Thursday, June 7, 2012

Saddlebags as Camera Bags?

Zimbale Camera Insert in a Carradice Barley
For the past two years, I have been using either my Carradice Barley or Zimbale 7L saddlebags, with the padded Zimbale insert shown here, as camera bags. This setup is convenient, secure and fits up to three full sized (SLR or medium format) cameras. The side pockets are great for storing film, a flash unit or other accessories.

But I am also ever on the lookout for a much smaller bag that will accommodate a single camera equally well without the extra bulk. The ideal bag for this would be just large enough to swallow a DSLR with a zoom lens attached, but no larger - so that it's tucked in behind the saddle without the sides sticking out. It would be fantastic if the bag had a padded insert, but not a dealbreaker if it does not; I can make my own. Finally, I would like for the bag to have the look and feel of a classic saddlebag: earth-tone canvas, that sort of thing.

VO Croissant Bag
A bag such at the Velo Orange Croissant, or the Berthoud it is based on, would be perfect for the job if just a tad larger. Unfortunately they do not quite fit my camera comfortably. It looks like the similarly shaped Acorn and Zimbale bags are slightly bigger, but I am not certain they are sufficient either. 

Surly Cross Check, Rockport MA
After seeing the dimensions of the Carradice Zipped Roll, I thought that it would be large enough. But while the bag is large enough in itself, the opening is quite narrow and I cannot get my camera through. The Zipped Roll has now become the Co-Habitant's handlebar bag.

United Pedal Saddlebags, via Bicycle Habitat
This United Pedal saddlebag I spotted at the New Amsterdam bike show had the same issue - the bag itself being the perfect size, but the opening too small to fit a full-sized camera through.

A.T.'s Raleigh DL-1: Brooks B66
It occurs to me that a traditional Roadster saddlebag design could work as well - only made of lighter fabric, so as to make sense on a roadbike. 

In this era of small-scale bicycle bag manufacturers, I think it would be a great idea for someone to design the perfect single-camera saddlebag. So many cyclists are also photographers and would love to carry an SLR on their roadbikes without having to mount an expedition-sized saddlebag every time. 

If you carry a full sized camera in your saddlebag, what is your setup?

55 comments:

  1. Have you considered something like a Billingham Avea Pouch

    http://www.amazon.com/Billingham-Pouch-Black-Canvas-Leather/dp/B0014E5Q46/ref=sr_1_250?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1339093695&sr=1-250

    that could be made functional for bike use by a clever shoe and luggage repair man or other artisanal leather worker who could add the buckles and straps needed to attach it to your saddle?

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    1. It is not as easy as it might seem to adapt a non-bike bag to a bike, especially if you care about weight and aerodynamics. The services of leather/shoe people can also get quite expensive, and in the end it usually makes more sense to order a custom bag.

      But it surprises me that camera bag manufacturers have not tried their hand at bike bags yet. I have mentioned it to Domke and they said they'd consider it, but who knows.

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    2. This is my experience as well, as most of my efforts to "retrofit" cool bags for proper bike use have had suboptimal results. And even having a cobbler stitch a strap for you can become expensive. :(

      I wonder, though, how big a target audience it is that you are aiming to define. I know there's a sizable market for camera bags, but how many photographers carry their expensive gear on bikes? I doubt it's a significant chunk of the general camera bag market segment for bag makers to seriously consider doing all the due diligence and prototypes for the small niche they'd be serving. Just my $0.02.

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    3. I think the market does overlap considerably. When ecovelo was active, B&H (one of the biggest photo equipment suppliers) advertised there. I have seen ads from camera manufacturers and shops on other bike websites as well, though can't remember now which.

      I don't know how into camera bags you are, but I have studied the market a bit and manufacturers like Domke have dozens of models, some of them quite specific in purpose. I don't think it would be a big deal for them at all to add a saddlebag model.

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    4. Agreed. On the plus side, you would have a bag that had all of the proper protective qualities of a camera bag, something that might be missing in a general bike bag. I agree, however, that custom remod jobs can turn out to be not worth it in the end in both aesthetic and functional terms. Wouldn't a DSLR bag already have the requisite aerodynamic shape given the dimensions of a DSLR camera with a telephoto lens? The reason I recommended this route is that it seemed quite harmonious, even if by accident.

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    5. I agree about the camera/bike interface. There may not be many biking photographers but there is a fair number of photographing bikers.

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    6. are you sure the ads didn't pop up on those sites due to Ad Sense?

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    7. Jvera - Yes, it wasn't in the AdSense section.

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  2. Why don't you spec your own bag and have RuthWorks SF make it for you!

