Camera Bag Review Via The Online Photographer

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by Biro, Jul 10, 2013.

  1. Biro

    Biro SC All-Pro

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Steve
    Mike Johnston's The Online Photographer has had guest writer John Camp (a self-admitted camera bag junkie) contribute three columns over a few recent days about selecting a camera bag. Since this subject comes up often on most photo sites, I thought I'd share it here.

    This link takes you to the final column, which actually provides some hard recommendations. But links to the first two columns are provided.

    http://theonlinephotographer.typepa...gs-and-camera-backpacks-part-iii-reviews.html

    BTW, it seems Think Tank bags get the lion's share of the love from both the author and many of those responding. Among less-expensive bags, it seems LowePro gets the nod.
     
  2. stillshunter

    stillshunter Super Moderator Emeritus

    Nov 5, 2010
    Down Under
    Mark
    As a fellow bag-a-holic, I agree with most of the reviewer's sentiments (except I'd rate Domkes and Billinghams higher). However, I certainly would urge him to consider the Bare Bones Bag (BBB) alongside the tested line-up. I bought my ThinkTank Retrospective 5 (Pinestone) a fortnight or so before Marlof (top bloke!) sent me a BBB (old unpadded inner pocket model). Can I just say that since it arrived the Retro 5 and Domkes - including F5xB and F3x - are luxuriating in their perpetual shelf time. The BBB is so well thought out and a third of the weight of the Retro (which is mighty heavy for its size).

    Only wish I discovered BBBs a few years back - it makes me rethink bag design completely! Calling into question the form and function of more conventional bags and the philosophy of most bag makers.

    Stephen Schaub is today's Jim Domke :thumbup:
     
  3. marlof

    marlof Trying to focus

    Dec 25, 2010
    The Netherlands
    Marlof
    I was in constant denial about buying bags, as a good bagaholic would. As with cameras, I tend to prefer a well made bag that is as small and light as possible. I now have my trinity of bags: Kata DR-i467 for daypack/camera needs, Billingham Hadley Pro for bringing all camera equipment (2x OMD E-M5, 12, 17, 25, 45, 12-50, 75-300) needs, and a BBB for occassional 'bring a camera and up to three lenses' needs. I haven't bought a single bag since. Well, one more BBB for lunchtime camera strolls at work. Since I never get around to those, that one was shipped to Mark, so he could see the light.
     
  4. Biro

    Biro SC All-Pro

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Steve
    My own camera bags tend to be dominated by Domke and LowePro. But I have two Tamracs that I bought a number of years ago for my Pentax DSLR kit that I still have and have given me no trouble. I don't have any Think Tank bags but will consider them strongly if I need another bag in the future. Also, here's a link that popped up in the responses to that original article. It takes you to the Amazon.com page for the LoewPro Exchange Messager bag, which appears to be very similar to the vaunted Think Tank Retrospective 5 - for a lot less money.

    Amazon.com: Lowepro Exchange Messenger Camera Bag (Gray): Camera & Photo

    And, finally, in line with Mark's wish that the Billingham bags were rated higher, here is Mike Johnston's take on the Billingham Hadley:

    The Online Photographer: Are We Slaggin' Billingham?
     
  5. wt21

    wt21 SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 15, 2010
    I haven't tried them ALL but I am budget minded (Hadley is out) and I don't like the style of ThinkTank. I settled on a Tenba mini messenger, which can take up to my 6D, flash and two lenses, a Domke 5XB and a Domke F10. The 5XB for one mirrorless body and 1-2 lenses, and F10 for a larger mirrorless setup with filters and accessories.

    The author's use case does not address these smaller Domke bags, which is a shame.
     
  6. Good read.

    Here's mine. An old khaki Hadley Pro canvas and a Black Fibrenyte Hadley Pro. I've tried loads and there's nothing better for my needs. Use them daily and for everything.

    x7yk5fv.
     
  7. Biro

    Biro SC All-Pro

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Steve
    Agreed. I have three small Domke bags that are excellent.
     
