The Right Stuff
My amateur photography hobby began in 2009. The noticeboard at work showed someone selling a second-hand Canon 450D. A Digital SLR was a step up from the point-and-shoot Casio pocket camera I’d been using for holidays and nights out. So I bought it. And then spent the whole weekend learning all the terminology of DSLR’s and reviewing various lenses that were well out of my price range (and still are).
Now I own a Canon 550D with several lenses, shoot HD video and time lapse photography as well as your usual stills. And it’s not just an amateur hobby anymore. I use the kit for professional work (more recently shooting inside the Big Brother house for Channel 5 where I was working as a House Director).
I carry my 550D and 28-135mm everywhere I go, as standard. The problem I have is that sometimes I come across a photo opportunity that would be better suited to one of my other lenses that I’m not currently carrying. So I’m hunting for a backpack that’s suitable to carry more kit, but still be a day-to-day backpack.
I’m looking for a backpack with shoulder straps (not a single strap) that’s modular and adjustable, spacious for kit, spacious for day-to-day stuff, inconspicuous and potentially able to carry a tripod.
The first camera backpack I ever bought was a Tamrac Expedition 6x
The Tamrac Expedition 6x, model 5586, is one hell of a crafted product. Waterproof rubber zips, spacious and modular. In fact it was far too much for what I actually needed. Yes, it held my camera and all my kit as well as my MacBook Pro. But there was ample space left over. And it really is massive. I also found the shoulder straps were further apart than usual, and so one strap was secure whilst the other was sliding off the other shoulder. It’s a true photojournalists backpack, but far too much for me. The 6x was therefore resold on eBay.
At the end of 2011 I started the search again and in PhotoPlus Canon magazine I came across a backpack which had a removable bag designed for camera gear that could be used separately.
The NewFeel FW10 with the additional NewFeel Reflex Camera Bag.
The bag is black but internally it’s bright orange, designed to allow you to see and find things easier. The smaller removeable camera bag (purchased separately for £17) is decent in quality and can hold a camera body with two medium or three smaller lenses. I found that I used the Reflex Camera Bag inside a satchel rather than inside the NewFeel backpack. This in itself is fine and has lasted well, but defies the point of the backpack. When the smaller camera bag is put in the backpack, it’s at the bottom of the bag and therefore buried under everything else you decided to chuck in there. It certainly doesn’t give ready-to-shoot access to your camera.
The problem with the NewFeel bag is that it’s just a cavernous space with no organisation. In saying that, I’ve kept a hold of it for a while as it holds all the kit and lenses in a protected way and is big enough for all the smaller items such as chargers, filters, batteries, mini tripods, quick release plates, etc. But all in one jumbled mess. Great for longterm storage and throwing in the car. But not great for walking, or hiking.
The third possible backpack I’ve discovered is this one: The TamRac Aero 85
In a similar fashion to the Expedition 6x, the Tamrac Aero 85 is capable of holding all my camera kit in a modular and protected way at the bottom of the bag, and has a large padded pocket at the back for my MacBook Pro and has another section separate from the gear and laptop for other stuff such as lunch, a book, etc.
It felt great on my shoulders. The modular padded area is great for the camera and kit, and the laptop pocket is well padded and protected. The other selling point of this bag is that you have immediate access to your camera by swinging the bag across one shoulder and unzipping the side pocket. Ideal for some. But I’m left handed. And I’d swing the bag off over my left shoulder and over to my right in order to use my left hand, and the pocket is on the other side! No big deal, but not great for me. Also, the other ‘normal’ section just isn’t big enough for any extra stuff I might want to carry. Not that useful. I managed to get my wallet, a small book and a tin of deoderant in there before it started to become a jumbled unorganised mess. Almost pointless. So the Aero 85 is going onto eBay too…
Then there’s this backpack: The LowePro Flipside 300
Now, LowePro have made camera bag for frickin’ years. Could this be the one? It looks like it’ll hold all my gear in a modular fashion, has a separate side pocket for all the smaller personal items and has a tripod loop. It also has a removable zip pack that can hold wallets, cables, etc. There is also a 200 version too, which has a lower capacity (less lenses).
Does anyone know of any other bag that might be suitable or good for what I need?
UPDATE: As mentioned, I bought the Tamrac Aero 85 but I decided against keeping it. For hiking holidays I’d stick to the bag I had (the Newfeel) as it had done me good so far without damaging any of my other kit, and with a bit of space management I could carry a couple of other lenses in it. In the end I decided to buy something more longterm: A Pelican 1510. Pelican (who also own Storm) are the world leader in cases for the military. These things are crushproof, waterproof, bombproof, etc. They come in black, desert tan and yellow. I have a black version with lid organiser and padded dividers. It’s brilliant!