One of my goals at the WPPI tradeshow was to see several camera bags in person. All I had up to this point was a lowepro backpack. On a good day it could hold a body, 2-3 lenses depending on size, a flash, and accessories. I could also fudge a small tripod to the outside of the backpack. The bag is fine, and worked well for me for a long time, but I had out grown it. It could no longer hold all of my gear. And I found myself needing something to use on the go more. The backpack was okay to travel, but I could not access the contents without taking it off, laying it down, and unzipping it all the way.
As I saw it, my needs were as follows:
1. I wanted a larger rolling travel case to hold EVERYTHING. This would be what I kept my gear in all the time. It would travel CARRY ON if I was doing an out of town job. It would be sturdy, clean looking in design, and easy to pack and pull gear in and out. When I arrive at a job, I could stage it in a safe place, and come back to it as needed. Then I would need....
2. I wanted a lightweight easy to handle bag to hold a couple lens options, cards, and anything I may need quick on the go while shooting. I wanted to be able to wear it while shooting so I was not running back and forth to my main case all the time. It would be lightweight, and comfortable to wear while shooting. I also wanted this bag to act as the only bag I needed if I was doing a portrait session locally and did not need all of my gear- just a body and a few lens choices. I wanted something to use while out and about on a normal day and not scream "camera bag." Along those lines, I also wanted it to be easy to pack my body, and a couple lens options, and accessories if I was traveling home for personal reasons and did not need to bring all my gear.
This was not easy. I have made my choices, and am happy with them, but I labored over the choices for a while, tried out many options, and still had weigh pros and cons. Nothing was 100% perfect.
Let's start with need #2
As I saw it I was choosing between two options. One was very lightweight, very comfortable, and it's main purpose was to wear while shooting so you could switch lenses quickly. I liked it a lot, and would probably be happy with it, but I felt it lacked in my other needs. It did not hold the body, and other accessories comfortably. I did not think it was great for traveling a long distance with a small amount of gear. It was PERFECT if all I wanted was a lightweight bag to hold lenses and cards while running around shooting on the job. But I wanted more then that, and I wanted it to look less like a camera bag so I could use it on a normal day too. So in the end, I happily went with option number two.
I chose the CLASSIC KELLY MOORE BAG in black. Here it is, on location this weekend:
I ordered it at WPPI, and it arrived last Friday, just in time for me to use it this past weekend. As I said, I chose this because it would work as a bag to carry while shooting, and could also travel well. It is not perfect, but it is about 97% of what I wanted. At first I was really concerned it would be too heavy to wear while shooting, but it is NOT as heavy as I thought. I can carry it on one shoulder, or over my shoulder with two large lenses, a body, and accessories easily. Most of the time, when shooting I will be holding my body, and then the weight is very manageable. The bag is a little stiff while brand new, but I am confident it will break in nicely as I use it more and more.
Highlights of what I love:
-It looks great! Good quality material on outside and inside. Classy, and not overly done detailing on buckles.
-It stands up! Even when I put it down in the uneven grass it stands up just fine. This makes it very easy to pull gear in and out of it.
- It doesn't scream camera bag. I could take this on a normal day, or on a portrait shoot out in the city and not scream- "I'm a professional photographer!"
- Side pockets, front pockets, and back zipper pocket allow me to carry accessories, and personal items like a wallet, phone, papers, without them getting mixed up with the gear.
-The open top with magnetic snaps allow easy access while shooting, secure close when not, and no zipper to scratch yourself or lenses.
Small things I wish were improved:
-If the dimensions of this bag were enlarged just slightly I would love it even more. I like to carry larger lenses. This past weekend I was mostly using my 24-70mm, and my new favorite 70-200mm. I knew when I bought it that the 70-200mm would fit, but when packed vertically it will not snap shut. I can work around it, but if it was just slightly taller and could avoid this...that would be heaven. I knew this when I bought the bag. They do make a bag that holds the 70-200 better (see below).
-The snaps on the front pockets seem a little tricky. If you have a large lens (like the 70-200mm) and a large accessory in the front pocket, it can snap open if pulled in the right way (like when trying to snap the main pocket closed).
I'm looking forward to using this when I take a personal trip back east next month. I am confident it will hold my body, a couple lens options, accessories, and as many personal items as I need access to while flying (wallet, phone, small book.)
Kelly Moore makes a lot of other great bag options if this is not exactly what you're looking for. They have larger traveling bags, smaller bags that look even more like a purse, and even bags with a more masculine look for the men. I almost went with the B-HOBO BECAUSE IT HOLDS TALLER LENSES like the 70-200mm. BUT I didn't want the flap, or zipper on the B-HOBO. I also almost went with the Kelly Boy bag, because it is slightly taller and may have also fixed that 70-200mm problem. It also has a sweet divider to create a laptop sleeve. I've wondered if I should have gotten the KELLY BOY BAG, but again I did not like the flap and I preferred the overall look and feel of the classic more. In the end I chose the classic because of a balance of looks, and size. If I upgraded in the future though, I think it would be with the Kelly Boy.
Next time I will let you know what I chose for my large rolling suitcase.