My Search for the Perfect Photography Bag | Part II

This is a continuation of my series on the search for the perfect everyday camera bag, part 1

Peak Design's Everyday Messenger Bag - The flap is tilted because of a tall water bottle in the bag.

Peak Design's Everyday Messenger Bag - The flap is tilted because of a tall water bottle in the bag.

Just looking at it, I didn't know how to open the bag.

I pulled on the open tab and I still couldn't open the bag.

Right away I had a problem: opening the package was quite a challenge. I hope I’m not the only one who had difficulty opening it up. It took me about 5 minutes to cut the tabs off to get in the packaging.

Inside was the glorious Everyday Messenger Bag and Field Pouch.  

But it wasn’t love at first sight. I immediately had buyer’s remorse when I realized that there wasn’t enough room for my notebook or my favorite G-2 pens. Even though I had carefully checked the bag’s measurements, they wouldn’t fit. Most bags I’ve owned have a separate slot for notebooks. Since I often carry notebooks, I’m not able to use the dividers. This is something I should’ve thought of before I bought the bag, but I completely overlooked it.

The main thing my daily bag needs to do it keep keep my camera safely protected in my daily work bag without making me look like an Asian Tourist. This sounds quite easy, but when you have OCD like I do, this can be a big challenge because I have many other demands as well. I want my stuff to be protected, easily accessible and organized, so I’m hard to please.

There are a few things I didn’t like that caused me to have buyer's remorse. When I first got the bag, I had a problem. There was room for my 15” MacBook & charger, Kindle/iPad, Fuji X100s camera & lens adapters, and the hard drives.  However, there was no room to put everyday stuff like pens or my Moleskin notebooks. So when I repacked everything from my backpack into the new bag, my notebook and pen had to be left behind. I wanted a small bag, but it was too small.

That extra space was something I overlooked when I was searching for the bag, even after hours of research. However, there is a work-around. By taking out one of the dividers, I could just fit everything in. This wasn’t a deal killer, it was just annoying to me personally. Currently, I am using 2 dividers on each side of the bag instead of 3.

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SD Card, mint, and batteries

SD Card, mint, and batteries

Peak Design Logo

The shoulder strap was also a bit awkward, but it looks cool. It’s a hyper-adjusting padded seatbelt strap. There weren’t specific instructions on adjusting the strap, so I did what I could to make it comfortable as possible. However, a few weeks later, Peak Design released a video on how to adjust the strap, and it made a huge difference. Ever since I was able to adjust it, I love the strap. I have to say, hands down, this is one of the best designed straps out there because it can adjust from being a short messenger-style to a full shoulder-length bag.

The bag can get heavy fully loaded with gear and my 15 inch laptop.  But it feels quite comfortable with the strap. You can also use the stabilizer strap to support the weight and the movement of the bag. I personally don’t use it, but I’m sure it’ll be useful for someone.

In the Field Pouch, which goes inside the Messenger Bag, I usually keep 1 or 2 external hard drives and the charger for my MacBook.

Inside of the Field Pouch, Apple MagSafe Charger, Apple Magic Mouse, 2 external hard drives, and cables.

Inside of the Field Pouch, Apple MagSafe Charger, Apple Magic Mouse, 2 external hard drives, and cables.

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To me, this bag is a little wider than how I would like it when it’s full. Because the bag material is thick and sturdy to protect the camera, it is thicker than most messenger bags, including non-camera bags. When it’s loaded up, it looks bloated.

But to my surprise, gradually I grew to love the bag more and more each day as I learned more about it. When Peak Design eventually released videos explaining the details of the bag, I finally discovered how the bag was meant to be used. Those videos kept me from reselling the bag. I finally understand how carefully the Peak Design team thought through the bag.

