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by Bart Arondson

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I presume it's acceptable to ask questions about photography gear here.

I've recently bought a Sony NEX-6 and two lenses (Sony 18-200mm zoom & Sony Zeiss 24mm F1.8). I plan on acquiring one or two more lenses in the future (Zeiss 12mm F2.8 and/or Zeiss 50mm F2.8 macro). I don't currently carry a flash but might choose to do so at some point (Sony HVLF20S). I have what I assume is a fairly typical set of accessories: USB cable and charger, extra battery, lens pen, lens wipes, and a camera rain protector.

I travel a good deal for work and I'd like the option of taking my camera gear with me. For day trips I use a Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 20, which is just large enough to carry my current gear, but I couldn't fit another lens or a flash in it.

I can't use a dedicated camera bag, as I must carry my work gear with me and I'm unwilling to check either my camera gear or work gear, and I travel enough that I want to have my rolling carry-on in overhead storage so I don't have to check it, either.

The work gear consists of a MacBook Pro 15", an iPad, reading glasses, sunglasses, travel wallet, wallet, pens and other minor accessories, and a cable/charger bag that's about 8" x 5" x 1.5". I could probably cut that down in size a bit if need be.

In a perfect world, I'd find a bag with the following characteristics:

  • Padded section with room for NEX-6 + 3-4 lenses
  • Room for my camera accessories
  • Room for my MacBook Pro + iPad + various power adapters and cables
  • Room for my work accessories
  • Handle sleeve so it slides over my rolling carry-on
  • Fits under an airline seat
  • Expandable so I don't have a large camera compartment when I'm not carrying my camera gear
  • Reasonably weather-resistant, possibly via a rain cover

For extra-super bonus points, the bag would have some sort of detachable section that would serve as a daypack and keep me from having to carry the Mirrorless Mover, but I doubt such a thing exists.

The two bags I've found that come closest are the Think Tank Urban Disguise and the Gura Gear Chobe. Does anyone have direct experience with either or both these bags? Alternately, can anyone recommend any other bag(s) that come as close as possible to meeting my criteria?

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It isn't necessarily that asking questions about photography gear here is off topic, but this is essentially a "lets go shopping" question. It may or may not stay open here, and may or may not get answers. More often than not these questions stay open on this site, but I'm not a big fan. Your question is very detailed and a good attempt, but I just don't see others learning from this question ever. See this for more info: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/qa-is-hard-lets-go-shopping –  dpollitt May 27 '13 at 16:14
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I appreciate the feedback. I realize that my question is phrased to be somewhat personal to me. That said, mirrorless cameras seem to be growing in popularity these days, and I see plenty of people on airplanes carrying both laptops and tablets, so I have to believe that other people have similar questions, if not quite so specific as mine. With luck, one or more people have useful information to contribute, and hopefully that information can help others in approximately my situation. –  Frank B. May 27 '13 at 16:29
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I haven't used a Chobe, but that's what I'd pick. I've had a Kiboko for several years, and it's just a beautiful piece of crafsmanship -- a lot of thought went into it and it's made of fantastic materials. A solid step above anything from Think Tank, IMO (and I use a Retrospective 10 as my daily bag). –  Dan Wolfgang May 27 '13 at 21:52

1 Answer 1

I found a local camera store -- Kenmore Camera of Kenmore, WA -- that carries both Think Tank and Gura Gear bags. They already had the Urban Disguise 50 and 60 in stock, and ordered a Chobe so that I could compare them all.

Both bags met most of my criteria: they have padded camera sections, room for camera accessories, room for my laptop and accessories, handle sleeves to fit on rolling carry-ons, and they're both expandable.

However, the Urban Disguise's expandability is to allow the camera compartment to grow at the top to hold larger gear. Its footprint doesn't change when it's expanded or unexpanded. The Chobe, on the other hand, expands and shrinks as a unit, so its footprint shrinks and grows. The net effect is that while I was sure I could fit the Chobe under an airline seat in its unexpanded state, I had no such confidence with the Urban Disguise 50, and was sure the 60 wouldn't fit.

I was also happier with the size of the Chobe's laptop and tablet compartments.

Neither bag was obviously weather-resistant.

I ended up choosing the Chobe. It seemed like a better piece of kit all around. When I'm traveling with all my eventual camera gear -- NEX-6, four lenses, flash, power adapter + cable, etc. -- I can expand it and store it in the overhead space. When I'm traveling lighter, I can contract it and store it under my seat, meaning I can put my rolling carry-on overhead and not have to check a bag.

I hope someone out there finds this useful!

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