Naturally, the carrying sys tem you need for toting your camera around obviously depends on what you want to take with you on your street photography adventures. You may want to travel very light and just have the camera in your hand or slung over your shoulder. Indeed if you are using a compact like the Olympus XZ-1 or the Ricoh GRD III, you could just stuff the camera in your pocket, but if you want to take your DSLR or CSC perhaps with a spare lens you will need something with more capacity as well as more padding and protection to cope with the rough and tumble of urban shooting.
Storage capacity is a major aspect to ponder. You might have a big bag or photo rucksack already and just want a street bag for your urban safaris when you want to travel lighter. Zip-secured pockets are essential for expensive items like storage cards, spare batteries and the life, but don’t forget room for cleaning kit, filters and suchlike.
However, there are considerations other than just capacity when it comes to toting your gear around.
You need to be comfortable and at ease with your kit. Bags with straps that slip off your shoulder or a waist belt system that is uncomfortable when fully laden are two issues you might encounter. To be honest, the only way you can truly assess this aspect is by using the product for a while. In reality, though, this is not an option, but you should at least take your kit down to the shop and try the potential purchase for comfort, capacity and so on. If you find a bag uncomfortable after 10 minutes wear in the shop, there’s no hope really.
Protection level is easier to assess so do check out the quality of padding, the waterproof covers and whether zips have any extra storm flaps to keep out rain – most zips are not waterproof.
Great protection is important but this should not be at the expense of access – and of course, access should not compromise security either. Speed is an important aspect of urban shooting and again this is something you can check out while you are in the shop. Some products have zips that are too firm, or hook and loop fastenings that are too slack or so big they make huge ripping noise when you open the bag or pouch.
In this review we take a look at six products, two belt/pouch systems and four gadget bags trying them out with a variety of cameras including a Leica M9, a Nikon outfit and a Samsung NX11 kit.
Lowepro Street & Field
To call Lowepro’s Street & Field series a belt and pouch system is rather underselling it because it is so much more than that. It’s essentially a system that lets the user configure a carrying and protection solution to suit their individual needs. You can, for example, buy the Technical Vest and add a belt and pouches to suit if you want to carry a full system and want quick access while on the move.
In our street scenario, however, we kept it simple and went for the Deluxe Technical Belt with a few pouches including the Utility Bag 100AW £30, Slim Lens Pouch 75AW £40 and the Lens Exchange Case 200AW £45.
The Deluxe belt reminded me of a weightlifter’s belt with a deeper section across the back. This makes for excellent comfort for a long period. Each pouch has a tab that slips into stitched in loops and is secured with Velcro-style fastening.
The Exchange Case 200AW is interesting in that there’s a two section pocket within the pouch’s body to make lens changing more convenient. This works well.
The tab/Velcro system means there’s no chance that a pouch can slip off accidentally once attached. However, one downside is that once in place the pouch can’t be slid around for easy access. You either have to move the whole belt – which is not easy if worn tightly – or reach round. This is easy enough with side-worn pouches but less convenient round the back.
Each pouch is well made and there’s plenty of protection plus I like the extra touches such as elasticated pockets for items like lens caps.
Think Tank Photo Modular
Think Tank Photo’s collection of products includes gadget bags and photo rucksacks as well as belt and pouch carrying products. Its kit is designed by working photographers and there is a very wide range to suit almost every need.
Think Tank has taken a different approach with the design of the belt compared with the Lowepro belt. It’s thinner so it’s more discreet and there are stitched-in loops to accept tabs in the pouches. This means pouches can be locked in position, but you can also attach the pouches without using the tabs so that they can be slid around for quicker access. Personally, I think having the choice is a good thing and with or without the tab, pouch security on the belt rates highly.
The thin belt doesn’t compromise comfort and this rates highly, but if you prefer a wider belt for extra support there’s a Steroid Speed belt which sells for £37.
I tried a range of Think Tank pouches, picking whichever suited my immediate need. The £31 Chimp Cage, for example, was perfect for a spare lens and some accessories (or even two lenses) while the £36 Double Wide was good for two fast aperture zooms.
The pouches have been cleverly thought through and do the job in a very business-like manner. For example, the Lens Changer 75 Pop Down has an extension to hold a long lens with its lens hood in its working position. There’s another nice touch with the securing Velcro on the pouch lid. If noise is likely to be an issue you can go into silent mode and the flap just hangs loose – gear security remains high because of the drawstring.
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