Camera Bags: The Scourge of Photographers?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by AutumnJazz, Sep 1, 2008.

  1. AutumnJazz

    AutumnJazz Member

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    Did Weegee use one? I don't think he did. Does Salgado? I doubt it, but I don't know. What about Nachtwey? He didn't in "War Photographer," although he did use a waist pack to carry film and notes. Maybe he does now.

    Anyway, I've made a lot of observations since I started shooting, about half a year ago. At first, I got a camera bag. Somewhat large, but I stuffed it full of stuff...Camera, lens, flash, batteries, etc. It ended up hurting my back, and it really inhibited me. When I used it, I would always keep my camera in it. So, I would have to put it down, get out my camera, etc. to get a shot. Not a very fluid workflow.

    So, I stopped using it.

    Recently, I went to NYC with some friends. One of whom is a fellow photographer. He does use digital, but he never gave me crap for using film. He cheekily asked me why I hadn't upgraded to digital yet, but also subtly complimented me as he said something along the lines of "only artists use film anymore...I'm not arty enough to use it."

    Anyway, he brought a rather small camera bag, more like a soft-case for his camera. But, whenever he wanted a shot, he had to stop, take his camera out, etc. (He also had a zoom lens that he would fiddle with, but that is for another thread.)

    (Also, I read the often-loathed Ken Rockwell's "How to Carry Less" [I thought it said Lenses, ha]. I don't know why he can be so hated and yet so trusted by so many. He has good points, he has bad points, and he says a lot of stuff tongue in cheek. I like to read his stuff because I like to look at lenses and cameras, just like everyone else. :smile:

    What I'm trying to get at is that I think camera bags are a stupid thing to have. Instead of bringing a bunch of lenses with you at once, just bring one. Maybe two, if you're going to bring a second body with you.

    I just feel like I've been improving much faster as a photographer by only using my 35mm f/2. I feel like I'm considering the composition much more, and so on. It also allows me to be more spontaneous, as I just fling my camera on to my shoulder and go. I don't even sling my camera around my neck anymore.

    I love cargo pants. I can fit batteries, film, flash, a portable media player, etc. into them comfortably, and without imposing on anyone. A somewhat small camera slung over one's shoulder is much more unassuming than a massive camera bag. Even if I get some kind of telephoto lens that I want to haul around, I'll probably just replace my flash with it in my pocket.

    And when I bring a tripod, it gets slung right over my shoulder, next to my camera.

    So, does anyone have anything else to add? Possibly a justification for camera bags?
     
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  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Depends on what I'm shooting and where I'm going.

    For street shooting, it's best to be unencumbered. A bag gets in the way.

    If I'm going somewhere unfamiliar and shooting landscapes, I've got time to think and set things up, and it might make sense to bring a five or six lens kit.

    If I'm traveling, I might bring more than the full kit in a bag, but I usually won't bring everything with me on any given occasion. Some times I'll carry a camera on a strap and a couple of lenses in a waist pack ("waste pack"? sounds unpleasant); sometimes it's just one camera, one lens.

    With my new Kata waist pack, I can carry my 2x3" Technika and five lenses, so that's a way to carry a big kit in a small package.

    Of course with the 8x10" and larger cameras, a bag or a case protects the camera and keeps everything together, but if I'm shooting out of a car, I can keep the camera set up and ready to shoot in the trunk or on the back seat.
     
  3. AutumnJazz

    AutumnJazz Member

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    I shouldn't try to spell when I'm tired.
     
  4. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Just try a search for "waste level finder" and you'll get all kinds of interesting results. It sounds like an instrument that tells you how full the septic tank is.
     
  5. bnstein

    bnstein Member

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    A justification for camera bags?

    I have non-denominational backpack that I like to use when travelling. That way if Im not actually taking a photo it doesnt yell "I have an expensive camera. I am a tourist. Engage me in conversation and try to con me".

    It does however mean that fleeting moments have flitted away by the time you get the camera out. Although given the old plate camera I mostly use these days in urban travel it wouldn't make that much difference. A leica it aint.

    I have been taking less and less more and more even when using non-vintage stuff: Bessa-T with 21mm lens is the other trip camera. Thats it.
     
