I don’t usually do reviews on accessory products like camera cases or bags, but as a long-time photographer and small gear geek, I’ve gone through hundreds of different configurations and designs over the years and even modified my own bags to best suit my needs, as most “portable” bags either feel like a woman’s overstuffed purse if you’re carying enough gear for a casual day trip, or it’s like dragging luggage with you on the bus. That’s why I was intrigued by Tiffen’s new line of DOMKE Next Generation camera bags. A wide variety of manageble portable and confiurable gear bags that will meet just about everyone’s need, whether it’s just to carry a single DSLR or a larger video camera or a couple of cameras and lenses.
I remember the bit of excitement I used to get in my earlier years, walking into the camera store with no intent to buy anything, but just to “look around” and then end up spending an hour in the camera bag section trying to think of a better way to transport and store my gear. I’d end up buying someing and might be happy for awhile – often thinking I made a good choice, but often times I’d end up with a large porter case (which is great for a lot of gear and a lot of travel) or a substandard padded canvas bag that was always more like a lunchbox or cooler than it was a low-profile shoulder bag. My garage and closets are still full of these things today, even after getting rid of the totally unused items.
Today, since I have such a variety of cameras, lenses and gear which range from photo to video to combinations of everything, I have a hard time justifying dragging along a hard shell case when all I need is a DSLR and a couple lenses to take with me on a day trip across the city. I usually end up just tossing my stuff in my backpack and hope it doesn’t get too beat up, but then it’s really heavy with my laptop and everything else all in one bulky bag. The smaller bags are either flatter and “purse-sized” which are great if all you have is a small point and shoot and your iPad, but a bigger DSLR and one lens is often too much for them.
This is why I jumped at the chance to test one of the new DOMKE Next Generation camera and gear bags from Tiffen when they asked if I was interested in reviewing one. And here’s what I’ve found…
DOMKE Next Generation Journalist Series
I selected the Ledger Ruggedwear Military style bag ($319 MSRP) in their Journalist Series to test. The dimensions and configurability all looked good for my use and it had a reasonable profile for actually carrying it on public transportation or hiking to a location for a day shoot with minimal gear.
I was quite please at the construction and design of the bag upon shipment. It’s really designed to be used – A LOT! It even comes with a protective paste for inclement weather. It has several velcro dividers as most bags do these days, but they also offer other pop-in accessories if you wish for SF cards, filters and other smaller items you don’t want rattling around down in a pocket or pouch.
- Khaki Color with Black webbing
- Top access with double zipper
- Rear slide pocket
- Expandable zippered side pocket
- Key-ring strap
- Secure luggage strap
- Custom antique steel hardware
- Numbered identity plate
- Side rain hoods
- Padded zippered tablet sleeve fits up to 11×8″
- “Quiet” system hook and loop silencer
- Expandable front pockets
- Detachable Gripper shoulder & Grab strap
- Domke flap tucks in for anonymity
- All zippers YKK®
- Comes with 2 dividers – Additional divider inserts (D2 and D7) available in GearProtex Accessories
- Domke GearProtex Insert System – a revolutionary, customizable insert system that allows you to compartmentalize and organize your contents to create any size or shape using bendable, self-adhering separators.
- Domke PocketFlex Pocket and Pouch System – an ingenious system of movable, pockets, patches and pouches. These innovative storage components adhere to all interior surfaces, personalizing your storage.
The pockets on the ends of the bag have velcro flaps and are heavy duty – they stay put and don’t flip open even in heavy handling like most other bags I’ve used in the past, and the compartments have expandable zippers so you can stuff more gear in there if you need to “scale up” for the trip.
For the past couple months of really using this bag, I typically keep it as my drag-around kit, which includes the versatile Canon 60D DSLR that I can shoot photos or video with wherever I go, keeping the kit lens (18-135mm) attached to the body and it has a battery grip as well, so it’s a big footprint overall.
I also almost always carry some basics like extra quick release plates for various tripods, two spare batteries and a charger, some filters and misc.
Depending on the type of shooting I’ll be doing, I can also take another lens or two, or several GoPros/mounts, card readers, etc. I’ve also been doubling up with my Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera with a 17mm lens along with the sizable Rokinon 1.5/35 cine prime lens with the EF/M43 adapter attached.
This still allows me to slip in a small 7″ LED field monitor and an A-arm and a couple attachments/batteries, or small mics and USB audio adapters.
Oh – and the iPad Mini and Nexus 7 tablets fit perfectly in the front padded/zippered compartment so I don’t need a separate case/bag if I don’t want to carry more stuff around.
But one of the coolest features I like the most is the top quick access zipper that opens a slot across the top of the bag flap so I can quickly grab my camera out for an impromptu shot without having to unfasten the flap hardware while wearing it with the shoulder strap.
A bag like this could get a lot of years of hard use and keep delivering… plus its adjustable as technology changes – as do the requirements to carry a variety of cameras, lenses and support gear.
Visit Tiffen’s website to learn more about the DOMKE Next Generation bags, the Journalist Series and the Ledger Ruggedwear bags.
Jeff Foster is a published author of several how-to books and training videos in the motion graphics, animation and video production industries and is an award-winning video producer and artist. Visit his web site to learn more about his training methods, tips & tricks at PixelPainter.com
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