“My name is Tim Fok, and I’m a bag-aholic”, says every filmmaker ever (bar the quirky second name). My vice is camera bags that don’t look like camera bags, and after seeing the latest release of the Manfrotto Windsor line, I was inspired to make a list of my favourite trendy camera bags.
You’ve all seen it before: the guy that walks around with the Lowepro bag strapped around his waist, Berghaus and/or NorthFace-clad with the Merrells.
Despite my dabble in NorthFace jackets, I’m not that guy. I like to be a little more discreet (wannabe trendy), and my casual kit bags of choice usually revolve around the not so obvious camera bags (definitely a wannabe trendy).
Aside from trying to look cool, subtle kit bags can be great for security: they don’t necessarily scream “Take me, I’m full of expensive camera gear.”
But let’s cut the faff. Here’s a list of camera bags you may like, that don’t look like camera bags.
The Windsor collection is quite an admirable venture for Manfrotto. Their bold red branding usually finds its way into their bag designs, ending up with something quite garish and reeking of that camera-carrying device stench that unscrupulous types flock towards.
The Windsor line is something different, featuring a subtle two tone grey with brown and tartan detailing.
You can guarantee function with Manfrotto bags, and the Windsor line is no exception.
The Messenger bags feature an easy access zipper to the divided compartment, and the larger Reporter bag sports stylish leather loops that allow for carrying a tripod.
The same straps can be found on the backpack version, which is based on a double compartment design for both personal items and camera kit. A side zipper ensures easy access to kit, and the reverse side offers a pocket suitable for your water bottle.
All Windsor bags have shock absorbing padded divider compartments made of water repellent materials, and can carry laptops of varying sizes.
Tenba offers a host of Messenger bags, ranging from the more obvious camera-style DNA line (which we’ll skip), to the inconspicuous single leather-look flap of the Switch line.
In between these two sits the Cooper range: functional Messengers with a flap-over, single-zip design. There are 4 sizes, ranging from small single mirrorless setups to decent sized DSLR setup and 15” laptop.
The padded dividers in all Coopers can be completely removed for full customisation, and the material on the back of the larger versions is useful for connecting up with roller bags when travelling.
The Switch series are smaller with a choice of two sizes – the Switch 8 or Switch 10.
These are designed primarily for casual mirrorless shooters with a tablet, but not a laptop. The fold down front pocket of the Switch bags is very useful for storing personal items.
Unique to the Switch line is the ability to ‘Switch out’ (figure the name) the front flap to a variety of colours and designs.
Both Tenba lines feature water repellant materials of differing sorts, as well as complete fold over WeatherWraps for full rain protection.
Aside from producing great rollers, Think Tank is known for their vast array of Messenger bags. Looking at them from a camera bag that-doesn’t-look-like a camera bag perspective, the Retrospective Line is the one you’d pick.
Although their established look would probably now be a tell tale sign of a camera bag for anyone with a keen eye, no camera bag article would be the same without a mention to the classic Retrospectives.
Now, there’s quite a few, depending on the camera and lens configuration, and all sport a similar vintage look. There’s even a leather series.
I own the Lens Changer, which I find to be incredibly useful. It has a separate compartment for each lens, with an organizer pocket at the rear. Silent options for the Velcro points are a great touch for ultimate discretion.
The full Retrospective line offers more conventional features for a Messenger bag. The single digit versions are designed for smaller DSLR and mirrorless setups, while double digits bags get your larger lens compatibility and laptop compartments.
Think Thank Retrospective 50
A recent successful Kickstarter campaign, Peak Design offers a complete range of bags from Messengers, to backpacks to totes.
Peak Design offers a variety of colours per bag style, with a design that screams innovation. These will look great with your fixed gear bike in the Bay area.
Modern in design, they give off that traveller feel with metal detailing and strong nylon straps.
They all feature water repellant coating, and are packed full of really clever little details, like the neat magnetic clasp found across the top of the Tote bag, or the side attachment plate for quick stow of your camera.
The triangular flexi dividers are genius, offering an array of options for stacking, storing and separating gear.
Whilst ONA bags won’t touch Peak Design in terms of innovation, they are still certainly worth taking a good look at.
ONA produces a range of backpacks, briefcases, messenger bags and handbags of the highest quality. Simple in function, they include padded compartments for your kit, and larger options include laptop and tablet storage also.
I own the Brixton, and love the form factor and simple design. They’re surprisingly roomy with large front pockets, and the quick release clasps are useful on the flap. The magnetic flat pocket at the rear is great for travel documents.
The handbag line is particularly interesting, never has a stylish leather bag looked so practical in the Palma.
There are of course hundreds of bags out there, each serving a different purpose. If you have any suggestions of your own to add to the list of camera-bags-that-don’t-look-like-camera-bags, feel free to comment below!