Bags for Leica and Other Daily Items (Domke 802, 803)

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by andrew_viny, Jan 4, 2009.

  1. Hey guys so I am on the verge of buying a Domke. I've decided to go with either the 802 or 803. I want to carry my M2 with the collapsable elmar, gossen digisix light meter, some film, cloths, ipod, cell phone, some books or magazines and sunglasses. The idea is to have a good bag to tote around (everywhere from school to restaurants) from which I can access my camera without the hassle of taking off the bag or digging around through stacks of other things. I could see myself wanting to carry my canon 30D with my 24-70 in this bag on occasion but I have other bags for that if the best solution for my leica gear and daily stuff wouldn't fit it. Any insights would be appreciated. Thanks for the help.
  2. Oh! Forgot to mention... I like that the 802 looks like I could fit my Leica in the front pockets. I don't like that the 803 is smaller yet more expensive. And I would like to know where I might find some less expensive inserts for this bag.
  3. I would recommend the J803 over the regular 803. It is a more versatile bag and the ballistic nylon wears much, much better then the regular canvas. The color in the regular 803 fades really quickly (and will stain your clothes if they are light colored and the bag gets wet).
  4. I highly recommend fogg bags. they're a french bag company that specializes in camera bags. the bags are fashionable and can accommodate a camera and lenses and some other items too. check out their site. just look it up. they've only got five stockists so far. they're hand-made though so they fetch a pretty penny.
  5. I am currently using my Domke F2 for my M8 with 25mm, 50mm & 90mm. I also carry lens cleaning supples, extra memory cards, spare battery, and occasionally a Pentax Spotmeter. You can't go wrong with Domke bags. They are rugged (I still use a mid '70s version for my DSLR kit). Get whichever model you prefer, but look towards having the ability to carry more things in the bag in the future.
  6. Leica M, 50mm Elmar-M, 35mm 'cron v4, Sekonic L308B, film and cellphone. All fits in my Domke F5XB after I turned the 4 useless front "pockets" into 2 useful ones.
  7. I second Stuart's recommendation of the ballistic nylon J-803.
    The canvas bags (F-803 series) will mold to your body, but they also absorb water, and the black and blue ones don't age well, and look ugly when faded. The Olive Drab is a classic Leica M choice. The Sand one has a different color for the strap, which makes it look a bit odd.

    On another note, the F-803 vs. J-803, the J-803 is slightly larger:
    Interior dimensions:

