I have (camera) baggage
February 27, 2011 7:17 AM   Subscribe

Please help me find the perfect camera bag for my Nikon D40. The ideal solution would be something with enough room for both photo and personal stuff, so I don't have to carry my purse. Or, are "camera bags" a dumb idea if I already have a somewhat-padded messenger bag?

Currently, I carry the basic Nikon gadget bag. It's okay, but it has drawbacks: (a) I have to carry another bag for phone/wallet/keys/meds/etc; (b) it has to be packed perfectly to close without struggle; and (c) the Nikon label and bag shape make it obvious that I'm carrying a cheap bag full of camera stuff.

I'd like a bag that has room for wallet, keys, and iPhone. Enough room for a book and/or a water bottle pocket would be awesome, but not necessary. As far as camera equipment goes, this is what I carry now:

  • Nikon D40 body with kit lens attached (18-55mm) & uncomfortable neck strap
  • 55-200mm lens
  • GorillaPod SLR tripod (this makes the Nikon bag hard to close)
  • Glif tripod mount for iPhone
  • a couple of lens filters and a cleaning cloth

  • Is there anything else I should be carrying? Should I be carrying less? As far as bags, I like the look of the Crumpler messenger-style bags, but I also have a Timbuk2 laptop messenger bag (similar to this) that would definitely hold everything if the Single-Use Camera Bag is a marketing idea. Ideal budget: under $150US.
    posted by catlet to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
    I have a Crumpler bag for my DSLR and I love the hell out of it - though sometimes I wish I'd bought the next size up to be able to also fit a book into the bag. As is, I have space for my wallet, phone, keys, and a few other small things, but no book.
    posted by sonika at 7:22 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

    I have something like this, which accommodates body (with lens attached), another two lenses, some random gear as well as a laptop. It's not as stylish as the bag you prefer, but I found that after trekking around with all that stuff slung over one shoulder really started to affect my back.
    posted by nevercalm at 7:31 AM on February 27, 2011

    Best answer: catlet: Or, are "camera bags" a dumb idea if I already have a somewhat-padded messenger bag?

    There are two schools of thought on this. My husband is in the "special bags for special things" camp but I am in the "throw the special thing into an intelligently safe bag and get on with your life" camp. This is not because I don't value nice things, but because when nice things require special ugly bags and accessories, I find them cumbersome, annoying and decidedly less nice. When the special ugly bag is $150, I am even less interested.

    My feeling is that if the camera has a hard body and a lens cap, it will be fine. I would just use the messenger bag. If you're really worried about it, you can house the camera in the Timbuk2 in the padded body bag it ships with, or cut a foam panel to segregate and protect it in the messenger bag.
    posted by DarlingBri at 7:34 AM on February 27, 2011

    Should I be carrying less?

    How often do you need the tripods? I have the same camera and wouldn't bother carrying a tripod around with me; there just aren't that many times when I need one and can't improvise.
    posted by The corpse in the library at 7:45 AM on February 27, 2011

    Best answer: Camera bags are not a dumb idea in theory. In practise, they're often clunky, ugly things. People are encouraged to buy enormous great hulking things that can fit a dozen lenses and more accessories than you'll ever need.

    People, being prepared is one thing, but making photography into a chore is another. Find a way to take the minimum of stuff (camera with lens, maybe one other small lens, a spare battery and a spare card) with you without making it into A Thing. Less is more. Remove obstacles.

    For me, the solution was to get a tiny Crumpler shoulder bag (A Ben's Pizza Medium for my 400D, and a Jimmy Bo (either 400 or 500) for my 5D.) This sufficed like woah for most personal stuff. I also have a Serious Camera Bag (a Crumpler Daily) for photo jobs, but it's overkill for personal stuff.

    Since you already carry a bag, that exact idea might not be a solution. I would agree that finding a way to combine it with your current Stuff is a good idea.
    posted by Magnakai at 7:59 AM on February 27, 2011

    Seconding Crumpler - there's a bag to suit everyone in their range.
    posted by kenchie at 8:09 AM on February 27, 2011

    Crumpler bags are way too overstructured to be multipurpose, I find. I had a roll-o-notes and it really only fit my laptop, and it was huge.

    I just found an old zip up pouch and put my camera in that. My backpack is Eagle Creek and has padding at the back. I remove the lens and put it next to the body when in the bag. All fine for the last two years.
    posted by wingless_angel at 8:21 AM on February 27, 2011

    Have you seen the Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Bags?

