Vanguard are well known for their tripod and binocular ranges, but they were a manufacturer I initially overlooked when searching for a photo backpack. Being a keen walker, I spend a lot of my spare time in and around Derbyshire’s Peak District so it goes without saying that I always have a camera with me. Up until a few years ago, I had been using large 55 and 80 litre backpacks to lug my walking and camera gear around in. But none offered dedicated protection for my cameras and lenses. So after writing down a few pre-requisites, I began an evaluation of what seemed like an endless array of different models. My pre-requisites were;

A new DSLR System acquisition invariably sees us purchase a new bag to house it in. What can I say? – we have a real weakness for photo bags and need little in the way of a reason to go and purchase a new one. Excuses flow easily in terms of justification but when it comes down to being honest, new bags are exciting!

Air Travel today seems to impose increasingly tougher limitations on hand luggage sizes with each year that passes. This is not just restricted to weight, but the actual luggage dimensions. I have fallen foul of these rules many times, and nowadays it is usually the weight that lets me down. It was not always so; several years ago I was so fed up with being hauled over the coals by check-in staff due to my carry-on being just a little too large, I decided to address the problem once and for all and purchase something that was well below regulation sizes but offered optimal protection for my belongings – particularly my camera gear.

The E-System Pro Backpack from Olympus was introduced way back when my E-1 was new and is the only backpack I have owned that is fully given over to camera gear. Normally, I tend to go for packs that offer dual functionality, i.e. some space for flasks, food and a coat. But this time I wanted something that allowed me to take a large part of my camera gear with me so that I could really immerse myself in the craft without worrying about what I had left at home. I had been using a Lowepro equivalent that was loaned to me, which is what planted the seed in my head about getting one of my own.

The Lowepro Stealth 550 AW is one of the largest bags we own, and addressed the problem of carrying around a Canon EOS camera with lenses and macro accessories which formed the core units of our product photography. As we expanded more and more into this area, it was inevitable that the gear requirements expanded along with it. Canon gear is by no means small when compared with much of the other kit we have, so it soon became obvious that we needed something big to transport it in.

It can be a liberating experience to leave most camera gear behind and travel very lightly with just one body and a couple of lenses. Arguably extra lenses or other small items can be stowed in coat pockets, but for those of us who like to keep gear in dedicated bags, there are a plethora of small, well specified models to choose from.

Billingham Bags have been around for decades and are synonymous with quality and durability. I purchased one more than 20 years ago and it is still in use today, so with this in mind I thought I would put together an article covering its strengths and weaknesses after such long term use.