    J-803: 13.5 x 4.5 x 10 inches
    F-803: 13 x 4 x 9 inches

    That extra half an inch does make a difference to a Leica M kit.
    Best of luck with your decision.
  8. I have the 802, and I think it's the right sized bag, especially if you need to carry a laptop. The 803 falls into "man-purse" territory, unfortunately (this according to women in an ad firm where work). I found this out when I ordered one. I sent it back :)
  9. Thank you guys for all the input... I wanted to ask if any of you would mind posting pictures of your bag(s) so I can see about the size and how they wear. Thanks again!
  10. The F-802 looks like the bag for you, since you're going to be carrying books and magazines in addition to your photo gear. The F/J-803 series will be too small to accomodate books and magazines. I've owned both, but now have the J-803.
    The F-802 is a deep bag, and comes without any inserts. I tried putting in inserts that I bought, but there is no way to keep the inserts in place, as the bag is too deep and has no convenient velcro. I'm not a "do it yourself" velcro type, so it was DOA for me. You will find that all your contents will rattle around in the bag. The camera will get dinged and scratched unless you figure out how to keep it protected, and also to prevent it from moving around in the bag. I sold the bag, as too much air space was unused and it was inconvenient. The photonetter who bought it from me, also sold it for the same reason. I hope your experience is better. I only wanted a camera bag, not wanting to put anything else in it.
    In the end, the canvas bags start to look ratty. Ballistic nylon is the way to go.
    Have you tried ?
    Or Billingham.
    What's your budget?
    Best of luck.
  11. Vic you seem to have gotten straight to my concerns. I would intend to put the camera in one of the front pockets and think i could do it as my lens is a collapsable.
    I currently tote around a 20 year old tamrac. It is very small. I put the Leica in on its side so the lens faces the side of the bag and on the other side of the divider I can fit four film cans (in the plastic containers) these pretty much cover the remaining bottom surface. On top of them goes 2 cloths and a gossen digisix. The strap from the Leica is folded onto this side of the divider and the bag is full. I could use this in situations where I don't need all the space of the 802. Basically I'll be off to college soon and I want a bag that I can use to carry everything I need for the day and my camera in a convenient way.
    As far as budget goes... I couldn't spend much more than what it would cost to get an 803 and if I could, I'd prefer to spend less but if the right bag is $115 i'll spend it.
    I have seen people used orange inserts from nua or someone in the 802 and I might look into that.
  12. Andrew, If you're off to college, you need something more substantial than the Domke F-802. The F-802 is made of thick canvas, but one or two terms in school will wear holes in the bag. Also, it isn't sufficiently large to tote around the heavy college textbooks they require you to carry all day.
    You might consider a ballistic nylon messenger bag or briefcase style (you can get great deals on no-brand Made in Korea or China bags in the discount markets, buy two or three for $15-20 each and use them till they wear out), or even backpacks; there's nothing nerdy or uncool about them today, and there are some stylish ones available (stay away from the JanSport or LL Bean variety, they're too thin for cameras).
    Best of luck with college!
  13. I recommend you look at the Domke knock-offs that are sold on eBay under the brand name Safrotto. I have 2 Domke bags and 2 Safrotto bags and IMHO the Safrotto bags are higher quality with much better inserts. One of the Safrottos is an F-802 and it is excellent.
  14. While I don't think an 802 will wear out anytime soon (I'd say 5 years, if you really beat it up everyday), I do think putting your Leica in the front pocket might not be a good idea. I'm not into padding, but if you have heavy books in the bag and you swing it into a door accidentally...expensive ouch. A 15 inch macbook pro fits into an 802 without much room to spare.

    I use mine every day, and it's ten years old. It's a bit ratty, and the black does wear to a whitish color, but I like ratty and love canvas. The sand Domkes wear better, looks-wise.

    If you are only putting in one or two classes worth of books at a time, the 802 might work. One mod I made is to cut off the stock strap and replaced it with an Op-Tech S.O.S. strap (large size). Much, much better on your shoulder.

    Inserts can be found here .
  15. Andrew the canvas 803 that I have now looks like this, after being used for about 3 years. Part of that time was a japanese summer, so really hot and humid, probably leading to more wear than normal. That said, it looks like this:
    In contrast, I have been using the J-803 for about 3 or 4 years, and it still looks great despite the fact that I have used it so much that the rubber is falling out of the strap and the metal strap clips are worn and the strap is nearly as grey as the one in the picture above. If you want a canvas bag that does not wear or fade, get a billingham. Whatever dyes they use are waterproof and they are far better made -- my larger bag is a billingham and it looks the same it did the day I bought it.
  16. Although, there is something nice and wabi-sabi about the 803, just be sure that you understand that and don't expect it to stay looking pristine!
  17. I'd recommend the Billingham. They're pricey, no doubt about it, but well worth it, in my opinion.
    I purchased my Hadley in '95. It has seen nearly daily use and has aged extremely well. It has sat out in a driving rainstorm, and spent a month in desert sands...neither the rain nor sand penetrated the material (which I think is 7 layers).
    I've just upgraded to the larger Pro Hadley (switching from M to Digilux 3 plus a few larger zooms). The original Hadley has been relagated to it's original purpose...carrying ammo and shooting accessories (Billingham started out aimed at the fishing/hunting market).
    I expect it to last another 10 years at least in this role.
  18. I've had the 803 bag for approximately fifteen years and have been very happy with it. Sand in color, the only notable wear is the small strap piece at the bottom, which holds the round metal closure. Easily replaced if, and when, it breaks. It has no corner wear, tears or other wardrobe malfunctions. Somehow, I've kept the canvas reasonably clean. I have other bags, but still use this most often; it holds as much as I want to stuff into it, and does not scream "camera" like the Billingham and Fogg, or even some of the lesser brands.
    Still using Nikon F bodies and the older, heavier AI and NAI metal lenses, any larger bag would be heavy after my 15-18 hour days while on tour. I recently purchased a 500CM, 50 and 150 lenses and extra back. It will handle this MF kit including extra padding in the bottom. When open and lying on a flat surface, the inside of the lid makes a good pad for changing lenses or film, in case what I am holding is fumbled. I'm thinking of trying some lens wraps/squares, as an alternative to the inserts.
    Last trip overseas, I hand carried a much larger bag which was packed to the gills, leaving the empty Domke in with my checked suitcase. When touring, I carried the smaller bag with what I wanted to use for the day. Worked out quite well.
    I've heard that the newer bags are not as well made, and it seems that some knockoffs are appearing from Hong Kong. I'd buy used to get the original bag, if I had to do over again. Highly recommended.
  19. bs


