Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What kind of equipment bags do you use?

It's an awful responsibility to hold equipment that could be worth several thousand dollars, isn't it?

Is a cheap bag worth using when it might not protect the equipment you're storing in it?

Once upon a time, I bought a used camera and I didn't much care because I knew that it already had problems.  I put it in a school type backpack with a beach towel and it was fine.  Eventually, the problems grew and it became parts.  Whether the problems were complicated by my lack of a proper bag or whether they were complicated by a lack of maintenance, I'll never know.  Had I sent it to be repaired after buying it, it might still be working.  Camera bodies from the 1970s were rather fragile, like watches of that same time period.

In 2003 or 2004 when I was switching to digital equipment, I bought a Crumpler Farmers Doubler bag.  At US$140, if I remember correctly, it was quite expensive compared to the US$50 bags that I could find in almost any store.  However, those bags lacked padding and the separators weren't strong enough.

I learned quickly that when the bag fell 12 inches, everything was still fine.  Of course, with a computer  in sleep mode in the bag, any fall wasn't good for the hard drive.  Mind you, my equipment was a bit more rugged than most, except for the computer.  Now that we have SSDs, even a computer can handle a small fall inside the backpack.

For years, I've been carrying 3-4 lenses and a camera body in the backpack, along with batteries, filter adapter rings, etc.

When I got a second camera body for the format, I needed more space, so I bought another Crumpler bag--a 7 Million Dollar Home.  Crumpler has the most interesting names for their products.  Currently, I have 5 lenses, 2 bodies, a couple of filters, and a partridge in a pear tree in the bag.  Well, maybe the bird and the tree were a bit of an exaggeration but I can fit a lot into the bag, so that it can be heavy at times.  There is no room for a computer, but I can put smaller reflectors/diffusers in it.

Two bags and I have most everything, including a shoulder ache, but they are evenly matched unless I wear the backpack properly.  When the backpack is fully loaded with the computer, my car wants me to put a seat belt on it.  Riding my bike with the backpack can be interesting, especially with a strong wind.

Crumpler Farmers Doubler and 7 Million Dollar Home
I also bought a camera strap, the Convenient Disgrace, which matches the 7 Million Dollar Home a bit too well in the photo.  It's ventilated and has a wider spread than the typical camera strap, so even though I hate straps, I sometimes have to use them, when I have two bodies out at the same time.

I also have another backpack for camera and computer, but I'm not exactly sure what to do with it.  It's a Lowe Pro 250 AW.  It uses openings on the side, instead of the front or top.  I finally used it the other day to transport my laptop computer and tablet, although I'm still trying to configure it for my photographic equipment.  Thankfully, I got a huge discount--US$51.99 instead of US$129.99, because the blue/black was discontinued.  Update 2014.02.01: I finally used this for the Panasonic GH3, Olympus MMF-3 Four-Thirds adapter, Leica/Panasonic 25mm f/1.4, and Olympus ZD 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5.  Given the recent Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 breakage, I was concerned about the MMF-3 breaking, since it seems to be so very hollow, and it doesn't really feel as though there is a lot of metal that went into it.  Given that the Leica/Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 is so heavy, having the combination fully assembled in the bag, and horizontally-oriented, I'm not sure it's worth the risk of using, even though it's convenient.  Perhaps, the GH3 and the new Olympus 25mm f/1.8 would be fine, or my old Olympus IS-20DLX film camera, which was a Zoom Lens Reflex, as they called it, where the lens cannot be typically dismounted.

I've been thinking about my smaller equipment--the micro Four-Thirds pieces.  While they're on one side of the 7 Million Dollar Home, it would be nice to have a small bag to carry those and my Google Nexus 7 tablet.  I found this Manfrotto bag that I thought would be reasonable, especially at the current price at Best Buy.

Is it a rough-and-tough kind of bag?  No.  I have to care for it more than my Crumpler bags.  It's water-resistant, though, and seems to be well-equipped.  The only real problem I have is that it's completely black.  Summer sunshine could make it difficult.

It seems that there are a wide variety of bags for tablets but not so many that also handle photographic equipment.  I was impressed with Thule cases for tablets and computers.  They're the same people who made my bike rack for my car.  Their cases seem designed with the same consideration as luggage, rather than a thin neoprene case.  Still, you can't just throw glass and expect it to survive.  Packing a tablet in a suitcase, you might guess that anything would happen, though.

If Crumpler had stores everywhere, it might make my search easier.  I'm really thrilled with the ability of their products to coddle my computer and photographic equipment.

Update 2013.11.27: My dead water heater will consume any extra money I have at the moment, as it's better to have warm or hot water than to have more equipment and frozen pipes, which I may have anyway by the time I can get a replacement.

Update 2015.10.26: The other day I added a ThinkTank Airport Commuter bag.  It retails at over US$200, which is quite a lot for me, though given the price of the Crumpler bags I have, adjusted for time, it might not be so much.   I needed a bag that could hold all of my micro Four-Thirds equipment at once, and hold a computer and various cables and adapters.  This bag does it all, and it makes all that small, lightweight equipment seem heavy in the process of holding it all.

I wanted another Crumpler bag but they pulled out of the U.S. market a while back and it hasn't been easy to find one.

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