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  6. nemo999

    nemo999 Member

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    There is everything to be said for not carrying more equipment than you need. on the other hand it is vital to carry the equipment you do need in an ergonomically correct way, otherwise you're looking at a lifetime of back pain. I personally carry my normal everyday outdoor gear (a Fuji GW690III and a Leica) in a small LowePro backpack. My way of working is to proceed fairly deliberately to a certain location, at which time I will hang the camera and a meter round my neck and put a couple of spare films in my pockets so that I don't constantly have to dive into the bag. If I were into street photography. I would have the camera round my neck all the time, but these days I absolutely do not do this and do not wish to look like a photographer all the time. A padded camera bag is virtually the only storage medium that protects against hard knocks and rain, cargo pants offer maximum convenience but zero protection, gear carried in cargo pants will be damaged often!
     
  7. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    Almost random thoughts . . .

    I would almost never traipse around an unknown city or gathering without some sort of bag to tuck the machine away when desired. 35mm sized gear can work into a modest waist pack unless one gets heavy on telephotos -- not a problem here as I don't own any long stuff. I've used a couple of shoulder pouch-like things much smaller than any traditional camera bag. The trick is to find something that can be set up as a top loading holster sort of container that can be left unzipped for quick access without gear falling out. There are holsters, of course, but I really like less camera-obvious containers if possible.

    I find the gear carrying situation to be hugely variable. Perhaps that's why I have a closet full of assorted camera bags, belt pouches, shoulder straps and whatever. On a kit, I tend toward the minimalist approach -- after all, I'm a hobbiest, not a commercial photographer. I chuckle when I read discussions where people debate the optimum set of six or seven lenses for their latest camera body. I did wind up with four, plus a teleconverter, for one of my earlier cameras. It's the fact that two of those lenses hardly ever found their way onto the camera in 15 years -- plus the price of decent lenses -- that helped formulate my current philosophy. My silly theory is that even if I could magically acquire a Canon 15 - 350mm f2.0L zoom lens to become my ultra-universal walk-around do-everything lens, I would every now and then still encounter a situation where I wished it was wider, longer or faster. Meanwhile it would always be costly enough to make me paranoid about waving it around in strange surroundings and wear me out with its ungainly size and weight.

    So I figure, go light, get used to it. I'll miss one every now and again, but that happens anyway. Traveling, I lean toward one modest zoom and one fast prime for those indoor no-flash situations, smile and be happy. At the time of my first trek to Italy, I only owned 3 lenses for my Canon A-1 and I left one of them home. The left behind was the FD 35 - 105 f3.5 macro zoom, a great and classic lens, but it's huge and weighs more than the camera. And having only a few items in the bag makes it far easier to get stuff out.

    Now I admit most of my major travel has been sightseeing, not "photographic missions." When I go to do a specific photo project, I am likely to take every thing I think I might have an outside chance of wanting. But usually such projects involve traveling via auto and if not local, staying in hotels, so even if I have a bunch of kit on the trip, I'm unlikely to convert myself to a pack mule every time I go out for a few pictures. I've noticed sometimes it's liberating to carry a 35mm with 50 mm "normal" lens and just make it work.

    Perhaps it's my full geezerhood, but even 20 years ago I noticed many cameras carried on a neck strap seem to multiply substantially in weight as the day wears on.

    My latest bag-to-be (for the collection) is a padded belt pouch large enough to fit my Perkeo II and a couple of extra rolls of film. (I think there's a Tamrac Modular system pouch with my name on it ... :D)

    DaveT (running off at the keyboard)
     
  8. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    Backpacks are one choice, and I recall Salgado mentioning that, though I don't think it was a dedicated camera backpack. I have lots of bags, probably more than a few people, though I need them because I carry lots of gear to paid shoots, and sometimes I need to fly somewhere with lots of gear. The reason for lots of gear on a paid shoot is that I need back-up gear. Unfortunately I am like a walking Lowepro catalogue with all the bags I now own. Of course, my large format bag is absolutely necessary, because large format requires too many items, partially due to the type of camera I use (Weegee had a Press camera, though very limited in choice of movements).

