I've been skulking the forums and studying the website endlessly the past few weeks, trying to figure out what bag would work best for me for my Olympus e620 DSLR, lenses, and gear. The Olympus 620 is smaller than most Nikon or Canon DSLRs, which is one of the reasons I bought it. Even so, my Imago is pretty stuffed when I carry a full load of camera gear. I bought a padded 3-compartment Tenba camera insert which I can barely cram inside, and I'm able to carry the Oly body with lens attached, plus two or three other lenses, with all the goodies such as spare batteries, memory cards, Rhodia notebook and pen, lens cleaning stuff, remote, Gorillapod, and who knows what else.
It works, and I can use the waist strap when I'm going on long walks with it, but even using the Absolute Strap, I'm finding that the weight quickly becomes hard on my neck and shoulders, and that in turn makes it hard on my lower back and knees. (I should mention that my knees are so bad that I will be having knee replacement surgery in the fall.) All this has inspired me to try and figure out what would be the best bag for me to carry my camera gear, whether I'm hiking in the mountains (well, next year maybe after the surgery) or walking around the wonderful European cities my son keeps moving to. I've never been a "backpack person," and I had the ID at one point and it was too big for me (even though I'm 5'8").
So in the past two weeks I have almost placed orders for every bag under the sun: another full-sized Swift; a second Imago; or even the Co-Pilot, because it would force me to downsize the camera gear I carry. As you can tell, I tend to prefer the messenger style, because I can swing it around to my back to carry it when I walk, then quickly swing it back to my side or front to get out my camera.
Then today I picked up my Imago again, loaded with everything, and took it for a test walk. And I decided that maybe I needed to change my attitude about messenger vs. backpack, because no matter how I shift the Imago, the weight is distributed unevenly on one half of my body. I end up twisted to one side like a pretzel; or maybe Quasimodo! That's not good for any of my joints, so I have to take the strap off every now and then and re-situate it on the other side periodically. And if I have to do that, then the whole notion of a messenger bag being more convenient seems to fly out the window. Even the American Arthritis Organization in its travel tips recommends that people either use a backpack (or a rolling bag), precisely because the backpack distributes weight more evenly.
So now I'm taking a second look at the Synapse, and what I would like to hear from others, especially other women, is how it feels to carry the Synapse when it's well-loaded. When I've used backpacks in the past, I've felt like they threw my center of balance off, not from side to side, but from front to back, particularly in the upper body. I ended up altering both my posture and my gait to compensate, in a weird unnatural way. (OK, so I'm not the most graceful person in the world; but despite the bad knees, I am pretty active, Nordic walking several miles a day.) I've read such good things about how comfortable the Synapse is to carry, and how it was designed to fit anyone between 5 and 6 feet, but still, if any of you lucky Synapse owners could share your experience with me, I'd appreciate it.
Thanks so much!