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Friday, 15 May 2015


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One question for the Tenba: How well does it work with your camera gear?

I have the Fujifilm XPro-1 and I'll probably have a couple of primes and a zoom.

I'll also need room for the Nikon SB600 flash.

Then there is all the other assoc you need to carry.

Will the Tenba work for me? It looks like it might just do and man that price is perfect.

Mike, Get some of the Velcro loop material (as in hook and loop) and cut to fit over however much of the hook stuff on the bag. It'll allow you to customize the gription and noise. Some years ago I bought a bag from a small manufacturer who provided some extra for this purpose.


It's impossible to shop for a bag without access to a well-stocked brick and mortar store.

I've got six or seven bags. My favorites are homely Tenbas and Lowepros.

I use different bags for different occasions. Variety is a good thing.

I am not a fashionista. My wife and daughter constantly chide me for being the schlump that I am.

I've got a Billingham 445, which I retired from being a camera bag several years ago after roughly 20 years of use. I got me Think Tank Urban Disguise bags when they where just introduced.

Over the years I tried out other options, incl. [before the Billingham] a Lowepro - forgot the name, it looked hideous, was rather bulky, but the best at the time [late 70s, early 80s] - and self-made solutions with Timbuk2 messenger bags. I've never had the urge or necessity to look further after getting the Urban Disguise bags.

I can relate to your frustration with the pricey Ona and that brings me to relate a story.
Back in 1972 when I worked in a camera shop, we had a guy by the name of Jim Domke, who frequented our shop. He had this horribly scarred leather bag and seemed incessantly obsessed with finding the right canvas bag. His solution was "make your own" and today the Domke bag is more popular than ever.
My solution is a small Domke knockoff that cost me $39 and not the Domke's $119. It's a Safro bag, single clasp flap and does me just fine and has traveled to several continents with me, has a dirty face but none the worse for wear.
Only my two pesos.

Good choice for a small kit - good to use when NOT on a photo trip.
I put my laptop between the laptop pocket and the camera insert which eliminates one source of velcro.
I have the "Bob Falfa" color…..


I have the Temba and bought it to replace the Billingham Hadley! As you imply the Hadley is better made, but the Temba is so much more functional both as a camera and / or laptop bag. Good for camera, 3 lenses, charger, cards, filters etc. The zip flap at the top is the killer feature. It is also really useful on business trips as you can stuff an amazing amount of things in it and still find them again.

I don't really like the look of the Temba or the material, but function over form right? Mine is Platinum, or dull grey as most people would call it. I wish I had the black. I think it was Thom Hogan who recommended the Temba and like most things he was right. Regards Rod

Can't help wondering why, after your experience of them, you didn't go for another Billingham if you're prepared to spend Billingham money? After all, people do seem to be able to fit laptops in them if you buy the right sized one. Why fiddle if you know they do what you want properly in a way that you appreciate?

Not to call into question your choice, but I adore my ThinkTank Retrospective camera bag. I have the Retrospective 7, which I bought because I wanted to carry my iPad. Larger models accommodate laptops.

My bag *comfortably* holds my Fuji X-E1, X100s, 18, 35, and 60mm primes, the iPad, spare batteries (1 for the x100s, 2 for the X-E1, chargers for both cameras, iPad/iPhone charger, 3 filters, step up rings, remote release/intervalometer,spare batteries for intervalometer, BlackRapid Curve cross body strap (for when I'm traveling and want to go out hands free with one camera, one lens), sd cards, Advil, a few single-serving packets of almonds or cashews, and LensPen.

If pressed, I can add the hoods for the 18 and 35 (I keep the 60's hood reversed on the lens), and about 5 or 6 other accessories that I used to always carry and which I've removed to reduce time fishing, but which I add back as needed when I head out the door.

Presumably, the laptop-sized bags could comfortably manage even more.

I find the styling agrees with me. It doesn't look like a "nylon wallet" as you say, and in my 2 years of use, it has started to wear rather nicely. To any passerby, it certainly doesn't look like I have a camera bag.

The velcro (yes, velcro) has built-in silencers, and I compromise by silencing the velcro and leaving it for the other side. This secures the bag well and cuts in half the noise and effort of opening the bag.

I cannot say enough good things about this bag, especially for mirrorless cameras, and wouldn't have mentioned it at all if I didn't think that it forged a nearly perfect compromise between the bags you discuss here, matching most of your likes from both models.

Several years ago I bought the small messenger Tenba to carry a minimal camera kit with me to Mozambique. I found the bag to be the right size and weight and a perfect fit for my needs. I have to agree concerning the Velcro noise, it's an attention getter but will most bags double for a pillow? This one will. After years of use the bag still looks nice. I was pleased and quite surprised at the value in the bag.

Thank you for reviewing the Ona. I've wondered about these (and other high-priced "fashion" bags that have shown up recently). But I haven't wondered enough to plunk down the money. Good thing.

You've perfectly captured the camera bag conundrum with these selections. The one I've yet to see a bag maker solve. How do you make a camera bag that is well designed for holding, well, camera stuff, is comfortable and manageable with said camera stuff in it, and yet doesn't look like a dorky camera bag?

My preferred bag right now is the LowePro Pro Messenger 160 AW. It has its faults (but they are rather few). It really is a camera bag, however, and a bit of a beast for that.

I want something smart, well designed, just big enough, that doesn't make me look like I'm about to go on safari or to a high-tech convention. Something that I would feel comfortable taking with me when eating at a decent restaurant. Too much to ask?