    I'd go with Stuart and Vic on this one. I had my Domke canvas experience with a sand color original for my dslr kit. Nice bag...flexible and roomy, but soaks in moisture and humidity. I treated the outside a few times to get it to repel water better, but it just ended up staining my clothes.
    I went with the J803 for my M kit. 2 M6TTLS, 25, 35, 75, SF20, filter wallet and misc. Nice bag that wears well. Love everything about it other than the damn flap clip that I can't get the hang of one-handing. There's got to be a better way.
  20. check for pictures of photobags in use
  21. Andrew, I'm really liking my new Bare Bones Bag for the same application as yours. The size is just right for an everyday carry. It has that same ability to mold to your hip as did traditional Leica bags, but it's smaller. They're made by Courierware for Stephen Schaub.
    Mine is loaded with a Rapidwinder-equipped M6 with mounted 35 Cron ASPH and hood, a 90 Elmar-C, my Digiflash, five or six rolls of film, cleaning supplies and a book - and I haven't even started to fill the outside pockets. Plus, there's still easy room inside the bag for another lens.
    This bag is worth considering!
  22. pje


    Like many of you I have loads of bags, but when I have my Lecia gear out and about street shooting I like my black Domke 803. I like the fact that is is worn and faded; makes it look less like a camera bag. I'm always on the look out for an old well made distressed bag; too bad real Army/Navy surplus stores are all gone! Stuart Richardson's 803 is my idea of a wonderful street bag. The last thing I want is a new looking nylon bag that says, "there's goodies inside." I want a bag that says, "I don't give a crap and the contents of this bag is garbage."
    If you want a bag to hold a notebook, camera gear and school stuff; take a look at Think-Tank's Urban Disguise series. They are very well made and have loads of features. I use one for digital gear when I have to take a computer and need a compact carry-on.
  23. The 803 makes a great everyday bag. I can carry my M6 with lens attached in the padded compartment so it goes everywhere with me. The rest of the inside holds a book, journal, Holga, a roll of black tape and my ipod quite comfortably. The smaller pockets carry film, pens, and other small bits. The big pocket in the back is now completely useless as I wore a huge hole in it from walking around with it all the time. But it took a few years for that to happen. If you're looking for a good bag to carry your everyday stuff and have a safe place to keep your camera when you're not shooting, the 803 is a good one.
    Has anyone tried sewing Domke inserts into a Chrome messenger bag? I don't like that my camera is floating around, unprotected at the bottom of my bag when I go on bike rides.
  24. Here are a few more thoughts (as if you need any...)
    • The canvas Domkes wear out faster than the ballistic nylon version, but they look a lot cooler. And despite what Vic says black is the best color (it hides well when you set it down and don't want it seen)
    • The clips on the Domkes are maddening, I cut them off and put two small carabiners on instead, life was good after that.
    • Tenba makes bags in similar sizes to Domkes but with more pockets, zippers and flaps and are better designed from a user aspect. Look at the Pro Traveller II series.
    • Think-Tank bags are defintiely stealth and are well made but have zippers, and zippers are great for keeping everything in, but suck for getting it out.
    • The Billinghams wear like iron, but are quite pricey and they look like man-purses.
    • Fogg bags also wear like iron, look like man-purses, but are even more pricey. In fact they are so pricey that it would be cheaper to hire a butler and have him carry your gear.
    Ok, I'm done.
  25. I haven't noticed any humidity-related problems with my Domkes, but I live in the upper midwest of the USA. It does get pretty humid up here in the summer, but not like parts of Asia, I imagine.
    The metal clips are supposed to be hard to open as they're an anti-pickpocket device. I like them and they are easy to close one-handed.
    When I'm not concerned (most of the time), I just snap the 802's clip on the flap's zipper to stop the metal-on-metal rattle.
  26. I say with full certainty that you sir, have the strongest thumbs on the planet.
  27. Hahahahhaah! cheeky monkey! I can, on occasion and only if the planets align, open the Domke clips one-handed. It is hard.
