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.
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...