I'm inclined to say that expensive bags are overrated, but having never used one (I'm frugal !) I guess I can't. But I will say that cheap bags are underrated. I'm torn about whether to get rid of a bag right now. I bought it in the summer of 1984, after graduating high school, when I flew out to California (my first commercial flight) to visit a friend who moved there. He'd been there a month or two and had a part time job at a strip mall camera store, and I used his employee discount to get a camera bag for around $15. Your basic no-name padded nylon bag with a shoulder strap and a zip top, big enough for an SLR and a zoom lens. If it ever had dividers, they've been lost (the bag wasn't big enough to divide back in those days and that's one of the reasons I bought a new Kata bag - I was using it for my camcorder and needed to keep it and spare batteries and the aux mic from banging into each other). The zipper tab broke off, so I use a paper clip. There's a gold toned plastic logo that used to say "Mustang" but it broke in half. Otherwise, the bag is the same bag it was 30 years ago.
I think these cheap "ballistic nylon" bags walk all over high end and well pedigreed waxed canvas bags when it comes to durability; certainly for value. Though I freely admit, they've got all the appeal of a Pontiak Aztek. But that's me all over. A teacher at my daughter's school asked me to come in and talk to a class about what I do for a living. My daughter said that would be okay, so long as she could pick out my clothes.

I own Think Tank, Tamrac, Domke, Kata, Lowepro and Tenba bags, but my favorite bag is from a company I had never heard of before: Vanguard. I discovered their bags while browsing in the Garden of Eden (a/k/a B&H). I own the Vanguard Up-Rise II 38 Messenger Bag, and couldn't be happier, but I suspect you might want something a little smaller (the same bag is available in smaller sizes). You should also look at the Vanguard The Heralder 33 Bag (also available in various sizes). These bags are well-made, well thought-out, comfortable, flexible and incredibly cheap for what they offer. I wrote a pretty thorough review of the Up-Rise II 38 on the B&H website, here: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/999065-REG/vanguard_up_rise_ii_38_messenger.html

Best regards,

Plus 1 for Bob: Tenbas and Lowepros, Lowepros and Tenbas. I'm a pro and I never got the Billingham thing, looked at them years ago and they actually had belt-buckle style clasps only, and I was thinking: "this much money, and I'm going to be wrestling with that when I try and yank the camera out?" No Thanks (not to mention the cost of another lens)!

A bunch of my pals are p-journalists, and for some reason, they've been Domke since day one. I have a buddy with an original Domke with holes in it and most of the color rubbed out of the material, and it's stuffed so full it looks like he's got an overfed dachshund on a strap, but he won't give it up!

If Tenba or Lowepro don't make it, you probably don't need it (and they're value priced).

Re John Krill
I bought a Temba(large)Messenger bag a couple of years ago for a trip to Switzerland. I carried a 17" MacBook pro(w/ power adapter), Xpro 1, 35mm and 18mm lenses, external drive, book, notebook, passport, tickets, and assorted other necessities. admittedly it got a tad heavy after carrying for prolonged periods, but, I never once had to open the flap to get at anything and the bag fit nicely under my seat. I wouldn't use it for everyday, but for air travel it worked well.
Hope this helped.

I’ve had the larger Tenba Messenger bag for a while now. Downsized from a Domke F1 so that I could travel more easily. It is a bit rigid but overall I like it and it’ll hold a lot of stuff. The selling point for me was the laptop compartment being nicely padded and the top zipper allowing me access without dealing with the flap. The old PJ in me likes those pen holders, by the way ;)

I immediately replaced the strap, though, with one from Timbuk2. My biggest complaint was that I’d cinch down the strap to wear while riding my bike to and from work and the shoulder strap was never in the right position. Not entirely happy with it, I’m always on the lookout for a better strap, but its nice enough and has a little pocket for my phone.

I think the feature of the Tenba that I’ve used the most is that the insert comes out. I’ve got 4 other bags that the insert fits perfectly in to, one being a very indescreet canvas shoulder bag, so that I can change it up and have the choice of the whole shebang or something light.

I doubt I would ever spend close to $300 on a camera bag that wasn't a Billingham, but as soon as I got to the part about how the Ona's shoulder pad being slippery, that was it for me. What better proof does one need that the designer cared more about looks than practical functionality? Ugh.

I know many people would be suspicious of the quality of an unknown name, but I always speak very highly of Porteen Gear, an etsy store that makes high quality, custom bags that last. Mine is three years old and still looks brand new.


Camera bags are a bit like the photograhic gear that goes inside them; we photographers are often never satisfied with either over the long term.
That noted having sold all my cameras save my Nikon F100 and my $50
pawn shop acquisition Canon digital point and shoot still find the best camera bags are found at garage sales. Often the garage sale bag has not been well-used and sometimes there's a camera knowbody knew about inside. Bonus! And the price is usually $10.00 or less if you bargain.

The Onas and Billinghams along with the expensive Oberwerth (http://www.oberwerth.com/en/shop/photo-bags/oberwerth-muenchen.html)are nice looking shoulder camera bags.

Have you considered the Think Tank Citywalker 30 (http://www.thinktankphoto.com/products/citywalker-30-black.aspx), Retrospective 40 (http://www.thinktankphoto.com/products/retrospective-40-blue-slate.aspx) and Lowepro Urban Reporter 250 (http://store.lowepro.com/urban-reporter-250)? They all fit laptops.

I enjoyed your review. I've had bad luck with bags, and keep returning to my non-camera daypack, kind of a sturdy bookbag made by Domke. I can put a foam insert inside if I want to get fancy, but if I'm out with the camera I tend to keep it in hand. I can put a couple extra primes in a front pocket and then have room for a jacket, lunch, whatever in the main compartment. Okay, so I sort of look like a 49 year old high school student...

Although my solution isn't for everyone, I've found much happiness by avoiding camera bags altogether and re-purposing messenger bags instead.

