Editor's Choice 2007: Camera Bags

Editor-s-Choice-2007-Camera-Bags
Editor-s-Choice-2007-Camera-Bags
Click photo to see images of all the Editor's Choice 2007 products.

What could possibly be new in camera bags? More than you think. The move to digital has had a big influence on design, with both backpacks and shoulder bags incorporating slots for laptop computers and dedicated pocket systems for memory card management. But as this year's Editor's Choice group shows, comfort and practicality are also big concerns of bagmakers. In some cases, basic bag architecture has been radically rearranged for speedier access to your gear, the latter aided by increasing modularity both in the bag itself and its accessory systems. Last but not least, many lines are being more carefully scaled so that a bag isn't too big or too small for your gear or your frame. We feature some of the more commodious models here, but many come in downsampled versions that offer pretty much the same feature set. Take your pick.

Camera Bag of the Year: Think Tank Rotation360°

At first glance, this new model doesn't appear dramatically different from other full-size camera backpacks. When you take a closer look, though, it's really quite amazing in the innovation it brings to bag design. The basics: Think Tank's Rotation360° is big enough to hold a fast 300mm f/2.8 supertele and a pro-class D-SLR, or two, in its upper compartment; a couple of compact lenses and a spare body fit comfortably in the lower compartment. Need to haul more gear? Expand your storage space by adding a Think Tank "Modulus" (there are at least a dozen) either to the upper half's side rails or to the waist belt's rails. Another option: Haul a ton of lenses inside the bag, and attach two SLRs to the shoulder straps. You can do that if you're using Think Tank camera straps (see sidebar), because they have O-rings that sync with the dog-leash clips on the straps.

Beautifully built, the Rotation360° also has a hidden tripod pocket, integrated rain covers, and tons of small details that impressed us. But that's not the half of it, literally. With a couple of quick motions, the bottom half of the bag (which is attached to the waist belt) unlocks and can be spun around quickly to the front -- giving immediate access to gear both in that section and in whatever moduli you've mounted on the rails. You never have to drop the bag off the shoulders, and that can mean the difference between getting a shot and not. About $290. thinktankphoto.com

Dimensions
Backpack (exterior): 11(w)x9.5(d)x19.5(h) inches; 28x24x50 cm
Upper compartment (interior): 9.5x6.5x9.5 inches; 24x16.5x24 cm
Beltpack (exterior): 11x6x7.5 inches; 28x15x19 cm
Beltpack interior: 9.75x5x6.5 inches; 25x13x16.5 cm

American PHOTO Editor's Choice 2007
Intro Entry-Level DSLRs Advanced DSLRs | Professional DSLRs | Digital Rangefinders | SLR Lenses | Camera Cellphones | Imaging Software | Fine-Art Printers | Superzoom EVFs | Digital Compacts | Ultrathin Compacts | Storage and Display | Computers | Snapshot Printers | Lighting | Tripods | Camera Bags | Imaging Essentials
Click photo to see images of all the Editor's Choice 2007 products.

Lowepro is celebrating its 40th birthday with this bag, a weatherproof backpack that as far as we know is the first ever manufactured partially (51 percent) from post-consumer recycled material. Ten percent of the bag's sales will be donated to Polar Bears International, which is working to conserve threatened bear populations. Though eco-friendly, the Primus lives up to Lowepro's high standards of performance and design innovation. Its eight-point adjustment system lets you customize the fit to your individual frame, while a smart reverse-opening system lessens the need to remove the bag and put it strap-side down to get to your gear. About $250. lowepro.com

Dimensions
External: 13.2(w)x9.3(d)x20.1(h) inches; 33.5x23.5x51 cm
Internal: 12.6x5.7x7.3 inches; 32x14.5x18.5 cm

|| |---| | Lowepro Vertex 300 AW

This big, rugged bag can accommodate lots of big gear, including both a 17-inch laptop and a 400mm f/2.8 supertele. That space and weatherproof construction make it a good choice for hardcore sports and adventure photographers, and photojournalists too. The new Vertex even features silent zippers, for times when even the slightest noise might spook a skittish wildlife subject, set off an avalanche, or annoy a VIP on the podium. About $250. lowepro.com

Dimensions
External: 13(w)x10.2(d)x21.7 inches
Internal: 12.2x6.5x20.5 inches
Notebook compartment: 11.8x2x19.7 inches

American PHOTO Editor's Choice 2007
Intro Entry-Level DSLRs Advanced DSLRs | Professional DSLRs | Digital Rangefinders | SLR Lenses | Camera Cellphones | Imaging Software | Fine-Art Printers | Superzoom EVFs | Digital Compacts | Ultrathin Compacts | Storage and Display | Computers | Snapshot Printers | Lighting | Tripods | Camera Bags | Imaging Essentials
Click photo to see images of all the Editor's Choice 2007 products.