    But I was talking about closing them one-handed. All you have to do is, when wearing the bag, is hook the lip of the clip on the metal circle and pull up & in. It snaps right on.
  28. This article I wrote on small RF sizex camera bags might prove helpful:
  29. Well, I've never seen anyone else cut them off so I'm sure it's me. Other than that I did really love the Domke.
    Nice article Josh, well done.
  30. Josh's I've read your article a number of times and have found it quite helpful. It really is excellent. Thorough and well thought out.
    I think that the conclusion I've come to is this... the best bag for me is the Domke 802 because what I really want it a day bag that will also hold my camera. Having said this I find myself lusting after the beautiful, and much nicer, Hadley Pro. I think I'm going to get one of those. I'll put the camera in the front pocket (and be careful) and use the main compartment for books and such. When I travel or carry more gear I'll use the main compartment for my camera and such. Do you all think I should I get a shoulder pad?
    And out of curiosity how do you guys feel about black canvas and tan leather trim? Better or worse than tan on tan or black on black?
    To all of you who have taken the time to post and help me in my decision, I can't thank you enough. I couldn't have made this decision without your help.
  31. "I'll put the camera in the front pocket (and be careful)"
    I dread the thought of being serious, but here goes: the Hadley is great bag and will last you a lifetime, but the idea of carrying a camera in an unpadded pocket in the front of the bag is something I'd never do. It offers the least protection, and is the most likely area for abuse: every single thing you bump into, and every time the bag tips forward your camera will take the hit. I think you really want to re-consider this.
    Oh, and since we get to pick colors - I say black on black...
  32. Front pocket not a good idea. I am not sure I would want one bag the way you plan it. I would definitely get some version of the Crumpler if you really want to lug books as well because you'll want the broad strap and shoulder pad. Often you are not going to need to have anything but the camera, and then you'll want something smaller, especially as your kit is small. I have recently got the Artisan and Artist 'Evans Walker' which is tiny and fits one body with lens plus two other lenses, although I have sometimes managed two bodies and 3 lenses. A light-meter and blower brush, some caps and hoods and some film go in the front pocket. It's ideal for an M. Hardly noticeable. Great strap.
  33. Should I consider getting a Large instead of a Pro? I thought that the Large was not water proof but uppon hearing that it is I am far more interested in it.
  34. As much as everyone loves a "what bag should I buy" thread, the unfortunate truth Andrew, is that there are certain things that are nearly impossible to buy without trying them: bags are one of those things.
    Your best bet would be think about all the advice given here and from Josh's review, then collect all your stuff and head over to the local shop to try a few out.
    Or, If that's not an option, call B&H or Adorama, verify thier return policy (I think B&H's is 7 days, you pay shipping) and order 4 or 5 bags. Load them up, check them out and send back the ones you don't like.
    BTW after working out of a Donke F-2 for years, my everyday bag is an Artisan & Artist Sabastio's Reporter Satchel, it's the perfect bag...for me.
  35. Unfortunately it seems the best deal is across the Atlantic. Shipping 4 bags back might be economically prohibative. And the local shops are only stocked in Thinktank and tamrac.
  36. Sorry, I assumed USA for some reason.
  37. Though it seems like you've already come to a decision to some extent, I want to recommend the J-803, I've only had it for about a year and a half but it's a true wonder of a bag, it fits most everything I want to tug along for a schoolday or a day off for that matter. A typical schoolday it contains my Leica M4-P fitted with a Summicron 35 (in the padded insert, main compartment), a Ricoh GRD (front pocket), four books (main compartment), two A4-sized notepads or a Macbook (in the rear pouch), iPod (front pocket) and a varying ammount of filmrolls (front pockets). I sometimes tug my D200 with a battery grip and 24mm lens around in it, which rules out having books or a laptop along for the day but still allows me to cram a Polaroid EE-100 special, or my Leica into the main compartment along with it.
