Shoulder bag recommendation for laptop plus camera gear

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by Colin O, Jun 20, 2017.

  1. I apologise in advance for asking for a bag recommendation - I know it's the unanswerable question.

    I'm currently trying to find a bag with the following requirements. Do you have any suggestions?

    - shoulder bag
    - primary use: to transport a 14-inch laptop to/from work
    - I would like to use the bag for photography too, also with the laptop inside
    - my gear is:
    - Rolleilflex 3.5F
    - Noblex 135 S (for size, think very large point-and-shoot)
    - Sony α7 II + lenses
    - the bag doesn't need to fit all the photo gear all the time, but it would be nice if it could fit at least 2 bodies (+ lenses)
    - it would be also nice if I could squeeze in sundry accessories such as umbrella, sunglasses, laptop power adapter, external HDD, headphones, etc

  2. I'm partial to Billingham bags. They are expensive, but they are amazingly durable and they will keep your gear dry in a downpour. They sell laptop sleeves that match the bags, or you can just use any sleeve. Note the prices on the site are retail. You can buy at a discount from

    Billingham Bags | Camera Bags
  3. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Moderator Staff Member

    You might check out the ThinkTank Line. I have two that I find useful, flexible and durable..
    GerrySiegel likes this.
  4. Colin, it sounds like a messenger bag would meet your needs. They are designed basically as a laptop (tablet, or both) carrier with room for cameras and other gear. They have a large flap which covers the main compartment for protection from the weather. The laptop goes to the rear of the main compartment, which can have removable partitions. The flap has a pocket for thinner, lighter items. Most close with Velcro, but a few, notably ThinkTank, use magnets.

    Thinktank also makes laptop bags for that purpose alone. There's room for the usual power supply and accessories, but not for bulky items like camera gear. Like all Thinktank bags, they are made extremely well, with heavy duty zippers. They are slim, and keep their shape with extensive use. I bought one which fits a 13" MacBook perfectly, and fits under an airline seat with plenty of room for my legs. My camera backpack has a slot for a laptop, but I use it for maps and cleaning accessories. The only time I would use it for a laptop is air travel. It's too heavy to lug around the countryside that way, so I carry computer stuff in a separate bag, as a "personal" item..
  5. The problem is the size of your laptop. Many shoulder bags take them, but the size is smaller like 11 inches. If you can find a used Gura Gear Chobe bag, that will take laptops up to 15 in and it can also handle a lot of camera stuff too. I have one and use it all the time and just love it and the airline folks never give it a second look. Gura Gear is now part of Tamrac, but I did not see a Tamrac shoulder bag large enough for a 14 in laptop. ThinkTank is where I would look.
  6. with that much stuff why not a rolling Pelican case?
  7. I have a ThinkTank Retrospective 7; it has a compartment for a notebook, but 12" max, and that bag is already pretty large for a shoulderbag. Otherwise, it would fit the bill just fine (and it's a great bag). I think for a 14" notebook, a shoulderbag is going to be hard to find.
  8. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Moderator Staff Member

    Google "camera case that will fit 14" laptop" Quite a few choices one is Tenba. Several at B&H
  9. I am sure there are offerings out there. Your gear is heavy. I would never want to be the Sherpa to help you ( I mean I used to schlep but who needs the scapula pain, ya know?. Lighten the load is the best way and I predict you will get to that point in no time. Also, consider an IPAD small size while you are at it. We are into weight reduction and back exercises lately. I wish you luck. So many good outfits available I am not up to date. I use a mirrorless mover by Think Tank. You might be a candidate for a backpack as well. Best, gs
  10. In fairness, the OP listed his equipment but did not intend to carry everything in one bag. Still, you must monitor the weight. I've carried shoulder bags weighing up to 22 pounds, but in retrospect, anything more than 12 pounds is uncomfortable in short order. for heavier loads, I strongly recommend a backpack.

