Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Seeking the perfect camera bag for a Fuji X-T1, X-Pro1, X-E2 mirrorless system

Let me confess to something right up front: I own way too many camera bags, many more than any normal photographer should ever have, but all of them were originally chosen to accommodate a DSLR system. Now that I am using the Fuji X cameras more for travel photography, and my assortment of lenses keeps growing I wanted to find a bag more specifically tailored to the smaller, mirrorless camera equipment size.

This is the small size of the Timbuk2 Informant Camera bag. It is wide enough to accommodate four spaces for lens dividers, but because it is only 8" tall it feels smaller that it is, and is a perfect size for mirrorless APS-C  lenses.  
I was looking for something I could wear comfortably all day long without fatiguing. I also wanted it to be a bag that could adapt easily to varying assortments of equipment because sometimes I go out with only one body and a spare lens or two, and other times I have a spare body and a lot of lenses.  In other words, I was really looking for a bag you could randomly throw gear into and it will fit comfortably.

Interior view of the Timbuk2 Informat bag. The four compartments are a real plus for accommodating extra lenses, or the camera on its side with a long lens attached. Plus, there is plenty of space for incidentals -- all in a very compact and extremely comfortable package.  I would have preferred something other that the jarring blue interior color.
I wanted it to be light-weight, messenger-style so it would fit close to the body and be able to swing around from front to back easily. It had to have room for 3-6 lenses, a camera body, spare batteries, cards, maps, snack bars, etc., etc.  I also like to carry along a bottle of water. So it would be nice if the bag could accommodate that, too.  I wanted it to be a top loader because it is much easier for accessing equipment quickly. A flap is nice, especially if it doesn't need to be latched -- makes it easy to get in the bag with one hand while the other is holding the camera in ready position.

This is the bag I actually set out to find. It is extremely light weight -- and I mean "extremely". Yet it accommodates a lot of gear. I could easily house a DSLR system (another plus), but is great for a mirrorless system because you can stack the smaller lenses. It accomplishes this because it is spacious inside but still lighter than any other bag I tried. On top of all that, it only costs $29.35. It you are looking for a bag to grab spur of the moment , toss in some gear (any gear), and go out without feeling the least bit encumbered, this is it -- the Jill-E Messenger Style Carry-All camera bag, where "Carry-All" says it all. Another nice feature of the Jill-E bag is that the flap top unzips and can be removed. This makes if very convenient to put into the bottom of a backpack thereby converting the backpack to a camera pack. 
You can fill the Jill-E bag with any kind of system. In the photo above I have lenses stacked one on top of the other. I have the Fuji long 55-200mm zoom in there with its shade extended, lots of incidentals, yet still an extremely light package -- and it cost $29.35. Put two lenses in it and it won't feel under-packed. Put six lenses in it and it won't be over-stuffed. It molds itself to suit the contents. The bag does not have that over-stuffed secure feeling that your gear is protected from the elements. But that is what gives it a feeling that is light and airy. I wouldn't keep my gear in it if I were hikng in the Rockies, but for walking around a city it's perfect. 

The Jill-E bag looks larger than it feels when you are wearing it. In fact it could accommodate a a full frame DSLR, but its not out of place with a smaller APS-C system, and the side benefit is that it will hold a lot of APS-C gear in its weather resistant enclosure. The large front flap is protective without needing a clasp, something very handy for one-handed operation. And let me repeat: This bag is selling for $29.35. At that price you could buy it to keep around for random trekking and still buy another tougher bag for more tailored trips, which is exactly what I did. 

The bags below are listed randomly, not in order of my favorites -- not sure I even have a favorite.I like them all. Each bag serves a slightly different purpose.

The Billingham bags look great, and will look even better after a few years of wear. This model is listed as a shoulder bag, but I would not use it that way. I guarantee you that it will slide off your shoulder very easily. I like this particular model because it works well wearing it messenger style. It is stylish so you can wear it without being embarrassed at any fine social gathering. It has a universal traveler mystique to it so you're bound to look as if  your are related to Hemingway while wearing it, particularly it you've worn it in a bit. Most importantly, it accommodates a good amount of mirrorless gear in protected surroundings and still has plenty of pockets left over for incidentals and accessories. It's the type of bag you could dedicate permanently to your X-system. In addition to kakhi with tan trim, the bag also comes in sage and two versions of black: black with tan trim, and black with black trim.
Exterior Dimensions: 11 x 4 5/8 x 8 1/8"(27.9 x 11.8 x 20.6cm)(LxWxH)

Lowepro StreamLine 150 Shoulder Bag in slate gray $35.21
This is a small, no-nonsense solution to a camera with a few lenses. It has a rugged look, and is in fact rugged, with roomy pouches for spare gear. It opens conveniently from the top and is comfortable to wear messenger-style. I've always been a fan of Lowepro bags and own more of them than any sensible person should.
Exterior Dimensions: 9.1 x 2.2 x 7.5" ( 23.0 x 5.5 x 19.0 cm) (LxWxH)

As the price indicates, this is a "designer-type" bag. If it weren't also a good bag for the purposes of my search, I wouldn't include it. Niceties include the handle as an alternate way of picking it up, four spacious interior compartments. and an exceptionally pleasing finish of water resistant waxed canvas. It is also deep enough to fit a long zoom with the shade on.
Exterior Dimensions: 13.5 x 5.0 x 10.5" (34.3 x 12.7 x 26.7 cm) (LxWxH)

