Photo gear back packs and bags
on the net:
choosing a back pack or bag for your photography gear is a highly personal one, and most photographers will have a different opinion, but again it comes down to what suits YOUR equipment and style the best.
personally MY requirements are:
mainly for urban use for public transport travel and ability to carry in cabin baggage on planes (see travel)
I don't want Nikon/Canon/Olympus or even Lowepro emblazoned across it to tell everyone this might be something worth stealing.
light (< 1.5kg):
my camera gear is heavy enough, I don't want it even heavier by carrying a heavy bag
not to mention issues with carry on luggage weight limits
strong enough that its not going to tear or have the straps or handles break
weatherproof enough to at least withstand a rain shower
cushioning on the bottom to prevent damage when placed on the ground accidentally forcefully
able to carry at least 2 dSLR camera bodies with lenses ATTACHED and each rapidly accessible
this means, I don't want to have to open the whole front of the backpack up for everyone else to see what's in there, an thus I prefer access through the top of the bag.
I don't use gigantic big heavy lenses (the biggest I use is perhaps a Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L with TC14 attached).
many bags are designed for a body attached to a full frame 70-200mm f/2.8 lens which usually mean the bag is designed as a front-access backpack which is not very efficient for my style.
to fit 2 bodies with medium lenses mount and stored vertically, interior dimensions need to be at least 30cm wide (35 if two pro bodies) by 16cm deep by 23-24cm high (to accommodate 135mm f/2+TC14 or the ZD 50-200mm)
comfortable enough to sling over my shoulder but able to be carried as a back pack when not in "photo mode"
perhaps the ability to carry a 12" laptop
ideally be able to attach a tripod and not have it interfere with access to cameras and not be rear mounted where it becomes a hazard to pedestrians.
preferably, able to use a combination lock onto the zips to further deter opportunistic theft - one that cannot be easily cut with a knife.
my current bag for urban/short hikes with 2 bodies mounted to medium lenses:
a small hiking bag with a small camera bag inside it
internal: 34cm wide x 20cm deep x 40cm high with large front zipped compartment for filters, etc.
inconspicuous, very light and I can get rapid access to 2 dSLRs, each with a lens on (hood reversed or not on) and room beside the camera bag for flash or a couple of small lenses.
lacks good protection between the cameras though, so need to place foam or clothing between them, or, perhaps better still, use two Lowepro Top Loader 2 camera bags (not the AW version, they seem too bulky and heavy) inside your hiking backpack.
unfortunately, none of the bags I have seen really get me excited that would match my needs as outlined above, but the following come close and will allow access to 2 bodies with medium lenses attached:
Lowepro Nova 200 AW
but you still have to unzip the whole top and open it up to get access which lets people get to see what's in there, unlike my simple backpack, but still its less obvious than the Crumpler Brazillion.
Lowepro Stealth Reporter AW:
these should fit my camera/lens combinations but they are getting HEAVY!
but they do have one great feature, a top zip to get access to your camera.
D400 AW = 1.86kg and at 24cm high should be high enough unless you have a 70-200mm f/2.8 or 300mm f/4 you want mounted on the camera. No laptop compartment, but that's OK with me.
D550AW = 2.4kg so getting a bit too heavy, but it can carry laptop too, so looks OK to me, so far.
if anyone knows of others which would suit my needs, let me know!
Will it fit your gear? - some camera/lens combination measurements:
Olympus E330 with ZD 7-14mm lens = 19.3 long x 14 wide x 8.5cm high - this is a great combo, live AF flip out screen, wide angle.
Olympus E3 with ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD with hood reversed = 23 long x 14 wide x 12cm high
this is how you fit a 100-400mm f/2.8-3.5 reach lens attached to a semi-pro body in a compact bag with another pro camera and medium lens - buy an Olympus system!
Of course you could use a f/5.6 lens on a Canon or Nikon to make them fit but its not the same, even a 300mm f/4 IS lens is 22cm long, and add another 7.5 for the pro body and you hit almost 30cm length w/o hood.
Canon 1DMIII length with lens = 7.5cm + length of lens:
Canon 1DMIII with 45mm tilt shift lens w/o hood = 17.5cm long x 15 wide x 15cm high
Canon 1DMIII with EF 135mm f/2L + TC14 w/o hood = 22cm long x 15 wide x 15cm high
Canon 1DMIII with EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS w/o hood = 27.5cm long x 15 wide x 15cm high
this is why many people are forced into the front access style backpacks, the lens is too long for most other options.
remember, don't overload your bag - it's easy to put too much gear in a bigger bag which will make it too heavy to carry and use comfortably.
