Ok, I said it. The truth hurts.
Let’s begin with the classic “buttplug” slings. You know what I’m talking about: foam shell shaped like a buttplug with camera gear in the bottom, general storage on top, narrow, with a zipper door that goes all the way around the side to act as a “quick access” door. LowePro, Tamrac, AmazonBasics and every white label Chinese brand makes one of these turds. They’re too small to hold a pro-level body and lens or a 13″ laptop. They only hold a Sony alpha, 2 lenses and a 10″ iPad. Worthless for anyone who uses a larger bodied camera or wants to do some production work on the road. As for video production, forget it.
Then there’s the “clownshoes.” ThinkTank and Mind Shift love these jokes. They’re shaped like a teardrop because they’ll make you cry while trying to fit what’s advertised. Limited padding ensures everything gets equally damaged and the odd shape ensures any 13″ laptop from Apple will fit. Got a Dell? Too bad. The weight distribution also makes it uncomfortable to wear and awkward to use as advertised.
Finally, we have the oversized “pecker packs,” aka fanny packs. They’re currently all the rage with hipsters who think they’re wearing them “ironically” across their chests… sigh. Peak Design, Moment and Chrome Industries all have their own take, varying between 5 and 10 liters in volume and all with critical flaws. Let me address each one separately…
First, the Peak Design 10L just sucks to get in and out of; it’s so bad, there’s provisions to install their Capture Clip to the sides of the bag as if they know it sucks and you’ll prefer to just hang your camera off the side of the bag. The external pocket that’s uselessly flat and obviously designed by a stick figure unaware of a third dimension. You strap your tripod to the bottom so you can rest everything in the bag on top of it. The only redeeming quality is that it holds really thin 13″ laptops.
Second, Moment’s bag has all the wrong dimensions to ensure the 10 liter version holds no more than their 6 liter version.
Finally, Chrome decided Sony is the only SLR maker, creating a bag that only fits Sonys or point and shoots. They took their excellent Niko Sling and decided customers wanted less space and to leave their tablets at home, so they shrunk it to 5 liters and sized it to fit large smartphones.
I’ve loved sling style bags, for all purposes, for a few decades now. The ability to swing it out of the way on a motorcycle or swing it in front of me when getting onto a crowded train is pure convenience. Being able to leave it on while accessing the contents is another factor. You’re also expected to wear it crossbody unlike a messenger bag. The problem is camera accessory makers tend to view sling bags as afterthoughts, designing something with all the passion of a potato. They neglect obvious needs in hopes of creating something nobody will buy so they can stop offering them, despite all of their utility, convenience and security if done properly.
As I’ve had many years to consider what makes a bad sling bag, I’ve been able to design a great sling bag for both photo and video producers. Let me begin…
12 to 15 liter total volume. Dimensions must accommodate professionally oriented camera bodies. I’m not referring to gripped systems like the Canon 1DX or Nikon D6; as those are oriented toward sports and action photographers utilizing large, telephoto lenses, a sling bag for them would be designed to carry just their accessories while cameras and lenses go into a large roller or backpack. I’m talking about cameras like the Nikon D850 or Z7, Canon 5D Mark IV or EOS R5, Fujifilm GFX 50S or 50R, Panasonic Lumix S1 or S1R and the like… large DSLRs and mirrorless bodies. Therefore, the bag’s internal depth should be no less than 7 inches, allowing users to place their camera body in whichever orientation they desire, be it right side up, inverted, laid on its side, grip outward, facing downward or even body only (lens removed). Removing a 24-70mm lens just to fit in the bag should not be required, like so many sling bags currently do.
Carry at least 2 lenses with configurable internal dividers and able to do a lens swap with no more than 2 hands. Simple enough.
Must fit a 13″ laptop or tablet, in its own protected space, via a sleeve between your spine and the camera gear. It must be accessible without opening the main compartment.
Provisions to carry a travel tripod, externally, on the front of the bag. Straps may be removable but shouldn’t look out of place when left on and without a tripod. My design integrates tripod attachment via a top flap and 2 buckles on the front of the bag to secure the flap, extending to pull double duty.
A single zip, U-shaped secondary flap that seals the main compartment.
Accessory pockets installed in the outer flap and inside the main compartment’s zipped door. No accessory pockets on the face of the bag.
Wide, cushioned strap with a proper curve for comfort and zipped, expandable pouch to hold small items like a hex wrench, spare battery and memory cards. Strap must be ambidextrous… top end of strap is secured with a double-ended zipper and Velcro security flap, bottom end is secured with magnetic Fidlock clasp, and provisions for a stability strap. To swap handedness, disconnect bottom of strap and attach to opposite corner of bag then unzip, flip and rezip top of strap.
Strap must have a clasp at mid-chest for easy on-off of the bag and adjustment buckle at the shoulder. Buckle placement ensures ease of strap loosening to rotate bag from back to front and back, while in a place that’s easy to tighten when sling bag is on your back… pulling a buckle downward from your opposite shoulder helps pull the load toward your back and higher, a more comfortable placement for carry and more natural and efficient motion.
The design is based around the idea of giving 95% of users at least 95% of their ability to both create and produce content. It means a bag designed to carry what 95% of people actually own. The only compromise is not being able to serve the last 5% of creatives or 5% of production needs… no bag should require users to compromise the way they create. It’ll carry what you need to create content away from home, in the way you choose, staying out of your way as much as possible.
If you’re a bag or sporting goods manufacturer in the Seattle area, or you have a relationship with one, I’d love to collaborate with you to make this bag a reality. Whether you want to buy the design outright or truly collaborate on it, I’m ready to fund the creation of prototypes. Photographers and videographers deserve a sling bag that’s truly designed around how they work, commute and create, one that adapts to them and gets out of their way.