Because I use mirrorless cameras while traveling (initially m4/3, then Fuji APS, and now Sony full-frame) and carry my gear in padded pouches that attach to my belt whenever I am using it, I only need the big bag to carry everything from one location to another, not to work out of while photographing. The small, padded pouches also do double-duty by protecting the gear while it's being carried inside the messenger bags during transit.

Both of my bags are stylish (IMO, anyway), are made entirely of rugged leather and lined with nylon, and were bought used on eBay a decade ago for ~$250 combined. They were made by Hartmann and while the quality of their products isn't what it used to be (which is true for many other prestigious brands as well), as you can see, these bags are holding up just fine. (And even the larger one is small enough that it can be carried onto a plane.)

I am also able to use the larger bag to pack my Benro travel tripod (it actually fits inside!) as well as a change of clothing and a shaving kit, which makes it perfect for an occasional weekend getaway.

Anyway, I just thought I'd add my two cents worth and point out another option for some to consider...

Based on cool factor alone, I like either of the Filson bags, McCurry Sportsman or Harvey Messenger.

All camera bags suck - some less that others. That's my conclusion after checking out several brands in stores, buying several bags from various manufacturers, and living with/using these bags in a variety of conditions and travel over many years. There's always something that is missing or compromised in the various designs. I own the all leather Ona Bowery and love it for use while street shooting with my Olympus and two extra lenses or my Fuji and one extra lens. BUT....its just small enough to not hold much else beyond extra batteries, the leather is quite thick/stiff so the front and side pockets are basically decoration; not functional. That said, the all leather Ona bags do have removable straps and work well wearing them across body.
Bags from Tamrac, Lowepro, Calumet, Case Logic, etc also have some design or size limitation that always get in my way after a few months of use, when those limits rear their ugly heads. The Tenba looked promising when I checked it out at Calumet, but was just a little larger than I wanted and the top access felt like a scratch to gear waiting to happen.
My wife says it's the photographer's equivalent of purses - one is never enough and none are perfect. What we need is a custom "design a bag" option. Then we can just blame ourselves for the short comings in design.

I've used a Domke F-803 for 7 or 8 years now. Works fine for my purposes.

Just checked the Billingham website and noticed you can order a brochure. For £6.67 plus tax plus shipping. Hmmmm.

Tenba is doing some good stuff right now - in fact, their DNA line is my favorite line camera shoulder bags. They have versions designed to fit everything from a small mirrorless kit and an iPad Mini (the DNA 8) to a large DSLR kit and a Macbook Pro 15 (DNA 15), and sizes in between. The fabric is quite nice - it's not ballistic nylon. It may not be waterproof like Billingham fabrics, but it's decently water resistant and Tenba includes a Think Tank-like rain cover.

Most importantly - the bags are feature-rich, making them that much more functional. They all have a top grab strap (which i love; makes grabbing and going that much faster), front and rear external zippered pockets, mesh side pockets for quick access to accessories or a small water bottle, quiet access to the inside via a top zipper, and several useful internal pockets. The magnetic latches for securing the flap are especially cool, and the camera chamber pulls straight out, so the bags aren't necessarily unitaskers. The features add up to bags that aren't just good as camera bags, but work well while traveling or as work bags.

I chose the DNA 8 over the Ona Bowery and Billingham Hadley Small earlier this year. The Billingham is the one I really wanted, but it was just too compromised on functionality - no external pockets and no top grab strap - to justify spending that much. The Bowery looked nice, but didn't feel as good as I thought it should, and the iPad Mini pocket isn't padded at all. The DNA 8 just checked all the boxes for me, and I've been pretty happy with it so far.

I measured my Hadley Pro interior pocket (the space behind the insert) and it appears it will accommodate a 13" laptop, depending on other dimensions. But it might make the bag kind of stiff against the side when carried. I've owned mine for 16 years (about). It's expensive but it has proven to be well worth it. It can hold an amazing amount of photo gear while not looking like a camera bag.

No love for Domke? Their messenger has no top handle, but is otherwise almost as old-skool as the Billingham, and definitely more fashionable than the Tenba.

I like my photo stuff to look stylish, so I could have picked the Ona. It's absolutely gorgeous. The stitching could be an isolated QC problem, but I agree the interior looks cheap.
The ideal would be to have the Tenba's innards inside the Ona - for the price of the Tenba, of course. That'd be 'best of both worlds'. It ain't gonna happen. As they say, 'oh well.'

ThinkTank Retro 10....

Mike, check out the Billingham L2. It has a slot pocket dedicated to laptop. Here's a nice review with pictures:

Thanks Jamie, but the L2 holds an iPad, not a laptop. (The iPad is a tablet.) --Mike]

The agony of bag buying is that no matter what you choose, it will be perfect in many ways but have a few little annoying faults that constantly nag.
Since you have jumped off the deep end into the mirrorless pool, may I share with you my good fortune. I was visiting one of the TWO brick and mortar (oh, all right this one is more cinder block and morter, but you get it) and noticed that not only does this store stock Think Tank bags, which much to my wallet's dismay have become my favorites, but they have the new line called mirrorless mover, appropriately sized for smaller cameras. It's at this time I wish I still had the bags I used with the Contax G2 and Olympus OM outfits. But the mirrorless mover 30i is a delight. Not perfect, but the one or two things I don't care for are fast fading.

[Thanks Bill, but I need a bag that will hold a 13" laptop. The ThinkTank Mirrorless Mover holds an iPad, which is a tablet. --Mike]

I can't imagine carrying a camera and a laptop in a shoulder bag, but were I to do it (and the Billingham Hadley Pro wouldn't fit said laptop) I think I'd look towards Think Tank's Retrospective line.

