Words and pictures by Darlene Almeda
As I was assembling my Fuji X-Pro2 kit, I began looking for a lightweight bag to store it all in. I wanted the bag to carry my lenses in cases, and be easy to work out of from the back of a vehicle. I also use the X-Pro2 in the studio, so the bag had to offer something there as well. Would it be possible to find such a versatile bag?
My Fuji mirrorless kit
Kit packed inside lens cases and pouches
I use a silver metallic Sharpie for writing the focal length on the top of each lens case. This helps me easily find what I am looking for and helps to keep my gear organized. The lens case sizes I use for my Fuji mirrorless lenses are the Lowpro 8x6cm and 9x9cm, and the 9x13cm case for the X-Pro2 camera body. Lowepro offers a good selection of lens case sizes and I like the protection they offer.
Fuji XF 56mm ƒ/1.2 APD lens, hood and ND filter Inside Lowepro 9x9cm case
When B&H Photo had the Think Tank Photo CityWalker 30 Messenger Bag on special, I decided I would give it a try [the link is to Amazon because B&H is closed for Shabbat this afternoon and during the daylight hours tomorrow. Here is the link to B&H. —Ed.] I find the removable main insert very convenient and work out of it when shooting in the studio. I own several Think Tank bags, and the City Walker is the lightest of their bags I have, but it has the same quality and design I have grown to appreciate from them. I have used backpacks in the past, but I do not want the weight of a backpack for this kit. I have been using this bag for six months now and so far, it is working out well. It is lightweight, well made, and accommodates my gear the way I like to organize it.
Think Tank CityWalker 30 with my kit inside the removable main insert
When scrambling to grab gear out of the back of a vehicle, I do not worry if the gear rolls around in the lens cases as I toss them in and out of the bag, plus I can easily see if I might be leaving something behind when it is time to pack up. When working on the road, I will often place a lens on the camera and another on my fanny pack for easy reach. The lens cases I use allow me to securely add lenses to my fanny pack or belt.
Think Tank CityWalker 30 packed with Fuji mirrorless kit
My mirrorless system bag is not too heavy to carry, but more importantly, my gear is organized to my needs. No matter what type of shooting you do, taking care of your gear should be number one, and being organized is the first step towards creating the versatility you may need.
(illustrations made with the Fuji X100t)
©2017 by Darlene Almeda, all rights reserved
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Lance Evingson: "Hilarious—I used some white nail polish my wife had on hand to label the exact same lens cases. For a moment I thought I was looking at my own kit! Some of the same lenses too. I use a variety of bags, from messenger to day-pack-size backpacks, depending on what I want to carry. I never use photo bags that telegraph 'Here's $$$ in the form of cameras' at a distance.
"I will have to get that silver Sharpie pen though. Thanks, that was fun."
Trecento: "Oh, I like those lens pouches, particularly the silver marker on them. I've been using a combination of 1980s padded drawstring pouches (Nikon, maybe?) and the Panasonic drawstring pouches that sometimes come with their lenses.
"Ah, but for a bag to put them in...you know those cheap trade show drawstring backpacks? Like this thing.
"Yeah, I put my lenses in a pouch into a gallon Ziploc bag (generic ones to boot), and my camera into another, and carry the whole thing in one of those polyester drawstring bags. If I carry water or snacks, they get their own gallon bag. When the weather permits, I prefer to keep a lens in one coat pocket, a camera in the other, and a battery or two in a mini Ziploc bag in small pocket. When I travel, I use this, an L.L. Bean kids' book backpack that has been in continuous use for thirty years. (Though it is showing faint signs of chemical deterioration of the fabric.)
"But, my kind of work is as different from Darlene as could be imagined. My task is documenting the world I come across and the daily lives of my family, so my gear is almost all compact Micro 4/3 bodies and lenses. My goal in using these cheap bags is mostly that they work and I already have them, tempered with the idea that I don't want to carry around my camera stuff in anything that looks like it might hold camera stuff. I really enjoyed using a diaper bag when the kids were smaller. Nobody is tempted to walk off with one of those. The other design factor that I'm sensitive to is that I get lower back spasms when I use shoulder bags instead of backpacks.
"I'm certainly open to looking at better alternatives, and this article was helpful for that. Thank you Darlene."
