Stalkin' the Elusive Bag for Shootin' & Computin'
Stylish yet sensible choices abound for haulin' your notebook and camera `round town
Your two most precious pieces of equipment – your camera and computer – have much in common. You! The three of you travel together, work together, and are seen together. Just because you have two shoulders doesn't mean you must pack two bags. Wouldn't you expect someone to design a bag that could securely hold all your hardware including extra lenses and the notebook's power brick and cords while affording you maximum comfort? In the past you might have acquiesced in carrying two bags as a way to balance the weight of an 8-pound laptop against that of your camera equipment. But a funny thing happened to portable computers. They shrunk into netbooks weighing 2- or 3 pounds and occupying a third less space than a traditional notebook. That's not to say that you can't still fit a full-size notebook into a bag designed to nest both a camera and computer. Most dual-occupancy bags are rated to accommodate notebooks with screen sizes up to either 15- or 17-inches – Gulliver-like by netbook standards. But if you do pack a netbook, there should be ample room for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, too.
Camera/computer bags often fall under the category of messenger bags. So, for example, the Domke F-808 Messenger Bag (below left) will accommodate most laptops with 15-inch or smaller screens, and you can insert the computer vertically. There's a removable padded laptop insert just for that purpose, but there's also room for small electronic devices such as a point-and-shoot camera or a D-SLR with a normal lens. Close to your shoulder, the tall but narrow bag is less likely to bump passengers on a crowded subway than wider bags. Made from water-resistant, breathable cotton canvas, the F-808s are available in black, sand, or olive.
The large-size Tenba Messenger Bag is a slighter roomier bag that fits a laptop with a screen up to 17-inches, a D-SLR, and two or three lenses. It features a removable photo insert that enables you to convert it from a camera bag to an all-purpose gym bag, school bag, or briefcase. It features a water-resistant bottom for keeping contents dry if you put the bag down on a wet sidewalk and ventilated mesh on the back to keep you comfortable while carrying the bag on a hot day. A top zipper lets you access the main compartment without opening the front flap. That way you can retrieve your camera in a hurry. The bag is available in chocolate, burnt orange (above right), plum, olive green, navy blue, black, or black with an engraveable aluminum plate.
If you want more room for your camera equipment and a little less room for a computer, consider the Tenba PD-15C ProDigital 2.0 Shoulder Bag. It accommodates a Digital SLR with four lenses, a flash, and accessories plus a laptop with a 15-inch or smaller screen. (Netbook owners, we're talking about you.) The bag includes a WeatherWrap rain cover.
If khaki is your color, the National Geographic NG 2475 Earth Explorer Medium Shoulder Bag is one plush bag for toting your gear. (It's pictured on the shoulder of the dude in the opening photo; an open view appears below on the left.) The padded cotton hemp-blend shoulder bag comes with designated padded internal and external zones that provide protection for up to a medium size digital SLR, miniDV camcorder, and a netbook or small notebook. A larger version, the NF 2477, accommodates a 17-inch laptop. Both feature a thick, extra-wide (2-inch) shoulder strap.
The Naneu Pro Military Ops Tango Bag (above right) —available in olive green, black, or navy blue—is a nylon shoulder bag with two removable camera inserts for holding a D-SLR camera kit. (One compartment can fit a camera with a 7 ˝-inch lens attached and two smaller lenses; the other holds up to two large lenses (up to 9 ˝-inches long each) or a flash and three smaller lenses. There's also room for a notebook with an up to 15.4-inch screen.
On the other hand, if you've switched to a netbook, you can save a little money by going with the more compact Naneu Pro Military Ops Sierra Bag. Available in the same choice of colors as the Tango, the Sierra holds a computer with an up to 12.1-inch screen and a camera with an up to 6 ˝-inch lens attached plus two smaller lenses. The other photo compartment holds a large lens or a flash and small lens. An open Sierra Bag is pictured (below left).
For the professional photographer who carries two SLR cameras (digital or film) and a notebook computer, Tamrac offers the 619 Super Pro 19 Shoulder Bag (above right). There's room for two camera bodies, six large lenses (with shades), and a flash. A special foam-padded back pocket lets you stash a notebook computer up to 14 x 11 x 2-inches in size (which equates to a screen size of about 15-inches). The 619 is available in black.
For carrying a laptop with a screen size of up to 17-inches as well as two SLRs, nine lenses and two flashes, you'll want the Tamrac 614 Super Pro 14. It's available in black or gray. Both the Pro 19 and Pro 14 come with straps for conveying a tripod. The Pro 14 and 19 both include an innovative Tamrac design called Piggy-Back Pocket that enables you to slip the bag over the extended handle of your rolling luggage. Both feature side pockets with Tamrac's Memory & Battery Management System that uses red flags to identify available memory cards and batteries from ones that are used up.
The Lightware 1758 Laptop Digital Messenger Bag (below left) lets you take as much of the bag with you as you need. It comes with a removable padded camera insert that can handle a digital body, three lenses with hoods, and a flash. A second padded insert embeds a rigid protective sleeve and is meant for carrying a 15-inch laptop. Each insert can be carried separately with an optional strap. A back handle guide slides over a rolling case handle.
If you're afraid of some nasty backtalk from your back, consider a rolling soft camera/computer case. The Pelican PS172 Wheeled Camera Case (above right) features inline skate wheels and a recessed telescoping handle. The horizontally-oriented case accepts one D-SLR with an attached lens up to 10-inches long, a second camera body, up to five lenses, and a flash. The bag has a removable notebook computer case that can be used separately with an included shoulder strap.
For a slightly larger wheeled soft camera case that's vertically-oriented and incorporates a non-removable computer compartment, Pelican also offers the PCS-247 RSV Wheeled Upright Camera/Computer case (above). It's available in green with a gray interior or black with a gray interior. The PCS-247 includes removable tripod straps with a catch pocket for the tripod legs.
Beyond making sure your camera, computer, and select accessories fit the bag, pay attention to how easily you can liberate the camera when you're in a hurry. Are there multiple buckles to unfasten prior to unzipping, or can you gain access in one quick motion? Finally, if you have the opportunity to try out the bag first, slipping it over your shoulder and walking around a bit will help you gauge how comfortable you'll be with your new traveling companion.