The only reason I haven't invented a pretext for buying a sage green Hadley Pro is that I already have a couple of messenger bags (one being a Sandqvist Jack and that thing seems already past middle age at five years old) and they do the job that's needed of them. When I pack an iPad or computer along with my camera for longer amounts of times, my seventies vintage body demands I stuff that gear in a backpack.

I don't know either of the contenders, but this type of bag is in Think Tank Photo's wheelhouse. Retrospective and Urban Disguise lines, possibly others too.

I've had very positive experience with other Think Tank bags. Fortunately I don't need to carry a laptop.

I recently spent hours searching for a bag and ended up with a Fossil:


Similar to your Brixton but not as expensive. I'm hoping it will look better with age, like it's ona*.

*Both a lie and an inexcusable pun. Apologies.

I've always thought that the Tenba bags in that series were smartly designed and very affordable for someone needing to carry a camera and a laptop and not have it look or feel too much like a "gadget bag" as we used to call them.

For something of that nature that's a little more high end and where the quality lives up to the price, I like the Think Tank bags. They don't have the look of the Ona, Billingham, or the older Perrin bags, which are the true classics of the genre, but they blend in easily with the kinds of laptop bags that are ubiquitous on public transportation in any major US city. I've had the Urban Disguise 50 (big enough for my laptop) for some time (now updated), and I've been very happy with it in terms of durability, accessibility of equipment and other things like pencils, notepads, airline tickets, etc., and general adaptability for different setups (DSLR+Zacuto finder+3 lenses, 6x9 Technika+3 lenses, 4x5" Linhof Tech V+2 compact lenses, Perkeo II+Noblex 150+extra space).

I also have the UD30, which is handy for a smaller kit.

Can anyone really carry a shoulder bag with both cameras and a laptop in it? I've never been able to. Maybe I'm just a weakling.

Then there's this: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/town30/emissary-camera-bag-unlock-mount-shoot-everyday

I can't stop drooling over that lens-cap mount.

To be fair , you are compared the ONA bag with a Tenba design which is several years old and which has been replaced by the vastly superior DNA line , which comes in FOUR different sizes. I review this new line on my blog (see signature) and I find this to be the best value for the money shoulder bag currently on the market

I'm looking at my trusty ThinkTank Retrospective 7 and feeling quite confident. Sure, the strap is captive, but it's a nice strap and the padding is excellent. The bag looks decent, far better than most camera bag and is very well organized. Nowadays I prefer ThinkTanks. They don't sponsor me, but I think they should :-)

I've had a GuraGear should bag for a couple of years, it fits a 15" laptop and a ton of gear. It's looks are not approved by my wife, and would be best described as black mainstream business. It has two construction flaws that are inexcusable in an expensive bag, but the design is very good.

I gave up on Lowepro bags after quality issues. Your picture of the strap attachment reminded me how a plastic Lowepro hook used to make a sound that drove me nuts.

Around here one doesn't see mich Tenba. But I'm surprised about the belt and suspenders approach to the flap -- couldn't they just have gone with one way? I do prefer zippers myself, but can live with flaps if they are well designed.

I need a bag that makes my stuff lighter. People tell me that a smaller bag would be a step in the right direction.

Filson Harvey.

You have to look carefully at Think Tank before making a serious bag decision. They're really good, and they've got a bag for just about everyone, and I've never had a problem with quality. IMHO, there simply isn't a better bag, though it'd be nice if they were a bit more stylish. (Though I think stylish bags tend to be eye-catching, and possibly more likely to be stolen.)

I own many bags, but my two favorites are the Billingham Small Hadley and my Fogg B-Sharp. I only carry an Ipad when shooting, so for me thay're perfect bags. Of course the Fogg is much nicer. It's been with me for more than 10 years and it looks better evryday.

I solved the camera bag utility issue a while ago. I stopped buying them. Just get a cheap canvas shoulder bag from the local market and put some Domke inserts in them.

I may add that the first bag is still going 12 years later. Not bad for $35 (at current rates).

Billingham 335 fits a 13" laptop.
Had mine about 20 years. Also a Billingham 445 as a carry-on bag if I want to take clothes as well.

Billinghams are designed to stand up to wet climates - they started off as fishing bags - and only moved into camera bags because all the football ("soccer") photographers were using them.

The Billingham Hadley Pro carries a 13" mac book pro easily, and is of course even lighter with a Macbook air. Given that neither of these have a hard drive, I think the worry about bumping them down is overdone; they also seem to be held just above the bottom of the bag by the curveed edges at the bottom. Anyway, I've had no trouble and I'm not the most careful at setting the bag down.

I've tried others, and own others - mostly Think Tanks - and the others were ok, though they were not as robust or practical as the Hadley. Plus the Hadley is waterproof as it is, even in English Lake District torrential day long rain. Even with the rain covers, the Think Tank bags are not. The Hadley is also the quickest, easiest and quietest to open, with it's ingenious quick release studs. So, it is the Hadley that I use every day, and have been for the last 12 years. It still looks great, bu to my mind, looks exactly like a camera bag, at least to most people in Europe.

My classic Domke is 23 years old, and been used all that time. Love it, but like you ran into, bags of that era have no laptop provisions.

Ran into the same issue you saw with Ona with the Langley bags(all hat and no cattle, as the Texans say), and rather depressingly, the Magnum edition bags from Filson, whose products have always been worth the price previously. The Filson bag was depressing - pricey, cheap hardware, and only useful to carry a 12in laptop or tablet, and a a small rangefinder/mirrorless body with 2 small lenses. It was like the Chrysler marketed as a Maserati years ago.