A smaller version of the "domestic" Airport, Think Tank's first bag, this roller meets international carry-on regulations and features TSA-approved locks on the main compartment. An integrated wrapped-steel cable lets you lock it to something nonremovable in a press room or hotel -- or to a tree. The supplied dividers can be swapped out for the low divider kit, which leaves enough space for most laptops inside the locked main compartment. A retractable handle, in-line wheels, and a subdued black-on-black design make the Airport International look much like a regular carry-on bag -- but it's all business for the frequent-flyer photographer. About $320. thinktankphoto.com

Dimensions
Internal: 13(w)x6.5-7.5(d)x18.5(h) inches; 33x16.5-19x47 cm
External: 14x8x21 inches; 36x 20x53 cm

|| |---| | Tamrac Expedition 8

Tamrac's largest backpack, this new model can easily hold multiple D-SLRs, each with its own accessories, plus a 400mm f/2.8 supertele and a bunch of smaller lenses, with filters, gadgets, and cables. Dual "wing pockets" on either side of its QuickClip tripod harness allow fast access to small but important things like spare CF cards and batteries. The wings incorporate Tamrac's easy-to-understand Memory & Battery Management System flags, which show what's fresh and what's spent (or full). A five-way adjustment harness system customizes the fit for any size photographer. About $230. tamrac.com

Dimensions
Internal: 11(w)x6.25(d)x20.5(h) inches; 28x16x52 cm
External: 13x13.5x22 inches; 33x34x56 cm

American PHOTO Editor's Choice 2007
Intro Entry-Level DSLRs Advanced DSLRs | Professional DSLRs | Digital Rangefinders | SLR Lenses | Camera Cellphones | Imaging Software | Fine-Art Printers | Superzoom EVFs | Digital Compacts | Ultrathin Compacts | Storage and Display | Computers | Snapshot Printers | Lighting | Tripods | Camera Bags | Imaging Essentials
Click photo to see images of all the Editor's Choice 2007 products.

It's a backpack big enough to hold a 17-inch MacBook Pro. It's a camera bag big enough to hold a photojournalist's basic kit, including digital SLR, three pro zooms (16-35mm f/2.8, 24-70 f/2.8, and 70-200 f/2.8), strobe, CF cards, spare batteries, and a few filters. It's even a daypack big enough for a fleece jacket and some lunch. A three-in-one bag that won't set you back a fortune -- what more could a college photographer want? An iPod headphone pass-through? Sorry, but Tamrac had to skip that convenience in order to keep the Adventure 9 weatherproof. About $125.

Dimensions
External: 13(w)x11(d)x20(h) inches; 33x28x51 cm
Internal (top compartment): 11x6.5x8.75 inches; 28x17x22 cm
Internal (bottom compartment): 11.5x5.5x8.5 inches; 29x14x22 cm

|| |---| | Crumpler Brazillion Dollar Home

Its name may be silly, but this messenger-style shoulder bag is all business. It's big enough to squeeze a 17-inch MacBook Pro into the laptop compartment and a pro D-LSR (or two) with plenty of lenses in the main space. The interior is colored bright orange, for easy identification and retrieval of the item you're looking for. Under the velcroed front flap are lots of tiny pockets for CF cards and batteries -- one side red and one side green for keeping track. The Brazillion Dollar Home is a stylish but sensible place for your expensive gear to live. About $280.

Dimensions
Exterior: 17.3(w)x9.45(d)x12.2(h) inches
Interior volume: 976 cubic inches; 16.0 liters

American PHOTO Editor's Choice 2007
Intro Entry-Level DSLRs Advanced DSLRs | Professional DSLRs | Digital Rangefinders | SLR Lenses | Camera Cellphones | Imaging Software | Fine-Art Printers | Superzoom EVFs | Digital Compacts | Ultrathin Compacts | Storage and Display | Computers | Snapshot Printers | Lighting | Tripods | Camera Bags | Imaging Essentials
Click photo to see images of all the Editor's Choice 2007 products.

A slightly downsized version of Kata's most popular backpack, the R103, this one is just as tough and well thought-out. Bright yellow internal dividers help you see your gear more easily; integrated camera clips on the shoulder harnesses take the weight off your neck. Despite its smaller space it can hold a pro D-SLR with an attached 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom, a few smaller lenses, and a 12-inch laptop -- yet is small enough to carry on. A good choice for photographers of modest build. About $135.

Dimensions
Exterior: 19.9(w)x 11.8(d)x4.7(h) inches; 40x32x18 cm
Interior: 15.7x12.5x7 inches; 38x30x12 cm

|| |---| | Kata GDC Organizer Case OC-97

Kata calls this huge bag a light case, and it can certainly carry lights -- several flash heads (or monolights) with lightstands, cables, and diffusers. But with a few more optional internal dividers, the OC-97 can also carry a ton of cameras and lenses for photography in a far-flung location. And though it's soft-sided, it's rigid enough to stand on if you need a little extra elevation for a shot. A fully loaded bag this big is bound to be heavy, so it ships with Kata's Inserttrolley so that you can roll all those lights and cameras to the shoot. About $330. bogenimaging.us and kata-bags.com

Dimensions:
Exterior: 37(w)x14(d)x12.6(h) inches; 94x32x36 cm
Interior: 34.6x9.4x12.6 inches; 88x24x32 cm

American PHOTO Editor's Choice 2007
Intro Entry-Level DSLRs Advanced DSLRs | Professional DSLRs | Digital Rangefinders | SLR Lenses | Camera Cellphones | Imaging Software | Fine-Art Printers | Superzoom EVFs | Digital Compacts | Ultrathin Compacts | Storage and Display | Computers | Snapshot Printers | Lighting | Tripods | Camera Bags | Imaging Essentials
Click photo to see images of all the Editor's Choice 2007 products.

