How I Modified A Satchel To Be My Own Personal Camera Bag

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Modification of a camera bag (1 of 11)ISO 1001-250 sec at f - 5.0

When you look at this bag, you wouldn’t think at all that it would be a camera bag. In all honesty, it isn’t. Inspired by the story of the Magnum Photographers who worked with Filson camera bags to design something super low profile, I decided to simply hack a bag that I’ve been using for years and years into something that can hold pretty much most of the gear that I need when I go on shoots. Of course, it isn’t enough when it comes to shoots requiring me to work with monolights, but for the most part this little bag handles almost every situation I tackle, is low profile, and allows my to have quick access to my gear.

A simple bag like this is what many camera bag manufacturers should be able to make affordably.

Lots of photographers are always afraid that someone will reach into their camera bags and steal their gear. I’ve lived in NYC my entire time and no one has even reached into my bag to steal my belongings. But I think that if you’re worrying about someone reaching into your bag then you should also be able to feel when someone is doing so. And if you can’t do that, then you need to go to the doctor and have your awareness evaluated.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Modification of a camera bag (11 of 11)ISO 1001-2500 sec at f - 1.8

This bag is truly the simplest of modifications. I purchased the bag years ago at the Strand bookstore when I was in college. I did it on a whim because I fell in love with the simple but pretty cool looks. I’ve been using it ever since for lots of different trips or work.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Modification of a camera bag (5 of 11)ISO 1001-1250 sec at f - 2.0

When you unlatch the top flap you expose this pocket. It’s a handy area for flashes, accessories, an iPad or pens. As you can tell, it was kind of designed for that use.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Modification of a camera bag (6 of 11)ISO 1001-400 sec at f - 2.8

And when you look inside, you’ll see that what I did was added in my own camera bag insert. It’s currently modified to hold my 5D Mk II with lens attached, a lens in the other socket, and a flash laying on top of the camera or under it if I choose. For mirrorless cameras, I can stuff maybe around three of them with lenses into here with no real problems.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Modification of a camera bag (7 of 11)ISO 1001-640 sec at f - 2.8

The insert has a flap that closes down to add a bit more protection; but in all honesty I don’t really need it. What is very cool about this bag though is that I have two other little storage areas behind it. I can comfortably fit my 13 inch MacBook Pro into here.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Modification of a camera bag (4 of 11)ISO 1001-1600 sec at f - 1.8

Then it comes to the strap. It is really just nothing more than a piece of canvas with another piece of canvas acting as a buffer between the shoulder and the bag. It’s comfortable and not too cushiony. In the summer, I have less to worry about when it comes to sweating due to NYC’s super humid climate.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Modification of a camera bag (10 of 11)ISO 1001-100 sec at f - 4.5

If you take a look at the sides, then you’ll notice that there are no other pockets. Once again, this bag is designed to keep you down to just the essentials. And in real life practice that keeps my mind much more streamlined and focussed on my work.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Modification of a camera bag (9 of 11)ISO 1001-250 sec at f - 4.5

Now, this isn’t the bag that I’d bring with me everywhere, but it suits around 87% of my needs. If I’m going to a meeting with folks that are better groomed, then I’ll reach for something like my ONA Union Street or my ZKin bag. If I’m going to a location shoot and need a ton of gear, then Tenba is usually my go to.

But for the majority of my work, this little hack solves 100% of my problems and needs. And doing something like this at a reasonable price and in mass is something that lots of photographers want.

This is just my own personal modification though, and lots more can be done for your own wants and needs. Everyone is different.

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