Saturday, May 2, 2009

Picking a camera carry system that is right for you

If you haven't guessed, today I am going to talk to you about the different styles of camera carry systems out there, and the manufactures that make them.

And for starters, this is opening a HUGE can of worms, as there is no one right system out there for anyone. And any of the people that have been into photography for a while, know that there is no one bag or case that does everything they want, nor hold what they want, weights more than we want, it does or doesn't carry a laptop... the list goes on.

I have 7 different bags, and 2 hard cases... each of them I use, for one reason or another, still when the time is right to use just that one; I have even given a couple away that I had no use for so that number can have still been bigger. And I am still on the hunt for the prefect bag, even if I did just buy the Lowepro CompuPrimus AW.

One of the features that is offered in almost all of these systems, is modular padding, where you can move the panels where ever you want in the bag/case, and they are held in tightly with velcro. Almost every single manufacture offers this feature, and is even available in the big hard cases made by Pelican or Storm Case (albeit at an extra charge for these styles), so no mater what I am talking about here, know that this feature is available if it is not already built in.
The most popular by far, is the camera backpack; but even still, that is a huge variety of styles and capacities that they come in. Almost every manufacture out there has their own spin of a feature that they think you want.

Kata 3n1-30
  • some have a Laptop carry system,
  • many can carry a tripod,

  • some are water tight for extreme weather/white water rafting,
  • some open up towards your back for safety when traveling abroad,

  • some are hardened for when you are hiking/mountain biking,

  • some offer a slot for a hydration system,
  • some have a quick side access for the camera body with a lens on it,
  • some can sling around to your front for full access

  • some have a large upper section pocket for extended day hikes...
  • some bags are made with post consumer recycled materials,
  • others are a more traditional canvas

As I said, the list is very long, it really depends on what your needs and wants are. As I said, I have 7 bags, 4 of them are backpacks, each one of them has their place in my world. One is small and discrete, so it does not look like a camera bag, but it can carry a lot in it, another is the large trekker that carries almost everything I own for camera bodies and lenses (but at the cost of weighing in at 50+ lbs when fully loaded), another can carry a body and 5 lenses, and has a large upper section so I can pack clothing and food with me on a long hike or 3 flashes and my Lastolite EzyBox and some misc flash gear, and the last is a very large flat bag that fits into airline carry-on but it can only carry so much with it before becoming full. I use all of these features from time to time, so I keep all of these bags.

The list of the manufactures is almost as long as the available features.

Lowepro, you will see most commonly here in Canada, as they are a Canadian product, they make a great product and backed by an awesome warranty (lifetime replacement on all fabric and stitching; but not the zippers, they do not make those). Their design team is based here in the Lower Mainland... how do we know this?!? Most of their bags have a Rain Cover built in! Any bag with an AW as part of the name, has this "All Weather" cover that simply velcros out of the bottom, and you wrap it around the entire bag.

Tamrac, is the next biggest name, they are US made, and again have a great warranty and great product. During my last decision time of what to get for a bag, one of their Adventure series was high on my list.

Crumpler, is the new kid on the block coming to us from the Land Down Under, but some great product available from them, and a killer sense of humor on their website and in the names of the bags themselves. Sadly not everywhere carries these yet, but there are a few retail outlets in Canada that carry them. I am hoping that more stores in the Lower Mainland picks them up as time goes on here... if nothing else, look at their website and go through the 360 views and product demo videos.

Kata, being a big hit in the market coming to us from Israel... yup, you read that right. I must say that I LOVE their product, their 3-N-1 series is ground breaking, and many others in their line up are just as good. I own the Prism-U from them, as my little bag that could... I can fit a pro level body, 4 lenses, 2 flashes, a 12" laptop, spare batteries, card holders, flash cord and a mini tripod... It is made out of a stretchy neoprene material to allow for it to stretch when needed to shoehorn something in. Many of the Kata bags come with a rain cover, but it is not built in like the Lowepro's.

National Geographic, yup, the Magazine has their own line of bags (and tripods, and tripod heads... etc) that are top rate in my books; the Large Backpack was also on my list of options during my last purchase. All of their product is made out of a Safari/Khaki coloured canvas, and also has the built in all weather rain cover; but you would expect nothing less from the famed outdoor based magazine.

National Geographic NG5737 Large Backpack

There are many others makes out there, these are the ones I count as notable... but if you look out there, there are other manufactures out there, some good, some bad, and even some with features that these big names haven't thought of...

Lowepro Toploading Zoom-1

Shoulder Bags, are our next biggest hit with the consumer, these range from the very small holding only one camera and the lens that is on it (seen above), to the large and able to hold 2 bodies, several lenses and a laptop (shown bellow)... again, if you look at every above mentioned website you will find that they make them. I find they can get very heavy in a hurry if you have a bigger one with a lot of gear in it; but, if you are the type that gets to a location, puts your bag down in a corner and leaves it there... these can carry all that you want for a day, and more, and have a very convenient top opening. Some like the Crumpler Brazillian Dollar Home (shown bellow) can be carried like a ruck-sack, for time when you need to carry it for a longer period of time, in this format you can do so without much effort.

Again, these tend to be airliner safe for carry-on, but they scream camera bag when you are out in public, so if you are traveling abroad, it might not be the safest.

Crumpler Brazillion Dollar Home

Rolling Cases and Hard Cases, I am going to lump these big bad asses together, these are for the working pro or the advanced amateur that has a lot to carry, and want it well protected and all the way up to 'next to bomb proof'.

Rollers are made by several manufactures:

The Lowepro are soft sided cases with an extendable handle and wheels, some are carry-on compatible others... not so much. A few of the Lowepro Soft Sided cases without wheels, slide right into a Pelican or similarly sized hard case for that extra protection.

Lowepro Omni Pro with optional Extreme Hard Case

ThinkTank, makes some really nice rollers (and some wicked shoulder bags that I forgot to mention earlier in the post), and most are designed for the sole purpose of being Airline friendly, and fitting in the Carry-On frame. The ThinkTank Airport International V2.0 is some kind of ground breaking, with optional low rise dividers so you can add in a laptop, but you can not fit as many lenses this way, because the taller ones must lay down to have the laptop sleeve fit. But when you have a couple bodies, a few lenses, a couple flashes and a laptop... and you must carry-on and have it fit into the overhead or under the seat, beacuse your gear must arrive with you, there is next to nothing else.

ThinkTank Airport International V2.0

Peilican, the master of all hard cases! If you want to go through hell and back with your camera gear intact... Pelican is the case for you. You all know I am not a small guy, and I have stood on my case to get that little bit of height advantage for a photo, and nothing inside even showed stress. These were the first guys on the block, and their product shows it, yes there are some knock offs out there that do the same for less... but to me, the Pelican's just seem that little bit more heavy duty made, a little cleaner around the edges... and they are the only ones that can claim for you to "check on the rep, second to none"; this is only possible due to their decades of Military/Police/Fire Department service they have been put though.

Pelican 1510 with optional Padded dividers

One thing all the Hard Cases can claim, they are water tight, air tight, dust proof, many have a seal on it that allows for air pressure difference; so when they are subjected to the thin air of high altitude in the cargo hold of a airliner, you can repressurize them before opening.

If there is anything I have missed, or that you want a further explination on, feel free to email me your questions.

Until then, good shooting.


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