I've gone through about 4-5 photo bags since the beginning, and I've never been happy with any of them. This time, I decided to actually do my homework.
Lesson to be learned - GO TO A PHOTO STORE TO BUY YOUR BAG! GIVE THEM ALL A TRY LIVE! BRING ALL YOUR EQUIPMENT, AND SEE HOW IT ACTUALLY FITS!
I did all kinds of homework online. I was looking at a Lowepro 250, 350, and also 500. I was also looking at a Kata 3in1-35.
But really - I found out that I could not possibly make this choice without seeing the bags live.
When I saw the Lowepro 500, it was REALLY big in size, but in spite of this, it really wasn't holding much....it would not hold a laptop. The 500 would have looked like a refrigerator on my back, and honestly, I wasn't impressed. I need to carry the laptop. The 250 and 350 were too small, and online I really thought that the 350 or something similar in size would have worked out.
I saw a bunch of other bags that I remember looking at online, but nothing was as it seemed when I got to see them live.
I finally found exactly the bag that I need. The ThinkTank Streetwalker Harddrive. Smaller than the Lowepro 500, but able to store the same gear and a laptop.
This bag could store everything that I have with room to spare, and a laptop.
With my tripod attached....
Outer Pocket (there's a couple on the back)...
One of the side sleeves...
And here's my layout as of now...
1. 580EX (underneath is a rocket blower and Eneloop AA's and charger)
2. AA Battery Grip Slots
3. Battery Charger/Batteries
4. Gripped 5Dii with 17-40L
5. 28mm 1.8
6. Gripped T2i
7. 85mm 1.8
8. 50mm 1.8
9. 70-300 4-5.6
10. Cables, cleaning solution
And this really is not optimized. I have some room to grow.
This bag is very well thought out. Everything is quality. The clips, latches, zippers, everything screams quality. I didn't have to pay extra for the tripod sling, it came with the bag. The foot of the sling simply pulls out when you need it, and tucks away when you don't.
The only downside - when it's packed full, with a laptop and a tripod, the whole thing is pretty damn heavy! But when I'm in the field or on hikes, I won't bring the laptop, which accounts for a ton of weight, and the tripod will probably be on my shoulder with the camera attached, which will make hiking much easier.
But even when I have the laptop and tripod attached (like at the airport, or when I'm heading to my destination), the padding on the back of the bag and the shoulder straps are very very comfortable and thick. Yes, it's heavy when it's fully outfitted, but it's going to be manageable.
So very soon, a Promaster bag that retails for $100 will be up for sale for $50, if anyone is interested!
I very happy so far with this bag. If my opinions change, I'll report back.