    When I am shooting ideas, concepts, or more general portfolio images, then sometimes I simplify to one camera. I have a small backpack for just-in-case, and between areas transit . . . sometimes more of an anti-theft device than a gear choice. There is something challenging to one camera and one lens, and it is good to minimize . . . sometimes.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat Photography
     
  9. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Choose the bag first

    It really helps to start out with a bag whose size and shape you like, and then limit yourself to the gear that fits comfortably in it.

    I have two small shoulder bags. One is just right to fit the 35mm kit I like best - 24mm, 35mm, 85mm lenses, one body, a small flash, some film, spare batteries and a couple of other small accessories. It works, and is reasonably light (not least because it is all Olympus OM kit).

    The second bag is just big enough for one of my Mamiya bodies (TLR or 645) and a couple of lenses, and a small hand meter.

    I try to keep each of the small bags close at hand, so I can have at least one with me nearly all the time.

    Matt
     
  10. gerryyaum

    gerryyaum Subscriber

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    When I was in Thai recently for the ladyboy photos I used a very large camera bag for 2 reasons. I was carrying a converted Polaroid razalle 4x5, a quantum flash, a quantum turbo battery, 6 graffmattic backs. I was also carrying a Mamiya twin reflex camera with a back up lens (which I needed when my original lens broke down one shoot)...I also carried a Vivitar flash for the Mamiya along with a bantam battery pack plus 8 rolls of 220 and 6 rolls of 120 film, plus a notebook and a picture book (to show my subjects). Try carrying all of that stuff without a bag!

    The second reason is I did not want to advertise that I was carrying all that gear; because of possible theft problems and also problems from the people that benefit from the sex industry financially (they are not too big on photographers making sympathetic images of the workers).

    I guess what I am saying is that bags are often needed, I am sure Salgado uses something, how can he travel in all those difficult environments without having a bag to protect his equipment at times. If your going out to do street photography for the day then maybe you can just use a vest or pocketed pants with a 35mm camera and 1 lens but for many other occasions some kind of bag is mandatory.

    One of my favorite bags is a shitty looking thing that’s all banged up. I remember going to a camera dealership in Malaysia and taking my 2 Mamiya 6 bodies out of the bag along with 2 lenses. The camera guy in the store asked "why do you carry such expensive equipment in such an ugly broken down bag?" The reason I do is because I do not want to look like I got $10 000 in camera equipment in the bag, it is functional and also a disguise!

    www.gerryyaum.com
     
  11. PVia

    PVia Member

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    One of the best bags I have is a Victorinox small laptop bag, very simple, one zippered opening and one newspaper pouch (slit) on the outside. It holds my Leica M2 with attached 50mm lens, that's it, one lens. My eyeglasses also go in there, and a neoprene lens pouch that holds other necessities (keys, ibuprofen, Starbucks card). Boxed film gets thrown in there, too...nothing goes in that can scratch the camera, that's what the neoprene pouch is for. Works great and is super light...

    If you can figure out how to jettison most of the stuff in a camera bag, you'll be in heaven. You don't need to carry all those lenses, etc. Learn to work with one...

    I also have a small Tamrac backpack that holds my Mamiya RZ with 110mm lens only. Also room for a Sekonic light meter, film and filters, release, etc in the zippered compartments in the flap. What else do you need?

    The 4x5 is also in a medium sized pack that holds the camera (an Ebony non-folder), 4 film holders, 3 lenses, loupe, meter, filters, and t-shirt dark cloth. To tell the truth, I could take just one lens (and often do) and be perfectly happy...
     
  12. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    I have a few bags but I hate then all!

    I usually end up carrying the camera and a near empty bag. What I do now is carry something like my Rolleicord, put spare film in one jacket pocket and a lightmeter in another pocket.

    My RB67 is the only camera system I have which has its own dedicated bag which can carry it with two film backs, three lenses, Polaroid back, film, left hand grip, etc. I can even just about squeeze in the Vivitar 285 and its bounce adaptor.

    This is a very good idea. I have recently been taking out my Nikon FG which I have had for at least twenty years. The last time I took it out I only took the 135mm lens to try to force a different way of looking at things. I usually like to have something in the 28-35mm range with that camera.



    Steve.
     
  13. Kent10D

    Kent10D Member

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    I hate camera bags so much I must have ten or more of the damn things.

    There's the one-body Leica kit, the two-body Leica kit, the DSLR kit, the Hasselblad kit, the large-format kit ... sheesh!

