I should preface this with the fact I have made a wild assumption that Paris Hilton likes bags. She may not. She may hate them. No Paris Hilton’s were harmed in the writing of this post.
I live in a relatively small house. A two-up, two-down, terraced house. The kind where the bathroom is on the ground floor at the back of the house next to the kitchen. It’s small. Property prices in Cambridge are unreal due to the close proximity to London. This means there isn’t much space. Yet bags take up a disproportionate percentage of the cubic metre volume of my house, and I understand I am not alone in this amongst the photographer community.
Since taking up photography I have struggled to find the right bag. Every year I would accumulate more cameras and lenses, bigger tripods, macbooks, ipads, filters…all that crap…I mean, all that essential stuff, obviously.
No photography bag I have ever owned has ever been up to the task of meeting all the needs that a photographer has. I must have had 6 or 7 different bags that have come and gone, but I think I’ve finally found THE ONE. A match made in Norwich (where I bought it on first sight from WarehouseExpress or whatever they’re called nowadays). I’ll reveal the identity of the lucky winner at the end, but first some notes about the journey.
Early days –Tamrac Adventure 6
The first bag I had was this small Tamrac bag back when I had my Canon 400D. On the positive side it was small and light, and had a section for sandwiches in the top. On the negative side you could only get a small SLR and maybe two lenses in it.
Intrepid explorer days – National Geographic Explorer
I bought this when I started buying more lenses. It was good for a while and served its purpose. You could fit a Canon 5D in the camera section with 3 small to medium lenses. Any other lenses had to go in the top section with your sandwiches. There were lots of little useful pockets to put batteries and filters in and a section for a lap top in the back. Overall pretty good, but it was all canvas so had little structural reinforcement and lacked a lot of space for lenses. It also had that big National Geographic logo on it which does not look cool. And if you’re not looking cool whilst taking photos then what is the point?
Going orange – Lowepro Photo Sport AW200
A good but ultimately flawed backpack. I bought this mainly for hiking. There is space for a full sized SLR, a big(ish) telephoto and two more lenses. It’s light, has a good waterproof cover built in, can fit a small laptop or ipad in the back and doesn’t look too much like a camera bag (one of my bugbears of most camera bags). You can also look awesome if pairing it with a photography related t-shirt. The problems arise in that there aren’t many pockets for things like batteries and memory cards. They all end up just jangling around. The shoulder straps are way too thin so they become uncomfortable after a while. Criminally, the side “quick access” zip to get your camera out is on the wrong side, which is a major design flaw. If you don’t want to put the bag down but just roll it off one shoulder, get the camera, shoot, and replace, you have to do it with the bag on your left shoulder, which is very unnatural for most right handed people. The waist straps also really get in the way.
Sooooo many lenses – Lowepro Flipside Sport AW 20L
With me getting promoted at work I went lens crazy. Nat Geo went on eBay and I bought this Lowepro Flipside Sport thinking it was the ultimate bag. There is room for loads of lenses and lots of dividers. It’s comfortable to wear for a long time and only kind of looks like a camera bag. BUT…the pockets are awful for storing things. Again, there are just a few big pockets for all your small items to rattle around it. The waist straps can’t be removed and are really annoying when you’re not hiking a long way. The bag is not especially well reinforced, surprising for a bag that is meant to hold thousands of pounds of gear, and the only way to access your bag is via the back panel, so it’s much easier to fill with sand at the beach. Also you can only fit an iPad in there. As hard as I tried, the macbook just won’t go. After 18 months of a rocky relationship, it’s off to eBay with you.
Now on to the winner…drumroll please…
Middleweight champion of the world: Lowepro ProTactic AW450
So far this has answered all of my needs. I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s not the prettiest of camera bags, but certainly doesn’t look awful. Shoulder straps are nice and comfy, the waist straps can be removed so they don’t get in the way. There is space for loads of lenses and cameras, I haven’t even filled it yet, and the bag is pretty solid so you can be sure your camera won’t get knackered. There are FOUR, count them, FOUR ways to access your camera. Quick access at the top, one on each side (for those who aren’t left handed) and the whole back panel (as per my previous camera bag). You can fit a macbook in there for travelling, it has a built in waterproof cover and there are a good number of smallish internal pockets so you can have a filter pocket, battery pocket, memory card pocket etc. There are also all these attachments for the outside that can be positioned wherever you like for water bottles, tripod holders, so on and so on. To date, I can’t really fault it…Until something prettier comes along of course.