There’s something about us photographers and bags. To put this quite bluntly, we seem to love them. All shapes and sizes are temptingly displayed, with promises of being a bottomless pit despite being about as big as a handbag, to hold more gear than you’d fit in a wheelbarrow.
for the past few years I’ve resisted the temptation to change and have used a Billingham 445. It holds two 1dx bodies, a 70-200 2.8, 24-70 2.8, two ex 600 flashes, filters, charger and the usual spare batteries. The problem is, it weighs a ton fully loaded. And it’s not exactly ergonomic to lob that lot over one shoulder, let alone carry it with one hand. I’m probably sounding like a nine stone weakling here but honestly the last thing you want to do is get a back injury, and I’ve already gone through the pain of having tennis elbow some years back that I really don’t fancy experiencing again. So the bag still continues to hold my gear, but I only use it when I’m photographing events, when I can just lift it out of the car, or when I’m outside photographing something like game shooting.
Last year I decided to invest in s Peli 1510 case, mainly for on site commercial work. It’s got wheels and it does add a bit of weight, but honestly it’s the best thing I ever bought. I usually keep the commercial kit in it so I know exactly where everything is – so my Canon 5d Mk iv and mkiii, a pair of speedlites, wireless trigger, a 24-70mm 2.8, a 100mm 2.8, a 90mm TS-E, two soft boxes, my MacBook and the usual spare batteries and charger for camera and flash and the things that a photographer (event or commercial) can’t do without – like a bit of velcro, some gaffa tape, a clamp to hold a reflector and a handful of mini clamps to hold backdrops etc. What I can’t get into it is portable light stands but that would be asking a bit too much.
For video work I have a larger Peli 1560. That holds led lights, iPad with a rather clever stand which fits onto a flexible arm so I can set up an autocue at a pinch if needed, Canon C100 mkii, 17-40mm f4, 18-300 stm, 10-18 stm, 70-200mm f4, Zoom h4n for sound, Atomos ninja blade external recorder, spare hard drive, a 7″ field monitor, headphones, a couple of mini ball heads, a ball head with an arca swiss mount, cables, batteries and the usual video bits and pieces like clamps and charger cables. You can get a lot into this one if you pack it carefully. As you can imagine this one weighs quite a bit but because it’s on wheels it makes light work of dragging it around.
All I can say if you’re thinking of investing in one of these is stop thinking about it and buy one. I bought mine with the flexible inserts which are better (I think) than pick and pluck foam because you can easily adapt the case – both of mine are the “studio case” variant and they even double up as overnight cases where you need to take a bit of gear but some clothes as well! One of the best features of both of them is that they’re lockable – I’ve heard too many stories of photographers having their bags stolen and the ability to lock it shut with a little TSA lock and then loop a bike lock around that will certainly discourage an opportunist thief. I modified my Peli 1510 and put smoother wheels on it (about £7 from Amazon, 10 minutes to replace the stock ones) and it certainly rolls a lot more quietly now. Another useful thing if you’re like me and you hate rummaging in a bag is that when it’s opened all of your gear is to hand, and you can just drop things like body caps etc back into the case when you take a lens out to change it – no more hunting for the caps in the overstuffed bag and no more getting home from a job and finding that something has been left behind!
Both of mine are quite battle scarred but honestly for day to day work they’re absolutely brilliant and I wouldn’t be without them 🙂