There are plenty of new camera bags out there, but these bags have stood the test of time, and are still in production. Here’s a short, biased (and Domke-heavy) round-up of bags that this pro shooter trusts and uses again and again.
If there is one thing that photographers obsess over more than their cameras themselves, it is the camera bags they carry them in. Look on any Internet Forum and you will see amongst the various threads asking about whether this or that lens is best for taking photos of poppy seeds or others of people complaining why their cameras doesn't make their photos look like Richard Avedon shot them, you inevitably find the following question (or some variation of it): “What Camera Bag Is Best For Me To Carry My Stuff To Heaven Only Knows Where?” Obviously there is no single answer to this, but here I'll talk about the bags I use and under what situations I use them.
Please note this camera bag buying guide, which I've prepared exclusively for the Adorama Learning Center, is merely my opinions and preferences based on years of experience schlepping my gear to pro shoots; your mileage may vary. All bags listed here are available at the Camera, Video & Photo Bags & Cases Shop at Adorama.
The Domke F803, which is stocked by Adorama is a legendary everyday bag. Looking like nothing more than a simple messenger bag, the 803 with it's 8 separate compartments when using the included divider is perfect for a small rangefinder system. The Leica M9, Fuji X Pro 1, or a Ricoh GXR with A12 Mount and three lenses, batteries, memory cards and an Apple iPad (all available at Adorama) is about the max one could carry in this bag, and that is quite a bit. The perfect bag for the traveling street photographer, the F803 is about as indestructible as one can get. The one I have is a black canvas model, exposed to all the environmental abuse and faded to a nice gray; it’s also available in Brown, Navy, and Sand. This bag has been with me for 15 years. Much like many of the cameras of yore, when you buy a Domke, it's for life.
Lowepro CompuDay Photo 150
A step up from the F803 is the wonderful Lowepro CompuDay Photo 150, available at Adorama. Basically an updated version of the classic (and discontinued) 114 bag, this bag allows much the same accommodations as the F803 with the additional benefit that, instead of an iPad, a notebook like the new MacBook Pro 15” Retina Display model can be accommodated ,with just enough space to squeeze in a small Wacom Tablet like the Bamboo Splash and an external SSD Drive. While the nylon construction may not be as long-lasting as the Domke, it is a tough bag, and the best option for a small camera such as a MILC or Rangefinder system and laptop.
The Domke F2, which Adorama has been selling with pride for years, is perhaps the one of the best everyday assignment bags on the market. While some feel more comfortable with the F3X, the F2 is, to me, the more flexible bag (see illustration provided by Tiffen, right, for examples of how it can be configured). This is the bag I use every season for Mercedes Benz Fashion Week and whenever on assignment for WWD. Using the 720-250D insert I can easily pack my Canon 7D with battery grip and a 24-105mm f/4 IS L lens mounted along with a 70-200mm f/4 IS L, 17-40mm f/4 L and a Canon 580EX II flash with a Quantum Turbo SC and a CZ cable in the main compartment before having to even use the remaining six compartments.
The Domke F-1X is my favorite assignment bag. Large enough to accommodate two of Domke's large four lens inserts or a 720-250D and the standard four lens insert, both of which can be purchased through Adorama, one can fill this bag easily with six lenses, a flash, camera with lens mounted, and a Quantum battery with cable for said flash. Using the remaining six large compartments you can carry a spare body with grip, batteries, memory cards, small laptop like a Macbook Air 11”, radio transmitters, and whatever else tickles your fancy. I have configured mine in so many different ways, from a Dynalite Pack and head with two camera bodies and two lenses to what I have described above. This is really the bag you want if you need to carry a lot of gear. It’s my main location bag when shooting editorial work. Right now, for example, my F-1X currently has a small monolight head, a Canon 1DS Mark III, a Canon 135mm f/2 L, Canon 50mm f/1.2L, Canon 35mm f/1.4L, Pocket Wizards, cables, and battery for the monolight, spare batteries, a Sekonic Meter, a Kenko Colorimeter, a memory card wallet with twelve memory cards, white balance target, manuals, sensor cleaning kit and I still have one pocket available! I am still wondering what I will put in that pocket. Lunch, maybe?
Adorama Joe Farace Classic Reporter Backpack
Finally, the Adorama Joe Farace Classic Reporter Backpack, available exclusively through Adorama, is my current backpack of choice when I need to carry a lot of gear for a long time on location. The major difference between the F-1X and this is purely the fact that if I actually have to carry this gear over some distance it is far easier with a backpack than with a shoulder bag. I primarily use this bag when shooting landscapes or when I’m carrying my medium-format system.
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