Green for fully charged batteries and Red for used batteries

Green for fully charged batteries and Red for used batteries

Every little detail left me feeling good about using the bag. For example, there are small pockets for batteries in the front pocket. 2 of the pockets are stitched with green, and 2 are red. The purpose of that was to organize fresh and used batteries in different pockets. The dividers are also very useful, even though I can only use 2, and I change them constantly to fit my needs. They fold so many ways. I’m able to adjust them to protect my camera based on the size of the camera and lens.

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Origami-inspired FlexFold™ - folded in half to fit my Fuji X100s

Origami-inspired FlexFold™ - folded in half to fit my Fuji X100s

My typical setup for everyday use.  Fujifilm X100s camera, Moleskine notebook with Pilot G-2 pen attached, Field Pouch, Shure E535 Earphones and Hydroflask water bottle.  Not in the picture, Apple Macbook Pro 15" and Amazon Kindle Paperwhite in the back.

My typical setup for everyday use.  Fujifilm X100s camera, Moleskine notebook with Pilot G-2 pen attached, Field Pouch, Shure E535 Earphones and Hydroflask water bottle.  Not in the picture, Apple Macbook Pro 15" and Amazon Kindle Paperwhite in the back.

My favorite part of the bag is the 2 ways to get in the bag. First is the typical messenger bag way of opening the flap. But I can also access the bag through the zipper at the top. It makes my life so much easier when I want to grab something quickly. 

Easy access to get the camera out without having to open the front flap.

Easy access to get the camera out without having to open the front flap.

This is how I store documents and paper now.  I have to be extra careful when I am storing a laptop in the pocket, not to crush the paper.

This is how I store documents and paper now.  I have to be extra careful when I am storing a laptop in the pocket, not to crush the paper.

In addition, the bag is waterproof. It’s wonderful that all of my gear is protected. I got caught in the rain with this bag, and everything was completely dry. The bag has already been the victim of heavy use from tossing it in the back seat of my car, where it has fallen to the floor multiple times.  Also, I have dropped it by accident and nothing was broken or damaged.

The field pouch is another awesome thing. It typically hold all my small junk, like my hard drives, the charger for my macbook, cables for my drives and other electronics, and my phone charger.  Since these are small items, that crap usually got lost in the corners of my backpack. I wanted to have it one place and get it in and out.  This bag does it for me. I take this bag out when I get to the studio and it holds everything in one place. This can also turn into a small bag. However, I am bit afraid to do this right now. If I use this as a small bag, it’ll definitely look like a cute purse on me.

The Field Pouch fully loaded.  The size is fully adjustable.

The Field Pouch fully loaded.  The size is fully adjustable.

Has this replaced my other camera bags? The short answer is no. I still own several camera bags and cases. And I don't think it was originally designed to replace it. I mainly use this bag as a work bag, like going home to studio or meetings, and as a second bag during my photoshoots. It's perfect for that purpose. Not everything will fit and I would have to stack the gear on top of each other. I like my gear to be laid out flat.

But on a shoot day, the Everyday Messenger bag is very useful. I loaded this bag as my 'if my car was on fire, grab this bag'. I have my Macbook, Fujifilm X100s camera (as a backup body), the TCL-X100 Lens adapter (I am a portrait shooter, so this lens can be handy), and Hydro Flask bottle. The reason for this is to protect my laptop, since I never feel safe putting it any other bag. So in case of emergency, I can continue to shoot with this bag, even if my main camera bag went missing.

Most of the days, I just enjoy having a camera with me. I love my Fuji X100S (no I won’t update to the X-100T, no need to, unless Fuji wants to send me one). Because I was forced to downsize my everyday stuff, it has been really good and I feel so much lighter.

If I had one wish as a photographer, it would be to downsize all my gear into this bag. That would mean a camera body, maybe 2 lenses, a flash, MagMod, and triggers for my flash. But my insecurities of people judging me for lack of gear and not having all the fancy gear keeps me far away from that every day.  

