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Monday, 01 December 2008


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I prefer the F-803. Same bag, but made of cotton canvas instead. I have two of them, the older one still holds perfectly if a little beat up after hundreds of times of being placed on wet cobblestone, used in the rain, etc. I do like a lot how that material ages, just like a good pair of jeans.

I eyed one of those Domke Satchels earlier this year. But then I realized that I have at least two fine bags, souvenirs from my days as a busyness person, that would probably work as well, or even better, as under-cover photo haulers.

But, frankly, I need another bag like _________________ (fill-in your favorite example of excess). I have to suspect that many of your other readers are very bagged-up, too. Which gives me an idea. You should consider running a year-end fund raising drive along the bag theme. Encourage people to donate $1 for each camera bag they own. (Or $0.25 per megapixel of their cameras' resolutions.)

I've been using Timbuk2 messenger bags as carrying cases for quite some time. Depending on how much I have to carry, I either use the small or the medium size. I also use a large size one for taking the gear on an airplane. They are also pretty bulletproof, and if they get really grungy, they can be washed in the washing machine.

The Timbuk2 bags are lightweight, relatively waterproof (lined inside), don't look like a camera bag, and the inside is one big open space. I cut up a backpacking sleeping pad into a rectangle that fits the bottom of the bag to add some structure.

I've heard of folks who fill the bags with Domke dividers, but I don't bother.

Crumpler (I don't like their line of camera bags) also make messenger bags, and I suppose that they would work as well. For a couple of their messenger bags, they sell an accessory "bucket" for photo equipment. Adds weight, takes away stowing options. Their web site is a hoot, if you have an open mind and a sensa huma.




Ha! I'm using the very same bag today. Like yours, mine is all raggedy looking. I bought it back when I shot most of my newspaper stuff with Leicas. Now that I work with 2 giant Nikon DSLRs, a fast wide zoom, and a fast tele zoom, I don't need the bag for more than a flash or two, a notebook, and a Holga.

The "F" version of the bag is actually somewhat smaller than the "J" version. The J bag has an extra flap in it and the padded bottom doesn't quite extend for the whole depth of the bag... this has an effect if you drop the bag on its bottom the wrong way.

My wish is that Domke would make a bag with a wrap around neoprene strap. Even their small bags feel too heavy when loaded. The sticky rubber on the straps also gets in my way a lot, but I haven't found a bag I like better.

Whoops, my bad. I have the "F," not the "J." I'll go change the link now.

Mike J.

Everyone should have two. One black, one tan (the latter for sunny weather). The J-803 fits a small ThinkPad in the back pocket, too.

I have a Think Tank Urban Disguise 40 (they seem to come in sizes from 10 to 50); it just fits the airline "second article" size restrictions, which is why I have it.

It holds a K20D and a bunch of (mostly short prime) lenses OK. It also has many clever pockets. Haven't used it enough to truly opine, but I find it about as good to carry as shoulder bags get, based on long experience with laptop bags.

I have the F803 too! It works great with the M and the RD-1. In fact, they sort of swim in it :-) It even works well with the E-3 and the bazooka 35-100/2 lens. I even throw in the fisheye there too.

I generally don't care about the straps anymore. Just put the camera in the F803 and forget about it, unless I take it out to use it...

My all time favorite was a Billingham "Photo-eventer" its an upscale hadley, great bag for two Nikon Fm-2s and 3 or four lenses. ( I used 2 bodies, 1 with ISO 50 for normal/wide, and the other with ISO 400 telephoto).
I have always regretted selling it but Billinghams sell for SO MUCH money used I got rid of it when I moved to F3s Bought a used Billingham 550 that holds everything.

Like a lot of folks, it seems, I have too many camera bags in general and too many Domke bags in particular. I keep gravitating back to the 803 for a day bag and can usually fit all I really need in there. Sometimes some padding has to go, and (at least to me) that raises an interesting point: what is the appropriate level of padding for these canvas bags. When I bought my first few, I fully outfitted them with all the accessory pouches, dividers, etc. My intent was to protect my valuable hardware and keep things where I put them, but in the process I sacrificed space and limited the ability of the bag to conform to my shape and the shape of the contents. The longer I use these bags the less padding and compartmentalizing I keep. The well worn bags I see seem to have arrived at the same approach, but I'd appreciate the feedback of experienced users. What seems to work for you? I generally keep a body w/ lens and an accessory lens in the main compartment (with my reading materials) and a small strobe or two and misc crap in the front packets.

