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Thread: Messenger Bag for Photographers

  1. #1
    Jon
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    Messenger Bag for Photographers

    As an amateur photographer, I am constantly in search of a messenger bag that is discrete (i.e., not a "camera bag"), comfortable to carry all day while traveling, well-constructed, and large enough to carry a professional-grade DSLR camera and several lenses. I am a huge fan of Tom Bihn bags (I own the Aeronaut, Large Cafe Bag, and Smart Alec, and previously owned the Imago), but from what I can tell, none of the current messenger bags in the Tom Bihn lineup would work well for carrying my photography gear (e.g., Canon 5D Mark II with battery grip, 24-70 f/2.8, 50 f/1.2, and 70-200 f/2.8 lenses). I currently use a medium Timbuk2 messenger bag with a Tenba camera insert to carry my gear when traveling, but I would not hesitate to replace it with a Tom Bihn messenger bag, especially when Tom Bihn begins selling the long-anticipated camera insert.

    My "dream" camera messenger bag from Tom Bihn would include the following key features:
    (1) Internal dimensions to accommodate a full-frame DSLR camera with an attached lens, and at least two additional lenses, including a 70-200 f/2.8 with the hood reversed.
    (2) A removable, padded insert with movable dividers.
    (3) A simple flap with no pockets and a one-buckle closure (e.g., like on the Imago).
    (4) A large opening that makes it easy to store and remove a DSLR while shooting.
    (5) A padded waist belt that can be stored inside the bag when not in use (e.g., like on the "Change Up" and "Speed Convertible" belt packs made by Think Tank Photo). This feature would be especially useful when carrying heavy loads.

    Thanks for making great products! I hope to one day round out my Tom Bihn collection with a camera messenger bag...

    Cheers,

    Jonathan

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    A bag like the one you're describing could also be useful for smaller camcorders as well. Yes, I would like to see something like that as well.
    Owner of: Super Ego briefcase (Black / Indigo / Steel) with Reflective Strip, Brain Cell (Steel), Horizontal Freudian Slip, various Organizer Pouches and Key Straps, and a Side Effect (Black / Wassabi) worn as a belt-style hip-pack.

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    Registered User Fat Crip's Avatar
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    Yes a Tom Bihn camera bag or even say a camera insert - surprised no one's ever thought of that ;-) - would be excellent. In the meantime, have you looked at the Billingham camera bags? The Hadley range perhaps? A bit heavier that TB bags, but excellent quality to last a lifetime. I used to carry one of their huge pro bags with either 6x7 Mamiya or a large, multi bodied Nikon 35mm kit. I was seriously considering a Hadley for my MacBook Pro when I found the Ristretto which is much lighter, and that matters a lot these days.

    Eric

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    I've peaked at some of the inserts on the B & H Photo/Video web-site. So many choices to wade through, and none of the choices I found thus far seem to suit my specific needs. Either the shape and size of the inserts doesn't fit the bag I want to carry them in, or the shape and size of the inserts doesn't suit the equipment I want to store in them.
    Owner of: Super Ego briefcase (Black / Indigo / Steel) with Reflective Strip, Brain Cell (Steel), Horizontal Freudian Slip, various Organizer Pouches and Key Straps, and a Side Effect (Black / Wassabi) worn as a belt-style hip-pack.

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    Tom is working on the Camera Insert.

    I would be surprised if Jon set up did not fit in the Imago.

    But, I do not own the digital camera nor the lenses described above, however, I still own a film camera and lenses from the same manufacturer.

    Both set ups seem to be roughly the same size and to me an Imago with a Camera Insert would be perfect for that set up.

    When I decided to go digital, I opted for a small footprint setup which is very easy to transport, even in a Large Cafe Bag.

  6. #6
    Jon
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    Quote Originally Posted by backpack View Post
    Tom is working on the Camera Insert.

    I would be surprised if Jon set up did not fit in the Imago.

    But, I do not own the digital camera nor the lenses described above, however, I still own a film camera and lenses from the same manufacturer.

    Both set ups seem to be roughly the same size and to me an Imago with a Camera Insert would be perfect for that set up.

    When I decided to go digital, I opted for a small footprint setup which is very easy to transport, even in a Large Cafe Bag.
    I love the Large Cafe Bag and think it works well for carrying a camera body and one lens, but there is not much room to carry multiple lenses and other travel items. I used the Large Cafe Bag to carry a Canon 30D, 17-55 f/2.8, 70-200 f/4, and 35 f/1.4 while traveling in Cambodia and Thailand, but it was packed tight and I could not fit other useful items (e.g., water bottle, small book, light jacket).

    A larger Imago might be perfect. I tried the current Imago but it was too small for my set up; it was also a little small for carrying my 13" MacBook Pro inside a cache.

    Perhaps the simplest solution would be for Tom Bihn to offer the Imago in two sizes (e.g., Imago and Super Imago).

    Thanks for the replies!

    Cheers,

    Jonathan

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    Maybe I'm pessimistic but I don't think a perfect camera bag can be made anymore. For example, in your first post you mention something like a big Imago like bag with a flap and with an insert that has easy access to the camera and lens changes. But then you mention having room for water bottle, a book, jacket and a 13" MacBook Pro. I really don't think it's physically possible to do all that.

