Old, good times
When I started to do photography all I needed was a camera with one lens. A camera strap was the only other accessory required for long walks. Half a century later I want to be able to photograph anything I may find at a location. So I need to have with me a series of lenses. For landscape (14-24mm), portrait (85mm), or a medium range zoom (24-70mm), macro (105mm), animals and birds (70-200, 80-400mm or longer). Adding a second body for backup, two speedlights for group photos, flash diffusers, SU-800 commander, extra batteries, rocket blower, cable release, a BV-22 attachment for my Markins Q20i ball head, and other small items and I end up with a minimum load of 24 to 26 pounds (11 to 12 kg) to carry all around, not considering the tripod.
Discussions on camera carry
Btw, we are discussing bags, backpacks and carrying equipment in our Camera Carry & Apparel forum.
The Perfect Bag
My perfect bag is one that …
- Allows for all your needed gear for a trip to fit
- Is comfortable to carry
- Allows for mobility (you can even run with it if necessary),
- Is padded enough for your lenses, your back and shoulders, and
- Has a decent waist belt to keep it close your body, not dangling around
- Is carry-on compliant even in regional air carriers
- Is durable.
My thinkTANK Airport Acceleration v2.0 perfect backpack allows for very easy access once you take it off your back, it has great materials including zippers, you can arrange it anyway you want and it complies with carry-on size limits for the small airplane bins of regional carriers or under the seat. thinkTANK now offers four airport models depending on your needs.
The issue for me is not to transport my equipment from my home to the airports and airplanes and from there to hotels and later to our vehicles. For this purpose it is truly perfect. The problem is in the field. At the Annual Nikonians Photo Adventure Trips (ANPATs) I may only use two or three lenses at a location and have no need for the rest, like two flashes and its diffusers, etc.
Furthermore, buying the 14-24 and its special adapter for large rectangular filters, forced me to add a small shoulder camera bag. Not very convenient, even when keeping hiking to a minimum.
A System Solution
How to find a solution?
A better bag? Hardly a solution even if it may exist. The weight remains the same.
A beach cart with large wheels to pull everything into the location? It will take a lot of space in a van and I am not fond of torn muscles or dislocated shoulders. I’ve had a few of those and it was never fun.
What you need to transport for the trip is not what you need to take to a given location; so why carry it all?
And then it hit me! I remembered that more than a few savvy Nikonians were either using:
- Two bags, a perfect transportation one to best carry everything needed from their home into the vehicle, and a smaller one to only take what is needed from the vehicle to the specific location, or
- A perfect transportation bag and a belt with pouches, most of them with the belt strapped to a harness for easier and more comfortable carry of a smaller gear subset into a location and without the risk of your pants falling down due to the weight.
Using two bags added much volume to luggage while flying. Using a vest with harness and pouches was then my chosen system solution since it also permitted easier and convenient access to each individual item selected to be carried to a location.
The preferred brand choice
There are several brands out there in the market, however the preferred choice of ANPAT goers has been and remains to be thinkTANK.
ThinkTANK offers two models of component sets: the unpadded Modular Skin Set V2.0 and for just $20 more dollars, the padded Modular Component Set V2.0. I chose the latter for added gear protection. I found the components in the set to fit all of my frequently used lenses.
It also offers three different belts, the Thin Skin, the Pro Speed and the Steroid Speed Belt in increasing thickness of padding, all three in waist sizes to accommodate any possible requirement, from 27 to 64 inches (69cm - 162cm).
The Modular Component Set V2.0 contains the following:
- Lens Changer 50 V2.0 for small to medium sized lenses
- Lens Changer 75 Pop Down V2.0 for medium to long lenses
- Strobe Stuff for any Nikon Speedlight
- Speed Changer V2.0 – I use it for a complete set of filters
- A Large mesh travel pouch for the set
Seam-sealed rain covers integrated into each pouch
I added the Pixel Racing Harness V2.0 and the Steroid Speed Belt V2.0 for additional comfort, plus a set of Pro Uni-Loop Connectors from the Photo Pro Shop, compatible with the Nikonians Pro Camera Strap system, to have a camera with lens on the ready, hanging from the harness’ front rings.
It is very comfortable to wear. More so if the belt is tight on your waist. The harness is fully adjustable to position the belt at the right height. The components can be made to slide over the interior of the belt, or be fixed in a position. One can shoot standing, sitting, kneeling or even prone. The pouches all have loop strings to keep all contents from sliding out.
As long as you don’t overload it with pouches in the back, you can sit in a vehicle wearing it, or easily take it off and keep it as is or reload it with a new set of gear for the next location.
Although I mostly shoot landscape and wildlife, I’ve seen this system also used in sports and event photography.
If you are tired of lugging all over the place your whole set of photo equipment for a trip, you should try this system. I am very happy with it, so I can highly recommend it.
Have a great time!
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