Think Tank makes stylish but extremely practical gear. This bag is a perfect example. It has a lot of malleable space, yet is still thin and body-hugging. The front flap is protective while allowing convenient access to the interior. The compartments are smartly laid out to accept a lot of diverse gear.  The velcro-type closure has a special Sound Silencer system to keep it quiet when opening the bag. This bag also comes in black.
Exterior Dimensions: 10.0 x 6.0 x 8.5" (25.4 x 15.2 x 21.6 cm) (LxWxH)

I found this bag to be both extremely practical and comfortable for a smaller APS-C camera system like the Fuji X series. It is very wide and divided into four compartments, yet it is only 8" tall, which is a perfect size for typical APS-C lens heights, and keeps the bag from being bulky, although it space to accommodate a MacBook Air or iPad. The layout is practical, and it has a pouch in the back that stores a rain-proof covering. It is also one of the most comfortable of all the bags to wear for an extended period of time. This bag also comes in black/gunmetal.
Exterior Dimensions: 15" x 3.5" x  8" (38 x 9 x 20cm)  (LxWxH)

At 1.15lb (521g) this is the lightest bag I tested. It  is made from weather-resistant polyester nylon with padded interior walls. It is spacious enough to handle a DSLR with a lens or two, but works even better with a Fuji X camera system where the added height allows lenses to be stacked and the long zoom to fit with its lens shade extended, a very handy while shooting. The front pocket is zippered and has dividers for smaller accessories. There is also a large flap pocket in the rear. I like having this bag around as a spur-of-the-moment option when I just want to toss in a few camera items to go out and test. It can hold a little or hold a lot and is comfortable to wear either way.
Exterior Dimensions: 13.5 x 5.0 x 9.0" (34.29 x 12.7 x 22.86cm) (LxWxH)

There are numerous other fine bags out there. I selected each of these for specific characteristics that make them especially convenient to use, and adaptable to Fuji X series cameras. Each time I go out with a Fuji camera it is with a different purpose in mind, and my equipment needs vary accordingly. I need a bag that can adapt to the changing circumstances. This selection was done with that criteria in mind. 

If you are planning on purchasing any of these bags, you can help support this site at no extra cost to you by purchasing from one from our affiliate sellers listed below -- and thanks for your support.

The Timbuk2 Informant Camera Sling can be ordered from:  BH-Photo  Amazon
The ONA Brixton Camera/Laptop Messenger Bag can be ordered from:  BH-Photo  Amazon  
The Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 Shoulder Bag can be ordered from:  BH-Photo   Amazon
The Lowepro StreamLine 150 Shoulder Bag can be ordered from:  BH-Photo   Amazon
ThBillingham Hadley Shoulder Bag can be ordered from:  BH-Photo   Amazon
ThJill-E Designs Messenger Style Carry-all Bag can be ordered from:  BH-Photo   Amazon


  1. Thanks for the review Tom. Is the inside of your red/black exterior Timbuk2 blue? I thought the inside was grey, and it was the black/grey exterior version that had the blue interior.

  2. The red/black interior is indeed blue.

  3. I have one of the larger Lowe Pro Streamline bags (250?) for my X100s. It's plenty big for the camera, but for walking around with a bottle of water, a shirt or cap to deal with different weather, and a couple of other things, it's a great size. It's very light weight, and the gusset allows it to expand if needed. It seems very well made, and is not nearly as stiff as some other Lowe Pro's have I had in the past, it's very comfy to wear when walking around all day.

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  5. Nice camera bags,i like it,best for carry a multiple camera in a single bag..

  6. I, thanks for the usefull yet concise reviews !

    regarding the Brixton, is it big enough for the 50-140 and X-T1 with battery grip ? Would you rather recommend going for the Union Street ? I would love to buy the Prince Street but I'm afraid it will not fit X-T1, VG-XT1, 35mm, 10-24mm & 50-140mm... And of course where I live there is no way to buy it and return it or even exchange it if I don't like it...

  7. Just picked the Timbuk2 Informant Camera Sling (Medium) in Black and I couldn't be happier, I'm now a convert of the Timbuk2 brand. I couldn't believe my luck when I found one on Ebay mint condition but the buyer had misnamed and after looking at tons of images I knew it was the Informant and not what they labeled it. I've had them all Billingham, Thinktank, Domke, etc and to me personally, for a small kit like the one you suggest this bag is the best. I'm using an XT1, XF 18-55, XF 35mm F2, grip, the metal grip too, Nissin i40, Giottos Rocket Air, Manfrotto Pixi, and this all fits perfectly. I especially love the strap and how easily it adjusts.

    Following that purchase, I decided to order the Timbuk2 Sneak Case but with an additional strap that Timbuk2 sells on their site that matches the Informant's. I didn't want to give up that functionality for $10. With the Sneak case, you can carry an XT1 and a lens a couple batteries and cards when you for example, just want to go for a simple photo walk with the wife without looking like your not really paying attention to her on the walk if you had the Informant or a bigger bag.

    With that said, Tom, thank you sharing this post, I've lost hundreds of dollars in bags and I wish I would've read this earlier. Cheers.

    Ledesma Photography

  8. Hi Tom, thanks for the very informative blog post. I too am a bit of a bag-aholic and currently own the Billingham Hadley Pro. I believe the photo of the Hadley Small is not correct. It actually shows the "Pro" model (larger and more expensive.) The handle on the bag is only on the "Pro" model. Thanks again for the great article!
    Leigh Spigelman