Jul 022009

I’ve been hunting for a new camera bag. Specifically, I’m looking for a camera bag that doesn’t scream, “Hey, I’m a CAMERA BAG, full of expensive CAMERAS and equipment you just might want to steal!”

I also don’t want the bag to scream, “Hey, this guy has a CAMERA. He could be a JOURNALIST. You might want to walk over and HASSLE him,” to any cop or rent-a-cop in the area.

I know there are arguments both pro and con for the nondescript camera bag. Some people say it’s idiotic, because as soon as you pull out a big, expensive camera, a good thief will mark you.

True enough.

People have related having their diaper bag camera bags stolen, even full of dirty diapers. (You need to scroll halfway down to the page to find the story.) But there’s nothing you can do about that. Once you’re marked, you’re marked.

For me, it’s about what I look like when I’m not shooting, and when I’m walking from place to place. I want a bag that just says, “I’m a bag. The droids you’re looking for aren’t here. This person can move along.”

The only bags I have right now don’t serve that purpose. They say, “Hi! I’m full of cameras!” or worse, “Hi! I’m full of EXPENSIVE cameras!” I don’t even have to pull out a camera to have to worry about being marked.

And of course they also look amazingly dorky.

ThinkTank Urban Disguise

The first place I checked was my local camera store, because I’m a big believer in buying local, as well as getting my hands on the product before I buy it. I took a look at the ThinkTank Urban Disguise models they had there, but I dunno… they just felt clumsy. I know some people swear by them, but trying out the bag, it just felt a little awkward.

It also looked about as inconspicuous as a heart attack.

“Hey mister, what’s in that HUGE black bag?” “What, this tiny thing? It’s nothing, nothing!”

Yeah, I don’t buy it either.

It doesn’t look like any other kind of bag I’ve ever seen before, which would make me very, very suspicious of the person carrying it.


I love messenger bags, because you can dump a lot of stuff in them, throw them over your shoulder and go on your merry way… okay, in a giant man-purse sort of way.

But my masculinity is strong enough that I don’t care if it really is a big man purse. I’m a big enough man that I don’t care.

So I started looking at messenger bag style camera bags, and this is where it led me.

I looked at the Crumpler bags. They’re nice, but good God are they expensive. $150-$200 for a basic bag just doesn’t cut it. Also, they have the problem of being well-known as camera bags. (Everyone knows Crumpler is a camera bag maker now.) Their website didn’t really win me over, either.

I don’t like those “cute” Flash websites that are all glamor and no substance. Give me data. Facts and figures. Not a toy. It was very annoying.

The actual bags… I’m sure they’re great, but they’re very expensive and a bit on the flashy side. Maybe if I were a celebrity photographer, it would work, but I’m not.


I took a look at the Naneu bags on a recommendation of someone who liked them. They’re excellent backpack bags, but not quite what I need. I like how the camera compartment faces your back, so it can only be accessed by removing the pack from your back. That way, nobody can lift your camera if you have your pack on. But it’s just not easy to just pull out your camera that way.

I need speed and ease of access, which is why I want a messenger bag-style bag in the first place. This might be nice for when I climb Mt. Everest, though.

Lowepro Classified

I also took a look at Lowepro’s Classified series… it looks pretty much like the ThinkTank, only it’s by Lowepro.  I’m sure it’s a great bag, but I don’t carry the Empire State Building in my bag. I just want something a little more… inconspicuous. That Black Monster ain’t it.

Make Your Own Camera Bag

I found this post on just building my own camera bag with a messenger bag and some Domke inserts. Others have discussed the idea as well. Timbuk2 has a similar take on how to build your own camera bag, based on a flickr discussion.

Here’s another flickr discussion on using Tenba inserts instead of the Domke inserts.

But in the long run, I think both setups are going to be a little on the janky side, and frankly, a good Timbuk2 bag isn’t that cheap to begin with. That alone will run in the $100-$150 range. By the time you add in the inserts, you’re staring $200 in the eye again. Where are the savings?

Frustrated, I stumbled across this thread on flickr.

F-Stop Bard and Maverick

Now I must admit that I really like the look of the Bard and Maverick by F-Stop. They typically make a lot of adventure-type gear bags that you’d see people use for stuff like mountain climbing or skateboarding, or surfing on lava or something. But both the Bard and the Maverick have the kind of look I’ve been trying to find. Something that looks like a messenger bag, that has good padding, will hold my gear, and doesn’t scream “CAMERA BAG!”

The only downside might be the logos on the gear, but those can be covered with stickers. No biggie there. The pricing is good, too. The Bard runs $99 on their website, and Maverick runs $129.

This comparison of the Domke F2 and the Bard really got me interested. And Skye Nacel’s posts on the F-Stop site gave a lot of useful info on the Maverick and also his comparison shots with the Bard. He also posted some good short reviews on YouTube of both the Bard and the Maverick.

But I still didn’t have enough info to make a decision on which bag to go with, so I wound up having to contact the company.

Suggestion: use e-mail. They respond very quickly to e-mails.  I had trouble getting through over the phone.

I went ahead and ordered a Bard, because I want something as small as possible. If I need something bigger, I was assured I could exchange it for a Maverick.

I’ll post a review in a few days/weeks when the bag shows up. I’m hoping it’ll be small enough to fit under an airplane seat… that may be wishful thinking. But the price sure is right: $117, and that includes UPS ground shipping.

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