Eric Perlberg: "I always struggle with articles about gear which don't refer to the kind of photography one does. Natural landscape photographers who shoot from cars have much different needs than street photographers who walk, not to mention that sports, wildlife or wedding photographers have yet different needs that require different solutions.
"As someone who walks with his camera and photographs situations in an urban landscape, I prize light weight. I hate that camera bags with all of their padding and dividers often contribute more weight than my cameras which I carry around. I doubt if any TOP readers use my solutions so I'll mention them here.
"My cameras are lightweight mirrorless cameras. Some have fixed lenses and others are interchangeable-lens cameras. I keep my smaller cameras and my lenses in rock climber's chalk bags. Rock climbers keep powdered chalk in nylon padded bags with pull string closures, which are very light weight. When climbing, climbers need their fingers to securely grip tiny rock crevices so they dip their hands into the chalk in their chalk bags to dry their fingers to get better grip. These chalk bags come in an array of different colours and sizes. Many of them are nicely padded and are perfect for small cameras or their lenses. At home I hang these bags by their drawstrings (lens or cameras inside them) from S hooks hanging from a metal rail. I grab the chalk bag or bags I need for the day (I'm basically a one lens/camera/day shooter but occasionally I'll carry two small cameras or a few lenses) and toss the chalk bags into one of my Freitag messenger bags.
"What I hate about normal camera bags is there is no real room for a jumper/sweater, some food, a scarf and knit hat, etc. I also hate that camera bags look like camera bags. YMMV. Freitag bags are made in Switzerland cut from tarpaulins from large lorries, are quite well made and don't look like camera bags. They're not too heavy, have a wide carrying strap and very water resistant. You can look at them at Freitag.ch and Freitag ship anywhere."
kirk tuck (partial comment): "You can be too careful...."
Patrick J. Dodds: "I have a horrible, expensive and bulky Kata backpack. I've disliked it almost since leaving the shop with it. Since rolling my car on the way back from a wedding a while ago I've liked it a bit more however: the car was a write-off, I found my glasses somewhere under the seats in the back, but cameras and lenses were unscathed."
Darlene Almeda adds: Thank you everyone for responding. I think I’ll add a few more comments that may answer some responders’ questions and give more reasons reasons why this bag system works for me.
The lens pouches are how I store my gear between shoots on a shelf or studio cart. It is not unusual for me to grab one or two lenses from the shelf or cart and toss them into a smaller bag for a shoot elsewhere. Having the lenses identified in the pouches makes my life easier, and keeping them protected from drops and rough transport is another reason.
I use light-weight bags, not padded bags, and if anyone uses a Think Tank City Walker bag, they understand these bags are not padded, except for the main insert which is removable. I work out of the back of a vehicle a lot, and I am rushed because we are usually on the side of a road. I do a lot of small town and rural shooting, so being able to toss lenses in and out of the bag while grabbing a tripod and other stuff just frees me up. Believe me, the back of the vehicle can be a mess by the time we call it a day.
I do not change lenses a lot. If I did, I would resort to zoom lenses. I know pretty much what lens I want to use when I see what I am going to shoot. I will have the next focal length available just in case the perspective changes.
In the fourth photo, the camera bodies are stored underneath the 23mm (X-Pro2) and next to 56mm (X-E2) outside of the removable insert.
I do use Domke bags. I use the F-5XB for my X100t kit with the conversion lenses and enjoy it a lot. I have an older Domke Journalist (J-?) bag but find the metal clasp to be a poor design choice. It makes it hard to get into the bag, and I have scratched the back of a camera with it in the past. So even though it is a cool bag in some respects, I only use it to transport things other than cameras.
@ Kenneth Tanaka: Ken, I googled “bandalero” but could not find anything that would help with the lenses. Instead, I saw pictures of guys wearing Spanish cowboy outfits. Although I enjoyed looking at those handsome dudes, my boyfriend would probably frown upon them when we travel. But, I do appreciate the suggestion. Now I know you would never carry all that gear, but neither do I! The bag sits in the back of a vehicle. If I am walking around and shooting from the hip, it is the x100t I am using. I do use wraps mainly with my medium format lenses, but I see your point. By the way, it is not my sock drawer, but another drawer. :-)
Thank you again everyone!