Gear Bag Review – Domke F-2

So — I finally found a camera bag that I like and am not going to return for a refund.  Mind you, it’s not the perfect bag for all situations (no such bag exists IMO), but it fits my immediate need for a bag to carry some gear in a manner I’m comfortable with.  Bags are such a personal thing but I thought this little review might give someone an idea of what to expect from the Domke F-2.

The type of bag I was searching for was something to carry on photowalks and also transport my camera and a lens or two in the trunk of my car (keep gear from rolling around and be available so I can just grab the bag if I decide to stop and take an impromtu photowalk).  I was also hoping to find a bag which would do double duty and serve as a half-camera/half-general-purpose bag on an upcoming trip to Europe.  Since I’m fortunate enough to live in a city which has a full-blown camera shop (Precision Camera in Austin, TX) I was able to take my gear into the store and try packing it in various bags — that helped eliminate many possibilities up front.  I also had a friend who allowed me to borrow a Kata sling for a month or two.

I ended up really liking the Domke in the store and when I first used it “for real” I just loved it.  The image below shows the bag along with the gear I’ve recently been carrying in it.  I could easily fit more if I chose to stuff every corner.  Please excuse the lousy product shot using on-camera flash and taken with no thought regarding setup or background.

Domke F-2 Gear Bag

I had the following gear packed in the Domke F-2 with room to spare:

Canon 50D with Sigma 10-20mm and hood
Canon 24-70 f2.8 L with hood
Canon 70-200 f2.8 L with hood – sticks up into the top flap a bit but isn’t problematic
Canon 50 f1.4 with hood
Canon 580EXII in its case
Lens cleaning stuff
Hand strap (for the bag)
Black Rapid RS4 strap
50D manual
coiled flash sync cord
cable shutter release and a wireless remote
batteries, mem cards

Granted, the bag was heavy with those items but they easily fit and I still found the bag easy to work out of.  The shoulder strap is a couple inches wide and is quite comfortable.  Note that I wouldn’t normally carry all that gear but I wanted to put the Domke through its paces.

The bag itself is extremely lightweight and forms to your body.  There are removable inner compartments (velcro) but even when those are used, the outer shell of the bag remains flexible and allows the bag to effectively collapse and shrink into a smaller bag when you don’t stuff it full.  This is a big plus in my book — I don’t like the stiff, permanently-shaped bags.  A downside to this is that there’s no outer padding (just the internal compartments are padded).

The four outer pockets (two in front, one on each end) have no padding whatsoever.  Advantage: pockets collapse small when not used.  Disavantage: if you’re putting delicate items in those pockets you need to be extra careful with your bag.

Zippers…the only zipper on the bag closes the pocket on the inside of the top cover.  I wish there were zippers on a few other pockets because the loose flaps make me a bit nervous that something small might fall out or that someone with a small hand might be able to grab something out unnoticed when in a crowd.  The top cover includes two metal clips in addition to velcro to keep it securely closed.

I’ve tried shoulder/messenger bags, a sling, and backpacks.  Each has certain advantages and disavantages but I found none to my liking before I tried this Domke.  Of course, when it comes time to haul all the camera gear along with a laptop and other items, I’ll be shopping for a second bag and writing a second review…

The Domke is available in a regular canvas material or a waxed canvas.  I chose the wax for a little protection.

Great bag.

[Follow-up: Attended a photo workshop after posting this…both our instructor and another pro in the workshop were carrying this bag]

[Follow-up #2: Lugged this bag all over Paris and London.  Carried my 50D, 10-20mm Sigma, 18-200 Sigma, batteries, cards, etc. and still had plenty of room for maps, my jacket (had to stuff it when both the jacket and camera were in the bag at the same time), phone, water bottle…still love this bag.  I would have liked a shoulder pad for those days I carried the bag for 12+ hours, but the strap is wide enough that it wasn’t really a problem.]

7 responses

  1. Thanks buddy, that’s helpful. I need to upgrade my little bag but waiting on the new camera first. I’ll refer back to this one in due time. Thanks for sharing and hope all is well. Jim

    April 23, 2010 at 9:16 pm

  2. Looks like a good bag. Personally I prefer my Lowepro camera backpack. It’s not as accessible/convenient as a shoulder bag, but it’s much better for my back (which gives me a lot of grief if I’m not nice to it).

    June 18, 2012 at 10:42 am

    • Yeah, I understand the back thing (25 years of issues and finally had to resort to surgery last year). The shoulder bag is great for the smaller loads and wouldn’t normally carry it around with all the stuff shown in this post. I’m going to invest in a backpack soon myself, not so much as a replacement but as another option depending on what I’m going to carry on a particular outing.

      June 22, 2012 at 7:50 pm

  3. Pingback: Da Bears! « Michael Tuuk Photography

  4. Brian Winsauer

    I realize that this post is old but I am in the same bag quandary that you were in. I do like the looks & size of the bag a lot but I like to keep my 70-200 on the body at all times. Would you think it possible to have the 70-200 mounted lengthwise and have room for a 14-24 & 24-70? I’m a Nikon guy, sorry lol!

    July 23, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    • It’s certainly possible and I stuff it like that occasionally. You have to take out the square insert which divides the main compartment in order to fit the long lens. The other lenses will need to be in some sort of cloth sleeves to prevent banging around because they *will* be half on top of each other all the time. To summarize, it will fit all the equipment — on my last outing I did exactly that (Canon 70-200, 24-70, and 17-40….might have stuffed my 50mm f/1.4 in it too). However, it would be personal preference as to whether you “like” that arrangement since you lose all compartmentalization. I still use this as my main (small) bag and still love it.

      July 23, 2013 at 9:17 pm

      • Brian Winsauer

        Great answer and exactly what I was looking for – going to order the bag now. Thank you for your time!

        July 24, 2013 at 7:05 pm

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