Monday, October 10, 2011

Quest for the Perfect Bag

For those of you that have dived into the wonderful world of camera's you know that there is an endless world of fun things to add to your ever growing arsenal of gear.

If you dont care about this stuff , please dont read haha

And yes it is endless.  I will rant a little about camera gear, why we buy what we buy and ultimately talk about bags haha

Once you step into the world of DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera's it is world of options, lens, flashes, gizmo's, filters, cables, mounts, memory, software........ and something to hold it all in when your out and about.

If you have a camera and a bag to hold it in and happy , please dont read any further haha

Of the photographers I know, they all have multiple camera bags sitting in the closet. What worked yesterday wont work today.

Get something to small and your fighting to get the camera and that new lens in there.
The opposite is your find yourself carrying around a duffel bag full of stuff , most of which never sees the light of day.

Hence the quest for The Perfect Bag.

I will share a few of the ones that have come through my door and also my way of doing things.

First is, 99% of the time my camera is out and ready to take pics.  Hangs on my shoulder, sits in my lap, arms length away. Its powered up and ready, though in standby mode to save the batteries.
So my camera bag is not about carrying the camera, though i need that functionality at times.

As a sidebar to finding the Perfect Bag, I will mention straps. First thing if you own a DSLR camera, first thing to do is get rid of the strap that comes with it. If anything it will give you neck pain the moment you put the camera on. And after a day of that you find yourself regretting the moment you didn't buy that handy little Canon G11 that fits in your pocket.

Check out the Fast Access Strap by Matin, available at Vistek, you can sling it over one shoulder and the handy neoprene strap doesnt slip off (unlike the existing strap with the camera)  and can also be worn as a Sling strap. Any pics you see of me with camera are with that strap, camera hangs at just the right length and easy to use. For reference I also have an R-Strap though did not find the pad as good as the Fast Access.

Anyways back to bags.
I have different bags for different uses. But the one use that was the hardest for to find a bag was when traveling. I had a Lowepro Sling bag 200 - great bag , very comfortable, but limited to holding camera gear. No room for personal items. So it gets used for those, need gear and comfort type jobs and access to the vehicle for other stuff.   And it screams Camera Bag !! steal me


  Have a Tenba Large Messenger bag that is both camera and laptop bag. Great bag, durable , 5yr warranty (they already replaced the strap for me under warranty). Though add the camera insert and its like hauling around a carry-on suitcase. and not very practical though as a laptop bag and holder of work related, with some camera extras it does the job. Still  my daily carry bag and after 2yrs still going strong aside from the metal clips wearing out on the strap. The Bing wants to wash it, so I know have to keep a close eye on it and out of her hands and soap. Am sorry but the dirt and grime of the world (or part of it) is on that bag !!

Last year before China, I tried a Kata Sling Bag, well made , great reviews but go figure , most of what i carry wont fit in it, and of course no real room for personal items. And like the Lowepro, seems kind of big to haul around when out and about.

Then i figured out part of my problem.
Stop carrying around so much stuff , no need for it. Focus on taking pictures (focus thats funny) forget about the gear. Take what you really need not what you might want handy.
Do  I carry a big flash with me everywhere ? No. Why? Most people dont care, they want that spur of the moment pic, dont care about quality etc. All about the moment.

What I am saying is plan a little. Where am I going ? What kind of pics am I taking ? What are those pics being used for ?

My camera has the Canon EF-S 17-85mm lens mounted at all times. Kinda like a Swiss Army knife for the camera. Does most things pretty good. And reviews and what not aside, there is some inherent quality built into these products (Made in Japan by the way) . This lens has now been to China and Spain and 90% of my pictures are taken with that. Sure I would love the Canon EF 24-105 F4 L series lens but hey thats $1600 plus taxes.

Ok so camera and lens hanging from my shoulder and now i needed something to hang on the other side.
After 2 days at Henrys Photo with my bag of stuff with me, I found my goto bag for day-day going out.  The reason I spent so much time was that, you really need to take your camera and goodies to a store, put it in various bags, try it on. How  does it feel ? Is there room for my stuff ? How will I feel after lugging this around for the day ?

Now for the faint of heart, this stuff is not cheap ! You will be astonished at the prices. Yes you can get inexpensive bags, they serve their purpose , I have some.  Even go look through Kijiji, EBAY or local classifieds you will find someone unloading a bag for a good price. They are searching to ha.

After making the Sales Girl at Henry's patiently pull down bags, blah blah about the benefits etc, I chose the Think Tank Retrospective 5.  She tried to talk me into the 10, much larger version, but really i didnt need another suitcase to carry around.



Small so it limits me in my choices when deciding what to bring. What do i really need. For reference I can easily pack everything you see in that bag.


Sigma 70-200mm lens, Canon Flash, Canon 50mm f1.4, spare batteries for everything, mobile, sunglasses, wallet, passport (it has nice inside zippered pockets to keep the thieves away), extra memory. Pull out that Canon 50mm and you have room for a small water bottle. The bag comes with a Life Time Warranty , rain hood, and does not say Camera Bag to loud.

That setup lets me go out and do outdoor events, bar bands, even someones house party, though i might swap out the Sigma 7-200 f/2.8 for the Sigma 10-20mm wide angle.



You ask , Doug what about your usual array of stuff you bring along ?  Well the idea is that I carry most of it in my Carry On bag when I travel, and then pick and choose what i need for that day or destination and load up this bag. Things get left in hotel rooms while I am out.When its plane time , all goes in the Carry-on and I then use my small bag to carry the camera.

The Canon XTI and Sigma 18-55 f/2.8 step in to model for carry on mode.


Is this bag inexpensive ? NO its not at all. Does it work ? YES

What I am saying is think about what you are buying and why, be a bag, lens or new camera body. Kijiji classifieds online is full of people that bought something that they really didn't need or even know how to use (expensive cameras do not make great pictures). I have resisted upgrading my camera body (Canon T1i) for that reason. I dont think my picture taking abilities are even near justifying that expense. Though when I do I know that what I have will work with it.

If your wondering how i take these pictures, I use one flash, simple white umbrella, piece of Dollarama white poster board and a piece of white foam core (used to bounce some light in the bottom of the bag)


And you would be surprised but a lot of product photography is done in a very similar way. Cheap easy and works.

Tested the bag this past weekend at a Charity event for Goderich rebuilding fund, held at the South Huron Rec Centre. more on that later.

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