Camera back packs are a problematic area – everyone has different needs, preferences, equipment and not one backpack will solve each person’s needs let alone everyone’s needs.
My favorite backpack for urban day use is actually a cheap hiking day pack from a camping store. I love this because it is super light, inconspicuous and doesn’t shout out that there might be expensive cameras in there worth stealing, and I can even give it to staff in art galleries to stow with minimal risk they will steal anything from it as it looks like all the other bags they stow for people wanting to browse the art galleries.
Of course, the BIG problem is that if you have more than 1 camera/lens kit, they tend to rub against each other and there is no protection from dropping the bag. I partly address this by using a lot of bubble wrap and I don’t drop the bag!
The second problem is that these are not optimised for carrying heavy (>3kg) camera kits around all day and remaining comfortable.
The bags I like LEAST are the front access style where you have to place the backpack on the ground and unzip the whole bag to get to your camera and lenses out – OK for photoshoots perhaps but NOT for urban use and not on nature shoots with wet ground – for the Canon/Nikon guys with their favourite 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached – these bags are about the only ones that will fit them – but they are NOT for me!
I thus bought a Lowepro Stealth Reporter D650 AW shoulder bag style but one where you can unzip a central top zip to gain access to your camera – fits my cameras nicely, but once you get 2 or 3 camera/lens kits at 1.8kg each, it gets very uncomfortable carrying around all day.
My latest backpack – the Naneu Pro K3L:
So recently I thought I would try another style – the dual compartment Naneu K3L backpack which is similar to Lowepro Rover Plus AW BUT has a unique feature which I love – a support system that allows airflow on your back reducing perspiration build up and thus keeps your back dry.
It seems a nicely made bag with a separate compartment for a 15.4″ laptop and and upper compartment for a jacket and your main shooting camera or whatever else you want to carry there – I carry my Olympus E510 mounted to ZD 50-200mm SWD lens there because the combination is too long mounted for the lower camera compartment (although easily fits unmounted).
In the lower camera compartment, I can store my main Canon equipment such as the Canon 1DMIII mounted with EF 24-105mm L lens, and have room for 1-2 580EX flashes, 135mm f/2.0L lens, 85mm f/1.8 lens and a 1.4x TC with a little room to spare – see:
Instead of the Canon 1DMIII with 24-105mm lens, I can fit the Olympus E510 mounted with a ZD 7-14mm lens.
The backpack has a nice rear mount for a tripod, has all weather cover and a few other niceties, but above all you can walk all day very comfortably with a fairly heavy camera load.
BUT NOW HERE IS THE LESSON:
If you use this backpack, it is quite easy not to realise that the zip to the lower compartment was not zipped up last time you used it.
This morning I was horrified when I picked the back pack up from the boot of my station wagon to hear the sickening thud of my beautiful 1kg ZD 50-200mm SWD lens hiiting the bricks from a height of about 1m!
I had “temporarily” stowed the 50-200mm in the lower compartment after my last expedition – and those compartments seem designed to empty their contents onto the ground if unzipped and you pick the backpack up!
LUCKILY it was a pro Olympus lens with great build quality and not one of my Canon lenses – the prime impact was on the rear lens cap which cracked and split half way, and the secondary impact was on the UV filter – BUT the lens itself sustained zero damage – AF works well, zoom is smooth, optics fine with no apparent adverse impact on image quality.
So reminder to myself when using this bag – ALWAYS zip the lower compartment after use or at the very least snap lock the dedicated buckle straps for that compartment.
More information on backpacks here.
The other downsides of the K3L is that these designs by necessity are rather bulky and stick out a long way from your back which tends to mean you knock into things when you turn around, and it weighs about 2.5kg by itself – so you are pushing to get it on airline cabin baggage.
see NaneuPro website.