As any semi-pro or pro photographer knows there is no such thing as the perfect camera bag. It is one of those myths like the search for the Holy Grail and no matter how long you spend looking you will never find it. I have lost count on how many bags I have had over the years and every now and then I take stock of what I currently have and decide to sell or give away some of them.
Since I moved back into the DSLR world I have noticed that two recent bag purchases simply no longer cut it and will be going up onto eBay in the not too distant future; they are both in great condition and if you have a smaller DSLR and/or a mirror-less camera of some type they are really good bags.
So why the post? Since the purchase of the Canon 5D-MarkIII camera and 24-105 lens (and then 70-200 f2.8 lnes), I have tried to use some of the larger bags that I still have. This includes the “Lowepro Toploader Pro 75 AW” which was OK for the D3/D3S, but the height of the 5D-3 and grip is a little too tall and makes this a tight fit regardless of which lens I use (24-105, 100-300 and 70-200).
I have also tried (and currently am using) the Think Tank Retrospective 20 which again was OK when I had the D3/D3S and the Nikon holy trinity (14-24, 24-70 and 70-200 all @ f2.8) within it but is quite a tight fit for the 5D-3 and 70-200 combo that I use most of the time (as well as the 24-105 and 100-300 lenses and the various accessories that I have).
As part of my weight reduction and get fit regime this year I want to start riding a bike (something that I have not done for many years). Whilst this will be mostly to go to work I would also like to visit some of the parks in Lincoln on the bike and I need a photo back-pack for this. The one that I have (now in the attic) has a dodgy zip that has failed twice now and it has been sheer luck that nothing has fallen out.
So my requirements for a new bag were quite strict:
- The bag had to a back-pack type as it has to carry gear whilst I will be on my bike
- It has to be deep enough to house a DSLR with Grip
- It had to allow the 70-200 to be fitted and bonus points for this + Extender
- Whilst it has to carry a few lenses I don’t want the bag to be too big
- It must not look like a camera bag
- It must provide adequate protection to the gear in the bag
- Any extra compartment to house non-photo gear it preferable
- Any way of quickly accessing the 5D+lens is preferable
- Any way of having a iPad or slim-line laptop is preferable
OK so the last three are “nice-to-haves”s
I have spent a considerable time looking at bags, looking at you-tube videos, manufacturers’ web sites, shop sites (like WEX and Amazon) and have also looked at “what’s in my bag” videos which can become very addictive by the way. After almost giving up, I found a company called “Clik” that I had never hear of and they offer a very wide range of bags with features that appeal to me, Lowepro, Think Tank, Tamrac and Kata all seemed to miss the point over my main problem; just because I have a Po-sized DSLR (large camera + grip) it does not mean that I also want to carry 8 lenses and tons of flash gear too. Although I don’t have this amount of gear it does usually mane a very big bag which I awkward to use, looks silly and will mean cannot be used as an airline carry-on.
So I checked out their range and also managed to find a couple of you-tube videos which showed the features of the bag including the following one:
The features that they went through were exactly what I was looking for. The only issues were that the choice of suppliers in the UK are limited (although Amazon do stock them) and the price was a bit steep too, but after searching so long I decide to take the plunge, hopefully the sale of the Billingham and Kata bags will offset the price somewhat.
I purchased the Grey model from Amazon but apart from a few panels, most of the bag is a green-khaki colour which is perfect for wildlife photography. This also looks more like a hiking bag and less like a photo bag!
The main feature of the bag that I wanted was the way to access the photo gear; whilst the various “sling bags” out there are probably the best compromise for this they are not really great backpacks and are therefore not designed for prolonged storage on the back. This bag allows you to access just the top sections and withdraw the camera with lens attached. The picture below shows the camera compartment:
If you were accessing only the camera you wouldn’t open quite so far, but this shows what can be stored. The red bag at the bottom comes with the bag and allows you to store all sorts of loose items.
The bag also features a top compartment that allows storage of non photo items:
The designer of this bag has thought about access to this pouch too. The pouch sits on top of the photo compartment so has to be moved out of the way, the clever part is that there is a second zip on the other side of the bag if you need to get something from in there:
The strap or harness of the bag are also very well designed too, the video has some real world experience of how good this is so it should be good for my purposes as well. I like the fact that it also supports a hydration bladder, I see this being useful when I am on the bike or hiking on a warm day. The hydration bags are also quite cheap and cost around £10 to £15. Although this wasn’t on my list as a feature I wanted or would have liked I am happy it is there.
It didn’t look too big in the pictures but you can never really gauge this until you see the bag in real-life; now that it has arrived I can see that it is definitely the goldilocks bag for me. So this bag fulfils every feature in the requirements list and I look forward to using this in the field.