    There are many bags which will hold a laptop, but that's another 3-6 pounds to lug around. It's okay for travel (e.g., by air), but leave it behind when out and about. In addition to the computer, you need a power supply and various accessories which are heavy and take a lot of space. Consequently I put mine in a separate laptop bag as my "personal" carry-on luggage.
  11. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Moderator Staff Member

    Two things keep me from buying a backpack. You can't get to your gear without putting it down and opening it. Slow and requires a place to put it down. Second, I never fancied myself as a beast of burden. Someone now has a backpack that swivels while on your back, so you can get to some gear, so I'll have to stick with the second objection.
  12. david_henderson


    Regardless of how you perm the equipment, for what you mention its going to be a big bag and when loaded up its going to be heavy. Unless its packed full of dividers finding items like filters, cables etc will be difficult with the bag still on your shoulder and of course the fact you don't have to keep putting the bag down is a main reason why most of us who use shoulder bags do so. I speak as someone who for ten years travelled extensively with a shoulder bag with a medium format body , up to six lenses and sometimes a Mamiya 7 body plus lenses squeezed in in place of some of the slr lenses. Basically it was too heavy and it reached the point where I couldn't/didn't want to walk around with a 20lb + bag all day. And I think your bag will need to be bigger and will be materially heavier than the one I carried.

    If I were you I'd seriously question whether I'd want to photograph whilst carrying a laptop and supporting gear around with me. I'd put that in a different bag and not carry it whilst photographing. I'd also get good at relating the environment I'm going to be in to likely equipment needs and judging what I can leave at home/in the car/in a hotel room whilst I photograph more lightly loaded. For example I don't carry a tripod around towns & cities these days. But I will have one at my hotel and if there are shots I want that require one- eg shoot at night, blur people or water , I'll plan a specific session to do that. To my mind there's mostly a big difference between what you need to haul to a broad location , and what you need to have with you whilst you are photographing.
    Sandy Vongries likes this.
  13. While I respect Sandy a lot, I am admittedly a huge backpack fan. I especially fancy the German military highland backpack pattern. It holds my 15" laptop or letter sized notepads with a thin fabric separation close to the back so they serve as a padding between cameras' edges and my back. - 30L capacity in total mean you can sink a lot of gear in it when needed or also spontaneously shop some groceries after work.
    Clarifying: This is not a great serious hiking backpack. But it has waterproof top and bottom is easily accessible and sufficiently sturdy to hold heavy purchases like cans bottles or tools. Cameras inside need a bit of extra wrapping. I recommend fabrics stuff you'd bring anyway, like a jacket sweater or towel. Or ponder investing into a "velcro around" solution. I usually sink a tiny single body bag in my pack and sometimes move it to one of the straps when entering interesting areas. When It is lens juggling time I shoot in a vest. - Fanny packs might work too, I haven't tried them. I don't mind beating up my laptop's surfaces. I guess doing so is better theft protection than a Kensington lock?
    Lacking a car I have to be my own beast of burden. - It is more convenient to ride bi- &/ motorcycles with a backpack than with a shoulder bag and grocery bags on the handlebar are an absolute no go...
    What I like about my packs:
    • Cheap shabby unsuspicious
    • Quick to stuff; 2 click buckles for the lid, one top lace with rapid fastener. - You won't be an obstacle stuffing it at the supermarket checkout.
    I recently bought a basic DSLR with 2 (unspectacular) zooms in an "single strap across the chest + optional hip strap" semi-backpack. I considered that kit "close to nothing" weight wise but the strap felt annoyingly breathtaking and I suddenly understood why the previous owner(s) didn't shoot that thing. Carrying an additional laptop that way would surely be too much.

    Even I noticed fashion and style advisors arguing against backpacks but as a kid I was ordered to be reasonable and carry my heavy school stuff on my back, to prevent spine issues. I guess things did not change in that field?

    Disclaimer: Anything significantly beyond 7kg isn't comfortable to carry in the long run. IDK what your shoulder bag will weigh but I can assure you: I haven't handled any that I liked to carry once it crossed the 4kg mark.

    Like many people I hate shooting out of a (photo) backpack. - It is slow! but for the daily commute a backpack seems really handy.
  14. .........umbrella, sunglasses, laptop power adapter, external HDD, headphones, etc...