My solution is a Timbuktu messenger bag and a cheap camera insert - for my fuji gear, wonderful, and I can carry my laptop + cameras+ chargers without hassle. The Domke still wins for a 'working bag', and remains the home of my Nikons or MF gear. In fairness, I should have tried a newer Domke, but after my wife had tried to be sweet and wonderful twice, I did't have it in me try again:)

Please include in your thinking the Filson camera field bag. I think from my research that it hits a better balance of design and build than the ONA.
I have found the odd report of iffy quality in ONA bags and they are made overseas (?). The Filsons are not (?). Skip the Harvey and McCurry are not right for your comparison, but the Camera Field Bag is.

I have never found a dedicated photo bag worth its salt. I now look for nice general purpose bags and add the appropriate inserts. While most photo messenger bags are bad, dedicated photo backpacks are atrocious.

A couple of Tenba photo wraps can go a long way in protecting your gear.

Great discussion. I was looking at ONA bags only a week ago but at A$300 - A$500 here in Perth I think I'll pass. They look great, but I get mud and dirt on my bag.

I had a Billingham for some years but I never found it satisfactory. It's quite heavy even empty and didn't hold as much as it looked it would. I sold it. Great quality and the shoulder pad is particularly effective at staying on my shoulder. I found a shop selling just the pads at $10 each many years ago so I grabbed four. Still got two.

The best bags I've ever had cost me about $20 each. One was blue nylon type material, very light but it held an ideal amount of gear. Good sized end pockets with metal clip closures. And you could pick it up by the rear handle without the bag tilting forward. Many makers place a handle on the "lid". That's crazy - when you pick it up without the lid being closed and latched, the whole bag tilts forward alarmingly. Not for me. Oh, and no noisy velcro.

I also have a nice small bag made of cotton material with leather edging with a Nikon badge on it. Although it's quite small, it holds a very nice amount. I use it for my Contax G1, G2 and three lenses, with the TLA20 flash in an end pocket. The shoulder strap is quite soft and comfortable, and I've added one of the Billingham shoulder pads to it. Perfect.

My main bag now is actually a Sigma branded bag. It's quite large and holds a 13" laptop easily. I've never seen it for sale anywhere else since I bought it in 2010. The one drawback is that it uses odd metal clips like spring opening/closing "fingers" on a metal ring. They're very secure, but hard to manipulate. The other problem is that if you pick it up without the top straps being latched, the bag falls open. Hate that.

I think my next bag is going to be a Think Tank Retrospective, probably a 30 or 40. I love the Pinestone colour and they look very well thought out and made.

But my first love was that simple blue nylon $20 bag. Lost now, I'm afraid (that burglary in 1991!). I could work with the bag on my shoulder without looking at it, doing everything by feel. That's the way it should work IMHO.

I'm glad you said that the images were with an LX7. There was a "look" to them that seemed familiar.

Back when I had (almost) golden ears, I took interest in the reviews of speakers I could not afford, where the reviewers mentioned certain speakers distinct "sound." Which of course always engendered the letters to the editor that speakers should be "transparent," not have their own "sound."

I have too many camera bags, but recently bought the Filson DAH bag. holds a laptop MBP 13 inch, 2 leicas and in a pinch my Xpan. so far, so good. No Velcro. Well made. Unobtrusive. I might switch out the shoulder pad to my old Domke postman style pad, but otherwise, pleased.

I'm another messenger bag user. Mine's less pretty since it's a Zero meant for actual bike use (and it's damn comfy when I'm biking). But it's also light for how big it is. 2lbs! Depending on the situation, my camera mostly winds up in one of the "little" pockets. They're both iPad mini sized. My mini goes in the other, often with my wallet. Then the main compartment is free for lunch, groceries, a coat, books... whatever I might need. Lots of free space, just the way I like it.

Since I have a Panasonic G3, my camera is pretty small and light tho.

Best camera bag review I have ever read. Thank you.
Couple of comments. I would not want waxed canvas anywhere near my cameras and lenses. The wax somehow tends to drip and stains everything over time. I have seen all sorts of linings in bags and cost is not a factor in ultimate quality. I have got a Ferragamo bag with rubbery lining that has turned sticky over time and a Rimowa Aluminium bag with lining that has turned into loose powder that comes off like pepper from a shaker. I don't know how Billingham actually does it but their lining is still waterproof and in perfect condition after couple of decades.
The big chunky metal buckles, like in your new Tenba, are a bit scary around lenses as well. But so is a prong that sticks out. Again the fairly low key Billingham fasteners seem to do their job nicely, and the permanently stitched in shoulder strap is not bulky and stays out of the way of your equipment. The Ona has similar design. Yes, it cannot be changed but I have never yet had the need to change a quality shoulder strap in a bag. Billingham makes good shoulder pads as well and they can be bought separately. Though I agree that expensive bag should come with one, and a good one.
My first camera bag was a Tenba 2, bought in the1970s. I still have it. The waterproof lining has peeled off but in big pieces, not spoiling equipment inside like many do. I also have three Billinghams. They used to make laptop bags, 2-3 different models, but they were discontinued some ten years ago. I have the Director model, but that is more of an office bag than a camera bag. I have run down three 'unbreakable and last for ever' Domkes. Waste of money, though they worked nicely as long as they did. Apart from the big metal buckles waiting to bang on unprotected lenses.

Billingham's own website says the Hadley Large Pro has a slip for a 15" laptop. http://www.billingham.co.uk/catalog/product/view/id/96/category/4/

It's another advantage of one camera/one lense/one year that you can actually do without a camera bag, almost. It's good to have something to transport the camera in, but I have a small camera bag that contains the one lense I'm NOT using plus assorted cleaning implements. It's a Domke. It rarely leaves the house.