    The only thing that I have actually learned via all of these bags is that a backpack is the best way to go for comfort, even if it's virtually empty. Having a few kilos hanging off one shoulder all day does not agree with me at all. The drawback is the access time.

    So yeah, I hate camera bags. They get in the way.
     
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  15. ChrisC

    ChrisC Member

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    I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place with my methods. I absolutely hate carrying a camera bag, but at the same time I'm a bit of a neat freak and like having everything in one place, all neatly organised.

    When I'm out somewhere I just like to have one camera and one lens (I've never owned a camera with more than one lens in my life so far!) in my hand at all times. I hate neck/shoulder straps and always remove them before loading the first roll of film so my camera's just in my hand at the ready at all times. Though I don't mind using a bag if I'm doing strictly landscapes where there aren't too many people wondering what that try-hard photographer with out-dated equipment's doing :tongue:

    I have proper camera bags for all my gear, but I think it's mostly a storage solution for home, and for throwing in my car.

    I think when I go on my trip in a couple of months I'm gonna take most of my gear with me (body, 2 lenses, 2 film backs + filters), but seeing as it's a hiking trip a proper bag will be too cumbersome, so I'll have to make some neoprene fitted sleeves. This way when I'm walking around the cities I can throw individual pieces in a normal shoulder bag and not look like someone who's working for Reuters back in the early 90's.
     
  16. eddym

    eddym Member

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    It all depends on what you are going to be shooting. If you're just walking around making street shots, the "one body, one lens, no bag" technique is fine. But if you're on a professional shoot such as a portrait job, wedding, or whatever, you have to be able to carry the equipment you will need for the job plus backups in case of problems (you cannot afford to not be able to do your job!).
    I have "camera bags" ranging from a nice little leather belly pack up to the largest aluminum cases Halliburton makes. For 35mm equipment, I have two of the smaller sizes of the Domke bags, plus a small Halliburton case. For medium and large format, I have the humongous Zone VI white camera case which could swallow an 8x10, a rolling Porter hard case, and the big Halliburton. What case I carry depends on the job. Oh, and since I discovered how many herniated discs I have, I am using my backpack instead of shoulder bags whenever possible. It's not made for cameras, but with Domke inserts and wraps, it can carry a lot of stuff safely.
    For street shooting, I love the little belly pack. It can carry a Leica M with 35 and/or 50mm Summicrons, plus an extra roll of film. I carry the camera with a wrist strap, but I can put it away in the pack when I'm not going to be using it.
    So I can't agree with your opinion of bags as the "scourge" of photography. To the contrary, it would be nearly impossible to carry all that equipment without something safe to put it in.
     
  17. sionnac

    sionnac Subscriber

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    I have heard of people using diaper bags as camouflage.
     
  18. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    I did a 10000 km road trip to the maritimes this summer. I took two bags full of gear and one full of film. I never carried any of them except from the car to the hotel. Rolleiflex around my neck, Pentacon Six over my shoulder, and off we go. The further I ventured from the car, the more small accessories I would carry, usually in pockets. I brought a photographer's vest, and never used it. Barb would carry my ME super if I wanted a 35.

    Rick.
     
  19. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    After reading the article, I'm thinking it's a typo for "How to Care Less".
    :smile:
    Lee
     
  20. greybeard

    greybeard Member

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    Possibly a justification for camera bags?

    Okay. If you keep one body, two lenses, a few rolls of film, the right two or three filters and a small meter in a carpenters bag, you will be able to just walk out the door in seconds if that perfect opportunity comes along. And you can justify taking the kit along "just in case" when the primary purpose is not actually photography.

    Look in the hardware store for a bag with a little compartment underneath where a flat plastic storage box goes; it will hold your film, filters, cable release, etc. And the little pockets around the outside can be stuffed with a pair of gym socks, sunscreen, etc. to camouflage the bag as someone's workout kit.
     
  21. AutumnJazz

    AutumnJazz Member

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    That's the idea; the idea to carry less.

    Now 4x5...that is a different beast. When I reffered to Weegee, I was simply referencing the way he carried his gear. As far as I know, he only ever used one camera and lens at a time, when he was running around NYC. It's somewhat hard, if not impossible, to lug around a 4x5 monorail camera without a backpack. Plus, I doubt that the average LF user on APUG today uses their 4x5 off a tripod, or even spontaniously (an Ansel Adams style, if you will).

