Which bag is best for travel?

Here we go again with the eternal question:Which camera bag is the best one for…?

This time a reader asks about the best bag for carrying the most equipment that’s convenient to carry onboard an international flight.

Thanks to my experience with two bags from Think Tank Photo that I use and one I wish I had, I can easily answer this question. And remember folks I only recommend equipment that I either personally own or have had personal experience so here goes:

For a really convenient and professional quality camera bag that can handle two camera bodies and three or four lenses plus accessories I bought a Think Tank Photo Shape Shifter. This is a big bagShape-Shifter-4 but it’s also the most comfortable bag I’ve ever had. You see all of the equipment goes into neoprene pockets with drawstrings. Everything is protected in it’s own padded pocket. This is cool. If you put two small lenses into one big pocket just do what I did and put one lens in a small lens bag so they don’t get scratched up from rubbing against each other.

Now here’s the super-cool feature of the Shape Shifter. Once you’re ready to shoot with a camera body out around your neck with a lens affixed the Shape Shifter can be compressed by three inches all around for easy walking around.Unlike traditional big bags you’re not left carrying a big bulky bag full of air. This is cool. Plus the bag can take a 17″ laptop.

Feature-Shape-Shifter-2 At left is the layout for two Nikons and three lenses. The laptop fits into a padded sleeve at the back of the bag. The bag will also handle a monopod or tripod which can be strapped on. So far, I haven’t found the bag to be overly heavy when fully loaded or even too hot to carry in warm weather. Now at $250 this isn’t a cheap bag but the cost is peanuts considering the thousands of dollars of equipment that I’m entrusting to it.

The Shape Shifter went to Algonquin Park with Marion and I and it easily handled all the equipment we carried with us for the weekend. If there’s one complaint, it’s that the bag has too many pockets – especially zippered pockets! How is this a problem? Well you put everything you own into this bag you need a roadmap to remember which pocket is holding what. This issue will go away with regular use but if you’re like me and own a dozen (0r more) bags I don’t use the Shape Shifter on a regular basis.Speed-Demon-6 (I use a Crumpler bag for my day-to-day carrying equipment to and from teaching and work assignments. I am considering the new Urban Disquise 70 Pro or the slightly smaller Pro 60 bag and if I change over I’ll let you know.) But I drag out the Shape Shifter when the going gets rough and on the Algonquin trip I added the Speed Demon to carry a couple of lenses around my waist when the camera was around my neck. BTW I see more pros using the Speed Demon bag worn on the front of their body for super quick access to their equipment. Perfect for photojournalists or street photographers. Wish these guys were around in the 70s when I was carrying two, sometimes three cameras, with lenses attached, a bag with more lenses and a Metz 403 potato-masher type flash with a wet-cell battery (about the size of a motorcycle battery) on my other shoulder.

But the Shape Shifter isn’t the only bag I’d recommend to a pro who needs to travel with their camera. And I will disclose here that I don’t have one of these bags yet but it’s on my wish list. And it’s the Airport International V 2.0. Again at $329 this isn’t a cheap bag but consider this: This bag can carry two or three bodies ad half a dozen lenses plus a full range of your accessories including flashes and Pocket Wizards. This is a lot of equipment and the Airport International is a lot ofAirport-International-V-20-1bag. I got a chance to have a look at one at the Henry’s Digital Photography Show and it is built like a tank. It has wheels, security locks and cables and will pass the regulations for international and American (which allows larger bags than international flights so beware) regulations for carry-on equipment. The bag will also hold a 15″ laptop.

Airport-International-V-20-4-1 Now are there other bags out there? Sure are and some are really terrific but after almost 40 years of lugging camera equipment around I can recommend the ThinkTank Photo bags because (a) they work (and I mean they really work. They carry the right amount of equipment for me to get the job done. They protect that equipment really well. And, they’re built to last forever.); (b) they’re available (you can buy them at Henry’s Cameras here in Canada); and (c) don’t take my word for it. Go read the online reviews at the Think Tank site and at the photo enthusiasts sites. Nobody who knows what they’re talking about (and there are folks out there who don’t have a clue when they complain about some products) has ever said anything bad about these bags.

Really it comes down to how much equipment you want to carry and how much protection you want to provide that equipment. There are cheaper bags that’s for sure. And there are bags that will hold more equipment (just don’t try to carry one around all day). If you’re a working pro or want to protect your equipment like a pro then Think Tank Photo bags are the only way to go.

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