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Help with "Discreet" Camera Bags...
William Maner, Photographer
Biloxi | MS | USA | Posted: 1:40 AM on 06.22.07
->> I've been reading through a variety of photography forums. One of the things that caught my attention is the wide variety of camera bags available.

One style that has intrigued me are the so-called discreet shoulder bags...Bags that look more like innocuous messenger bags.

The brands that seem to draw the most comments are the Crumpler seven million dollar bag, the Think Tank Urban Disguise bags and the Domke F-800 series Reporter's Satchels.

I'm shopping around for a new bag. I'd like something that is discreet looking. What I would be carrying around are a couple of bodies and three lenses--a 17-40 4.0L, an old 28-70 2.8L and a 70-200 2.8L. I'd also carry a flash and several batteries. Of course there would also be the CF cards and batteries for the flash..

Do any of you have experience with such bags? What are the pros and cons of such bags?

Thanks for your replies!!
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Nigel Farrow, Photographer
Suffolk | UK | United Kingdom | Posted: 6:23 AM on 06.22.07
->> If you like the messenger camera bag look I suggest you also check out true messenger bags as often photo equipment ends up carrying a premium for much the same product. You even have the option of padding to your specifications. I have used such bags for around 5 years now carrying equipment in a Billingham in the car then transferring the required kit to a messenger bag for working.

If you want something that is truly discreet, look at what is being used around you, buy similar and, if necessary, beat it up a bit. The first messenger bag I owned was bought from a charity shop and cost about USD10. My current bag (made by Animal) was bought from a surf shop for USD50 and has the added advantage of being waterproof. Guess I have had it for around three years and use it regularly so it has taken a beating.

Maybe a bit small for all the equipment you list (I also carry a 1.4x) though I have used it to carry similar equipment on flights and when it has been best to not have my equipment on show. I have found though that bigger messenger bags tend to be cumbersome. Also be careful to not make the bag too rigid with padding as they begin to take on a camera bag look which I found early on defeats the purpose of the discreet look. As a benchmark my bag is designed to hold a 14" laptop.

The biggest advantage I have found of messenger type bags is
that when working they hug the body better whilst allowing easy access to equipment.

Good luck with the search
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Walter Calahan, Photographer
Westminster | MD | USA | Posted: 7:56 AM on 06.22.07
->> They are a little pricey, but I like the Billingham bags for not looking too much like a camera bag.
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Brian Loeb, Student/Intern
Evanston | IL | USA | Posted: 8:46 AM on 06.22.07
->> The Crumpler bags are great. They're well padded, easy to access, and they don't scream, "camera bag." I used mine for about a year until a month ago, when I switched to a belt system to save my back.
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Luis Moreira, Photographer
Toronto | ON | Canada | Posted: 9:28 AM on 06.22.07
->> Hi William, I use the Crumpler 7 million dollar home on a regular basis. I've packed it with two bodies (D2x, Fuji S2), a few lenses (17-35 f2.8, 70-200 f2.8), plus flash and other accessories. It'll hold all the gear you mention. One thing to note, the top opening is not zippered there's only a flap. This feature allows you to access your gear easily but it can also allow sand, rain, and possibly hands to get in between the shoulder strap and the closed lid. I also had to add some velcro in order to stop the velcro noise that would occur every time you opened lip.

All in all it's an excellent discreet camera bag.

Luis Moreira
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Patrick Smith, Student/Intern, Photographer
Forest Hill | MD | USA | Posted: 10:00 AM on 06.22.07
->> I am surprised no one mentioned the Urban Disguise series from ThinkTank. Check them out.
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Adam Bird, Photographer
Grand Rapids | Mi | United States | Posted: 10:02 AM on 06.22.07
->> I got a stealth reporter bag from lowpro since around me I always saw ubiquitous black bags on everybody's shoulder. It worked great. Before I used it I put some weights in it and dragged it face down behind my bicycle for some good wear marks. 2 years in downtown London doing a project on the underground (subway) and I never once had a problem with anybody, even in some screamingly dodgy neighborhoods.

No matter what you get, make sure that it looks broken in.
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Matthew Healey, Photographer
Providence | RI | | Posted: 12:52 PM on 06.22.07
->> I've used a Crumpler bag and although it does look like a messenger bag, it looks like a really nice one. It is pretty easy to tell that you are carrying more than your average bike messenger. I am pretty sure that I was targeted at least once while walking around with a Crumpler bag in Prague a few years back. (Although I did have a camera around my neck too)

The other thing that bugged me about the Crumpler is that it doesn't conform to your body because it is so well padded, so it just bounces off of you. That always annoyed me. Great bags otherwise for travel but just didn't suit my tastes.

