8.15.2012

I do the unthinkable and actually buy a photo back pack.


When I was younger everything in the universe seemed so much more black and white. Real photographers didn't carry around backpacks. We carried camera bags. We shot primes, wanted quick access from a bag that would hang off our shoulder, looked down on wonky-tographers who sported big, chunky, foamy backpacks carrying everything they could imagine, just in case like grocery shopper picking up all three kinds of whipped creme, just in case. We cut some slack to the nature photographers since they actually had some righteous hiking to do.  Now my universe is upside down because I've started leaving the big cameras at home and just leaving the house with small cameras.  A few months ago it was an EP3 and now it's a Sony Nex 7.

Now my walks are more wide ranging and I spend more time wandering from urban place to urban place. When I take a break it's at a coffee shop or the big Whole Foods. I might want to bring my iPad. I'll probably want my phone in case young Tuck calls. And lately I've been breaking in the  Nex system so I like the idea of carrying a few lenses and an extra battery.  And all of a sudden I'm back in bag land.  But the reality is that I do a lot of walking before I change a lens or crack open the iPad (or buy a bottle of Bourdeaux that needs somehow to be transported home).  

In the novel I'm writing the protagonist loves and hates his camera bag. It's been a constant companion and it holds his treasures. It's part of his memories. There's even a bullet hole in one side. But he hates the bag because all the weight on his left shoulder is wearing him down after decades of hauling around old style shooting iron. I'm sure it reflects my changing perspective, though I can't speak for the book's main character.

I've looked at photo back packs from time to time but most of them are too big, too heavy, too pricey and too BLACK. Remember? I live in Texas and I walk in Texas 365 days a year.  I don't want a black backpack because it will cook that bottle of wine I just picked up on my way back home. I don't want a black backpack because it sticks out like a sore thumb against a white or khaki Ex Officio shirt. And a black interior is like black magic for losing little stuff that you'll scramble to find later.

But then I stumbled upon the Tenba Discovery (etc. etc.) and I decided in a split second that I liked everything about it so I bought one, with the proviso that I could return it if I came back to my senses and realized that the backpack made me look like a class "A" nerd.  You may not care about how you look because of your extremely evolved state but I still would like even just the fumes of coolness lingering over me if I can keep them around...

And now my trips out of the house and into the wild include the Tenba. Be aware though that it comes in two color schemes. One is called "black/grey" and the one I like is called "sage/khaki."  The Sage/Khaki just sits there looking like it's reflecting 100% of the infrared the sun is throwing at it.  The unit has a good padded pocket for my iPad. The top compartment carries my Nex-7 with shooting lens attached while I'm traveling or shucking the thing off my back and into the cargo area of the high performance Honda Element Studio Vehicle (HESV). The bottom half carries as many Pen and Nex lenses as I want to carry.  The elastic side pockets are great for water bottles, wine purchases and sunscreen.

The final feature of the backpack is the included rain cover. I don't worry about that here in Austin....it never rains.

Cute backpack with iPad sticking out.

Nice, wide straps, no waistband that 
I would find aesthetically challenging and 
would one day cut off with my Swiss Army knife. 
Hooray!

Field test:  I gave it my first field test last Sunday. I walked from my house to Barton Springs Pool (about two miles and change) in the afternoon. The temperature with a good dose of humidity hovered around 102ºf. The pack felt light and cool. Unpacked it weighs 2.1 pounds. Fully Nex 7 configured, with iPad, it tipped  the scales at a little over 8 pounds. Not too padded, not too lightly padded. Just right.

From Barton Springs Pool I headed towards downtown, stopping at the bridge over Barton Spring to photograph the teenagers jumping (illegally) from the bridge into the water forty feet below.  I changed lenses there and it seemed easy enough. I eventually crossed the lake and made it to Luke's Locker (a running and triathlete supply store) where I bought Ben a new pair of sunglasses that won't slip down his nose when he runs. They went into the top section of the backpack.

