Finding the Perfect Camera Bag

We’ve all “been there, done that”. The hunt for the perfect camera bag.

I suppose “perfect” means different things to different folks. So this is just about me. I have yet to find the perfect camera bag… I’m still looking.

Not that there aren’t some really nice bags out there – I’ve bought a lot of them! Especially these days, you can get fabulous designer-style bags from Ona or other companies. Or practical ones with loads of nooks and crannies for everything little thing. I’ve tried many over the years.

Here’s just a taste of a few of my bags – I’ve got to say… I’ve got a lot more than these!

The Classic Camera Bag from the Past

Going back a few decades, here is my father’s old leather camera bag from the 60s. My father used to carry his Bessler Topcon SLR in this bag, plus a lens or two, and some “bits and pieces”. When he passed, I inherited the bag and used it for my faithful Mamiya DTL1000 SLR. That was the first SLR that was all my own – my dad got me that for my 17th birthday. It is still an elegant bag. It is tan, well-worn leather, with leather dividers inside for a camera body and a couple of lens, plus the pocket on the side. Just about all camera bags back then looked like this or some variation of. But in today’s world, the strap is a bit thin. The bag is heavy, as it’s thick leather. And it sticks out a mile when you carry it and catches on everything. Just plain awkward. But it’s an elegant reminder of yesteryear, and I’d never get rid of it.

Years ago, most camera bags were styled on this general model – but then, you usually used them to haul gear around. For actually picture-taking, your camera had it’s own little stylish two-part leather case that dropped open to let you take the shot and snapped shut for just walking around. You could wear the camera over your shoulder and just pop the case open. They are making these retro cases again for the Fujifilm x100 series. Just like the old days, you can get them in black or brown.

My next case was about the size of a small suitcase, hard-sided, and held a body with lens attached and several lens plus other gear. I don’t have it anymore. It was heavy and awkward, but protected the gear well and you could haul a lot into the field.

Besides that “bag”, I acquired a series of soft-sided vinyl bags styled roughly on the form of my dad’s old leather case. You usually got these when you got a new camera with a kit lens – not that I bought a lot of these, but I got one with a Pentax purchase in the 90s and another with my first Nikon DSLR. I don’t find them of much use other than to store the equipment. The insides aren’t particularly well laid out and they have those hard-to-use plastic clip closures. Plus they aren’t durable and don’t really protect your equipment. So in  my house, you’ll find those sitting on a shelf or in a drawer, relegated to mere storage of equipment.

The Sling Camera Bag

Next camera bag is the LowePro Sling Bag. This is actually a good bag and I’ve been satisfied with using it for it’s intended purpose – going out to some location and hauling a body with attached lens, two alternate lenses, and some some bits of gear like filters, cleaning supplies and so on. It fits over one shoulder and you can sling it forward to access the camera without having to put the bag down and rummage through it. For hiking around, an extra strap turns it into a back pack. It holds anything I would want to take for a trip to where ever and it’s handy to have. It even has a place for a tripod – although it’s pretty heavy with that attached so I usually just have my husband carry it. Fortunately, he’s happy to serve as my assistant. But you could attach the tripod to this bag and it is a handy package.

The Designer Camera Bag Aimed at Women

I need to discuss my experiences with those designer bags aimed at the female photographer who doesn’t want to be robbed on the street – by this, I mean those fancy camera bags that are designed to look expensive handbags. The idea is certainly good in theory… I like the thought of being able to carry a camera, perhaps a lens and some other things in my handbag, plus all the other paraphernalia women usually stuff into a handbag. Sounds really handy! But, in my experience, these types of bags have yet to deliver. I had read mixed reviews of some of the Kelly Moore bags, but they are attractive and I thought, “Why not?”

The first Kelly Moore bag I tried was the Hobo. It is a nice looking bag and attractive enough on it’s own to serve as a regular handbag. Kelly Moore is making some leather bags now, but this one is vinyl and the reviews I read said they weren’t particularly durable after heavy use. I wouldn’t know… I’ve never used it enough to discover how well it would stand up. Unfortunately, it is large and very heavy, doesn’t hold much camera equipment, and once you get your gear into it, there’s no room for even a wallet! So after that, I actually haven’t used it at all.

Recently, I got a Kelly Moore Posey 2 – the only reason I was willing to bite again was that it was on sale for a ridiculously cheap price. Our local camera shop was evidently trying to get rid of them. I have to admit it is a handier bag than the Hobo. I was planning to use it for my Fujifilm X100T or Fujifilm X70, which should fit in practically any little space in a bag. In this respect, the bag works. And there is still room for my wallet, keys, and so on. What’s the problem? Well, I will probably use it for the right occasion, but Man! Is that bag heavy for a little bag!!! I usually carry just a very small handbag with a few items and the camera (a Fuji X110T!) isn’t heavy – we’re not talking a Nikon D5 with a telephoto… I don’t want to need shoulder surgery after an afternoon of shooting…

“So onward, ever onward” in the search for the perfect bag…

The Designer Camera Bag Aimed at Anyone

My husband bought me a black canvas Ona Bowery bag for Christmas last year – is a really nice bag! Very elegant looking. The strap is wide and very comfortable to carry. The bag holds my Fujifilm XT1 with a lens attached and currently, I put a telephoto in there too. Along with a couple of filters and an extra battery, that’s about all it holds. So you wouldn’t load up on gear with this, but for a couple of items, it is light and comfortable to carry. What’s the downside? (There always is one…) It’s a cat-fur-magnet. That’s why I show it with the lint brush. You will need one. Or you can just get it in leather – that would work too. But they are very expensive.

The Practical Camera Bag

Recently, I’ve bought a couple of Think Tank bags. The first one is the Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 30. I got it for my Fujifilm XT1. It actually works very well –  it is sturdy, holds 3 or 4 lens and my XT1 with a small lens attached, an iPad, my charger, a cell phone, extra cards and batteries, filters and other small items. Plus it is fairly light and easy to carry. Probably, it is pretty close to being perfect actually. So far, it seems durable. But it’s a shoulder bag, so you wouldn’t take it on a hike or to a situation where you must carry it for hours. I guess that’s its drawback – for that sort of thing, you need something else.

My other recent bag acquisition is another Think Tank, the Mirrorless Mover 10. I got it to carry my Fujifilm X100T. It holds the camera, the charger, a phone, a Lens Pen, extra battery or two, and a few other small items. Plus it is very light and compact – I can sling it over my shoulder and take it everywhere – very handy for that “camera you always want to have with you”. So far, so good on that one – although getting the camera out is a bit awkward. You have to pull up a flap with a magnetic catch and unzip the top. The flap seems to keep wanting to slap shut while you are trying to do this and it gets a bit frustrating. But like I said, no bag is “perfect”.

Are these the last bags I will ever buy? You already know the answer to that… Of course not!

The quest goes on. We all know that if you keep looking, maybe the “perfect” bag is out there… or not.

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