To sum it up, this bag has been great in every way. It looks good (don’t mind all the compliments from you), and it serves my purpose well. It's just a fantastic bag. I can’t wait to take this on a trip. It would have been perfect to have on my last Colorado trip.

Things I haven’t been able to do but would like to do:

  • Mount a tripod to this bag - my current tripod is enormous compared to this bag. I may need to purchase a smaller tripod.
  • Buy a strap for the field pouch that holds my camera. I haven’t had the time to purchase and test that straps yet.
  • Travel. I haven’t travelled with it yet, so I’m not sure how it holds up during a long trip.

Now to the fun part.  Here are a few different ways I use this bag: 

This is my photo shoot day bag 'if my car was on fire, grab this bag' - Hydro Flask water bottle, Moleskine Notebook, Pilot G-2 Pen, Shure SE535 Earphones, Apple iPad Air, UE Bluetooth Speaker, Fujifilm X100s, Fujifilm TCL-X100 Conversion Lens, Apple Lighting to USB Cable, Cable for the Raid thunderbolt drive, OWC Raid 0 Drive, Portable battery, Apple Macbook 15" & Charger.

This is my photo shoot day bag 'if my car was on fire, grab this bag' - Hydro Flask water bottle, Moleskine Notebook, Pilot G-2 Pen, Shure SE535 Earphones, Apple iPad Air, UE Bluetooth Speaker, Fujifilm X100s, Fujifilm TCL-X100 Conversion Lens, Apple Lighting to USB Cable, Cable for the Raid thunderbolt drive, OWC Raid 0 Drive, Portable battery, Apple Macbook 15" & Charger.

This is my everyday setup (light version) 'Gotta get business stuff done bag' - Amazon Kindle Paperwhite,  Fujifilm X100s camera,  Shure E535 Earphones, Hydro Flask water bottle, Moleskine notebook with Pilot G-2 Pen, Apple Magic Mouse, Apple MagSafe Charger, and Apple Macbook Pro 15"

This is my everyday setup (light version) 'Gotta get business stuff done bag' - Amazon Kindle Paperwhite,  Fujifilm X100s camera,  Shure E535 Earphones, Hydro Flask water bottle, Moleskine notebook with Pilot G-2 Pen, Apple Magic Mouse, Apple MagSafe Charger, and Apple Macbook Pro 15"

This is my other everyday setup (heavy version) 'Gotta get creative bag' - Fujifilm X100s camera, Apple iPad Air, Apple Lighting to SD Card Adapter, Shure E535 Earphones, Moleskine notebook with Pilot G-2 Pen, Fujifilm Instax Printer SP-1, Apple Magic Mouse, Apple MagSafe Charger, and Apple Macbook Pro 15"

This is my other everyday setup (heavy version) 'Gotta get creative bag' - Fujifilm X100s camera, Apple iPad Air, Apple Lighting to SD Card Adapter, Shure E535 Earphones, Moleskine notebook with Pilot G-2 Pen, Fujifilm Instax Printer SP-1, Apple Magic Mouse, Apple MagSafe Charger, and Apple Macbook Pro 15"

This is my travel setup 'Lets go somewhere bag' - Think Tank Photo Battery Holder, 4x Fujifilm NP-95 Batteries, Think Tank Photo SD Pixel Pocket Rocket, SD Cards, Moleskine notebook with Pilot G-2 Pen, Fujifilm X100s camera, Fujifilm WCL-X100 & TCL-X100 Conversion Lenses, Apple iPad Air, Apple Lighting to SD Card Adapter, Fujifilm Instax Printer SP-1, Portable charger, Apple Lighting to USB Cable, Apple MagSafe Charger, and Apple Macbook Pro 15"

This is my travel setup 'Lets go somewhere bag' - Think Tank Photo Battery Holder, 4x Fujifilm NP-95 Batteries, Think Tank Photo SD Pixel Pocket Rocket, SD Cards, Moleskine notebook with Pilot G-2 Pen, Fujifilm X100s camera, Fujifilm WCL-X100 & TCL-X100 Conversion Lenses, Apple iPad Air, Apple Lighting to SD Card Adapter, Fujifilm Instax Printer SP-1, Portable charger, Apple Lighting to USB Cable, Apple MagSafe Charger, and Apple Macbook Pro 15"

