Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I need to carry around some camera equipment (lens, flash, cables, cards, accessories, etc) but don't want a flashy camera bag attracting attention. What suggestion do you have?

Please only post one suggestion per answer so they can be sorted by votes.

Considerations:

  • padding or some way to pad

  • easy to carry (i,e., handles/straps)

  • easy access to equipment

  • organization

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4  
I'd recommend making this community wiki since it is designed as a list. –  chills42 Jul 27 '10 at 12:28
    
Are you worried about "flashy" in terms of just preferring to be inconspicuous/normal-looking, or actually worried about theft? –  ex-ms Jul 27 '10 at 23:26
    
I'm not worried about theft. It's more about not attracting attention. –  WireGuy Jul 28 '10 at 14:12
1  
you could try one of these: corporateoz.com/party_supply/toys_koala_backpack.htm –  Matt Grum Jul 6 '12 at 9:46

19 Answers 19

A diaper bag with a foam insert (like the Domke inserts. It's not pretty, but that's the point: it looks exactly like something you don't want to stick your hand into.

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And some diaper bags ARE pretty (but maybe a bit too girly for your taste) –  Bossykena Jul 27 '10 at 19:18
    
Diaper bag -> any bag that's big enough to hold your gear! Domke inserts are definitely the key. –  ex-ms Jul 27 '10 at 20:26

I just got a Think Tank Retrospective 20 and love it. It looks very non-camera bag like, and can fit a ton of gear in it. One thing I will point out is that it was bigger than I thought it would be, but the 20 is the largest model - it fits my body attached to a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens (and actually even fits all that with a 1.7x teleconverter attached as well)!

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1  
I have this bag too - it is very good indeed and I regularly carry my 7D or 5D with battery grip attached, and up to 3 lenses, with rocket blower, some filters, etc no problem. Very good indeed. –  Mike Jul 13 '12 at 7:55

Crumpler bags are "designed" to not to scream fancy camera bag, however at this point in the game, thieves know that crumpler bags are expensive, and target them anyway. They're good for keeping a low key amongst non-pro thieves, and meet all the requirements you listed.

I personally use the 6 Million Dollar Home "messenger" style bag and the Whickey and Cox Backpack. The 6mdh has been redesigned; with two snaps (not sure I like that), so I can't speak for certain about it's performance (I have the older one--which I linked too).

The 6mdh is great for quickly accessing gear, but it does wear on my shoulder after a day of walking around. The W&C is perfect for carrying lots of gear on a hike, or a day trip, but because the main compartment is only accessible if you take off the backpack (for security reasons), it makes swapping gear much harder. I use them both while on travel. I keep all my gear in the W&C, use it for day trips that will have a lot of walking. For out-and-about street photography, I put what I need in the 6mdh.

Your mileage may vary based on your size, strength, and gear carried.

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Billingham are the classic camera bags - they scream camera to anyone who works as a photojournalist, but look like army surplus satchels to anyone else. Especially once you have battered them and dragged them through the mud enough.

Alternatively, an army surplus satchel and some padded inserts.

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I believe Crumpler has got some camera bags that don't really have "camera equipment" written all over them. They also used to have a completely insane website that was always worth a visit (though that does not seem to be the case anymore).

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+1 for crumpler. –  Alan Jul 27 '10 at 16:54

A messenger bag is a good camera bag for not looking too much like a photographer. The design makes you look more like a university student than a photographer and they're more often than not give you quick to access to the pouch(es). I must admit, I almost want to swap to one myself (if I had some spare cash).

LowerPro

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I have this exact model. It's not huge - it fits my d3000 and three lenses, but without much breathing room. It also has some padding, but not a whole lot. It's inexpensive; I believe I spent about $30 on it. –  Evan Krall Sep 10 '10 at 15:55

It doesn't seem that this one has been mentionned :

enter image description here

I got this Lowepro Passport Sling specifically because I wanted something that didn't look like a camera bag (and already had a camera backpack), I needed something that could still hold a bunch of things.

I can fit my Nikon D7000 with 3 lenses including 2 heavy Tokinas (12-24 and 55-135) and a (small) Nikon 50mm + a flash (SB600) ! It has many small pockets for a phone and SD cards.

The best thing is that it's extensible : see the zipper on the side part, if you open that you can fit a whole coat in the bag along with your gear :) . This bag is so practical, I use it at concerts or to go to work even if my camera gear isn't in it.

Feel free to comment if you need more details.

