What I need and cannot find in a camera bag
I have used Domke bags for 25 years, ever since Magnum photographer Robert Azzi recommended them.
As you might guess, I am not primarily a studio photographer.
I have covered political campaigns, natural disasters, and do
on the go street and natural landscape photography. Mist of all, I
do sports - in particular I cover triathlons all over the world.
But since 2000, when I transitioned from smaller film lenses and smaller Nikon film cameras to the top of the line Nikon's film camera and three major AFS F 2.8 zoom lenses - the 17-35, the 28-70, and the 80-200, later adding or replacing some with the newer 24-70 and 70-200 models - the Domke bag remained my best bet. However, its original specs were really not up to the job of mobile, on-the-fly work in which I was rapidly exchanging lenses of these larger sizes . That is, not up to the job WITHOUT EXPENSIVE, INEVITABLE DAMAGE, INCREDIBLY COSTLY REPAIRS TO MY
In the past 9 years, I estimate I have laid out $12,000 in lens repairs.
I realized this is not acceptable, but despite searching through Domke catalogs and revery other model under the sun, I have not found what I am looking for and just recently have a $440 repair bill staring me in the face
for my beloved 17-35mm AFS F2.8 lens.
You may of course rightfully call me an idiot. You may certainly blame my clumsiness, shaky hands, carelessness, etc. Or you may suggest I join a camera club, get a backpack, tromp out to one site and carefully lay all my lenses out one by one on a blanket and shoot one scene for my day's work. Then wrap them all up in gauze like ancient teacups, and go home - a newly responsible photographer whose used lenses will always garner top Excellent-Plus!!! ratings.
But as a last resort, I am appealing to Jim Domke to offer an answer
to my request to improve the basic or large bags and their inserts.
The biggest problem for me is the 80-200 and/or the 70-200 lenses.
Your insert separator is simply too short for it to safely handle putting it in and pulling it out of my bag, especially with the humongous lens hood. The insert separator also fades with time and crumbles into an amorphous, soft mess.
What happens is that this lens pokes out the side of the bag. Most often, under the stress of a busy day, the lens gets put in slouchways in the area normally used for the camera. With that, it makes the whole bag out of balance, and it, and even the shorter lenses can easily fall out. I can testify it makes a sickening sound when it falls out on the concrete at the Athens Velodrome, or smashes on the dock at the Lausanne ITU World Championship, or falls on dirt and rocks beside the road on a lava fiel at Ironman Hawaii.
I realize this is nothing to brag about and remains an indictment of my
coordination, professionalism, etc. Still, I think Domke can do better.
What I need first of all is a slightly deeper bag with a taller insert separator
which is stronger and firmer and won't crumble with time.
I am not qualified to suggest the geometric understanding necessary to suggest a better configuration to put the Nikon 70 or 80-200 F2.8 lenses in (perhaps horizontally?) snugly but still offer quick and painless entry and removal - with that damn huge lens hood on - but that is what I cry out for.
I love the way my Domke wraps snugly around all my equipment when it is packed for travel and fits in the airline upper compartments. But in action it is overmatched and eventually ends up threshing everything I own.
Now you may reasonably ask what model are you using?
I can only tell you I got the larger (Is it F-1?) model but after brief usage, it collapsed far more than the standard size one and more lenses and cameras fell out of it in action, sometimes when switching lenses on a motorcycle.
Because the standard size was firmer, I have been using that recently.
But even in travel I had to smash my Nikon D300 with 12-24 on one side and and Nikon D700 with larger 17-35 on the other side of the separator insert, with the Nikon 1.4 telextender, Nikon SB800 flash, and Nikon 24-70, and 70-200 lenses squished in the middle. Yikes.
Maybe that sounds like a lot of stuff to put in a bag, but I don't think it is unreasonable for a professional.
I checked out all kinds of shoulder bags. Tamracs came closest. verty close, but the top flap did not cover the top of the bag smoothly and the snaps (a Domke triumph) bulged out awkwardly, not allowing the flap to cover the lenses inside unless you simply snapped it up ready to go home.
Back in th4e day, with sm,aller camera bodies and smaller lenses, the Domke was perfect. Now, I would give my eye teeth for a slightly larger Domke bag which does not collapse around the sides (has sides which are firmer and do not collapse like a soft pillow) and has a taller, more robust, not collapsible separtor insert.
And, if some genius figures this out, a space for the 70-200 to fit snugly inside the bag with smooth, safe, easy ingress and egress in the field.
Somehow, I think my only solution will be to hit the lottery and custom design a bag to meet my requirements. Still, I bother to write Domke with the hope that my problems are shared and that Jim Domke cares.