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Camera Bag Addiction 
by Jim McGee

It starts simply enough.  You buy your first "serious" camera and you decide that you need a "serious" bag to hold it.

As you add more lenses and accessories, you start eyeing one of those big pro bags, and wouldn't it be nice to have one of those cool quick shooter bags for when you're traveling light?  And what about a good pack designed to hold everything you need for 10 days in the wilderness plus all of your gear?  

You know you've got a problem when you take three different camera bags with you on vacation - just so you can cover different shooting situations.  Not a bad idea except that its only a three day trip!

Lets face it, most photographers are equipment junkies.  It's a rare disciplined photographer who only packs exactly what he or she needs.  When packing for a photo trip, all to often, the "what if's" set in.  What if we need that extra piece of gear...

I know more than one photographer who, after buying and using several different bags, is on the quest for "the perfect bag".

So what is the perfect camera bag?  I'd say that it varies not only by the photographer, but by the situation.  And it's the very fact that we keep running into situations that our bags don't quite fit that keeps us thinking about what would make the perfect bag.

My perfect bag would be light weight.  It would be heavily padded to protect my gear.  It would work equally well with a bevy of long lenses and heavy tripod for wildlife work, or with a single body and a "normal" zoom for relaxed shooting.  It should have a wonderful strap that reduces the apparent weight of the bag by at least 80%.  It should have plenty of padded compartments, and it should be totally reconfigurable no matter what the situation.  

It should fit comfortably on my hip so that I can work directly from the bag without putting it down, and it should have a full harness for loading up and hiking all day.  It should be completely weatherproof against hurricane winds and monsoon rains, but it should only require tripping one quick release latch for access to all my gear.  It should wear like iron, shed dirt and grease like Teflon, and be made of self cleaning wonder material that always looks new.  

It should have plenty of cubby holes for filters, flashlights, pens, remote releases, etc.  It should have plenty of film storage, with separate compartments for fresh film and exposed film, and those pouches should be see through so that I can breeze through airport security checks.  It should handle either 35mm or medium format with equal aplomb and hold my laptop in a pinch.  Finally it should fit into any overhead compartment - even if I'm flying on a Buzzard Airlines twin engine commuter out in the boonies.  And it should also drop easily into the saddlebag of a motorcycle.  And did I forget to mention that it should cost less than a bar tab for two photographers after a day of shooting?

If it seems like my requirements are contradictory it's only because they are.  I want a lot of different things based on the kinds of shooting I'm doing on a given day. I'm always attracted to new types of camera bags that may solve some of these varied shooting problems.

This month we've reviewed two bags at completely opposite ends of the spectrum.  The Tamrac 600 series bags are a "traditional" professional photographers bag.  The bags are built to wear like iron and protect equipment in harsh conditions. These bags have earned their traditional label by remaining in Tamrac's line, virtually unchanged, for 15 years.  Obviously these bags have something going for them or they wouldn't have survived so long in this highly competitive niche.  Survival means sales and a lot of photographers have found virtue in these bags.

Lowepro's Roadrunner AW bag on the other hand pegs my bag lust meter because it promises to solve a couple of problems for me.  Usually when I travel I carry my gear in a rolling carry-on bag (see Safe Traveling with Your Cameras & Film in the March issue).  Along with me also goes a bag that I'll work from on location.  That smaller bag and it's contents will change depending on what and where I'm shooting.  

The Roadrunner AW is basically a high quality internal frame pack with wheels and a handle built-in, making it more convenient in crowded airports where a loaded backpack tends to knock fellow travelers about.  It has reconfigurable equipment compartments, a place for a change of clothes, and a rain cover to keep the whole works dry.  This makes it a great travel bag since it's good both in the airport and on the trail.

But while I may lust for this bag, and while it may solve a couple of problems for me, I'll still want my overworked little LowePro Nova 2 for strolling around with a lightweight kit.  I've figured out how to get it to hold 2 zooms, 3 primes, a flash and two bodies, if need be.  Far more than the folks at LowePro designed it to hold.

Then there's my cheapie Quantaray camera holster ($24) that's been rattling around in the saddle bag of my Harley holding a backup body and normal zoom for the last six years.  So far, both it and the camera are doing fine.

And it would be really cool to have one of those completely waterproof bags for when you're shooting out on the water...

See, that's the problem with the camera bag addiction - you can always find room in your heart, and a good excuse, for just one more bag...

 

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You know you've got a problem when you take three different camera bags on a three day vacation

 

 

 

 

...it should cost less then a bar tab for two photo-
graphers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

you can always find room in your heart for just one more bag...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

text and photography copyright 2001 Vivid Light Publishing