FYI - B&H carries something called the Hadley Large Pro which has a specific slot for up to a 15" notebook.

Hee hee. Only here at TOP can I find folks who understand the obsession with camera bags.

Seriously though, I choose a bag mainly to _limit_ what I can carry, as my impulse is to pack three of everything. I'm like Marley's flippin' ghost, weighed down by chains I forged in this life, Ebenezer.

So I have about 10 of these things in various sizes, but I really only go out with the Domke 701.

See here:


Two bodies and one or two extra lenses. Batteries in one of the front pockets and SD cards in the other. A small Bogen tabletop tripod in the rear compartment. No zippers. Only one metal clip in front (no fastek buckles. . . echh). Mirrorless has really helped out here. But . . . horses for courses, of course, of course.

Sadly, a laptop is a bridge too far for this little satchel, although I have done it with a small one, wedged on its side, short edge down in the back pocket. This is a carry-on airplane solution only.

No wax. No leather. No flash. No fuss. And because of the small size, no aches or pains.

Never had problems with Tom Bihn bags. Quality and
versatility are outstanding. Have a collection of 4
bags bought over 7 years.

ThinkTank are making sensible looking and working bags, including ones that also take a laptop.

In my youth I lugged a jammed-full-of-Nikon-packed Domke F2 and could shoot all day with it on my shoulder but no more... backpacks are the only way. I can't imagine carrying more than a body and couple of lenses on any sort of shoulder bag, any more than that is cruel and unusual. For a modest satchel like that maybe one of those luxury Japanese bags from Art and Artisan or Black Label (the people who make $100 silk camera straps)? People on the RFF seem to buy those $$$ purses by the truck load.

For hand cameras my Think Tank Airport Ultralight v2.5 backpack fits on even the smallest commuters flights, has padding and comfortable straps, good quality, understated design, and can carry a 15" laptop.... it's hard to improve. But I don't change lenses much or need to fiddle, I tend to get one body/lens out and shoot with it almost exclusively so the backpack isn't getting set in the mud very often.

Ironically I use the Domke F2 for the view camera as once the camera is tripod mounted then I have a nice relatively light bag to hold film holders, loupe, and meter at the ready.

Frankly I'd have expected you to go for one of the new Magnum-approved Filsons, they look like the spawn of a dirty Billingham/Domke hook up under the canvas. And they say Magnum! like you finally got voted in!

So many fantastic colours. I want one. No, not a Tenba nor an Ona, but an LX7!

My 30-year bag was a surplus gas mask bag. It held an M2, 19, 25, 50 and 90 mm lenses (the last two collapsable), 10+ rolls of hand-wound film in dented cans, light meter, timer, bandanna for tear gas (or sun) protection. Nothing since (Domke ThinkTank, etc.) has fit as well. My problem is how to pack for a dayjob trip, with cameras included for the spare moment. I'm looking for the bag that holds laptop, clean shirts and a toilet kit, along with one camera and 2-3 lenses.


I've long been fascinated by how common bag fetishism is among both amateur and pro photographers. I've been no exception, with a closet full of them. My favorite: no bag, or nearly none, at least for happenstance work. The more crap I haul the weaker the results.

I ended up with a small to medium sized Timbuktu messenger bag with an insert from another manufacturer. It is perfect for travel with my Fujifilm system — X-E1, 14mm, 23mm, 35mm, 55-200mm — plus Macbook Air, smartphone, wallet, and other things I need to keep with me. It is also solidly constructed. (I share your concerns about ONA.)

"in the words of Bob Falfa**" I wonder, does he have a brother named Al?

though i knew from the start that neither bag suits me i read all the way through; i carry a much smaller kit, carry cross-shoulder and prefer even more "stealth", but i appreciated your approach

the pockets on the Tenba scream "designed-by-marketing-department" — when i find camera bags at thrift stores, as i often do, these types of pockets sometimes hide leftover lens caps, quarters or even currency

Crumpler, among others, has built-in velcro silencers on many of its bags

I highly recommend Crumpler bags.

Crumpler all the way, in various silly-named sizes.

Porta Brace bags are incredibly well made, have the best straps I have ever used, and if you get the blue color have an uncanny effect on security people who assume that you are part of a film or news crew. Trying to buy one online is kind of confusing however.

For a nice stealthy padded bag , diaper bags are the ticket.

I finally got tired of trying to find the right bag, so I did my own as outlined in this Shutterbug article I did last year!

Good to see other fans of ThinkTank's Retrospective bags. I've got a Retro 7 too, and it's almost perfect: ideal size for my XE1 and 35mm lens in a compartment at the end, with the main section free for other daily necessities like wallet, keys, phone, etc. Feels very well made, and looks great too. In fact, its appearance was one of the main factors that led me to it versus a Billingham. Shallow as it may be, I just don't like the look of Billinghams.

Just to qualify my previous recomendation of the Filson, i use the classic field bag with a Domke insert when needed or just stuff and my camera.
The bag never gapes when full letting in water, the flap has buckles, but when unbuckled, the flap sits well and the fabric is Billingham level rain proof without waxing. To me its a "woodlands" Billingham (i had a pair of Hadleys). Being Australian I should be pushing Crumpler, but the Filsons are just the right balance of caringly hand made, practical and stylish (without looking like a knob). I also have a Domke F3 olive (worn) when I just want a camera bag or to "dress down".

