My loft, I discovered the other day has become an elephants graveyard for photographic luggage leading me to conclude that there actually isn’t a perfect bag suitable for any occasion or assignment. Lot’s of women I know feel the same about shoes and handbags. For my many activities I have specific needs in a bag.
When shooting landscapes I need a bag where everything is accessable quickly including my tripod and filters but where things will remain dry.
If walking is involved a rucksack is essential but it needs sufficient space for non photographic gear, to keep me warm, dry, hydrated and fed. The Lowepro Sport or Dakine Mission have proved to be the best for this.
For travel things get strange. Billinghams are stylish and elegant and look better with age. The Hadley Pro is my firm favourite. The downside is that small stuff could fall out of pockets. Lenses also need to be stacked as the pockets are deep.
Think Tank Retrospectives hold loads of gear but when packed have a fatter profile than the Billingham Hadley Pro.
Tenba Messengers are great bags with strength, zips and really thought out accessibility.
I own and have owned quite a considerable amount of camera bags from various manufacturers:
Cheap Chinese Canvas Bags
Being very proud to be English I love to support English Manufacturers so Billingham bags have been a firm favourite. I have owned a 445, 335 and Hadley Pro.
I love carrying the Hadley Pro whilst wearing a Barbour wax jacket and Hunter Wellington Boots. This always makes me feel very English.
I have a beige 335 which is over 30 years old. The leather is now cracked and the canvas worn out. Although pretty much useless now I cannot bring myself to chuck it away.
I have a couple of black Hadley Pro’s which have been used mostly as briefcases. One has worn considerably at the back and I chopped off the shoulder strap years ago as it just got in the way. The other one is 5 years old and although it has had regular use and abuse it is still like new.
By far the most versatile bag I have owned is the Tenba Messenger. I have a medium and large versions of this both in black. The medium one has travelled with me all round the world and its multitudinous pockets and removable camera insert make this a very versatile bag.
I remember leaving a short review of the bag on the Tenba website and being pleasantly surprised to receive a personal email thanking me for my comments. It felt like I was dealing with a business that really cared.
The Tenba is no way near as stylish as the Billingham but for travel it is more comfortable and everything is secure. Like the Billingham it doesn’t look anything like a camera bag and holds laptop, ipad, notebooks and a full camera kit with ease.
The shoulder strap is nicely padded and wide and even when full the pad moulds itself comfortably to my shoulder whilst the bag sits snugly at my hip.
Kata is my least favourite bag brand. I love the yellow lining which helps me find the contents easily. The external styling is clumsy and when wearing the rucksack I felt that I looked like a Teenage mutant ninja turtle. Protection wise, I could not fault the brand. If the styling is to your liking these might just be the bags for you.
I have owned many and varied Lowepro bags: Classified, reporter, Pro Sport, Flipside, Passport Sling. And a huge backpack of which I cannot remember the name.
All good bags but the only one I wouldn’t want to lose is the Passport Sling. It is simple, comfortable, versatile, discreet and holds a lot of gear.
Most Lowepro bags are designed around DSLR kits and sometimes CSC’s get lost in them.
Streetwalker Pro and Streetwalker Hard Drive, Retrospective 10 and 30 have been owned.
All solid bags with great features, Comfortable but designed around pro DSLR kits. All quite deep and CSC’s get lost in them.
My main worry about Domke bags is the lack of zips, waterproofing , padding and dust protection. I constantly worry that memory, batteries, filters etc will wall out of the pockets and become a very expensive replacement.
The earlier Domke bags did not accommodate a pro dslr kit very well. The new range of CSC’s fit much nicer into the bags.
A bit like Kata, you will either love or hate the styling of these bags. The build is bomb proof and the built in storage for memory cards and batteries are great. I particularly like the sewn in tabs that you can use to identify whether a card is full or not.
I have three Mission Photo backpacks. These onsist of a really great daypack and a removable photographic padded bag which can hold a full pro kit:
Nikon D800 with Grip
Nikon D700 with Grip
14-24 2.8 Lens
24-27 2.8 Lens
70-200 2.8 Lens
I will not part with these bags and use the inserts for storage or as a lighting kit.
This bag was bought in the US from B&H primarily because it was 50% cheaper than the UK price.
It has a full padded divider insert and a sortation top compartment. As a bag it has been used mostly for storage. I bought it as robust carry on luggage but its empty weight almost takes me to certain baggage allowances. Perfect for expeditions.
It’s a great shame that these guys went under. The classic blue padded camera and lens cases are still the most robust protection you can own.
The styles and sizing didn’t keep up with modern DSLR sizes but with the advent of CSC’s I can see these making a comeback and being worth more on Ebay.
I will often snap them up at boot sales and charity shops. I once read that the reason CCS are no more is that they brought out the Heritage range of bags which went head to head with Billingham who sued them and won. This forced CCS out of business. CCS bags were made in Britain. Maybe they couldn’t compete with far east imports.
Looking for a stylish bag to house my X100s travel kit I ended up with the Ona Bowery. It’s a little like a handbag and on balance better suited for a woman to carry. I was going to buy a leather Brooklyn and then heard about an Indian manufacturer who made similar bags for a third of the price. It is made with goatskin which is waterproof and supple.