John A.,
I don't really know how much padding you need, but that reminds me of a story--once a long time ago I was coming back from Paris with my father and they didn't have enough seats in coach, so one of us was offered a seat in First Class and my father let me have it. I sat down in first class next to a photographer named Francesco Scavullo, whom some of you might remember. We got to talking about photography--I think I was 16 at the time--and at one point he pulled a Halliburton case out from under the seat. When he opened it, it was chock full of Nikon bodies and lenses and flashes--with no padding whatsoever! It wasn't even organized--it was all just junked piecemeal into the metal case.

Anyway he pulled out a 500mm mirror lens and put it on a body and let me look through it as we headed out over the ocean. I had never looked through a 500mm lens before. Far below I could see little fishing boats and sailboats. He was very kindly, and good company, but my strongest memory was of that case just full to the rim of beat-up gear.

Mike J.

This is an enormously useful bag.

The Domke J-803 (not the F803) is in ballistic nylon, and has an inside pocket for carrying a laptop, in addition to all the camera space of the F-803 satchel. It also has an additional pocket in the top flap, and overall looks more office-y than the F803.

It will take one M6, two lenses, flash, lens cleaning stuff, 2 full sets of change of clothes and underclothes, guide books, batteries,full toiletries kit, full medicine kit, 30 rolls of film, passport, phone, palm pilot, travel papers, pens, filters, glasses in case., money etc. Once you are at your destination, dump everything that's not valuable on the hotel bed, and carry just the photo stuff in the field. I once travelled to Cambodia for 3 days with the above list of items in the Domke.

Without the kit, you could get two bodies and 4 lenses in there easy, with all kinds of other stuff.

The F-803 is a great bag for something like 2 x M bodies, a spare lens or two and other small junk, but it is about one inch too narrow to carry a small SLR or Rolleiflex.

The black nylon J-803 is roughly the same size, but one inch to 1 1/2 inch wider. This makes all the difference. The J-803 can carry a Rolleiflex, without putting a lot of pressure on the front plate or a small SLR with a 50 mounted. I've had one of these for several years and it has proven to be close to indestructible (and it's rain proof). The flap on the back is also really handy for papers or if you're juggling gear and need to quickly store something for a moment.

I`m not one for giving up on things too soon. So when my thirty year old, well travejed Leica bag wore completely through on the bottom, a little (well, a lot actually) "Goop", fixed it right up! Not particularly attractive, but, how much time do you spend looking at the bottom of your camera bag?

With two or three primes and a single body, I like working from a small bag that's always ready to go, but I'm very fussy about the ergonomics. Thus, Domke bags are out for me because the clips are a bit of hassle to unfasten, and I'd rather not have an unfastened top flap when moving through crowds or clambering over rough ground.

Every notice how most current bags have oversize, super-protective top flaps, often with thick padding and even thick padded handles? It beats me what people are thinking. You have to go back 15 or 20 years to find a simple, flat top that's easily tucked out of the way.

I've always preferred messenger style bags. And portrait orientation is more comfortable for me. In fact, the biggest thing holding me back from buying a D-700 is that it's too big for my current messenger bag.

One of the benefits I've found to the portrait orientation over the years is that Mac laptops (and many PCs now) in such a bag can have their power adapter accessible, since it's on the side of the computer. Just open the flap, plug in, and let the computer recharge without ever taking it out of the bag. It sounds like a small thing, but I can't count how many times I've found that useful when I've come back to the hotel from a day of vacation photos and just want to get to bed.

Being a big crossword fan, I must commend you on using a word that had me reaching for the dictionary-miligate.
Always a pleasure to discover something new!

I've had my gray cotton Domke (F-803?) since maybe 1985. Frayed, worn, been to Europe twice stuffed with waaaay too much gear. It's now retired to my 4x5 kit and works a treat with 10 holders, two lenses on boards and a spot meter.

Light years ahead of anything else now made.

Why do these digital newbies want everything from their cameras to their camera bags to be so big and bulky?

The old Domke satchels are also my favorite carry bags. I'm currently using the J-803, which is identical to the F except it's ballistic nylon and has a very small pocket in front that's perfect for notebooks and documents. Absolutely the best shoulder bag I've ever owned.


A nice feature for a small bag: the insert that comes with the F-803 is not just re-/movable--any or all of the four foam slabs that cushion its walls can be easily slid out.

As for how much padding, it depends on the equipment and treatment. The vintage all-metal ebay survivors don't get much, but late-model all-plastic bargain lenses seem to want more care and/or more padding.

Works well for me for traveling with disassembled bodies and lenses, but I find it too tight for most of my shooting setups. Also, it feels much less comfortable when slung across the body.

I agree with Jon that it's well-suited for 4x5 stuff. Pleasant surprise.

There is a larger canvas version, too (the F-802 I think).

I personally love my Boda Bag. Easily accessible to my lenses i need when on a newspaper shoot. Weather sealed zipper covers. And forces me to pack what i need and not everything to save my back. Lots of padding also.


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