From Luke's I continued on through downtown to the legendary, Caffe Medici, where I had a small Pellegrino water and a decaf cappuccino. While there I wrote a quick blog on the iPad (electronic keyboards are not optimal) and met a new, potential portrait subject. Before leaving the coffee shop I switched lenses to my 25mm Pen 2.8 manual focus lens and then headed out to test that optic, with adapter, on the Nex7. Not bad.

I looped through downtown, pulling a small terrycloth towel out of a side pocket of the test unit to wipe sweaty hand residue off the camera. I ended up at Whole Foods where I drank more water, tasted three wines and two beers, bought a nice Argentinian Tempranillo (wrapped in several layers of paper to insulate it from the heat), stuffed it into a side pocket, just under a compression strap for stabilization, and then walked back through Zilker Park and up the big hill on Bulian to my house. My rambling walk covered about eight miles but it was spread out over four hours. Not an Olympic pace.

The backpack was a success. My shoulder didn't hurt, my balance was good and my access to the guts of the unit was fine. It worked well enough that I think I'll eventually become a convert to this method for my own personal work. Finally, a relatively inexpensive carrying device that does pretty much exactly what I wanted it to. It's still more elegant to go out with just a camera and a lens...










26 comments:

Frank Grygier said...

Next you'll telling us you use wooden tripods!

kirk tuck said...

Too late! I've already succumbed to that vise.

Steve J said...

Hey Kirk, those of us of advancing age who are also fully "geared up" appreciate the value of a dual-use backpack. Like decent walking shoes they are comfortable, uncool and utterly better than RSI.

Biro said...

I can certainly understand the backpack, Kirk... but it's not even a Domke. Shocking! :)

kirk tuck said...

Oh dear God! Does Domke make a backpack I didn't know about???!

Anonymous said...

Domke F-2 backpack...one of several on the website:

http://www.tiffen.com/displayproduct.html?tablename=domke&itemnum=702-02B

Michael Ferron said...

Bags and extra lenses are for sissies. Real men choose one camera, one lens and march. They don't stop for snacks and drinks unless it's beer. Ditch that iPad and think about shooting. Extra bonus points for a camera that can actually advance Tri-x. Caution!! Semi-humor alert. I did say semi. :0

kirk tuck said...

MF, got it. I apologize. I'll burn the bag in the a.m. Thanks for the tough love. KT

dbledsoe said...

Thanks for your review! Wife is a birder and I am her photog. Been hauling crap everywhere well encumbered. She has a backpack, I don't. Her's is fine for her birding books, binocs, and what not. She keeps telling me I need a backpack and that I should go to Wal-Mart and get one. I keep telling her, no way am I tossing my expensive photo gear into an open backpack to rattle around and get damaged. You just solved my problem. Thank you for that. I placed my order via your website.

Don

Mel said...

I must have missed the seminal photography article stating "real" photo bags are black. Must be the same people who emboss black letters on black plastic on the connections for my DVD. My Kata bag is fluorescent yellow inside, making it darn near impossible to lose something.

As an outdoor photographer I traded coolness for utility several years ago but still hate having to take the blasted thing off to get into it for lens or battery changes, or simply to put the camera away for a bit. My go-to choice was the LowePro Slingshot, which gives me easy access to everything without removing the bag. It also limits my choices of gear to haul around, although I'm not as manly as Michael with his one camera and lens.....

Tony's Vision said...

I love the Slingshots. Great for walkabout photography, as well as paddleabout work. It lays nicely on its side in the kayak between my legs, partially enclosed by the attached rain cover, where I can access everything or keep it zipped up if things get splashy. I owe some great wildlife shots to these bags - a large one for the D300, and the smaller one for the Lumix GH2.

theaterculture said...

Strange, Kurt bought a backpack, and I've just seen three men on horses go by. If there's a fourth one, and he's pale, and the horse is pale...