    People seem to love them. I hacked my own camera bag using a regular Timbuk2 medium messenger bag and some camera bag inserts I bought online. It has worked great for me.
    posted by SoulOnIce at 9:08 AM on February 27, 2011

    I've owned a ton of bags, but I've found what I consider to be the perfect bag - finally! I also picked up the larger version for days when I need to carry a ton of gear. Both are great.
    posted by blaneyphoto at 9:53 AM on February 27, 2011

    Epiphanie: "Liberating stylish women from the man bag." - really lovely, sturdy & functional bags with room for you camera gear + everything else.
    posted by judith at 10:12 AM on February 27, 2011

    The Ginger and Belle here are very protective and look amazing.
    posted by Mertonian at 10:33 AM on February 27, 2011

    I have the Lowepro SlingShot 100AW. It's functional, not necessarily stylish. I like that it can be used as a backpack or over the shoulder, and that the main compartment can be customized. It's smallish; not nearly as big as a full-sized backpack so it's relatively un-clunky.

    I used to carry my Gorrillapod in it along with my Nikon D5000 and 3 lenses, and still had room for personal items if needed. I no longer carry the Gorillapod, since found I really didn't use it enough. (The D5000 does an excellent job at high ISOs and 2 of my lenses have vibration reduction.)

    As to whether camera bags are really needed, I guess if you will be carrying a bag anyway, you may as well get one that works for your camera. However, I often carry my my camera with the cholder strap and no case, and don't really worry about it.
    posted by The Deej at 11:02 AM on February 27, 2011

    I've been enjoying this Swiss Gear bag lately when in the city (when hiking, I'd rather have a backpack). I generally carry an SLR body, 2 lenses, cleaning stiff and no tripod (for better or worse--occasionally I wish I had one). I have used traditional camera bags but enjoy that this doesn't scream "photographer" and lets me stick some of my other "purse" things in too.
    posted by mkuhnell at 11:54 AM on February 27, 2011

    Best answer: I didn't have a special bag until my backpack broke and it was easier for me to find a decent camera backpack than a regular one in the place where I live. I am usually out hiking with several lenses, and the actual camera bag is better for this, but if I just had one lens on all the time, I would rather just use a regular bag.

    I would suggest sticking with your regular bag for now and then get a special bag if your needs change.
    posted by snofoam at 12:28 PM on February 27, 2011

    Best answer: I have an ONA Roma camera insert as my daily camera bag. If I need to carry my whole kit, it goes in an Emera tote.
    posted by evoque at 2:24 PM on February 27, 2011

    Best answer: I actually have switched to using my camera bag exclusively for packing my stuff to get it to where I'm going, and then, when I leave the car or hotel to actually use my camera, I toss it on and put a lens or two in my jacket or vest pocket. It helps that I've got a Sun Sniper strap that I actually wear under my jacket (for a minor degree of weather protection, as well as to promote some degree whatsoever of subtlety in my 7D-carrying). I've rarely wanted more than a second lens while out in the field, and I don't even use zooms.

    Free yourself from overpreparation. Learn to make what you bring with you work. I recommend considering reworking your perception of a camera bag the way I did: it's a padded storage thing, not a way to carry it around while you're using it.
    posted by DoctorFedora at 8:45 PM on February 27, 2011

    Response by poster: Thank you all for your answers! I got my hands on a few Crumplers and LowePro bags this weekend, and pored over the sites suggested here; there are certainly some GORGEOUS bags out there, but out of my price range. I ended up following the suggestions to think carefully about what I'm carrying and find a way to make my camera an everyday friend rather than something that lives in a special bag used at special times.

    To that end, I got a LowePro Toploader Zoom 45 padded case, which holds my D40/kit lens/strap snugly and has pockets for cleaning cloth, a filter or two, and extra memory cards. This is small and padded enough to toss into whatever bag I'm carrying for everyday shooting. For more explicit photography outings, I picked up a Sherpani Flora Minor extra-small messenger bag, which is lightly padded, and has both sufficient room/pockets for my Stuff and an internal water bottle sleeve that holds my 75-200mm lens and hood perfectly. I'll use my old Timbuk2 messenger when I also need to carry a laptop.
    posted by catlet at 8:01 AM on March 1, 2011

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