  8. entropic remnants

    entropic remnants SC All-Pro

    Mar 3, 2013
    John Griggs
    I love my Think Tank Retrospective 5 in "pinestone". It's my main bag.

    Secondary bag is a $5 NewEgg special LowePro.

    My travel backpack is a LowePro also.
     
  9. Biro

    Biro SC All-Pro

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Steve
    See, John? Think Tank and Lowepro, depending on what price range one is operating in.
     
  10. marlof

    marlof Trying to focus

    Dec 25, 2010
    The Netherlands
    Marlof
    I have such a Lowepro Exchange Messengar Bag (it is now my lunchtime break bag, to replace my spare BBB). Its setup is nice, and it's light weighted enough, but it doesn't feel very well made. In fact, it feels very flimsy. I can't fault it for the price though (got it for EUR 19 at some sale). At the other side of the spectrum: I never understood the Think Tank Retrospective 5. I'm sure it's built to last, but it's very heavy for its size. I guess that's they don't call it a Tank for nothing. Just not for me. The Domke J803 (nylon, not canvas) I really like as well. Not as well built as the Billingham, but it has lasted in spite of all the abuse I put my work bag through. Thinking about it: I should probably one day get the Domke 720-230 adjustable 3 part insert. I had the older one, with sewed in dividers, but that one sucked. The newer model has adjustable dividers. In my country, that one is made of unobtanium. And the shipping costs from other countries make this thing too expensive for what its worth.
     
  11. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
    I just bought a Lowepro Event Messenger 250, I had a couple of long lenses when I bought it, and it was cheap as chips. 50 bucks or so. Since then I've picked up another big ungainly lens and now I'm stuck.

     
  12. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    wow....there's some serious bagaholics in the group. I have 2 problems. One is that I think ALL camera bags are ugly and two, that I spend so much on cameras and lenses I have nothing left to spend on bags.
     
  13. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I've been around the block a few times and I seem to keep coming back to Domke. Tried Think Tank - didn't like 'em. They held plenty and protected the stuff really well, but I found 'em a PIA getting stuff in and out of in the field. And seemed a bit heavy, although that was a pretty small deal. I had a Hadley Pro which I sold - it was great for carrying everything as a travel bag, but there are WAAAAY cheaper options for THAT function and it was just bigger than anything I'd actually carry around in the field anymore - I've done it, but don't like carrying that much gear because I honestly get in a groove with a pice of gear and don't switch that often. I have a Hadley small that's very nice to carry in the field, holds a nice amount - as much as I'd ever want to carry while out shooting - and is a pleasure in use. I HAVE had all manor of other bags, including an insanely nice Watencraft that was gorgeous but not all that functional and made either Hadley look like an absolute bargain - sold that one too.

    So, now I'm down to two everyday bags that cover pretty much everything. One is a LITTLE TINY Domke F8 for really small loads - a couple of compacts basically, or an OMD and a couple of small lenses - stuff like that. And a Domke F10 that's a bit smaller than the Hadley Small but holds MORE - notably more actually. It doesn't pad or protect the gear as much, but its adequate. The main thing I didn't like about Domkes is the way the straps tend to grip and bind on my shirts, but the Hadley shoulder pad fits the Domke straps perfectly and allows the Domke to slide around as well as the Hadley does. So these days, my daily carry is the Domke F10, or F8 if I'm going REALLY light. For this Italy trip, I carried the Nikon Coolpix A in my carry-on. EVERYTHING else (RX1 w/EVF - OMD w/body cap, 9-18, and 75 - XE1 w/14mm and hood - Sigma DP1M with OVF - and ALL chargers and batteries and little doo-dads) fit in the F10 inside my checked luggage. And with everything out of it, as a daily carry, I can easily take any three of those cameras and some combinations of 4. And its just less imposing and smaller and lighter than even the Hadley Small. I have a couple of big cheap bags if I ever need to carry even more gear on a trip or something - but I can't see taking more than I brought on this one and it all fit in a little Domke F10. Between it and the F8, what else do I need on a day to day basis? Nothing I can think of... All for very little money. Not that I didn't spend a fortune to get to this place of thrift!