    I spec'd this bag:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/6654545325/

    and this one:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/6792856005/in/pool-1738976@N25

    His craftsmanship has improved since then, to the point where I bet he could give any craft bagmaker a run for their money. Not sure if he's still taking custom orders, but I think he probably is.

    There is a flickr group for his bags:
    http://www.flickr.com/groups/1738976@N25/pool/with/6792856005/#photo_6792856005

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  3. Since carrying photo gear on a bike beats the living hell out of it (don't ask me how I know that), I only carry camera bags on my body & not attached to the bike.

    If anyone is into restorations or refinishing and needs something distressed, please let me know and I will put it into one of my saddle or bar bags for a week. It will look as if it's been through the wars.

    (I'm a Domke junkie, but also use Crumpler inserts inside Seagull messenger bags.)

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    1. You carry photo gear in bags with padded inserts and it still gets beat up? Please elaborate, because I find that very surprising. I've ridden off road and over potholes with fairly delicate equipment and never a problem.

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    2. I'd love to hear too. I've ridden thousands of miles with camera gear - and quite nice stuff too - in saddlebags and bar bags and anniers with nary a scratch.

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    3. It's the roads around here. Ever see the TV series, "All Creatures Great and Small"? Many of the roads are still like that.

      I have never ridden a camera into a non-functioning state, but I have taken a relatively new camera and made it look "vintage" in a short while.

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  4. I used to use any old handlebar bag, but I ended up stop taking the dSLR with me and bought a Canon G12 which is just as good as my Rebel (slightly slower but better quality photos) and it will fit in just about any cycling bag even in its leather case!

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  5. I am so glad to hear you use film and would love to see more film photography on Lovely Bicycle

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    1. I used film exclusively until 2009, and ironically this blog is what led me to finally purchase a DSLR and get into product (as opposed to art) photography.

      I do not use film for bike pictures, because frankly I do not consider most of them significant enough to warrant that. I take thousands of image captures a week for this blog; film just isn't the right medium.

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    2. Dottie shoots film for LGRAB :)

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    3. I love Dottie's film photos on Let's Go Ride a Bike and Dream Camera. The rhythm of my blog is different though, as are my photographic interests.

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    4. I can't believe anyone is still using film

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  6. Check out Dill pickle gear.

    http://www.dillpicklegear.com/

    Local to Boston and makes lightweight modern saddle bags. I have a stock model but custom is available.

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    1. Yup. Should be reviewing one later this summer : )

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  7. I find that the Carradice Zip Roll is pretty good as a tool and repair kit bag, but not for carrying anything large.

    Have you considered taking a Lowe SLR bag and getting someone with a commercial sewing machine to add straps and velcro that would mimic a large saddle wedge? I'm currently overseas but back in the US I have a Lowe wedge that fits my Nikon D70 body with an 18-200 zoom, and it seems to me it wouldn't be too hard to adapt it to a saddle bag mount.

    You could also see if my brother-in-law Adam of Zugster Bags would consider making something like that, as a challenge.

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  8. I used to use a Banjo Brothers Saddle Trunk but good-enough cameras have gotten small enough that I don't worry about it. My how we worry and fret on these pages...

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    1. Of course we worry about equipment that some of us use for making a living. If you do not need it, that is another matter.

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    2. Absolutely! I use a Carradice Barley. It suits me to a tee. Room enough for my camera and miniature tripod

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    3. oh, to be fair, half the fun of cycling is the obsessing (worrying and fretting, one might say), and getting things "just so"..

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  9. Ortlieb has a 2.8 liter waterproof(!) saddle bag which fits a SLR with attached lens very well:

    http://www.ortlieb.de/_prod.php?lang=en&produkt=saddlebag

    They offer a very similar model specifically as camera bag (for carrying, not riding):

    http://www.ortlieb.de/_prod.php?lang=en&produkt=aquazoom

    I have the large saddle bag (size L), but have not used it for a camera yet. It comes without padding, which would be easy to add, and fits my D700 with quick release L-plate and a pretty large 70-180mm Micro Nikkor. With padding the room would become pretty tight for that combination, but that is a pretty bulky camera anyways.

    The style certainly is not up to Ely's bags, but material and quality of the Ortlieb bags are great.

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  10. This is where a tradition French rando bike (with large front bag) is handy. You can take a camera (or roast chicken) from the bag while riding. Of course this wouldn't work for most bikes do to geometry, front rack mounts, etc.

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    1. Very true. While I use a Carradice Barley on my winter bike, on my more stylish tourer I have a Berthough 12 litre bag which us wonderful as a camera bag. Love the way. Can just chuck n m gear when I need to mov quickl to chase the light.

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    2. Apologies for the typos. Not easy writing on an iPad screen where I am!

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  11. Do you photograph weddings? My niece is getting married locally and I am helping with the planning. It would be great to have a cycling photographer there. Great website!

