For as long as I can remember I have given my wife a hard time for her obsession in collecting bags as I call them. I’m not sure how many purses she currently has but there are plenty of them around this house. I don’t own nearly as many for my toys, but I do find that I do look for new bags myself on a regular basis.
Like most photographers I too have the fetish of finding the perfect bag. And the problem lies in the fact that there just isn’t a perfect bag. There are perfect bags. Different shooting situations and scenarios require different gear. The type of shoot you are going on and the locations involved can all play a part in what gear you need to bring and what type of bag will best suit that situation.
A forthcoming trip has put me into the mindset that I need a new bag. Now whether or not I truly need a new bag I will leave for you to decide. I currently own a Lowepro Slingshot 300 and the Kata DR-467 Digital Rucksack (reviewed).
I purchased the Slingshot shortly after upgrading my camera and started doing more on location shoots. I was carrying multiple lenses, multiple strobes and other miscellaneous gear that just wouldn’t fit in my old bag. The slingshot was great in that it held all my gear at the time, but I think I only actually used it twice. It is a very well made bag that has plenty of adjustable areas for gear. I could easily fit my body, three lenses, and two strobes in the main compartment of the bag. That left me more than enough room in the other compartments for blowers, gels, filters, etc. But after using it a couple of times I realized that I preferred being a little more of a minimalist taking only what I really needed or learning to use what I had with me. The only negative thing I can say about my very few uses of this bag was that it didn’t allow for airflow between it and my back. A big plus for it is the way the waterproof cover is attached to the bag for easy deployment.
Not long after purchasing the Lowepro I heard one of the regulars on TWIP suggest Kata bags during the pick section of their show. I started looking into their product line and actually wrote down on paper what I was looking for in a bag. After I had this list of must haves I found narrowing down the product line was much easier. The process led me to the purchase of the Kata DR-467 Digital Rucksack which I have used daily ever since with absolutely no regrets, while unfortunately my Lowepro sits in the corner and is solely used to store gear not being used at the moment.
So after years of living out of one bag and making it work I have come upon a situation where I realize this bag really isn’t going to work for what I want to accomplish. A future trip to the airport is inevitable and along with check luggage, carry on luggage, two children (one who needs his child seat) and the amount of gear I need to take, my faithful rucksack just isn’t a practical fit. Of course need is a relative term. If I want to be honest with myself I could get away with my body, one or two lenses and a flash. But really, where is the fun in that. As my obsession has grown with HDR I really want to bring my tripod and three lenses along as well as a second body.
This time around I knew that the bag I was looking for was not one that was going to receive daily use and was purchased more for specialized use. This was difficult for me as I don’t like to buy anything that isn’t going to be used on a regular basis. In fact I try and purge the items around me that aren’t receiving use to make room for things that will be. Since my Kata bag has provided me such great service and barely has a sign of wear I immediately put them on my list of consideration. Another company that I hear many togs talk about is Thinktank, so they too were added to my list. I recently heard of a company called Naneu and decided to check them out. But a quick search of their page didn’t provide the solution that I was looking for and they were quickly eliminated. I didn’t even look at LowePro simply because their name brand can put a target on you for thieves. That’s the last thing I need to worry about.
In the end my decision came down to the Kata FlyBy-74 and the Think Tank Airport Take Off. Both offered the amount of space I was looking for inside the bag to hold the gear I am wanting to take with me. Both offer a wheel system for pulling the bag. Both are designed to take advantage of airline regulations and be allowed as carry on luggage. Both provide a means of attaching a tripod. (this kinda defeats the purpose of not going with LowePro now doesn’t it.)
So, which one did I go with? I ended up buying the Kata FlyBy-74. In the end I really wanted the Think Tank. The one feature their bag offered that the Kata didn’t was the backpack. I am much more of a backpack person than a shoulder bag person. I find it easier to shoot with a backpack on than with a bag slinging at my side. But realistically I usually set the bag down when I am shooting so this became much more of a very nice to have than a necessity. So finally it all came down to price. The Think Tank doesn’t include the laptop case and the bag alone is $299. So at half the price I ordered a used Kata. Had I not currently owned one of their bags I might have spent the extra money for the Think Tank, but with the quality I have witnessed with what I own I felt very comfortable in buying a used Kata. I also had to remember that this is going to be a specialty bag so why pay for more than you really need or can work with.
Sorry Think Tank, maybe next time. After my trip I will post a full review on the Kata.
As a side note. I did notice that Kata’s line seems to have grown at a crazy rate. I didn’t look at all their products, mostly because I don’t have that much time, but my first thoughts were overwhelming. Their web page has a nice feature to help you find the perfect bag, but the tool is very slow. I found myself making selections then changing tabs and doing other things while waiting. If I had not had such a good experience with their products previously I guarantee I would not have spent the time there using it. And as Steve Jobs told Nike, get rid of the crappy stuff. Not to say their stuff is crappy, but I bet they could probably eliminate a lot of product making it easier for the consumer to make a choice rather than get frustrated and leave. I found finding the gear easier on amazon than on their site. Just my .02¢