    -Ray
     
  14. stillshunter

    stillshunter Super Moderator Emeritus

    Nov 5, 2010
    Down Under
    Mark
    Is this new and emerging principle of parsimony restricted to the realm of bags only? :laugh1:
    Seriously that's quite an arsenal!

    Separately Ray - I mean in a way where I won't feel guilty about hijacking Boid's thread - I'd love to hear the thinking behind your current kit. I see overlap but know you are a very considered guy, so there will be good reason behind your line-up. I'm convinced there's a lesson or two to be had here.

    BTW: noting how much I used to love my smaller Domkes F803, F10 and F5Xb - I reckon you'd be stoked with the BBB. Not so easy sourcing the old non-velcro divider model though. Man, Marlof is right, I sound like I am born-again :blush:

    [​IMG]
     
  15. stillshunter

    stillshunter Super Moderator Emeritus

    Nov 5, 2010
    Down Under
    Mark
    Hey Marlof, I had the F803 and I loved it; only reason I sold it was that I didn't really get along with wax wear. I had me one of those Domke 720-230 adjustable 3 part insert before they turned into rocking horse droppings. It's perfectly mated to the 803. When we do find you one, please be prepared for the size. It's smaller than you'd probably anticipate.
     
  16. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    BBBs are super fantastic.
     
  17. romi.gilles

    romi.gilles SC Veteran

    338
    Jun 8, 2013
    idk anymore. all over the country.
    romi gilles
    i have a couple domkes. they seem too overpriced for what little they offer - minimum pockets with no flaps to keep items from falling out, bare minimum padding, and never enough dividers with velcro with which pieces of it fall apart inside, later getting into every nook & cranny of your camera gear.

    (Sent from my EVO via Tapatalk)
     
  18. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Yeah, seems to be! :cool:


    I'm not sure about the very considered guy part - a lot of it is I just love checking out new gear. And when I really like something, more often than not, I buy it. I can't afford race cars or even Leicas, but evidently I can afford this level of camera addiction. Some people call it GAS and I can't argue, but I don't have any problem with it and tend to embrace it rather than fight it.

    In terms of the specifics, I think the only real overlap is the Sigma DP1M, which is the same basic focal length as the Nikon Coolpix A. But the Sigma's a loaner that will be going back upon my return - the Nikon is mine. As overwhelmingly impressive as the Sigma is for detail and resolution, detail and resolution aren't really my thing. I find myself not processing the Sigma shots the way I'm creatively inclined to because they're SOOOO impressively detailed that I don't want to do anything to mess that up. So its counter to my instincts - a good learning experience, perspective check, etc. And a great camera for what it is. But I don't think "for me" is what it is...

    So, I've got Fuji for the wide and ultra wide. I'll no doubt buy the 10-24 when it comes out, sell the Olympus 9-18, and Fuji will handle the wide end for me. I loved the X-Pro at 28mm and would have eventually loved it at 35 (once that 23mm f1.4 comes out), but I like the RX1 and Nikon A at those focal lengths more. I never was comfortable with the Fuji's 35mm focal length and mostly just had it on hand for very low light, but again, the RX1 kills in low light at a focal length I like more... So, the X-Pro and its wonderful OVF and those lenses went and a cheap scratch and dent XE1 replaced it to use with the 14 and wider, which don't work well with the OVF. And I've still got that wonderful Fuji look and feel, at least at the wide end. And the 14 isn't ALL THAT wide. I suspect I'll end up getting quite a lot of use out of this lens.

    I've written a ton about the RX1 - I like the detail but LOVE the low light and DR capabilities and the way the lens renders and the whole feel of using the camera. Its the most premium piece of equipment I've ever owned and I'm really happy with it, even though its not quite my favorite focal length.