I think it is a mistake to combine a computer bag with a camera bag if you plan to use the camera bag for walk around photography. You don't need your computer with you all the time for that--a smaller bag will work better. At the suggestion of Carl Weese I bought an ONA Bowery bag to use with my Panasonic GX7 and it is an absolutely perfect bag for carrying around the camera and 3-4 m4/3 lenses while actively shooting. It is much smaller than the Brixton bag you reviewed. I have no need to carry around a laptop all of the time--I need a small lightweight bag that makes my camera easily accessible to me while shooting and doesn't scream "camera bag" and the Bowery is it. I got the Canvas/Field Tan version and it appears to me to be very well made. The strap is made out of seatbelt material and the strap attachments are rotating clip on/off brass hardware. I can barely tell I am carrying this bag when I wear it across my shoulder loaded up with the camera and lenses. When traveling I throw this very small bag with my camera gear in it into my Timbuk2 messenger bag along with my Macbook Air and it all fits fine. When I get to my destination I remove the camera bag from the messenger bag and go out shooting.

I have crammed my Lenovo notebook (3 lbs.)into the backs of various Domke and Billingham shoulder bags when traveling in the past, but no more. Now, on work trips the notebook goes into a Tumi backpack (pricey but bulletproof), with the camera in a neoprene never-ready case in the main bay of the backpack for protection. If I have room for another lens or two, one of those Crumpler Haven pouches does the trick.

They are all much, much too big. I want one that hangs lightly on my shoulder and never slips or swoops round when I bend down. When used purely as a photo bag it should be capable of carrying a couple of bodies, a pile of lenses and a flash and oh yes, a tripod. Otherwise I would use it when travelling to take three days worth of travel wear, travel docs, my iPad and my S95. Ideally al of that should weigh less than 2lbs and be about the size of a ladies small handbag(purse). The fasteners should not be Velcro or anything else that's difficult. Don't care what it's made from just as long as it is as inconspicuous as me.

For travelling with a 13" laptop, m4/3 camera and 3 or 4 lenses, a medium sized hikers rucksack, such as <http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B006DNDQDQ> is essential for me. I couldn't countenance carrying that much weight any other way. If for overnight or weekend travel, I'll have clothes, medicines (getting old), toiletries, water and often a picnic, too. Roller cases are fine on smooth airport surfaces, not so good otherwise.
Out shooting in uncertain weather I use an Ortlieb Aqua-Cam <http://www.ortliebusa.com/prodInfo.asp?pid=41&cid=2>.
It's not well subdivided, but I've had it floating about in a sinking canoe without finding any dampness inside afterwards. And it doesn't look like a camera bag.

Funny, bags seem to steer as much comments as cameras and lenses. I was also in the game until I bought a Lowepro Comupday 250 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/754821-REG/Lowepro_LP36297_0AM_CompuDay_Photo_250_Backpack.html) and accepted that shoulder bags are not for me. Look at the camera-pocket on the side!
This Lowepro fits me in _every_ situation, from going to university, to work, on a trip, and walking the streets - photographing (one camera with lens) or not. The problem with smaller bags is, that I _always_ need a water bottle, and almost always some kind of clothes, like a sweater or rain-jacket. And often, on the way home, I buy some food, for which to carry I need some extra space. Besides, a smaller bag isn't noticeably lighter. And this one is compact enough to stay within my body outline, so that it doesn't look odd like a 17"-notebook backpack. Moreover it has rounded edges, or better a rounded form in general, which gives it a nice profile, also when I place it on my lap while riding public transport (which is not that unimportant).
As for the notebook, I could take a 15" (maybe tight), but I just leave it at home and feel good ;-) For idle times I have my tablet and/or a book and some paper to write.
For streetshooting, the camera-pocket on the side is the best design I have ever seen in any camera bag. It holds one camera with lens up to the size of a M-Leica, maybe small DSLR (never tried). When you sling down the bag from the left shoulder, you can access the camera with your right hand. Again, this is the fastest method I have ever tried. And when I plan to shoot for a longer period, I place my water bottle in the camera pocket, which then functions as a temperature insulation and gives quick access to the bottle without the need to put the bag down.
Regarding all the pockets, and their partitioning, I also find them perfect (and I usually try not to misuse this word, or any superlatives at all)... in striking the balance between all the conceivable use-cases, some of which I mentioned above. You can see it on pictures, there are pockets for papers, keys, phone and even that small zipper bag for various bits, which I use for batteries or film respectively.
Construction quality and materials are very good, after 5+ years of constant use without being cautious. The zippers didn't break, despite being but under heavy strain in some cases.
The carrying handle also deserves extra mention, because it's build so that carrying the backpack at the side of your body is almost like carrying a flat suitcase - it doesn't constantly pump against your legs or knee.
And then it even has the slot on its back for fixing it over a trolley's handle.
The design, as you can see, is straightforward, utilitarian black, and really inconspicuous. Nothing special here. After many years it got somehow ugly and I wanted to replace it, but my girlfriend proposed to wash it. I cleaned it on the surfaces, and then put into water overnight with some rising agent. As it got dry again, I couldn't believe, but it looked almost brand new! Which I think speaks for a good choice of material - and female practical superiority.

Now comes the caveat: this bag is no longer in production, sorry. I think Lowepro should have got a design award for this bag and should be urged to remake it immediately.
Generally, I often find that products that I like cease being made. So either, the average customer has got odd tastes, or I am weird. In the case of camera bags at least, I find 'serious' photogs schlepping huge shoulder bags don't look so natural or comfartable, and then I feel quite 'normal'.

For a take on the bag within a bag concept, take a a look at the new Tenba Packlites. I haven't tried one yet, but it seems like a good solution for when you want one bag for the plane and another for walking around when you get there.


If all you need is a travel bag, the Travelpro Crew 9 Rolling Tote worked for me on a recent short trip. It's certainly not a camera bag but it's large enough for a change of clothes, toiletries, laptop, couple of DSLRs and extra lens, chargers and accessories. It's also small enough to ride under the airline seat in front of you rather than having to check it or find an empty overhead compartment. Small enough only if you don't overstuff it. Most recent price was around $150 on Amazon. The biggest negative is the internal framework will intrude on the bag space but you can work around that by using your clothing as padding for the cameras. Otherwise, I'd still stick with the Hadley Pro.

