Camera bags are as unique as the person carrying them. Everyone has their idea of the perfect bag.
For me, being primarily a street shooter and heading toward photojournalism, my needs are simple. The bag needs to be comfortable, easy and quick to access.
This pretty much rules out anything except shoulder bags. Of all my bag s, the two that I use most are Domke F2 and the Think Tank Retrospective 10. Each has strengths and weaknesses. But they both serve their purpose brilliantly.
I started with lowepro bags. I fell into the trap of more padding to protect my SLR. Over the time I have been photographing, I realised the massive amount of padding is in needed, and just wasted space. I’ve never damaged a camera in a bag, but I don’t throw my bags about. And when you think about the camera, they are built to last, and can take some punishment. Just ask any pro 🙂
The Domke is a monument to simplicity and intelligent design the F2 is the ideal bag for on the go photography. It’s light, comfortable, extremely well made, The F2 is nothing more than a heavy duty canvas shell. It has none of the thick padding that makes most shoulder bags stiff, bulky, and heavy, but just enough to keep your equipment from beating itself up. It uses an interchangeable insert system that allows you to custom fit the internal chambers, I have seen no need to alter the default 4 chamber insert that comes with the bag.
I keep the insert shifted to the back of the bag, which gives me enough room at the other end to house my DSLR with short to medium length prime attached.
The top cover is very flexible and can easy roll out of the way so there is no need to set the bag down to remove or insert the camera or change lenses. Once open, you have a work area to change lenses, or other tasks. I find that I treat the bag like a holster. I can pull the camera out, shoot a few photos, and slip it back into the bag without a thought. Another feature I fell in love with immediately is the front pockets. Unlike most bags, the F2’s front pockets do not have separate zippered or velcro closures but are simply covered by the lid when the bag is closed. Although this may sound insignificant, it is an amazingly useful feature when you’re in a hurry. The F2 also has two large side pockets that hold tons of accessories and have large, easy to manipulate canvas flaps in keeping with the brilliantly simple design of the rest of the bag.
But it does have some negatives. One of those is that when I’m shooting I like to work light and carry just what I need. The F2 is a little to large. Not to large to be impossible, but just wasted space when out. The other one is water proofness. While the canvas is waterproof, and even more so when wet as the canvas expands, the large open pocket at the back of the bag just fills with water if your not wearing the bag.
The domke is used if I have more than my normal kit to carry about.
In normal everyday street shooting my bag of choice is the Retrospective 10. Its just the right size for my street kit.
The Retrospect 10 has a lot going for it.
I’m not really one for looks over function, but hell, the retro is a gorgeous bag. I have the pinestone and I love the look.
There are more than enough places for your gear to go. This can be a issue as well as a blessing, as it could mean hunting to find the item your looking for. As opposed to the F2 with its simple minimal design. I have the bag set up with two main dividers, essentially how it comes, and I store the lenses in the sides, with camera lens down in the center. The huge front pocket is perfect for shoving items in that you just want to dump. I regularly stuff a bottle of drink in there.
The Retro really shines with smaller amounts of gear.
The Retro is certainly a comfortable shoulder bag, It hugs the body very well, but this can overly deform the internal structure making it difficult to access. Also I find the shoulder strap slides off my shoulder to easy, and having to move it back up the shoulder really gets to be a pain. Wearing it across shoulders shorts this however. The shoulder strap however is very wide and the pad helps avoid fatigue. Just that slipping, despite the anti slip material.
When I head out, the Retro 10 Is the bag I reach for, very closely followed by the Domke.