    Sir, you remind me of me. At least when I was a little younger. I always figured that I better take along a package of trail mix and at least two raisin bagels, Latter when I was flying somewhere. If you carry a laptop to and from work, that is standard laptop or tablet style bag. For photography, most of us have as many as a dozen other bags we can never get rid of. I think my latest was the Lowepro single shoulder brassard style which I have not given a fair test. It does allow access to the camera while on the shoulder and swiveled. I have a photo backpack but I( use it the least so far. Lately some retail stores insist one check the backpack at the entrance. For flying, a backpack is useful and swallows a lot of the ETC items. The holy grail is one or two versatile do all bags. Such do not exist. And be sure you get one that matches your favorite ccolor. Very important :)
  15. Umbrellas... I forgot to mention: My fav. backpacks are made to accommodate skis between main and side pockets. - I have successfully stuffed rigid full size umbrellas there, but guess I should add some tiny ring on a line, that goes around the umbrella tip, to make sure they only go halfway down while carried, to not interfere with my legs or spokes.
  16. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Moderator Staff Member

    Jochen, you have My Respect for what you are willing to and can carry! Big difference between a "working bag" and transport bag. As working bags go, I have never equalled my Nikon FB 8, which I have gone so far as to refurbish completely. Still used for film, but unfortunately will not accommodate digital. My FB 11 will work for digital, but except for the two cameras with lenses on the top shelf, it has the same flaw as backpacks -- has to be put down somewhere in order to get to the rest of the stuff. Transport is a completely different issue, esp. with bikes of either type. As David suggested, when travelling by air, I pack the bag absolutely solid and leave half the stuff in the hotel room.
  17. A frequent criticism of backpacks is that you have to set them down to use them. That's mostly true, but there are some exceptions (e.g., ThinkTank Rotation). However I find it necessary to put large, heavy bags down too. For one thing, everything is in one layer in a backpack, whereas cameras and lenses are usually in layers in a large bag. I have a couple of small shoulder bags which can be used in place, but that is an exception. Furthermore, a heavy bag is very tiresome to carry, even cross shoulder, and swings around when climbing or descending stairs or hillsides, as to be dangerously destabilizing. I use a belt strap even with light bags for that reason. Backpacks stay in place, distribute the weight and center it on your lower back.

    I use a backpack even when shooting from a car. Since everything is accessible in one layer, it is not necessary to pack and repack gear each time you change lenses. Plus it's a lot easier to use public transportation than with a shoulder bag. I found out the hard way on my first trip abroad that heavy, swinging backpacks made it hard to climb into buses and navigate narrow aisles. I could probably handle the extra 6 pounds or so of a laptop, but choose to use a separate bag (and a lighter computer0. The power supply for my Lenovo Thinkpad alone weighs more than my 13" MacBook Pro. And yes, I can edit effectively on the small screen.
  18. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Moderator Staff Member

    I like my big Pelican or Tundra for the car. One layer fitted. Dust & waterproof and insulated from temp or shock I use a Kindle Fire for viewing on the road, works quite well and also holds camera manuals and provides reading material in a very small package, still with a 3.5x6 screen.
  19. I put my manuals on an iPad too. It's much easier to carry than printed book,s especially when you don't read them until the last minute ;)

    Pelican cases are nice if you take a canoe trip (remember to close the air vent), a wilderness excursion, or put gear in checked baggage. Otherwise they are far to heavy and bulky for routine use. A ThinkTank backpack sufficed on a back road trip to Iceland. I never actually carried it on my back, except in the airport. I would grab a couple of lenses when I got out of the car. Never saw the aurora borealis, so the wide primes didn't get used. I carried one or two extra lenses in a down vest with big inside pockets.

    I have lost count of the bags in my collection. Some are single-purpose (e.g., Pelican) or victims to changing needs and downsized equipment (Nikon DSLR to Sony A7). I recently used a shoulder bag for the Sony and 3 zooms for a 3 hour visit to a local forest preserve. It got a lot heaver as the day progressed, even at 12 pounds (I pack by the ounce).
    Sandy Vongries likes this.
  20. Collin,
    Sorry I am late to the game. As an abstaining member of the bag of the month club I think the Think Tank Retrospective 50 is a shoulder bag that would meet your needs.. It is no longer made but you could investigate the dimensions and it may be found at auction. I own one. Its a big shoulder bag that can carry all your stuff. The current Tenba "Cooper" may work or a Lowepro Magnum 650.
    Good hunting.

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