    The following two images represent my daily setup, four books, Leica M4-P fitted with lens and all the other things mentioned above, except the notepads and the Macbook in the rear pouch.
  38. Morgan I've got to thank you for muddying the once clear waters. Thank you for the pictures. This looks like a great bag a lot bigger than I previously thought. I'm going to consider this bag. How is it in terms of waterproofing/ resistance?
  39. I haven't yet had it around in very heavy rainfall, but I've had it on my shoulder during a snowstorm and the typical drizzles and showers that autumn in my part of northern europe offers and I've yet to have a problem with water even getting to the insides of the bag - Even the notepads that are more or less fully exposed to the weather have fared well since my body has protected them from significant exposure to rainfall or snow. So I have to say that it has fared well, and perhaps above expectation when it comes to keeping my gear and my books dry and neat.
    This all said, the Billingham bags you have settled on were clear alternatives for me aswell, and I would probably be writing this very same praise for the Hadley Pro or Hadley original had they suited my budget at the time of purchase. But I don't regret my J-803 purchase for one minute, perfect for what I need it to do, even if it looks quite a bit more boring and drab compared to the beautiful Billinghams.
    Good luck with your purchase!
  40. Pictures? This site will show you all kinds of bags loaded with gear along with user reviews.
    The interface is a little wonky but once you figure out the scroll panel on the left, you can check out all kinds of bags and see how people use them.
  41. There is nothing wrong with any of the Domke bags. I own several models including one of the early satchel bags that I have never used very much. The only thing to consider about the Domke bags is that they are disposable. If you use them daily they will wear holes in the areas that get constant abrasion. When I was a working photographer, I would go through a Domke F2 about every year. They were a lot cheaper back then so it wasn't much of a concern. They are more expensive now but still pretty cheap compared to some bags. I also don't carry a camera bag around for 8+ hours a day so they last longer for my uses.
    If you want a better built bag that's truly waterproof, that offers better protection for equipment and is much more durable, I second the Billingham recommendation. But they do cost considerably more. Still, they are wonderful bags and they hold a lot more equipment than you would think from their dimensions.
    On the other hand, I have an unbranded cotton canvas bag that I use almost every day. It simply says "Made In India" inside. It's pretty well made and it's good for carrying around a range of stuff. It has no padding but you can simply add a layer of foam if you desire. I think the bag cost about $12.00 and it's perfectly serviceable.
  42. I settled on the Billingham bags but am not sure which to get. The large (on paper) doesn't seem that much larger than the Pro and the lack of a handle and back pocket is a consideration for me. So I've got just a few questions.
    Does the Large accept AVEA pouches?
    Can a magazine fit in the rear zippered pocket?
    If I later decide to stick a small macbook or macbook pro in the bag will it fit in a pro?
    Anyway... If you guys could offer some insight for me I'd appriciate it. To reiterate... I basically want a day bag which will also carry camera gear. If you look at the picture at the bottom of this thread you'll see a picture of someone using a domke pretty much how I'd like you use a bag I get. Though I will often carry more gear instead of books.
    There are three basic "kits" I plan on carrying in this bag.
    Will each of these kits fit in a pro?
    1. Leica M2, Gossen Digisix meter, Lens cloths, film, books, magazine, sunglasses, keys, phone, ipod.
    2. Leica M2, Canon 30D 24-70 f/2.8 (mounted with lens facing down or un mounted), Lens cloths, film, filters, batteries, magazine, sunglasses, keys, phone, ipod.
    3. 30D, 24-70 f/2.8, 135 f/2, 430ex, batteries, cards, magazine, sunglasses, keys, phone, ipod.

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