Nearly every photographer I know is in a constant search for the perfect camera bag, the one that fits the equipment they need, looks good and comfortable enough to carry around for a long period of time. However, unless you’re a very specific type of photographer and really specialize in one particular style of photography, there is no such thing as the perfect bag. There’s a different perfect bag for every situation given the gear set you need that particular day.
As such, I know photographers with entire closets full of camera bags and I’ve got four or five myself. However, none of them were ideal so I decided to sell as many as I can and search for bags that work for me and that I’d keep for a very long time. Personally, I think I need just two, maybe three “perfect” bags. One for every day use and one for hauling everything, probably a backpack that fits in the overhead compartment that’s isn’t too enormous to hike with. However, since I recently sold a lot of gear and condensed my kit down to a single 5D Mark III body and three prime lenses, I decided to search for an every day camera bag first.
My requirements were simple and I only have three.
- Fits my 5D Mark III, lenses, memory cards, 580EX II flash and sometimes my 15″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display. I wouldn’t carry my laptop all the time but it’s important that it fits so that I can.
- With all my gear in it, I didn’t want a bag that’s more than 6″ deep. Experience with thicker bags has taught me that if they don’t stick close to your body, they feel unwieldily.
- It has to look good. I’m tired of the black nylon and canvas bags that look like camera bags. I was looking more for something Indiana Jones or Jack Bauer might carry if they needed a great camera bag.
My first choice was the ONA Union Street but after reading a little about it, the front pocket is almost inaccessible and it bulges greatly when it’s full of gear. At $289, it wasn’t exactly thrifty either but damn do these bags look fantastic.
Your choices are rather limited when it comes to bags not made by Lowepro, Kata or Tamrac. Billingham bags are even more expensive and smaller. The one I was looking at would’ve been quite a tight fit for my laptop.
I don’t know how I stumbled upon Kelly Moore Bags but the Thirst Relief bag checks off all the boxes above and at $229, it’s $60 less than the similar looking Union Street but with usable front zippered pockets. Strangely, there’s very little on the interwebs about the Kelly Moore bag, which one only one of two the company designs for men (all the others look like purses) so I guess I’ll have to write one after I’ve lived with this bag for a little longer. The waxed canvas will only get better looking with age.
I’ve only had it for a couple weeks so I can’t tell if it’s the “perfect” camera bag yet but it’s doing a great job so far. Look for a full writeup sometime soon!