....does not exist. And probably never will.
I have come to this conclusion after many days and nights of wandering through the jungle that is Google, going over review after review, photo after photo and making the trips to several shops to do my own research.
I've come to accept the fact that you need a different bag for different occasions- and trying to find one that does it all well simply will not work.
You may remember a short time ago I wrote up a review on the Naneu Pro K3L photo backpack. A great bag for what it does and value dollar for dollar. Unfortunately for me, it was just a tad too big to take as carry on on flights. So it was back to the drawing board in search of a good holiday bag.
Not wanting to dethrone Paul from his illustrious bag-##### status :P, I set on a search with the following criteria in order of importance:
1. Comfort - I was going to be hauling this bag around Europe for 4 weeks. Through airports, train stations, U-Bahns, S-Bahns and any other Bahns you could think of. Not to mention the odd 2hr trek through forest in order to satisfy my fiancee's lust for any place with the word "castle" in it.
2. International airline carry-on compatible size - Mostbags will fit this criteria, its the weight that becomes an issue. We will split the load between us going through airport checkpoints so not too worried about weight.
3. Accesibility - Now I don't see myself changing lenses every half hour - I'd ideally plan on doing more sightseeing and relaxing than turning this into a serious photo holiday. Nonetheless, I have this fantastic gear with me, and helll we probably won't be coming back to this place for a lonng time, if ever. So I want to capture the moment and some creative shots as well. Not to mention my fiancee, who is the delegated videographer will constantly be asking for, then later handing back, the camcorder - as we will only have the one bag between us. Hence I needed a packt hat didn't take 2 mintues to unload and reload.
4. Capacity - Needed to fit a D90 with up to 70-2002.8 lens attached, plus 2-3 primes, flash, filters, small misc stuff, water bottles, snacks, book, maps, airline tickets, light sweater, poncho. Tripod holding capapbility. Laptop compartment handy but not crucial. I also have a seperate bag for that and it will be left in hotel each day anyway, only carted around from city to city. Space would still be handy for A4 documents though.
5. Security - I need some accesibility but at the same time I don't want 28 fast access panels that lead straight into my main kit. Some bags have lockable zippers, others that don't can usually still fit a small wire cable combo lock through. No match for a boxcutter but a good preventitive for oppurtunistic thieves. Obviously my equipment will be insured. Nevertheless still not a process I'd like to go through.
6. Durability and backed by a decent warranty/customer service. That means good, oversized zippers, good workmanship, durable fabrics. As for customer service - the ones that shine seem to be Crumpler and Think Tank Photo. Both their quality and customer service rate highly. I'm sure other brands out such as Lowepro, Tamrac, Kata, Tenba, Mountainsmith have comparable quality, just haven't had any dealing with their customer service.
So onto my crusade I went and these are what made it onto my shortlist:
Lowepro Flipside 400 AW
Think Tank Streetwalker Pro
Think Tank Urban Disguise 60
Tenba Shootout Day pack
Crumpler Karachi Outpost
Booq Python SLR pack
Can you pick the odd one out? The Think Tank Urban disguise is the only shoulder bag in the line-up.Yes, I know, comfort is the number one priority, but this bag had so many excellent features and in its defence you can get an optional, if not tacky, harness attachment that lets you wear it as a back pack. http://www.taschenfreak.de/TASCHEN/T...se60/index.htm
The Lowepro seems to ticks all the boxes . There is the Fastpack if I really wanted a dedicated lappy compartment, but I wasn't won over by the quality of the zippers compared to some of the other offerings. http://www.taschenfreak.de/TASCHEN/L...e400/index.htm
The Streetwalker Pro will fit my stuff, appears to have a decent harness system, lockable zippers, raincover and good quality workmanship. Quick access may be an issue, with a pack like this it'd be hugely advantageous to have a single pouch on ur waist to keep your most swapped over/accessed item/s.
The Crumpler Karachi outpost is their largest backpack offering. It sure gets the tick for comfort, quality, security. Again not sure how access would be, I will have to go into the shop again and test whether its possible to swing the bag around and access the rear panel. http://atpeaz.placidthoughts.com/ind...st-Review.html
The Tenba Shootout Daypack has a lot of things to like. Good comfort, raincover, good capacity with the nifty expandable section. It has 2 quick access panels on the side for getting ur most used lenses etc. Call me paranoid but they only have 1 zipper so arent lockable - and when I've got my eye to a the viewfinder or am in a metro train stuffed in like sardines, I could see this panel being accessed a little to easily. www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjYHh3S3RAQ
The Booq Python was the real suprise package. No reviews to be found anywhere, I found this pack on www.rushfaster.com.au
At the moment its sold out and won't be available until mid April.
It appears to be made using the good quality stuff, the interior organiszation is nice and the comofort/harness look top notch. The nifty thing about this one is the removable camera pouch. Now I alway told myself I wouldn't be caught dead wearing a bum bag. Either my shame as dissappeared or I simply don't care anymore, because combined with a pack it really looks like the only happy medium to quick access AND comfort. The bag can be worn around the wasit and supposadley fits a "DSLR and 2 lenses. OK so it doesn't have much capacity, but I can see it's usefulness for holding a body and lens. You could always chuck a Domke or similar insert in the main top section of the bag to hold your other stuff.
It has lots of outside pockets which can be a good or bad thing. Unless I can put a wire cable lock through these and somehow cinch it up it won'tbe useful for carrying stuff that can't e lost - memory cards, camera batteries, ext HDDs etc..
Well there you have it for now. There are a multitude of other options out there that I could consider but these are what I have shortlisted for now. Like I said at the beginning - one bag can't do everything well and there will always be some sort of compromise. I think the key is to have different bags for different occasions. Just like shoes. That's what I tell the missus anyway when she glares at me for getting another camera bag hehe