Can you carry it on a plane in cabin baggage?
you are not going to want to stow your expensive camera gear in check-in baggage for it to be "misplaced", carry the expensive stuff with you and maybe stow the battery chargers, spare batteries, tripod, etc.
two issues here:
Qantas international flights max. baggage:
as at 2007, max. circumference 115cm and up to 7kg:
eg. 1x 56cm long x 36cm high x 23cm deep bag (can carry 2 such bags if 1st class or business class)
weight limit (usually about 7kg):
laptop 1-2.5kg - go for a nice light 12" laptop (<1.5kg) for travel if you can afford one.
medium pro lenses (eg. ZD 50-200mm, EF 135mm) ~0.9kg
long medium pro lenses (eg. 70-200mm f/2.8) ~1.6kg
miscellaneous gear such as mobile phone, filters, memory cards, travel documents, etc.
bag itself - the lighter the better!
as you can see, even if you choose the size of your bag wisely, you will very easily hit the weight limit, which makes the weight of the bag all the more important.
Belt pack style:
Lowepro Off Trail 2:
main interior: 18.5 x 15 x 28.5 cm; lens interior: 9 x 21.5 cm
fits 1 dSLR + 70-200mm f/2.8 with hood reversed in main + a lens in each side compartment (but not big enough for a 70-200 with tripod mount)
lens compartments can be removed
allows hands free shooting
can be worn as a shoulder bag
Lowepro Inverse 200AW:
interior: 30.5 X 15.3 X 21.2 cm; 0.96kg;
1 pro DSLR with medium zoom lens attached plus 2 additional lenses;
tripod can strap on underneath.
Shoulder bag style:
Lowepro Slingshot 100AW:
interior: 19 x 13 x 25 cm
body with 70-200mm f/2.8 mounted + 1 other lens + flash
Lowepro Slingshot 200AW:
interior: 22 X 15 X 30 cm; 0.93kg
1 body with lens attached, easy access plus 4 other lenses + upper compartment
a nice design if you only need 1 camera with lens attached for urban use.
Lowepro Slingshot 300AW:
interior: 30 X 16.5 X 30 cm; 1.4kg
1 body with lens attached, easy access plus 6 other lenses + upper compartment
Lowepro Toploader 75AW:
interior: 18 X 15 X 32 cm; 1.08kg;
1 body with lens attached, plus other lenses
Lowepro Nova 140AW:
interior: 17 X 10 X 17 cm
Lowepro Nova 170 AW:
interior: 21.5 X 11.5 X 20.5 cm; 0.58kg;
1 camera with lens attached and a 2nd lens
Lowepro Nova 200 AW:
interior: 34.5 X 18 X 23 cm; 1.36kg
2 camera with lens attached and a 3-5 more lenses
but you still have to unzip the whole top and open it up to get access so people get to see what's in there, unlike my simple backpack, but still its less obvious than the Crumpler Brazillion.
Lowepro Nova 4 AW:
interior: 29 x 15 x 19.5 cm; 1kg
Lowepro Nova 5 AW:
interior: 35.5 X 15 X 21.5 cm; 1.53kg
2 camera with short lenses attached and a 4-5 more lenses
still not high enough for mounted medium lenses such as ZD 50-200mm or EF135mm f/2L with TC14;
Lowepro Magnum AW:
interior: 23 x 15 x 19 cm
2 side removal pockets + nice wide front pocket
pockets in lid
will fit a DX dSLR attached to 70-200mm f/2.8 + 1.4x TC + hood ready to shoot and leave space for 3 lenses
will just fit a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 (19cm) vertically
Lowepro Pro Mag 2 AW:
interior: 28 X 16.5 X 25.5 cm; 1.8kg;
1 pro camera with 70-200mm f/2.8 & hood reversed + extra lenses and flash
Lowepro Stealth Reporter D200 AW:
interior: 23.5 X 17.5 X 19.5 cm; 1.37kg;
removable padded insert
Lowepro Stealth Reporter D400 AW:
interior: 32 X 19 X 24 cm; 1.86kg
removable padded insert for less weight.
removable pouch and memory card wallet.
water resistant top zipper for quick access
luggage trolley strap
now this bag is a real possibility for 2 mounted cameras for urban use.