Quick shoot setup "I don't have an assistant and need a quick shoot bag" - This loads up the bag very tightly. Think Tank Photo SD Pixel Pocket Rocket, SD Cards, Fujifilm X-T1 Camera, Fujifilm NP-W126 Batteries, Fujifilm 56mm, 35mm, & 23mm Lenses, 2x PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver, Sync cord, MagMod Gel Kit, MagMod Basic Kit (Grid, Gel Slot, & MagGrip), Lumopro LP-180 Flash, UE Bluetooth Speaker, USB Tethering Cable, and Apple Macbook Pro 15"

Quick shoot setup "I don't have an assistant and need a quick shoot bag" - This loads up the bag very tightly. Think Tank Photo SD Pixel Pocket Rocket, SD Cards, Fujifilm X-T1 Camera, Fujifilm NP-W126 Batteries, Fujifilm 56mm, 35mm, & 23mm Lenses, 2x PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver, Sync cord, MagMod Gel Kit, MagMod Basic Kit (Grid, Gel Slot, & MagGrip), Lumopro LP-180 Flash, UE Bluetooth Speaker, USB Tethering Cable, and Apple Macbook Pro 15"

Ultimate setup "I wish I can shoot with only this bag" - My wishful thoughts of one day, going to a job only with this kit. UE Bluetooth Speaker, Think Tank Photo Battery Holder, 4x Fujifilm NP-95 Batteries, Think Tank Photo SD Pixel Pocket Rocket, SD Cards, Fujifilm X100s Camera, Fujifilm WCL-X100 & TCL-X100 Conversion Lenses, Apple iPad Air, Apple Lighting to SD Card Adapter, 2x PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver, Sync cord, MagMod Gel Kit, MagMod Basic Kit (Grid, Gel Slot, & MagGrip), Lumopro LP-180 Flash, and Apple iPad Air, and  Apple Lighting to USB Cable

Ultimate setup "I wish I can shoot with only this bag" - My wishful thoughts of one day, going to a job only with this kit. UE Bluetooth Speaker, Think Tank Photo Battery Holder, 4x Fujifilm NP-95 Batteries, Think Tank Photo SD Pixel Pocket Rocket, SD Cards, Fujifilm X100s Camera, Fujifilm WCL-X100 & TCL-X100 Conversion Lenses, Apple iPad Air, Apple Lighting to SD Card Adapter, 2x PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver, Sync cord, MagMod Gel Kit, MagMod Basic Kit (Grid, Gel Slot, & MagGrip), Lumopro LP-180 Flash, and Apple iPad Air, and  Apple Lighting to USB Cable

I’ve used this bag every day since I got it. There’s more to love then not. It’s been on set with me on shoots, at church, meetings, and at work. In every situation the bag was just fantastic, and it gets lot of attention from others. Funny note: this is the first bag my mom actually loves. She has never complimented me on any of my bags, but when we met for the holidays, she repeated talked about how good the bag looked. So in summary, this is a mom-approved bag.

Is it a perfect bag? No. But it’s close, and it will be with me for a while. This should be the last bag I buy for awhile. Should you buy it? If you have a similar needs as me, then yes. But if you are just looking for a new gadget, I would say no. This bag serves a specific purpose, but it may leave you unsatisfied because it’s smaller than many other bags.  

Here are the videos from Peak Design and designer Art Viger that I watched after I bought the bag:

  1. Tips, Features & Functions
  2. Strap Adjustment & Instructions
  3. The Field Pouch: Tips, Features & Functions

These bags are loaded to the gills with features, and watching these videos will make sure you're an expert in every last one of them.