, is well made and works great for day use.
As with all LowePro products this one is very well made and designed. This would be considered a large back pack. I bought this back pack for when I am car camping and when after a plane flight, I am using a rental car for my travels. It works great for this purpose as it will still fit in larger airplanes overhead bins and it has a padded exterior pouch for a computer. My computer has a 17′ screen and fits snugly in this compartment. I can also carry several lenses, camera, accessories and my 2 external hard drives, plus computer in this case. If I am car camping or traveling it will also fit my Nikon 600mm lens inside. For me though, the weight is not something I want to carry for long and, thus, this camera bag is mostly resigned to car camping. For air travel, I now use the Think Tank International Rolling bag.
This is a smallish rolling bag. I have to attest that though it says it is and International bag, it will not fit in the overhead of small domestic and international flights. I have had to talk to flight attendants when they want to have me put my bag curbside and tell them that there is thousands of dollars of camera gear in the bag. The most that they have assured me is that they will tell the loading attendants and have them put the bag in last. If you remove the standard foam padding that comes with the bag and insert the lower profile padding, you can fit up to a 17′ screen computer in the bag on top of the camera gear. So when flying smaller domestics, I make sure to take my computer off the top of the gear and take it with me to my seat and I also make it a point to have a personal discussion with the flight attendant. So far no problems, as the camera gear is very well padded. But still!
All that being said, when you want to travel light and efficient with gear and computer this is the go to bag. It rolls with easy and pleasure through terminals and, as with all Lowepro products, is well made and well thought out.
I have to say that I bought each of these toploaders hoping to have a quick chest bag solution for reaching my camera when out skiing or hiking. The design is rugged, with hidden rain covers, but there are several issues that I have with these bags and am not sure I will keep them. I bought the Toploader 50 for a Nikon DX7000 with 18-200 kit lens for quick access when hiking. I bought the 4 point harness, a Lowepro version- not very good and a Think Tank version which was a little better. The problem is that no matter how tight I cinch the harness the camera bag never sits flat against my chest, but leans out and away at the top. I have read reviews from several men who feel the same way. If I am skiing powder or the woods with either of these toploaders, I feel it pulls at my center of gravity and puts additional strain on my shoulders. I am just not happy with the feel. In addition, the Toploader 75, I bought to use with a Nikon D700 and a Nikon 70-200 f2.8. You cannot add battery grip and easily get the camera out of the bag. Also the bag is not long enough to fit the 70-200 in with the lens hood attached. You can reverse the lens hood or keep the lens hood off and just use the lens cap, but this defeats the purpose of having ready access. If it is cold out, the last thing you want to be fiddling with is a lens cap or lens hood. I bought a Think Tank Belt and have tried wearing the packs at my side, which works somewhat, but doesn’t address the other issues of getting the cameras out of the bags for easy use. It could just be me, because, adventure Photographer, Micheal Clarke, uses the Toploader Pro 75 Aw in some pretty wild places.
This is one of the first camera bags I bought. It is a small one camera with lens bag, plus some small accessories. It also has a built in raincover. Though I have not used this bag as much as I thought I would, I am going to give it another go this winter and see if it works better for me than the above mentioned Toploaders. I will have to get back to you on my results.