Photography & Video Shoulder Bags, Sling Packs, Backpacks, Waist Belt Systems and Rolling Bags - 2008 Product Roundup Review - Part 2
M-Rock - Description: consumer quality waist sytems, backpacks, shoulder bags, pouches and a couple of sling bags which look like good Lowepro clones but with a couple of extra features not found in Lowepro and Tamrac models. The line also provides moderate padding and moderate weatherproofing. Verdict: The newer M-Rock sling packs are real challengers to Lowepro's excellent SlingShot models. The smaller M-Rock styles offer good protection and access, but zippers are sometimes awkward to use. Otherwise, the M-Rock products work well and make economic use of space in their (mostly) compact designs. Well worth considering, especially the single SLR pouch models. Recommended.
Naneu Pro - Description: interesting designs, above average consumer quality and some semi-pro models including extremely versatile backpacks, shoulder bags and sling bags, with moderate to good padding, moderate to good weatherproofing, and very reasonable pricing. Verdict: We had a hard time finding these ones and tracking down actual owners and users, but they seem to be gradually increasing in popularity. Carry and comfort levels are quite good and the interiors are versatile. A bag maker to watch. Not recommended yet because we don't know how well the bags hold up over time, but quality and wear reports seem good so far.
Pelican - Description: the first name in weatherproof, impact resistant, hard shell cases used all over the world to carry, protect, store and ship camera gear of all kinds. Verdict: Anybody who has to regularly check their camera gear on an airplane, train or bus, or who has to move gear from location to location needs to consider a Pelican, Lightware or Versa-Flex case or set of cases. Pelican offers a huge range of water tight, dunkproof, weatherproof, highly impact resistant, extremely well padded cases in tiny sizes all the way up to large suitcase and crate models. For good reasons, these are the cases most pros turn to for shipping and project travel. Pricey, but worth every penny. Highly recommended.
| |Petrol Bags - Description: an extensive line of professional shoulder bags, rolling bags and medium to large custom bags for photographers and videographers, offering good weatherproofing, moderate to good padding, very good construction quality and high prices to match. Verdict: Petrol is a new maker on our horizon who is gaining respect and popularity for good design and good looks. All the designs we've seen make economical use of space and operate quietly. Most of the line is starting to gain traction with serious amateurs, enthusiast and semi-pro photographers. That's a vote of confidence in the value. Recommended.
PortaBrace - Description: similar to Petrol but with competitive feature additions, similarly large model line, primarily for videographers, providing professional quality with prices to match. Verdict: we haven't used PortaBrace products extensively, but even occassional use has made it clear that these bags provide pro video shooters with good products. Materials and overall designs are somwhat different from competitors and a number of products are offered which accommodate specific cameras and associated gear. Quiet, well padded and structured designs offering secure closures and good access. Recommended.
Promaster - Description: below avearge quality consumer camera shoulder bags, pouches, backpacks and rolling bags, all for occassional use, and offering only light weatherproofing and light to moderate padding. Verdict: Don't let the company name fool you—this stuff isn't pro quality and we actively dislike products which are so aggressively named and which fail so thoroughly to meet the standard set by the name.
Roots - Description: consumer quality designer label shoulder bags, belt pouches and cases, but the surprise is that most of the bag designs are actually quite good, with moderate weatherproofing and moderate padding, priced above average because of the label. Verdict: Ah Roots—jack of all trades, master of few. However, these camera bags are reasonably well made, most likely in one the same factories that crank out lots of other products for Roots. In any case, they're not a bad choice but they're also not our first choice although compact camera and point & shoot camera owners could do worse. Some variations in construction quality from sample to sample have been observed recently, along with reports of binding zippers, which would seem to indicate general quality control issues.
Sumdex - Description: consumer camera shoulder bags and belt/shoulder pouches, with light padding and surprisingly good weatherproofing, but only average quality construction at average or below average prices. Verdict: Companies like Sumdex just can't get any traction with retailers in the face of huge store footprints occupied by established players such as Lowepro. The quality of Sumdex products can vary significantly from sample to sample. Not recomended.
Tamrac - Description: lots of variety with almost as much choice as Lowepro, good to excellent weatherproofing, moderate padding, average to good construction and remains the photographer's or videographer's choice when the bag you want from Lowepro or Kata is just a bit too expensive. Verdict: Tamrac has found its niche just below Kata and Lowepro and seems happy to own its particular segment. There are some minor quality concerns in some samples, which means that consumers should compare at least two bags of the same model before taking one to the checkout counter. Tamrac offers almost as many models as Lowepro, which means that you'll find a bewildering array of choices. If you can't find a model that suits your needs, you're either too picky or you just don't like conventional bags. Recommended.