    Donna

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    1. I normally do not, unless the wedding is very small. But please get in touch and I can make some recommendations.

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  12. I kind of went the opposite way, using a camera bag to use as a (small) handlebar bag on whatever bike might need it for the moment.

    I picked up one of these for $12 on ebay:

    http://www.sjscycles.co.uk/agu-sport-quorum-525-camera-bag-75ltr-prod633/

    I bought the klikfix for handlebar attachment from Wall Bicycle, but as you know they sell them for mounting off the seat post as well. Not quite as classy and trad as a waxed canvas Carradice, but it doesn't look all that bad. And of course guaranteed to fit a camera.

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  13. Time for a front rack and rando bag. My D90 with a fixed or short zoom fits into the Velo saddle bag pictured, but it moves around too much under the saddle to be comfortable. I can fit two DSLRs and a P&S in my rando bag with easy access and storage. Mostly, I just chuck my Panny Lumix in the bag and go.

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  14. Have you called Emily at Dill Pickle? She's in the Boston area. http://www.dillpicklegear.com/

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    1. Emily here... my "small" model might be the size you're looking for. Drop me a note if you'd like to try it out!

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  15. Thanks for the lightbulb moment of inspiration. It'll take some fabrication, but will be obvious in hindsight.

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  16. Is that a Holga in the top photos? I just received a stereo photo Holga for my birthday last month. Might you have any recommendations for a photo lab, or maybe even a public darkroom to self develop?

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    1. After having tried several photo labs in the Boston area, I only trust Colortek. I use them for colour and we develop B&W on our own.

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  17. So far, it seems like a Carradice Barley is the best bet. It's a good bit bigger than the Acorn, Berthoud or VO under-saddle bags. But that means more room for inserts and padding to protect your camera.

    I've carried SLR cameras and lenses on handlebar bags during multiday tours. That makes the camera handy. However, unless the bag has a rack or support underneath, it won't be quite as steady as a seat bag. I never had problems, but I always kept my fingers crossed!

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  18. Anybody with a sewing machine can fab a bag for anyone. All you need is a cc. Just come up w/the specs, throw an off the shelf insert in, good to go.

    All cam bags have limitations, as does carrying dslr setups on a strap over the shoulder.

    If you want it to have "waxed canvas leather strap" aesthetics do the same.

    Brand names are irrelevant. Cook your own.

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    1. I have a sewing machine and can make my own clothing, but not bags. To me at least it doesn't seem at all easy!

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  19. My Ozette Rando Bag by Swift Industries allows me to carry my camera gear and lots more, and to get to it easily and quickly.

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  20. I have so many camera bags, so many bike bags. I'll never find the right one of either type, finding one to do be a camera bag on a bike, arrgh, migraine :o(

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  21. So glad to see this post and the discussion! I've been poking around to see what's available in a handlebar bag, but my camera is far less sophisticated than yours!

    Thanks so much--

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  22. Heyy Velouria, have you considered the OYB bike bag (repurposed swedish gasmask bag) seems to me it could be worth investigating.

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  23. That's a good idea. Someone should get on that!

    Since I all my bikes have baskets and racks and I always carry more than I need, anyway, my camera is not an issue. Usually (like today) I throw my Nikon FM2 in my canvas bag, which I put in my basket. Seems rough, but that camera is like a brick. If I have another one of my cameras, I put it in a small camera bag with no straps and put that bag in my pannier. I have a Chrome camera bag that I'm reviewing and it works great, but only if I need to carry 3 cameras, which is not often the case, plus I have to wear it on my back.

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  24. The Velo Orange Croissant looks right in a lot of ways, it may not be quite big enough for what you shoot with but the shape looks perfect for a more compact DSLR or m4/3rds camera

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  25. Try Arkell small handlebar bag. I can put a Canon T1I DSLR with zoom lens in it.

    http://www.arkel.ca/ca_e/all-categories/handlebar-bag/small-handlebar-bike-bag.html

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  26. i like panniers, not least because it puts the centre of gravity lower, which makes the ride feel more groovy, for me - i use massive carradice panniers on which the small back pockets are big enough to take my SLR (Canon) and wallet

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  27. I just recently got a Jandd Mountain Wedge III, and there is enough room in it for a full size DSLR, with a decent zoom lens and still room for a few extras

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  28. I use army surplus bags as saddle bags, and I'm hesitant to buy a special bike/camera bag. The item I find indispensable for packing anything valuable is an equipment wrap. Essentially its a square of padded fabric with velcro tabs on the corners. Fold it like an envelope over anything, and you have a custom pouch with generous padding. I have several to enclose a small camera, tools, and I even use one as a pencil case. They solve a lot of problems.

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