Tip of the week: Choosing a photo bagTips & Tricks
Welcome to a recurring feature on The Blog @ BorrowLenses.com. Every Thursday, we will post a photography-related tip here. These tips are typically inspired by questions we get from our customers. Sometimes we might feature a technique tip, sometimes a gear recommendation. If there’s something specific you’d like to see in this section, let us know. Email us at [email protected]
This week’s tip (or, more accurately, collection of tips): Choosing a bag to lug your gear around in.
- Don’t go for the biggest bag you can find.
One mistake customers make all the time is to pick the largest bag they can find. The thinking is that you should grab a bag that’ll fit all the gear you might need someday if you ever went on a long photo-heavy trip. Might and if are bad foundations on which to chose something that you’re likely to use on a frequent basis. That kind of thinking is called “Worst-Case Shopping” and is not the best way to chose your bag.
- This is not the last bag you’ll buy. Photographers who’ve been doing this for a while will attest to this: you will buy more than one camera bag in your lifetime. Actually, if you do it long enough, you’ll end up with more bags than you could possibly need. Your bags will require their own closet. It’s just a fact of photographic life.
- Don’t skimp on price. Bags, tripods, tripod heads, lenses. These are the things you do NOT skimp or cut corners on. Your bag isnt’ just a container for gear – if it were, you could just as easily carry your stuff in a Safeway plastic sack. You want something that’s built well, is properly, but not overly padded, and is from a reputable manufacturer. LowePro, Kata, ThinkTank and GuraGear are some of our personal favorites.
- If you can, try before you buy. We carry a number of bags for rent from LowePro and GuraGear. If you’re looking for something we don’t carry, see if you can borrow something to try from a friend. If you’re going to buy one without trying it, walk into a brick-and-mortar store and get your hands on the bag you’re thinking about. You may pay a bit extra, but you’re more likely to avoid a mistake wherein something you bought online ends up not working out for you.
Roller Bags. Enough pros and staff here swear by Think Tank’s products that we have no compunction in recommending their excellent Airport Security and slightly smaller Airport International series of rollers. This is the roller of choice for pros like Joe McNally, Scott Kelby and Moose Peterson. Moose in particular has an awesome breakdown of how he packs his Airport Security roller on his blog. Having personally owned this one, I can vouch for its fit, finish and customer support. One of the locks on my roller broke a while back and without so much as asking me for a credit card to cover shipping, the awesome folks at Think Tank sent me a new lock and instructions on how to replace the one on the bag. This bag has saved my back tons of wear and tear.
Big Backpacks. Honestly? There’s only one choice here. GuraGear makes an amazing, out of this world backpack called the Kiboko. This thing will accomodate one of the largest lenses we rent, the monster 600mm lens from Nikon or Canon, or Canon’s 800mm (which is a hair larger, by .1 inches, but 2 lbs lighter) lens on one side and a couple of bodies and still more (smaller) lenses on the other. We often wonder if this bag is somehow bending the laws of physics because it doesn’t appear to be capable of holding all that, but does anyway. Empty, it weighs practically nothing. Filled to capacity and properly cinched up around you (the bag has a bunch of adjustable straps and harnesses), it still feels surprisingly light and extremely comfortable to carry. There’s just no argument – this is the big backpack of choice for us.
Small Backpacks. We have two options for you here. One is the LowePro SlingShot 300, which we rent. It’ll hold your body, a 70-200 zoom and a few other smaller lenses, plus accessories. Its sling design will let you go shift the bag from your back to your front and draw your camera while on the go, making it a pretty handy thing to have. Our other favorite is the Kata 3N1-10. This is a small, lightweight bag with a switchable strap system that lets you convert it from a backpack to a sling for right-handers, to a sling for left-handers. We love its bright yellow interior that lets you quickly find that pesky lens cap or tiny memory card quickly. Arguably one of the best-looking backpacks out there too.