Based on Tenba's Air Case frame, this series isn't designed for cameras, but rather for keeping your portfolio safe and presented in style. The black exterior is made of ballistic nylon; the interior compartment has cutouts to help the client pull the portfolio or mounted prints out. An external pocket holds a shipping label. Tenba will even personalize an Airbook with an anodized aluminum plate engraved with your name or logo. Sizes range from 8.5x11 to 16x20, to fit a variety of mat and board sizes. From $160 to $200. tenba.com

|| |---| | M-Rock Extreme Zion 523

Backpacking to a remote location to get the pictures you want can be hungry and thirsty work, and that's why you'd be wise to carry your gear in this new model from M-Rock. It holds a small laptop, D-SLR with 70-200mm f/2.8 (or similar size) lens, some compact zooms, and accessories -- with room left over for water. A flat 200ml water pouch with a drinking tube is incorporated into the bag, making it easier for you to stay hydrated while hiking. And when you get hungry, you don't even have to take off the bag; just get your sandwich out of the Extreme Zion's integrated lunch cooler. If you want to haul more gear and less food, just pop the cooler out. About $150. m-rock.com

Dimensions
Interior: 12.5(w)x6.2(d)x20(h) inches

|| |---| | National Geographic Earth Explorer Large Backpack

Most of us won't ever get an assignment from National Geographic, but this huge, rugged, well-built khaki bag will hold enough gear for self-styled photo treks to slot canyons or the Serengeti. It has a dedicate laptop slot, and its top and bottom compartments can be joined by unzipping the divider panel to haul seriously long glass. In a category in which ballistic nylon is the standard, these safari-style bags stand out from the pack. About $260.

Dimensions
External: 15.7(w)x11.8(d)x23.6(h) inches
Internal (main compartment): 12.5x6.2x15.7 inches

American PHOTO Editor's Choice 2007
Intro Entry-Level DSLRs Advanced DSLRs | Professional DSLRs | Digital Rangefinders | SLR Lenses | Camera Cellphones | Imaging Software | Fine-Art Printers | Superzoom EVFs | Digital Compacts | Ultrathin Compacts | Storage and Display | Computers | Snapshot Printers | Lighting | Tripods | Camera Bags | Imaging Essentials

Think Tank Camera Strap

You get this strap with Think Tank's Rotation360° bag. And it's a good one -- thin but strong, with a woven-in grippiness that keeps it on your shoulder. In a simple but brilliant addition, the Think Tank strap incorporates metal O-rings that hook into the 360's shoulder straps, so that your back, not your neck, carries the weight of the camera. Hardcore shooters may want to order an extra strap -- and carry a D-SLR on each shoulder! About $25. thinktankphoto.com

UPstrap SLR Quick Release QR

It's big, heavy, and expensive for a camera strap, but the material justifies the price. Kevlar is woven in, quick releases are rated at 300 pounds, and a chunky, rubberized grip spreads the camera's weight over a greater area on your shoulder to keep the strap from slipping. Don't need quite so much strap? Try the UPstrap SLR Classic (about $32), which gives you the same grippiness without the quick release or Kevlar. Still don't like it? You've got 60 days to decide if the strap works for you, but we're keeping ours! About $50. upstrap-pro.com

|| |---| | Lowepro Neoprene camera strap

Made of rubbery Neoprene, this strap is lightweight but tough. It has grippy nibs, quick-release clips, and O-rings that transfer weight to shoulder straps. About $20. lowepro.com

Op/Tech Bino/Cam Harness

From the back it looks something like the shoulder straps on a woman's one-piece cross-style swimsuit. But that shouldn't scare off macho photographers, because up front the Bino-Cam is all practicality. Quick-release clips let you take the camera off and on the strap with ease, and a sliding design allows the camera to be carried comfortably but stay ready. The secure criss-cross design is a big asset for extreme photography -- rock climbing, shooting from a helicopter, or any other situation in which you'd prefer to hang on to your camera. About $13. optechusa.com

American PHOTO Editor's Choice 2007
Intro Entry-Level DSLRs Advanced DSLRs | Professional DSLRs | Digital Rangefinders | SLR Lenses | Camera Cellphones | Imaging Software | Fine-Art Printers | Superzoom EVFs | Digital Compacts | Ultrathin Compacts | Storage and Display | Computers | Snapshot Printers | Lighting | Tripods | Camera Bags | Imaging Essentials
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