    As per disguising a bag: http://web.me.com/aaronandpatty/What_the_Duck/Comic_Strips/Entries/2008/8/29_WTD_553.html

    And as per the comments about wanting to hide thousands in equipment...Nachtwey carried two cameras, a 16-35mm lens, and another lens (I don't know which it was) around his neck. He's traveled to the poorest and most dangerous places in the world. I don't know if he's had stuff stolen or not, but in 2001 he didn't use a bag. I've read on this forum that now he carries around a 1ds (what is that, $8,000?). Does he carry it the same way?

    Also, NYC can be a place that knocks you around, and stuffs you into small places. Maybe I'm just protective of my camera et al., but I've never had all of it get damaged while running around NYC, taking the subway, MTA, etc.

    Anecdotal evidence is bad, though, so my experiences mean little.

    I will say that I've enjoyed bringing less.
     
  22. tim elder

    tim elder Member

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    I almost never use a camera bag - I only use my Domke when I'm working with my RB, which I only use in certain circumstances, and unfortunately those circumstances haven't come up as much as I'd like, at least not recently. I carry my Contax G2 in either a laptop messenger bag or an old messenger bag, and once it's out, it stays out. I shoot street photography in New York and only use one lens, the 35mm. I will bring my 90mm lens along from time to time but more when I think I might be taking portraits, not for street photography.

    I really like not be encumbered by lenses that I'll never pull out and more rolls of film than I'll use in a given day. If I had multiple bodies, I might go for the camera bag route, but I don't. I just find changing lenses while street shooting to be something I can't get in the habit of.

    Tim
     
  23. eddym

    eddym Member

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    "Carrying less" is fine if you're just walking around taking pictures for fun, or doing a specific type of job that will only require a limited range of focal lengths, or (as I mentioned) shooting on the street, etc. But if I'm going to shoot a wedding, for example, then "carrying less" is not only not a good idea, it's careless. You risk losing your job and your reputation if the one camera you have with you fails. I speak from bitter experience... :smile:

    On the other hand, for walking the streets of NYC and shooting, carrying less is a very good idea. Last year I shot the Puerto Rico day parade for a client, and I carried all I needed in a backpack. I used one body, one lens (24-70 f2.8), and a flash.
     
  24. Saganich

    Saganich Subscriber

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    On the street it is one camera and one lens, a couple roles of film, and a meter if needed. All in the pockets. I even leave the lens cap home, or have lost it already. In the summer I might carry a small purse-like shoulder bag just large enough for my AGFA folder, hood, VC meter, and film. When traveling I use one of three bags: an 11x14 generic messenger bag with a billingham Hadely insert, a Billingham bag designed for leica M, or a Benser hard case with the inserts. All three travel exceptionally well, are small, low profile, and can hold more gear then I'm comfortable carrying. All can be configured (especially the Billingham) for easy access. I can have the camera to my eye in 3 seconds from either bag...not that I ever need to do that...more like I can have the camera back in the bag in 2 seconds ready for a hasty retreat. Even when I have a bag I generally carry the camera slung across my shoulders on top of the bag. If the straps are adjusted correctly the camera can be in the bag and around our shoulder at the same time. Yes, I spend too much time thinking about these things. I've also used a sling from leicagoodies which I highly recommend if a strap is bothersome for ya.
     
  25. AutumnJazz

    AutumnJazz Member

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    Well, I'm not really talking about anything like weddings. I'm talking about just doing photography while going about your business. (Or in Hati as a PJ.)

    Surely when you're doing a wedding, you only use a bag as transport? I would assume you'd carry a camera or two on you, along with a wide and tele lens, then possibly have another camera or two set up elsewhere with other lenses for other purposes.

    Then again, I'm not a wedding photographer...And I never want to be one.
     
  26. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    For walking about I use a Lowepro Toploader 65 AW on a Lowepro S&F waist belt to hold an SLR body and a 35-70, or 35mm f2, without lens caps with UV filters fitted, pre focused at 10 feet, I usually carry the camera in my right hand behind my back with the strap wound round my wrist. I usually only put the camera in the case if it starts raining.