Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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A bit of background information:

The obvious answer is 'Just buy a camera bag!', but that's where things get a little bit more complicated. Lately I started looking around for my first prime lens and while reading reviews for Canon's 50mm f1.4 I stumbled across comments like 'The autofocus stopped working, after I took it out of my camera bag'*. There seems to be some construction weakness that can make the autofocus rails break, when pressure is applied to the tube. There might be more examples, I'm not trying to bash this lens.

Equipment getting broken due high usage or clumsiness is a risk I can live with, but the thought of gear 'committing suicide' in a camera bag makes me cringe.

To cut a long story short:

How do you protect 'raw eggs' in your collection, when the padding of your camera bag just isn't enough?


* This is not a word by word translation.

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+1 - I've had to have my 50mm f1.4 repaired twice in five years! –  ninesided Mar 6 '12 at 21:34
    
Thx, all answers were great! I chose Dan's because it showed something I never heard of before. –  Ria Mar 12 '12 at 17:26

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Most of the time, all of my gear is in a camera bag. There's always going to be the strange accident, but I'm confident that my bags are giving some (enough) protection to keep my gear safe from the odd bump. For the more severe environment and use, I have a Pelican 1550 hard case with foam that will help keep the gear safe.

But once out of the camera bag or hard case, it's in the most dangerous environment of all! Walking around with the camera slung over my shoulder or balanced in my hand, it's far more likely to be damaged if I bump something, if somebody bumps me, if it falls to the floor, or even if it bangs against my pocket with keys and phone inside. The out-of-bag use is where I'm more concerned with my gear. While I don't doubt that occasionally something just breaks for no apparent reason, I must wonder what dings the 50 1.4 you read of took before it stopped working, and what damage was done prior.

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Someone complained about the same defect on this page to, but I just can't remember on which question/answer. And the whole 'out of the bag thing' is included in clumsiness. I mean you could stumble and throw your cup full of coffee directly in to your screen... but that won't keep anyone from drinking in front of the pc. –  Ria Mar 6 '12 at 20:13
    
Wow. Looks like your case can survive anything. –  Jakub Mar 6 '12 at 21:29
    
I really got the Pelican case because it's waterproof and specifically that model because it's just narrow enough to fit in a canoe and be easily opened/closed while I'm in the stern position to get at my gear. Perfect for taking through calm water and rapids, and I can be comfortable letting Scouts carry it anywhere for me, too! –  Dan Wolfgang Mar 7 '12 at 0:18
    
'twas me that complained about the 50mm 1.4 - I'm super careful with my lenses, so my own experience, coupled with the higher than normal incidence of people who have had issues with the AF ring on this specific model, leads me to believe that there are either "good" ones and "bad" ones, or there is some flaw in the design that makes it susceptible to damage. –  ninesided Mar 12 '12 at 20:16

You protect fragile equipment by remembering that it is fragile. In the same way that donning a bicycle helmet doesn't make it safe to ride the wrong way down the center of the lane of a major highway, or that putting on the full suit of armour doesn't make an American football player immune to injury, owning and using a padded camera bag (or case) doesn't make your equipment bullet-proof.

Honestly, most of my gear spent most of its time in a plain (unpadded, but compartmented) canvas bag when I was a working pro; the bulk of a padded bag would have been impractical most of the time, given the amount of gear I was carrying. Knowing that the bag is unpadded changes the way you handle it. When I knew that there were likely to be knocks and bumps, I used padded hard-shell cases. (My studio and location lighting never went anywhere except in hard-shell cases, mostly because flash tubes are awfully expensive and nobody back in the day had thought to make a decent protective cover for their heads.)

That doesn't mean you need to treat everything like it is going to shatter at any moment; it just means that you can't treat your cameras and lenses like they were solid blocks of tool steel. Even the best-built, most tank-like professional gear is, in the end, a complex electromechanical optical instrument. Treating your gear with just a little bit of care goes a long way.

(By the way, there's probably a lot more to the story than just, "I took the lens out of my bag and it broke," even if the person who wrote it wasn't completely aware of what else had happened on the way to the failure. As I said, the case doesn't make the gear bullet-proof.)

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I agree, the lens would have to be mistreated somehow for the AF to just stop working. –  Jakub Mar 6 '12 at 19:52
    
I voted up, because you're mostly right, but come on, they're not that fragile youtube.com/watch?v=D1tTBncIsm8 –  Joe Mar 7 '12 at 6:24
    
@Joe - I did mention that I carried my stuff around in a plain canvas bag (as a working pro who depended on his gear working), right? I sort of remember something like that... –  user2719 Mar 7 '12 at 8:04

Add a lens pouch or a lens case.

I treat my Canon 50mm f1.4 as I do every other lens but I do have a few lens pouches that come with my L-series lenses. When I do not have the 50mm on camera i have it in one of the lens pouches. The L-series pouches are nice and they have sort of a leather bottom and a draw string at the to and the lens certainly does feel more protected in the bag. Unfortunately only the L-series come with a pouch (and a hood) in the box but B&H sells all sorts of lens cases and pouches.

BTW, this lens does feel quite cheap. Not as bad as the f1.8 version but not even close the the L-series construction.

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