Gregg Mack said...

Now that's a very intriguing idea, Kirk. I wonder how quickly your back gets all sweaty. I don't see any mesh, or any other feature to allow any air to circulate back there. I do like the light color.

AdamR said...

I use a shoulder bag in most cases but did buy a backpack for when my wife and I travel. We do a lot trail building/hiking and its much easier to carry all of our camera stuff in one bag when the car is full of camping gear too. The extra padding is an asset when stuff's shifting around in the back of the car.

Usually we just leave the backpack in/near the car or tent and grab what need and toss it in our trail packs but I have actually carried cameras/lenses/tripod in the pack to scenic overlooks and springs. I made sure to get one with a decent hipbelt and tripod solution though, so I at least had the option.

One final criteria I had for a backpack was that it was carry-on sized because my wife's parents live on the East coast and we fly out there once or twice a year. Its nice being able to pack all our cameras and a laptop in one bag.

I ended up getting a Clik Elite Pro Express. In khaki as well :)

Adam

Paul Glover said...

Who are you and where did you put Kirk? ;-)

Low Budget Dave said...

I am a big fan of the side-access backpack. It lets me unload the camera and keep carrying the gear on one shoulder. Of course, my gear includes diapers, baby food, milk, and so on. So the backpack does detract from my image as a travel photographer, but not as much as a diaper bag would.

atmtx said...

That's a lot of walking....

I have one backpack but don't use it too much... They are good for carrying lots of gear, if needed. I do have a Tenba messenger bag that is working well for me.

Michael Ferron said...

Save the bag for paying assignments. :) I walked 6th and Congress today. One camera and a 40mm lens. Tri-x too. Stopped for a beer and admit I grabbed a slice of Pizza as well. :0

Wally Brooks said...

The real war is not nikon vs sony vs canon. Or Full Frame vs 4/3 Vs APS-c. Its over what bag to use. There is no perfect bag!

Ron Nabity said...

I usually get a good-fitting small backpack at REI and make padded dividers for the gear. Best of both worlds: functional backpack that is inconspicuous.

Brad C said...

I think the real Kirk is tied up somewhere in a black rapid strap :)

Adrian V said...

After going through a lot of bags trying to find the best one to carry m43 EPL1 pen and a couple of lens, I found the best one with fast quick loading and unloading of Pen camera with kit lens (for quick shots), and also 2 lens 14-150mm and 12-50mm and the small Olympus FL300R flash in front with spare batteries, cards etc. I found the Lowepro Messenger 100 bag (see multiple photos at B&H Photo with interior views) which is a greenish brown in colour, not the typical black, and the ideal bag for m43 system I think. Should also work with Sony Nex. Probably half the size of your Tenba backpack. Someone else had a Lowepro Adventura 160 or 170 bag for OMD (but that bag is black), but I prefer the small but fast access bag of Nature Green/Brown fabric mesh colour of Messenger 100 and well padded Lowepro. You could swap out zooms for primes and they give velcro pads to stack primes 2 up instead of a zoom within the 3 longer slots. Best bag product so far for m43 system for its size and lens capacity in my opinion.
Check it out.

John Banbury said...

Oh noes... Shoulder pain and backpacks... one of the first signs of "Date of birth syndrome" ;)

D&E Photography said...

Kirk with a backpack, clearly a sign of the end of times :)

Alex said...

Going to buy a photo vest any time soon?

dbledsoe said...

Now that I have received the Tenba Discovery backpack it is nearly perfect for what I do. My only wish is that they would include a pair of straps on the bottom to carry a small carbon fiber tripod crosswise. Ohter than that it is nearly perfect for me. It carries the three small cameras I prefer to take along on a day trip (EPL1 w/Pana 100-300 lens attached, a Ricoh GXR w/M module, a simple Canon FX400 video camera, and extra short focus Leica or CV lenses for the GXR).

Thanks for the tip Kirk.

Don