Many modern photographers carry a lot of gear when they go on photo walks. They “want to be prepared for every available situation” or something. Around Sydney, I see a large number of tourists and/or photography enthusiasts around the iconic Sydney Opera House. When these 2 categories combine, an infantryman is born. This person totes a backpack, a shoulder bag, or in rare cases, wheeled luggage, tripod jacking out at weird angles. Oh, and he's got a big DSLR, too. These (mostly) men go on what I can only assume is a sniping mission in order to take the perfect shot. I'm reminded of my army days, where we were made to carry infantry packs around. I would never want to pay money to do that. I'm a minimalist. What I carry around to photo walks tends to fall into several categories:
Sony a7ii (I carry either the Sony or the Fuji depending on my mood)
Fujifilm x100s (most compact setup since this is a point and shoot camera).
I wrote about the two in the following article: The Sony A7ii taught me to respect the Fujifilm X100s.
40 or 90mm m mount lenses (depending on what I wish to photograph).
55/1.8 FE (I bring this out for night photography, since it autofocuses or as a backup).
Ultra wide 19-35mm for landscapes.
Only taken out for special occasions (serious portraiture or landscapes).
Meike 320 to use as a fill flash
Water bottle (I get thirsty, and water is crazy expensive in the city).
Audiophile player and earphones
I’m a little bit of an elitist when it comes to listening to music. (It is actually pretty much the whole reason why I got to know Nathan in the first place.)
iPad (only taken out when I am in the process of binge watching a show)
Basically this list breaks down to me being able to go on photo walks with a very minimal amount of photography gear. As such, my needs in a camera bag are minimal. I also tend to carry around other things, like papers and what not that I need for the day, so my camera bag needs to be able to double as an everyday bag.
At this point, I would like to note that I have only had long term experiences with the canon 5dmk3 bag, the bag insert for this in my normal day-to-day bags, and the Crumpler 6 million dollar home (which Nathan also owns, and about which he wrote this article). However, I have been searching for a bag since 2012, and since its 2015, it’s safe to say that I spent quite a bit of time looking for the perfect bag.
Being a casual street photographer, I tend to gravitate to the belief that lugging an overly padded semi-rigid, boxy kit bag (admittedly my Crumpler 6 million dollar home is an offender, but I bought it as a stop gap), which usually is made from some form of thick black nylon composite, is not the best choice. As such, I narrowed down my search to offerings from Billingham, Ona and Brady bags. Brady bags and Billingham are well known among street photographers as THE bags to own, since they are hardy, water resistant and are not too boxy. However, since this is the case, they are pretty bloody obvious (to other street photographers) when they are taken out on the street. Hipsters also have latched onto the trend of buying these heritage style bags (in particular beige colour). As a result, I am put off by the colour. Oh, and raw denim. Ona bags kind of don’t fit my aesthetic since I am casual most of the time, but the Ona bags don’t dress down as well as I’d like. Additionally, all these bags didn’t give a sense of adventure. This meant that I was left on the fence for approximately 3 years.
For the love of Filson
I have to admit, I am a huge Filson bag fan. Ever since I was given the Filson 257, I have been convinced of their quality. The Filson 257 is made from a combination of heavy duty canvas and bridle leather (keeps the bag lighter and provides water resistance). I have never had any problems with rain since the canvas is really hardy. However, as a camera bag, there are 2 problems that I faced, leading me to buy a crumpler 6 million dollar home.
Firstly, the leather strap, while absolutely beautiful, is quite useless for everyday carry. I kind of resolved this by attaching a cloth strap from an unnamed bag maker at a local market.
Secondly, the bag is not built like a camera bag. Being mainly a computer bag, it has that pizza box structure that computer bags require, meaning that the bag doesn’t hug the body (it is not meant to). The bag also features a zippered top opening (I hate this since it feels like it scratches the camera every single time I put in or take out the camera). I used to put a camera insert inside this, but hated taking the camera out or putting it in, as well as how the insert sometimes shifted as I walked around.
Enter the Filson x Magnum Field Camera Bag
When I first heard about Filson teaming up with Magnum to make a new range of bags, I was excited. That is, until I saw some of the product offerings (McCurry Tote!? Are you kidding me?). Still, I kept scrolling down Filson's page, I noticed the Field Camera Bag. It appealed to me in a way that other camera bags didn't. A lightly padded bag, featuring functional pockets from a brand I love? YES! I ordered as soon as I could afford it. (I had some car trouble that hosed the project for a while.)
When I finally got it, I began packing stuff into it, to see how much I could fit into it. I personally don’t have much gear, but I was able to fit in no less than the following:
- A7ii with 55/1.8 attached with neck strap
- X100s with neck strap
- Yongnuo 560ii Flash
- Yongnuo sb28 cable
- Konica Hexanon 90 2.8 M mount
- Minolta M rokkor 40/2 M mount
- Zeiss 50/1.8 Pancolar with Exakta to E mount adaptor
- Minolta 28/2.8 with MD to E mount adaptor
- Fuji X100 TCL converter in a little container
- Tokina 19-35/3.5-4.5 with LAEA4 adaptor attached
- iPad 4 with Belkin case (pretty thick case) (only thing that I put in the back pocket, pretty sure I could stuff more stuff in there if I wanted to)
- Luxi Light meter
- Mini torch light
- Assorted tissues, plastic bags, batteries, etc. (This is, after all, an everyday bag.)
This is pretty much the entirety of my gear. This filled up most of the main compartment and back pocket, while leaving the 2 front pockets empty. This is pretty impressive to me considering the bag did not get boxy or feel significantly heavy.
Several things also stood out to me. The bag did not feel boxy, hugging my body when I slung it over my shoulder. This was in part due to the thick strap, spreading out the weight of the bag very well and mostly due to the lack of excessive padding, allowing the bag to follow my body shape. Effectively, this was a bag with the Filson quality that I liked, yet presented none of the problems that I had with the Filson 257. Instantly, I was in love.
In summary, this bag feels awesome. It's a combination of it being adequately padded, while having a versatile classic look. A passing glance makes it out to be an everyday bag, but it offers the functionality and protection I need from a proper camera bag. It's not excessively padded, but it's durable. I am confident that the Magnum Field Bag will be a reliable partner to me for years to come. Which means that maybe, just maybe, Filson managed to accomplish their goal set out in the motto: “photo bags that refuse to stay indoors”.