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Another Bag Update

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The cotton grass on the moors this year is amazing. I have never seen so much. From a distance it looks like patches of snow.
The cotton grass on the moors this year is amazing. I have never seen so much. From a distance it looks like patches of snow.

The weather here in the UK is absolutely glorious at the moment. This is especially unusual in the area where I live (Saddleworth) which is well known for being wet (and unfortunately for the Moors Murders back in the 1960’s). Yesterday I took full advantage of the weather and went for a 12 mile walk over the moors. I did of course take my camera and used my belt pack discussed here recently to carry the equipment.

Front view of my Marmot pack
Front view of my Marmot pack

The weather for photography was poor as it was simply too bright and the light too harsh even at 9:30 in the morning. The only camera that was likely to work reasonably well for me was my Infrared GX1 which loves these conditions. My decision was therefore to take the GX1 and Olympus OM-D E-M5 together with 3 lenses (Panasonic 14-45mm, Olympus 9-18mm and a 7.5mm Fisheye). As I wanted to do a few comparison shots for depth of field against the MD I also popped the Sony RX100 in there together with its leather carrying case. Finally a couple of spare batteries, a HiTech ND graduated filter, filter holder and lens adapter ring were added.

Unfortunately not everything listed here fit into the belt pack. In the end I had the 14-45mm lens attached the OMD body in the main compartment of the bag. The 9-18mm lens and the Fisheye lens were both packed in Neoprene lens pouches and placed in the main compartment alongside the OMD. The GX1 body was placed in a front pocket where it fitted easily without a lens attached. The filters, accessories and batteries all went into two internal pockets. Only the RX100 had to be carried separately but that’s not a big issue.

Overall the bag was perfect and far, far better than I had expected and seemed to carry a huge amount of equipment. The entire kit was very light and easy to carry. When walking any distance I had the belt pack behind me where I didn’t notice it. When I stopped to take some pictures I simply spun the belt pack around (without needing to remove it) and everything became easily accessible. Whilst I didn’t take a backpack on this occasion the bag when worn on the front was not uncomfortable and would still easily allow the use of a backpack.

Was it perfect? Very nearly but I do reserve the right to change my mind after further use. My only minor problem was with the lens neoprene lens puches. I have a habit of carrying my lens hoods attached in a reverse position on the lens. When the 14-45 lens had the hood lens attached it wouldn’t fit properly into the lens pouch I had taken. This isn’t a huge problem as I do have larger pouches I could use but I wanted to avoid large pouches. I may therefore not take the lens hoods in the future.

I think this is quite a good carrying solution for a small micro 43 kit and doesn’t look like a camera bag.

Camera Bag Frustration

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One of my Haweswater images from the weekend shot on the Olympus OMD. It doesn't show the lake but it does show the start of the ridge in the background that we would later be walking up.
One of my Haweswater images from the weekend shot on the Olympus OMD. It doesn’t show the lake but it does show the start of the ridge in the background that we would later be walking up.

I am feeling happy once more. My frustration with not taking my camera out has subsided somewhat. At the weekend just gone I was up in the Lake District with my new camera at one of the best locations you can imagine – Haweswater.

Unless you are familiar with the Lakes it’s unlikely you have visited this spot and yet it’s one of the most spectacular. It lies near to Penrith and is away from the usual tourist destinations. It has one narrow lane that leads to a dead end at the head of the valley where the lake also ends. Well, I say lake but it is actually a manmade reservoir. When it was created the designers were careful to create a number of features that blend it into the landscape. I suspect they must have been photographers as it’s so picturesque.

The purpose of this blog is not to bore you with details of the location but to share a new problem now that I have gone totally lightweight. I couldn’t find a bag that suited the equipment I wanted to carry.

For the day I had decided to take the Olympus OMD and the GX1 Infrared body. In addition to batteries and memory cards I also took a few lenses; the Olympus 9-18mm, Panasonic 14-45mm, Panasonic 45-200mm and the Olympus 12-50mm that came with the OMD. This was too much equipment to fit my small shoulder bag but it wasn’t enough to warrant carrying my Lowepro Mini Trekker. At the same time, because we intended to walk one of the ridges leading up to the summit of Highstreet, so I also needed to take a traditional backpack with outdoor gear. Oh yes, I also wanted to take the Sony RX100 as a backup. I did think of using a Sling shot but it would have been that little but too heavy and I need to watch my back/neck.

Interestingly my friend had the same issues with his kit which is also Micro 43. As you can imagine, the conversation soon turned to the inadequacy of most camera bags to cater for Compact System Cameras such as the Olympus and Panasonic. Particularly those of us who want to combine this with day treks in the hills.

Since returning I have been scouring the internet trying to find something that meets my needs but most of the bags are either a shoulder bag or designed for DSLR sized cameras, making them quite bulky and heavy.

What I am really looking for is a lightweight bag which is either a back pack or a front pack. If it’s a backpack it needs to hold my waterproof clothing and extra layers in winter as well as food and of course the camera equipment. It needs to be the correct size for the Micro 43 camera as I don’t want wasted space of lenses rattling around. The alternative I think would be a front pack and I think this would be more practical as it would allow access to gear without needing to remove the bag. It should however be light and again suitably sized for the Micro 43 equipment. If it’s a front pack it needs to include some sort of shoulder of neck strap to prevent the pack hanging too low as you walk. It must also allow me to still wear a backpack for my clothing, emergency shelter, first aid kit, food etc.

Now I don’t think this is too much to ask for but I haven’t yet found it. I did come across some bags last night that look promising. They are designed for press photographers who work in the field and need to keep mobile and on their feet. The bag strap to your front and over one shoulder to allow easy access to kit but I need to do more research; they may still be too bulky.

If you are a bag manufacturer and reading this, let’s see some serious bags aimed at Micro 43 cameras and don’t try to brush us off with your SLR line rebadged. If you are a Micro 43 photographer who has cracked this problem I would love to hear your solution.