Targus - Description: inexpensive, consumer grade camera shoulder bags and belt/shoulder pouches, providing moderate to poor weatherproofing, light to moderate padding and below average construction quality. Verdict: Construction quality can vary noticeably from sample to sample, so shop carefully. A limited range of models which are very competitively priced doesn't alter the fact that functionality is limited compared to higher priced and better known competitors. If you get a lot of use out of your camera gear, it's probably best to look at another bag maker.
Tenba - Description: offers a good selection of enthusiast and semi-professional camera backpacks, shoulder bags, sling bags and rolling bags rivaling the wide selections from Lowepro and Tamrac, with moderate weatherproofing and moderate padding. Verdict: Tenba seems to be a good maker that needs to find some way of gaining traction in the marketplace in order to get more of its products into retail stores and in front of photographers. Construction quality seems consistently good from bag to bag, designs are relatively quiet, and Tenba offers a range of capacities to suit a variety of needs. The sling bag models compare very well to the excellent Lowepro and Kata models, offering a more versatile shape. Recommended if you can find them.
ThinkTank - Description: specializes in waist and harness mounted camera bag systems as well as a superb line of rolling camera bags and backpacks, offering professional quality, excellent features, moderate to excellent padding and good weatherproofing. Verdict: Think Tank products compared side-by-side to similar models from Lowepro and Tamrac sometimes don't look as though they'll work properly. But they do—extremely well actually—and stand up to many years of continuous use. Generally higher priced, made in the U.S. The waist belt & harness systems offer terrific versatility, the swing around model in the backpack system is unique and highly functional, and the rolling cases offer superior features including security and real considerations for the needs of travelers. Generally quiet operation. Very good value. Highly recommended.
Versa-Flex, Inc - Description: ATA style professional photo cases, rolling cases, tripod and custom cases, all of which provide excellent padding & protection along with good to excellent weatherproofing. Verdict: Cordura nylon outer shells with wraparound multi-density foam padding covering steel rim frames basically describes Versa-Flex products. If you're doing location shooting—photo or video—and you need to move gear quickly and safely, these cases are an investment worth considering. Highly customizable interiors, padding and foamed reusable packing fittings make packing and unpacking on location quite easy. Quiet operation and secure handling. Mainly for pros, production houses and touring companies. Highly recommended.
Vested Interest - Description: professional quality photo and video carry vests with lots of built in features and surprisingly competitive pricing. Verdict: If you like photograpy vests, particularly if you prefer a vest as your main carry method, you have to consider the Vested Interest line. Design and construction, weather resistance and durability consistently work to provide a wearable carry that's attractive to people such as journalists who have to move fast in difficult and dense environments. Pocket closures are velcro, which makes operation somewhat noisy, but in the typical busy urban locations for which these vests are best suited, noise isn't much of a factor. If you need one of these, there aren't a lot of choices out there and we're glad this choice is so good. Recommended.
World Richman - Description: if you've seen branded department store or photo retailer camera bags chances are they were manufactured by World Richman, but while prices are quite low, quality and functionality is similarly below average and reliable weatherproofing and padding is either light or non-existent. Verdict: Not my first choice and not even my last choice, World Richman-made store branded products are sometimes what you'll find being given away during promotions and as purchase incentives. You get what you pay for. Along with most store brands, not recommeneded.
NOTE TO AIR TRAVELERS: Carry-On Camera Shoulder Bags, Backpacks, Sling Packs & Rolling Cases - Think Tank is the only maker in this roundup which directly and specifically deals with TSA and airline carry-on size restrictions. Nonetheless, all of the makers offer models which meet carry-on size restrictions. It's about time that all the makers made some efforts on their respective web sites to make it clear which models meet current carry-on size restrictions. So if you're purchasing a camera or video bag for carry-on use during air travel, you have to check its size on the manufacturer's web site, compare the dimensions to the size restrictions imposed by the airlines you'll be using (as listed on various airline web sites), and never, ever believe a salesperson's opinion about any of this. Checked Bags - Never, ever check any camera bag that isn't hardshelled, heavily padded and designed to withstand being tossed around in the hold of an aircraft. Tripods - Carbon fiber tripods may be allowed on board, but forget about metal tube tripods. In any event, all tripods can represent a minor safety hazard in the cabin. So our advice is to pack tripods in checked luggage.