Kin Chan on Street Photography bags

When I started out in photography back in 2009 I was into landscape photography and that required a large backpack such as the brilliant Lowepro flipside 400 aw. This bag was perfect to carry a heavy load of my camera, lenses, filter kit, tripod and food/drinks which are key to a good hiking photo walk.

Ever since taking up street photography, I have striped back my kit to usually just my Fuji X100 or Canon 5d3/Sigma 35mm kit, a cleaning cloth and a bottle of water.  Therefore I have needed a camera bag for street work that is smaller, easily accessible, still provides good kit protection and much less conspicuous in the streets.

This is what I found when I looked at the market for a camera bag for street photography.

Traditional bag makers

There are plenty of bags out there that meet the first three requirements but it is the last one that most camera bags fail in a big way. Traditional bag makers (Lowepro, Kata, Manfrotto, Vanguard, Crumpler and Tamrac) keep designing and branding their bags so that it is obvious to the average thief that it is a camera bag and holds expensive kit that is ripe for stealing on the streets. This lack of conspicuousness meant that I discounted these obvious bag makers.

Classic bag makers

The recent push by camera makers to design premium mirrorless cameras based on their respective old film cameras has reignited interest in the more expensive, classic camera bag makers (Billingham, Domke, Think Tank, Ona, Fogg, Artisan & Artist, and Wotancraft). Although these are all lovely looking bags and are designed to be less conspicuous, the cost (at least £150-£200) is quite difficult to justify. If money was not an issue then a combination of BIllingham’s flexible insert system and Think Tank’s simple, hard wearing, discrete design would be my ultimate street photography bag.

DIY street photography bag

If the camera bag makers could not give me the bag I wanted then it was time to start thinking about how to create a bag utilising Billingham’s insert system.  As I liked the messenger style of Think Tank’s retrospective range, I decided that a solid, hard wearing messenger bag would be a good “case” to hold the Billingham insert.  As Timbuk2 messenger bags are well respected for their simple design and rugged build, I chose their Timbuk2 Command messenger bag.  The BIllingham Hadley Large insert fits perfectly into the medium size Timbuk2 bag as shown in the photos below.

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TImbuk2 Command Messenger Bag & Billingham Hadley Large Insert

Clever Design for Street Photographers

I chose the Timbuk2 Command as it includes some features useful for street photographers.  This bag includes the use of a metal hook instead of the traditional plastic clip lock to hold the front flap down. This noiseless solution is great for a street photographer who wants to access their kit without making noise. The discreetness is enhanced by the velcro covers that can be used to stop any noise when you open the front flap. These features are similar to those found in expensive Billingham and Think Tank bags but the difference is that I paid a total of £99 for both items.  I reckon I've saved at least £50 using this combination and my bag is unrecognisable as a camera bag so keeping me and my gear safer on the streets of London.  

Kin Chan