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I recommend the Crumpler 5 Million Dollar Home bag. It looks just like a purse or messenger bag (no one ever guesses that I have an SLR in there) and can fit your camera + an extra lens, plus a couple of doodads in the front, flap and side pockets. It's well padded, sturdy, and the strap is comfy.

I have had one for years, and have been very satisfied.

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Budget solution is to get a gas mask bag from military surplus store. Sturdy, easy to modify and doesn't look like a camera bag.

http://www.twenga.co.uk/prices-gas-mask-bag.html

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And often waterproof too :) –  fmark Mar 25 '11 at 8:30

Lowepro makes superb lens cases and you could definitely fit a lineup of them in a medium or large Timbuk2 messenger bag or similar.

For sizing specifics, check out The Digital Picture's lens reviews which usually mention the correct size Lowepro case.

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Check out the Tamrac Express Series. This is a line of camera backpacks and bags with a non-photo-bag styling. They're padded and designed for cameras, but don't scream it out loud. (They do bear the Tamrac logo, for discerning thieves — same issue as with the Crumpler bags.)

I have the Model 3548 - Express Pack 8, and I like it very much. I have the Crumpler Sinking Barge (non-deluxe version), and while it's very well made with excellent features, it's way too huge for the city.

The Tamrac Express pack isn't huge. It's not going to hold all of your gear. However, it's got re-arrangeable padding, and I can fit my moderate-size Pentax K-7 with three prime lenses, plus a Metz flash, extra batteries, and memory cards and sundries, plus a small netbook.

The only downsides are: not as sturdily made as the Crumpler bags (although it's held up well), no good place for a water bottle (or anything else held outside), and the front flap/pocket is a little, well, flappy — it holds things secure when buckled, but is kind of strange.

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Timbuk2 has started making camera bags of their own, as well as inserts you can drop into an existing messenger bag. As with their other products: extremely well made, and priced accordingly.

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I recently was looking for one and I ended up buying a Think Tank Retrospective 5. I think that this Retrospective line looks very casual and that's why I went for them, I am pretty happy with the purchase.

enter image description here

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shootsac.com - I own this and the hip slip for my laptop. Both are excellent. The Shoot Sac is perfect for quick access to lenses and flash. It maybe isn't ideal for the smaller items, I'd recommend smaller cases strapped onto the strap for those.

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You can use a messenger bag with some additional padding for your gear. Cocotte Equipment makes an excellent shoulder bag and photo insert.

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Ignore this advice!

I just got back from my first trip out with it and it is a lousy camera bag. It is too tight, the 5D barely fits, which is ok on the sofa but not on the street. And the very first time I opened it I unzipped it past the body and it almost fell out to the ground!


Hmmmm, I've been reading this page pretty much daily since I found it a few weeks ago. I'm not traveling but I know I miss shots because I don't have my gear with me. I looked into the 4/3rds and cameras like the GI X but either they are too large to be pocketable or the quality isn't there yet.

So I decided to not buy a small camera and just carry part of my gear with me.

Now I did't want it looking like a camera bag, I didn't want it looking like a man-purse either. And it had to hold a bigger DSRL and a gorilla-pod SLR. So small is out!

There just isn't anything out there it seems so I went basement diving and found my old Camelbak MULE, or I think the spelled it M.U.L.E. It is a hydration backpack designed for cyclist. I had put it in the basement because it was just too small for hiking. (Great for cycling though!)

In this shot it is holding the Canon 5D MkII, the 17-40mm f4.0 and the large gorilla-pod SLR in the front pocket. You can see the camera bulging through the top. It is a tight fit for sure, a smaller DSLR will work.

So, not the perfect bag for traveling, but for knocking about town, I think it will be my bag. I just "discovered" this today so I've yet to use it. Hope it works...

enter image description here

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I really like this bag - http://www.amazon.com/1839-Bags-1839-1-Womens-Camera/dp/B00CA2C784

It's really comfortable to carry all day and it's very easy to slip the camera in and out of the bag.

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I have a LowePro toploading case, which does scream 'big shiny DSLR'. But I always need a backpack anyway to hold my drink, snacks, thermos, book etc. So my solution is to have the camera case in my regular backpack. This way the camera is well protected and disguised when it's put away, and when I want to shoot, I have all the comfort and usability of a dedicated camera bag. Of course, this works mostly for a limited amount of gear, like a body, 1-2 small or medium lenses and some other small accesories.

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