    The Nikon A / Ricoh GR was a camera I was simply gonna own one of. Its kind of my absolute dream camera in my sweet-spot focal length - a 28mm APS sensor camera with great controls, out of hand IQ, and its discrete/fits in a pocket. Its with me more than any other camera. I could easily live with ONLY that camera. I chose the A over the GR mostly for the way it deals with auto-ISO, which I find frees me up in ways no other camera ever has for street shooting. As great as the Ricoh is, the Nikon works better for me. Its the best all-around auto-ISO execution I've yet seen and I think every camera should model on it (and I guess its big DSLR brothers from Nikon, which I believe use the same setup). For most types of shooting, this would be nice but not important. But for street, its hugely useful to me and this is my focal length for street - and everything else about this camera is great for street shooting too. And landscapes and architecture and abstracts, and about anything else you'd ever want to do with this focal length. Its resolution is more than adequate, if not up to the Sigma or Sony, and its low light and DR are great, trailing only the RX1. Great little camera - clearly my favorite and destined to be my most used... A couple of minor firmware tweaks (which will never happen) away from being my definition of a perfect camera...

    And that leaves m43 for the long end. The small long lenses are great (the 75mm may be the best lens I own other than the one nailed to the front of the RX1), the form factor is great, the OMD is a great body in a lot of ways. Its the best system camera I've owned and if I was still wedded to a system, it would still be the backbone of it. But I seem to like changing cameras rather than changing lenses mostly. When I go out and shoot, its usually only with one or two focal lengths, only occasionally three, and I usually stick to one most of the day anyway. So having a bag full of nice lenses to change out seems to just be more stuff to carry. And takes longer than just grabbing a second or third camera out of the bag. And is less fun! So m43 basically handles the long end now. I still have the 12mm and 9-18 also, but the 9-18 will go once the Fuji 10-24 shows up. And the 12 is just too good to get rid of, but if I never find myself using it, I'll eventually sell it too.

    So that's the way I currently rationalize my well developed GAS syndrome. Check back in another year - there will no doubt be changes to the lineup! At the moment, I can't see how or why I'd change anything, but I felt that way a year ago too and I've changed over nearly everything but the OMD body and a couple of lenses. So I'm not to be trusted if I ever say I'm sitting tight. Clearly, something will come along and grab my eye...

    Oh, and to make a lame attempt at keeping this mildly topical, its because pretty much all of it fits in a Domke F10... :biggrin: I guess I can't avoid the hijack when asked such a question!

    -Ray
     
  19. stillshunter

    stillshunter Super Moderator Emeritus

    Nov 5, 2010
    Down Under
    Mark
    I've re-read your reply a few times now Ray. I need to digest it a little more and will do overnight. It's timely for me as I'm going through a rationalisation process at the moment (with my film gear) and so really appreciate your perspective.

    I hear you about living within your means. The F10 is a good ceiling for gear acquisition. I'm a little the same way, and hence why alongside the BBB I'll always hold onto the F3x...that's my gear maximiser :wink:
     
  20. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator

    Aug 13, 2011
    Sunny Frimley
    Bill Palmer
    Just a couple of points to add to this thread:

    1. Domke vs Safrotto
    I have both makes and there is some confusion; the Safrotto is not a Domke knock off. When the original company went bust they acquired the designs and have produced them ever since; It would be fair to say that they are more Domke than the current Domke models - they are made of good quality canvas, all the fittings are metal and they come with well made removable interior padding and dividers that last. I have had two Domkes - one is about 20 years old and is just like the Safrotto. The other I owned for a short time and sold a couple of years ago - it was much poorer quality.

    2. Ona Brixton Messenger Bag

    I bought this specifically to use as a briefcase first, then a camera bag second; I wanted something that would be acceptable in a business context with a suit or jeans while at the same time being able to carry and protect a camera and one or two lenses. The good news is that the bag meets those requirements admirably. It is thoughtfully made and stylish. The interior is well padded and easily holds a small laptop, cables, notebooks, etc. There is however one issue; the shoulder strap is thin webbing like a seat belt and comes with a matching - and non removable - shoulder pad. This latter is a true triumph of style over substance. The top is leather, but the bottom is the same waxed cotton canvas as the bag itself; this looks nice but is rubbish at holding the bag on your shoulder; after a day up in London yesterday I came back home looking like Quasimodo and full of ibuprofen. As soon as I have finished writing this I am off to the Billingham website for one of their excellent shoulder pads...