Great bag review. I have been searching for a new bag the last 5 months. The long search is because I have finally narrowed down to the features i want and need. Similar to you i want a bag that will handle a laptop, my micro 4/3 camera system, some hard drives, extra batteries and other accrutraments you need with photography. It also has to fit underneath the seat of an airplane. Four other wants are to have a way to strap a small tripod to the bag, be able to expand and contract the size of the bag, add extra storage and be able to convert the bag from a messanger to a backpack. Those last four are tall orders.

Currently I use an old think tank urban disguise 50, which can transform from a messanger bag to backpack with a separate strap, but doesn't meet my other criteria, though the newer version does have a way to add extra bags and a tripod. But it is very utilitarian looking and my designer ways call out for something better looking (or my vain, hah).

What I have found, but have not bought yet, is wotancraft's city explorer series. Specifically the Ranger. It meets all my criteria, except the backpack conversion, though they are looking into making a strap to do conversion to backpack. What I do love about this bag is that the design team is also sewing up the bags and from what I have read their quality control and customer service is top notch. Of course that comes at a price, hence why i haven't bought one yet. I am saving my pennies.

Check them out at http://www.wotancraft.com/creations.php?id=17&lan=_en


I'll add that for transport, I'm now taking a backpack and just put the camera in with some padding, preferably in a small camera bag so I can carry it separately (the padding is necessary, since an unpadded backpack is very easy to bump in ways that are very bad for camera equipment). The big deal in this scheme is that carrying the backpack is a lot more comfortable than carrying a big shoulder bag and much better too for the health of one's back. The only real drawbacks are that equipment is not as easy to access as with shoulder bags (but not an issue if the bag is for transport) and that backpacks don't work well with formal business attire (which the vast majority of camera bags wouldn't either).

So if you don't constantly need to access your equipment, go backpack, your back will thank you.

I have the Tenba. Apparently an earlier model so the front pockets are a bit bigger and don't have the pen slots etc. My goal was to find the smallest bag that I could carry every day - so this means going to work with appropriate computer, power supplies cables etc. as well my sony mirrorless and a couple of lenses and requisite extra batteries etc. I also carry a backup hard drive so I can back up photos to both the computer and hd and a bit more junk. The Tenba fits it all just fine. This allows me to have a camera with me wherever I go (I travel a lot for work) and never think about leaving the camera at home. When I go out to actually photograph for a couple of hours when I'm traveling I use a much smaller bag that can "just" fit the camera and one additional lens and a couple of accessories - not a perfect fit but easy. I do still have an amazingly functional no name bag I purchased 25 years ago when I was a pro and If I am carrying a full kit I may still break it out.

I actually like the big velcro patches as it means that I can lift it by the handle (handles in addition to straps are important to me) without using the buckles. It would be nice if it had optional "silencers" that cover part of it when you need the silence.

My only real complaints: It still looks like a camera bag and Tenba has it's name and markings all over it. I'd really like the branding to be inside... Still all in all the best bag that I've purchased in the last 10 years and that isn't a small number unfortunately.

Mike, I use a Billingham Hadley Large to carry my kit and a 15-inch Macbook Pro. The laptop slips in nicely behind the insert that holds cameras and lenses. I know you've already found something that works for you in the Tenba, but I figured I'd let you know just in case. Love my Hadley.

I bought a brown Tenba bag (15" version) a couple of years ago when they first came out. I wanted something into which I could drop a camera and use as a briefcase for school. When I need to schlep a computer my 13" Macbook fits easily but I mostly use the computer pocket for files while the camera goes into the front (and now that I'm carrying a Sony RX100iii there's room for a small case for the Sony). The velcro sure is noisy but I can live with it. And I don't know what the small vertical pockets in the front are for. How many pens/pencils can one carry? My only wish is that the bag were about two inches wider so I could slip both my lunch and a book into the front beside the camera. The bag gets carried almost every day and while I'm not stressing it its held up pretty well. I've decided I don't need stylish; while leather is pretty the Tenba bag is way more then useful. And, yeah, Mike, you should have gotten a color!

Crumpler, in addition to their many dedicated bags, makes some nice inserts as well. The Haven comes in several sizes appropriate to mirrorless systems or a full DSLR body with a compact lens. They used to make a big insert for messenger bags (the Photobucket) that would also hold a 13-15" laptop. I found one in nice shape on eBay, but don't use it much.

I've used messenger bags for twenty-five years now, and have worn out several. The best ones I've owned are made by BaileyWorks of Portsmouth, NH. They are made in USA and are heavily customizable. I currently have two. They include a waist strap to stabilize the bag when you either want to ride a bicycle with it or more likely run through an airport with it.

A visit to the Optech website is also instructive: they make very nice (and inexpensive!) padded neoprene sleeves and covers for lenses and bodies for people who wish to roll their own bags.

I think you should take a look at the Tenba DNA 13. In my opinion they look just as good as the Ona bags. I take mine to work and they don't scream like I am trying to be a hipster. And they finally fixed those annoying tabs with a magnetic latch that is truly awesome!

However they still have that annoying Velcro - so what I did was simply buy a pack of 1 inch thick velcro from the hardware store and attached it with a piece of slim black cloth on the glue side - problem solved! If anyone from Tenba is listening, you don't need the Velcro! Especially with those amazing magnetic clasps you put on.

And, as if on cue, a kickstarted for a modular camera bag system. It doesn't look too bad, actually.


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