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backpacks and bags for photographic gear


  • 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 photography)
    • inconspicuous
      • 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
    • protective:
      • 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. 
        • D550AW = 2.4kg so getting a bit too heavy and not for carrying around for long periods, but it can carry laptop too.

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:
    • size limits:
    • 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.
      • 1-2 camera bodies 0.4kg (compact dSLR eg. Olympus E510), 0.9kg (semi-pro dSLR eg. Olympus E3), 1.3kg (pro dSLR eg. 1D MarkIII)
      • lenses: 
        • 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:

Shoulder bag style:

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:
  • Lowepro Rover Plus AW:
  • 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:

Suitcase style:


photo/bags.txt · Last modified: 2015/11/06 12:44 by gary1

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