My quest as a pro photographer has always been to chase great images, but of course that means using the right equipment, too. Cameras, lenses, tripods and lights, of course. Over the years I have spent lots of time trying to find the perfect camera bag for my needs.
After almost 27 years as a photographer and having bought tens of camera bags in that time, I have come to the conclusion that for me, there is no one perfect do-all camera bag. It’s impossible. That’s because sometime’s I’m travelling light with minimal rangefinder kit, other times I’m lugging medium format cameras with tilt-shift lenses. But for the vast majority of the time, I’m hauling a full pro-level DSLR system. So finding the right bag for that is always my No1 priority.
Most of my work is photographing action sports like motocross for international magazine clients like MOTO (www.motomagazine,co,uk) and RacerX (www.racerxill.com), plus shooting for sponsors like Red Bull’s Content Pool site (www.redbullcontentpool.com). The harsh reality of shooting sports like this is that the kit is pro-level, heavy and bulky. Especially with long lenses like the 300mm f/2.8 which I tend to use on my Nikon D4 as almost my “standard” lens!
I’m always packing a second D4 body, plus the “holy trinity” of three Nikon f/2.8 zooms: 14-24mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm. Add in some fast primes like the 58mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.4, plus a 16mm fisheye, 1.4x teleconverter, a flashgun or two, radio triggers, flash cards, cables, batteries and of course laptop. That’s a lot of expensive kit.
Simply fitting all this inside a bag – especially the mammoth 300mm lens and two pro-spec bodies – means a lot of bags just aren’t up to the job without stripping out lots of padding. Which means your kit just isn’t protected, and that’s no good at all. I also must have a bag that’s legal to fit in airline overhead lockers, as I refuse to trust my photo gear to the check-in baggage handlers and risk losing it or damage. And of course, I need a roller bag as carrying such a weighty load is bad for my back!
I also want a bag that’s as light as possible, has got room internally to keep my laptop properly protected, a rain cover for those very nasty days and doesn’t scream out “camera bag” to undesirable types, especially when travelling abroad. In a motocross race paddock a flashy bag would fit in fine, but I also need to it to look classy and understated when shooting for less in-your-face commercial clients.
With the bag often thrown into the back of a van with sports kit, I also need it to be rugged. And have enough clearance around the wheels that pulling it over rough terrain – everything from muddy motorcycle paddocks to gravelly drives – doesn’t make it ground to a halt. And some easy-access side pockets, for essentials like keys, passport and travel documents, is a real bonus too.
When Manfrotto announced the new Roller Bag 70 and I got my hands on one to have a proper look, I was amazed. It was almost like Manfrotto had read my wish-list of features and packed them all into one bag. I ordered one immediately. And I haven’t been disappointed.
In the first six months of ownership it’s been all over my native UK, but also as far as Qatar, Thailand and lots of Western Europe like France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Germany and more. Sometimes the bag has been stuffed into airline overhead bins and it’s fitted perfectly every time – which is a lot more than can be said for so-called airline-legal bags from other manufacturers.
Other times the bag’s been packed into vans with motorcycles, lighting kit and more for road trips. And although it’s been covered in dust and dirt, it still looks good and performs well. Crucially, nothing has broken, the zips are as good as day one and most importantly, my camera kit has not had a single bit of damage inside the bag. Not even a scratch. And surely, that’s what a decent camera bag is all about.