Lowepro Stealth Reporter D550 AW:
interior: 38 X 18.5 X 25 cm; 2.41kg
nice size but bit too heavy.
Lowepro Stealth Reporter D650 AW:
interior: 41 X 18.5 X 28 cm; 2.83kg
nice size but way too heavy.
main compartment: 30 x 16.5 x 23cm
Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home bag:
interior: 35cm x 22cm x 16cm
great discrete bag for urban use, will take a 1D with 100-400mm mounted.
Crumpler The Brazillion Dollar Home bag:
takes 17" laptop
will take 2 bodies each mounted to a medium lens such as 28-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/4
top access but your cameras are still a bit too exposed when open lid due to sloping design
Backpack dual access style:
these have a top compartment as with most hiking backpacks where you could store rain coat, etc (although I would be careful about putting wet gear here as it may drip into lower compartment), and a bottom compartment designed for camera gear usually with a top horizontal zip.
unfortunately these can look a bit bulky and awkward due to the larger bottom compartment, and probably will not be compliant with airline cabin baggage limits.
Lowepro Fast Pack 350:
interior 28 X 15.5 X 27 cm
bottom camera compartment opens sideways so you really need to lie the pack down on its back
Lowepro Rover Plus AW:
top compartment interior 32 x 18.5 x 37 cm; camera compartment interior: 34 x 17 x 24 cm
its size means that you will need to put the bag on the ground before accessing your gear
rear tripod mount
great for a 1-2 day hike but not really practical for urban use
Naneu Pro Adventure K3L:
exterior 37 x 30 x 48 cm; interior 29 x 16.5 x 15 cm; 2.65kg;
camera compartment just fits my Canon 1DMIII with EF 24-105mmL lens attached, leaving room for a 580EX flash and a couple of short lenses such as the EF 135mm f/2.0L and 85mm f/1.8 both with lens hoods plus room for a 1.4x TC.
upper compartment easily fits my Olympus E510 with ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD and much more.
laptop compartment for up to 15.4" laptop protected by weatherproof zip
rear tripod mount , AW protector in base.
its really a bit bulky for routine urban use but its unique Airflow Suspension System helps keep your back from excessive perspiration by keeping the bag away from your bag - I bought this bag primarily on this feature - will have to see how it goes.
many will find it very useful for carrying their gear on day hiking trips.
Backpack front access style:
these are great for transporting your gear safely but not so great for accessing your gear inconspicuously and easily, although if you have a camera body attached to one big lens such as 70-200mm f/2.8, 300mm f/2.8 or even a 600mm f/4, then this would probably be the style for you.
laptop section underneath
Crumpler Whickey and Cox:
Lowepro Flipside 300:
interior: 23.11 x 13.72 x 40.39cm
rear access to gear for improved security
Lowepro Vertex 100 AW:
interior: 28 x 15 x 39 cm plus laptop up to 14"
Lowepro Vertex 200 AW:
interior: 30 x 16.5 x 44 cm plus laptop up to 15.4"
tripod mount at rear
Lowepro Compu Trekker AW:
28 x 12.5 x 38 cm and has a laptop compartment for up to 15" laptop
unfortunately the rear tripod mount is cumbersome
Lowepro Compu trekker PLUS AW:
33 x 13.5 x 48 cm and has a laptop compartment for up to 17" laptop
can have 2 bodies with medium lenses attached and hoods reveresed (eg. 70-200 f/4 and 24-105 f/4) + 4 other lenses + flashes
heavy and awkward when fully loaded - you may be better off with a hard case if you have this much gear
Lowepro Photo Trekker II AW:
interior: 30.5 x 15 x 48.5 cm
big enough for Canon 1D attached to 500mm f/4 with hood reversed and have room for a 100-400mm + 70-200mm f/2.8
big enough for Canon 1D attached to 300mm f/2.8 + TC14 + hood
tripod attaches on either side or centre via Trekker Tripod Mount
Tamrac Expedition 8 - 5578:
almost 3.3kg; interior: 28 x 16 x 52cm
Lowepro Roller Mini:
interior: 28 x 11 x 39.5 cm
holder for tripod on the side; roller wheels and handle;
will not fit a body with grip attached as not deep enough.
Lowepro Omni Pro:
interior: 40.5 x 14 x 29 cm
can fit inside a hard case such as Lowepro Pro Extreme or Pelican 1520
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