If you are truly looking for a low key bag for safety reasons I would second the suggestion of a real courrier bag. The standard for courriers around these parts are the bags by Timbuk2. Cant go wrong with the Classic ttp://

The things are very rugged, and waterproof. Just buy some inserts or some domke wraps and you should be good to go.
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Andrew Villa, Student/Intern, Photo Editor
Dublin | CA | United States | Posted: 12:58 PM on 06.22.07
->> Right now, for doing work in the field i use a Baileyworks Super Pro Large messenger bag. I take a thinktank insert from one of their bags and stuff it in there to hold all I need and more.

their bags work great, extremely comfortable and great for doing grocery shopping, errands and anything else too, especially bike messengering. Which i don't do.
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Rex Atienza, Photographer
Sherman Oaks | Ca | USA | Posted: 2:52 PM on 06.22.07
->> I second Adam's recommendation on the Lowepro Stealth bags. It comes in various sizes but for your setup, the stealth 650 is a good fit with a computer (15") inside.

I've used mine's for 3 yrs and it's taken the abuse well.
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Chuong Doan, Photographer
Kansas City | MO | USA | Posted: 4:39 PM on 06.22.07
->> For women, these bags would be good:
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David Brooks, Photographer
San Diego | CA | USA | Posted: 6:15 PM on 06.22.07
->> That sounds like a lot of stuff for a discreet bag, consider for that much gear the bag will have to have dividers and padding....I use the lowe pro stealth bags 600 series and I removed most of the padding, but any bag says your carrying something... depending on the assignment, I don't carry a bag, it's just one more thing to wrinkle my shirt...and you can only be so discreet once the cameras are out. But when I'm just scouting an idea or angle my discreet bag is a non-photo back pack containing one camera with a wide-medium zoom and maybe the strobe.
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Tom Weis, Photographer
Brooklyn | NY | United States | Posted: 6:33 PM on 06.22.07
->> That is a lot of stuff to carry in a shoulder bag unless you have a really strong back. I like the LowePro sling bags. I have the 300 model. As far as being discreet, probably the best solution is a diaper bag. :-)
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Mike Ullery, Photographer
Troy | OH | USA | Posted: 11:24 AM on 06.23.07
->> The LowePro Sling bag is relatively discreet but also with the sling design no one is going to just grab it and run.

Indirectly on topic, if your need to leave you camera bag in your vehicle periodically, put your camera bag in a cooler. Not only does it look like nothing expensive, it also can help protect your gear from summer heat.
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Debra L Rothenberg, Photographer
New York | NY | USA | Posted: 4:17 PM on 06.23.07
->> Sling bags to me put too much pressure on one side. I use a backpack and I removed the name brand. This way, it looks just like everybody else's backpack and in NYC, EVERYONE has one. (actually, I have travelled throughout the world and it seems everyone has a backpack). If you want to make it look even less like a camera backpack, put some of your favorite buttons on it
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N. Scott Trimble, Photographer
Tempe | AZ | USA | Posted: 4:23 PM on 06.23.07
->> I got the ThinkTank Urban Disguise 40 and it is great! It is small, but holds two bodies, my 16-35mm, 24,70 and my 70-200, two flashes and has a great card baggie, weather sheath, document holder, and I have stuffed three pocket wizards and my ST-E2 in as well.


I also have a crumpler. It works nice, but I think the think tank is better thought out and sleeker.
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N. Scott Trimble, Photographer
Tempe | AZ | USA | Posted: 4:29 PM on 06.23.07
->> Even with all the stuff in the bag, amazingly, it doesn't feel heavy or bulky. I also have two stealth bags, the backpack and the 650, and a beltpack. They are huge and draw attention. The Think tank looks unassuming and engineered great. The step up from mine takes a laptop. I figured since I have two laptop bags, I wanted something I could dash around town in and play street photographer and it works!
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Debra L Rothenberg, Photographer
New York | NY | USA | Posted: 4:37 PM on 06.23.07
->> Scott,
does the Urban Disguise also fit onto a belt?
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N. Scott Trimble, Photographer
Tempe | AZ | USA | Posted: 3:08 AM on 06.24.07
->> No. I only has a zipper slot to slide a wheeled baggage handle through. The smaller ones might though, the 20 or the 30?
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Christina Barany, Photographer
Arlington | TX | United States | Posted: 1:58 PM on 06.24.07
->> Those Jill-e bags come with "Convenient dual carrying handles" wich means you have to walk around holding it like a hand purse!

There is nothing you can put over your shoulder. I think these are made for non-pros to bring on airplanes.
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Thad Parsons, Photographer, Student/Intern
Oxford | UK | United Kingdom | Posted: 3:54 PM on 06.24.07
->> I have for years carried the same shoulder bag ... a domke editors bag (cannot remember the model b/c I got it while I was in college in about 2000). In a pinch, it can hold a body and two or three lenses. On the other hand, it easily holds a laptop (in a seperate case), plus some notebooks and regular books.
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 10:03 PM on 06.24.07
->> Want a camera bag that no one is going to want to grab? Buy a new baby diaper bag. Rough it up a bit, put it through the dryer a dozen time. It is nearly theft proof ;-)
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Thread Title: Help with "Discreet" Camera Bags...
Thread Started By: William Maner
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