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07-15-2010, 07:03 PM   #1
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General Purpose Messenger Bag as Camera Bag?

Hey all, I have a messenger bag I use for everyday use, and I was just wondering if it's okay to use it as a camera bag also to skimp on a few bucks. Size wise, it's everything I could ask for, but I'm mainly concerned about the protection. I've provided some pics below; as you can see, there's a padded section, but I was just wondering if it'd be good enough to be of any protection/safe enough to use for my camera? I wouldn't be doing any mountain treks with it probably, just putting it and lenses and the like into it for convenience.

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07-15-2010, 08:48 PM   #2
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Look up the tenba insert - b&h should sell them -I like the insert option (occasionally use a domke one) but have read the tenba is nice and solid (the domke isn't great but I found one cheap).
07-15-2010, 09:00 PM   #3
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Just hit the craft store and buy some craft foam. It's cheap. It comes in different thicknesses. It does the job, and you can use it in whatever bag you like to pad things. I use it in my backpack when I am on the go. I do have a couple of old camera bags but I usually just leave them home. I store stuff in them, that's it.

Actually you can do one more thing if you want internal lens pockets. Take a pair of old jeans and cut the top off. Use some fabric glue to seal the bottom edge, remove the top metal button, place it inside the main compartment of your bag, and "Et voila!" you've got yourself a lens organizer with 4-5 pockets sans a lot of money and one that's good for the environment too!
07-16-2010, 03:57 AM   #4
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I used one for years, I'd still be using it except that all the weight hanging off one side of me started giving me back problems (old age is so much fun) What I did was get a bunch of the "slinger" padded lens cases from Adorama, put my lenses in those and the camera in the middle worked very well. A bit of white adhesive tape on the top of the lens cases enable me to write which lens was inside the case. There are several benefits to this system:
A The lens stays in the case giving me good protection at home also.
B there is a nice sturdy velcro strap on the lens case, so if you are doing a lot of lens changes between two or three lenses you can attach the cases to your belt or the strap of the bag so they are quickly accessible.
I still use the lens pouches in my backpack style lowepro slingshot. Saves room in the bag and makes the lenses more accessible.

NaCl(messenger bag worked very well for me and a LOT cheaper)H2O

Last edited by NaClH2O; 07-16-2010 at 03:59 AM. Reason: punctuation
07-16-2010, 06:44 AM   #5
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Yeah. There's another kind of insert you can get as well, that someone showed me off Ebay: they're bright orange and have lids. If I recall correctly, they come in two or three sizes.

Never did pick one up, but they seem pretty promising. (I could probably do without the bright orange color of them, but that has its advantages, too.)
07-16-2010, 12:19 PM   #6
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I support the insert option. It's exactly what I do, both for my backpack and for my messenger bag.

Tenba is supposed to make a great insert. I got mine off eBay, there are a few options there too. I find this solution much better than buying a dedicated bag.
07-16-2010, 01:13 PM   #7
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I have one dedicated camera bag, a Domke F6, for storing all my gear together, but rely on inserts to grab gear on the go for my favorite messenger bags and backpack. So yeah, regular bags are fine to carry your camera in, just figure out an insert or something that keeps it secure and safe in that big bag.

07-16-2010, 01:30 PM   #8
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I use the Tenba insert in my small Timbuk2 messenger bag. Works great, very inconspicuous and provides quick and easy access to gear.

I used to use a custom-made one out of cheap foam mat, but I could never beef up the structure enough to keep it from deforming inside the floppy messenger bag. The Tenba insert is stiff enough to mostly keep its shape, and it has the velcro stuff for custom-sizing the slots.

Only downside to using a messenger bag is it can be a lot of weight to sling on one shoulder only.
07-16-2010, 01:57 PM   #9
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I'm not much into inserts - well-padded ones take up a lot of space and the Domke inserts don't offer much flexibility. I use neoprene lens and SLR sleeves made by OP/TECH. They hug the gear, crush flat, weigh nothing, and allow for protection in any bag.

FWIW, I use the Domke F803 satchel bag with no inserts, just the OP/TECH sleeves. Love the setup.
07-17-2010, 11:30 AM   #10
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Aye it should work fine, provided you add some extra protection for your kit as others here have suggested.
07-17-2010, 07:22 PM   #11
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The inserts on eBay costs around $22-25.
They are bright orange.
I am actually thinking of just making inserts with foam stitched with cloth.
It's an insert, so nobody will see it except myself and I can probably configure and make it that would suit my needs best.
07-18-2010, 04:14 AM   #12
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not all eBay inserts are orange. Mine are gray. There are a few people selling stuff on eBay :P
07-18-2010, 11:06 AM   #13
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The only issue with just using your messenger bag and the padded section within it, is keeping the lenses from clunking into each other. Even if you can put then in the bag so that they don't clunk, if they sit close enough together to touch, the movement of walking around all day will let the lenses rub up against each other and this can make your lenses ugly. Don't expect anything in the bag to stay where you put them either. You are going to have to spend some money on something to keep things apart, camera, lenses, flash, ...

The all in one inserts work very well with a three lens setup as these usually have three slots. You have one lens on the left, one on the right and then a lens mounted to the camera in the middle. If you try to stack lenses in the left and right slots to carry more, chances are that the lenses work in only a particular order and when you go to use this in the field you'll find that order hard to maintain.

If you go with separate pouches for the lenses, you can probably carry more lenses, but you'll find that can get pretty expensive pretty quick. If you have the time to wait, there are a number of ebay sellers in HK selling neoprene cases for a couple of bucks apiece. This can mean waiting up to a month for the shipment from HK, however.

I personally think having a way to use an ordinary messenger bag for your camera equipment is something that you will use more often than you think, and won't just be a short term way "to save a few bucks". There are times when having your equipment hidden in the crowd is a very good thing.

Thank you

Last edited by Russell-Evans; 07-20-2010 at 08:18 AM.
07-23-2010, 09:57 AM   #14
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I hiked, backpacked, and motorcycle tripped for years with the same basic solution. I wrapped my camera and lenses up in T shirts or other clothing and and carried them along in whatever pack or bike bag I was using. I never had a problem. My Spotmatic survived 2 motorcycle crashes and also went off a ledge on a backpacking trip. Still works fine. A camera bag is essentially just a bag with some protective padding. You can improvise your own padding to fit any bag you want to use. Now that my kids are grown and out of college, I'm showing off my newfound prosperity with a Lowepro backpack.

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