    Many people carry lenses like yours but I think when you get into that size and style you just have to give up on easy access and a bag that can do other things. With those spare lenses you just can't go without an insert designed to protect the gear - it's a must. Once you take that step you really can't stay with carry other items AND having access to other non camera travel items (imo of course). You only end up happy with the camera aspect of the bag when the bag really focuses on being good for the camera user. Trying to make the bag fit multiple purposes is fine except when it comes to something like camera equipment that has some serious requirements for space and protection.

    At least this is the conclusion I came to after many years. My photography is pretty lame so perhaps I'm biased. But I decided to dramatically decrease my camera load when traveling so that a bag like the Smart Alec or even the Co Pilot could camera and other items for travel. But who knows, maybe TB can figure it out.
    Owner of : Imago, Aeronaut, Brain Bag, Smart Alec, Synapse, Co-Pilot

  8. #8
    Jon
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    Quote Originally Posted by pretzelb View Post
    Maybe I'm pessimistic but I don't think a perfect camera bag can be made anymore. For example, in your first post you mention something like a big Imago like bag with a flap and with an insert that has easy access to the camera and lens changes. But then you mention having room for water bottle, a book, jacket and a 13" MacBook Pro. I really don't think it's physically possible to do all that.

    Many people carry lenses like yours but I think when you get into that size and style you just have to give up on easy access and a bag that can do other things. With those spare lenses you just can't go without an insert designed to protect the gear - it's a must. Once you take that step you really can't stay with carry other items AND having access to other non camera travel items (imo of course). You only end up happy with the camera aspect of the bag when the bag really focuses on being good for the camera user. Trying to make the bag fit multiple purposes is fine except when it comes to something like camera equipment that has some serious requirements for space and protection.

    At least this is the conclusion I came to after many years. My photography is pretty lame so perhaps I'm biased. But I decided to dramatically decrease my camera load when traveling so that a bag like the Smart Alec or even the Co Pilot could camera and other items for travel. But who knows, maybe TB can figure it out.
    Thanks for your input!

    I agree that the "perfect" camera bag will probably never exist (we can only wish, right). For travel, however, I still prefer using a messenger/shoulder bag over a backpack for quick access to gear. In contrast, for my job (ecological field research), I enjoy using a Smart Alec to carry my camera gear.

    For travel photography, I currently use a Timbuk2 messenger bag (size medium). The Timbuk2 is a very nice bag and can comfortably hold a Tenba camera insert, Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-70 f/2.8 attached, 70-200 f/4 or f/2.8 (with the lens hood reversed), an additional lens (e.g., 35 f/1.4), small water bottle, and a small book/travel guide. In addition, the Timbuk2 has adjustable straps on the bottom of the bag that can be used to carry a lightweight jacket or small tripod (e.g., Gitzo 1541T), and a cross strap for stabilizing the bag. I find the cross strap especially useful for carrying heavy loads. Overall, I have enjoyed using the Timbuk2 to carry these items while traveling, but I just think Tom Bihn could make a better bag.

    Please note that I was not suggesting that I needed a bag to carry camera equipment and a computer. I just wanted to share my observation that I found the Imago a little too small or "snug" for carrying a 13" MacBook Pro inside a Tom Bihn cache. If I take a computer on a trip, I usually store it in a cache inside my Aeronaut.

    Cheers,

    Jonathan

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    I'm just wondering if there's some secret formula for unlocking the myriad of sizes and shapes on B & H's site for padded camera inserts like the ones Fat Crip was talking about earlier in this thread. There has to be an easy way (alas, the nearest quality camera shop is over 60 miles from my home) to check out the inserts and figure out which one(s) will be useful for a given application.
    Owner of: Super Ego briefcase (Black / Indigo / Steel) with Reflective Strip, Brain Cell (Steel), Horizontal Freudian Slip, various Organizer Pouches and Key Straps, and a Side Effect (Black / Wassabi) worn as a belt-style hip-pack.

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    If Tom can make the perfect camera insert then I'll gladly take back what I said. No pressure Tom!

    So much of a good camera bag depends on what you are doing. I think you are a great example of that Jon. I don't know exactly what is required for ecological field research but I can easily see wanting a backpack for that. When I'm on a trip we sometimes will do some hiking in parks (nothing strenuous) and for that I also want my arms free and the load on my back. But other times we are just walking main street doing some shopping and such and those times a messenger bag would be better.

    A long while ago I tried to use my Imago for a short trip as a camera bag. I took my smallish Canon Rebel DSLR and a simple prime lens. We went to an antique fair with the dog in tow and just browsed all the crafts and such. The weight wasn't bad but the bulkiness was terrible. The camera would make the bag swing or dig into my back or side. I hated it. The camera was available to me but even with slow walking it was annoying and not comfortable. Had I used a backpack it would have been comfortable but then hard to get to.

    I still don't have a solution. I keep thinking that maybe a smaller camera will do the trick but I do get some nice shots with my simple prime lenses. And what's the point of taking a picture if you can't get one you like? For me the issue still remains that comfort is best when using a backpack like the Synapse but access is best with a shoulder style bag like the Co-Pilot.
    Owner of : Imago, Aeronaut, Brain Bag, Smart Alec, Synapse, Co-Pilot


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