Picture This! Mailbag Archives

May 15, 2009

Picture This! Mailbag: Camera Bags

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

We received the following inquiry recently to the Picture This! blog from reader Sharon. Since flattery was used, Barrie, Lisa and myself give her our opinions. It also lead me to updating a piece of my equipment.

I LOVE the Picture This blog! I have learned countless tips and been inspired many times from reading your posts! I'm not sure if this has been discussed in a previous blog post, but my question is about carrying camera gear around the parks.

I just received my first digital SLR camera this past holiday season. I'll be visiting Disney World again in May 2009 and am very excited to use my new camera! However, it goes without saying that this camera is much bulkier than my previous point and shoots (which I used to wear hooked to my belt). I've thought about constantly wearing my camera by the neckstrap, or using the case - which is rather bulky and awkward to carry for a whole day in the parks. I'm concerned if I wear the camera on my neck all day, I'll risk "bumping" it on something. Also concerned about taking the camera, with or without a case, on certain rides (i.e. Tower of Terror, Rock n Roller Coaster, Splash Mountain...)

Any tips/suggestions for a 1st timer on carrying my gear through the parks??

Barrie's answer:

Hi Sharon - I'll add my thoughts to what Scott has sent.

I have a backpack that I wear in the parks - this one: Tamrac Adventure 6 Photo Backpack. It's very comfortable and just big enough to fit all my junk. I like to have everything I need with me, including an extra lens, flash, battery, filters, manual, CD cards, lens cloth, water bottle, and a bunch of little things. This bag holds everything, with a little extra room for a poncho or sunglasses, whichever I'm not wearing based on the weather! I also like the ability to put my camera away, especially during meals. I don't like to worry about someone spilling something on it or knocking it off the table.

I have tried other bags (shoulder bags and fanny bags) but found that my back would really hurt after awhile. Also, those kind of bags always seem to be in my way. Since I've had the backpack, I've had no trouble. That's been a couple of years. My only complaint is that it can get hot. If you're going in the warmer part of the year, it might not be a good option. I tend to go during the cooler months.

I have the Black Rapid strap that Scott mentioned. I do like it for when I want to travel light. Mine has room for an extra battery and some extra cards on it. It takes some getting used to but it does relieve the stress on your neck and back quite a bit. However, I can't use it and my backpack at the same time because the strap goes across my body. Mostly I use it on hiking trips at home when I can leave my pack in the car. I'm pretty attached to my pack, can you tell?

The strap I use with my camera is an OP/TECH 37012 Pro Loop Strap. I LOVE it. Well worth the price for the added comfort.

As for rides, I've never had any trouble carrying on my backpack. It doesn't always fit in the mesh bags but I just put it on the floor with one foot through a strap.

I've used a locker for my tripod before, but never for my camera. The lockers tend to be at the front of the park and I don't ever really want to be that far away from my camera.

I do have another backpack that I use to carry my gear on the airplane. I did a review of the Kata KT DR-467 Digital Rucksack on my other blog. If you want one with a little more room I can't recommend this one enough - I truly am in love with it! I don't use it for around the parks though, because I don't need that much space. Some people do though.

Oh, one other tip - for rides like Splash Mountain or Kali River Rapids, I carry a small kitchen garbage bag in my pack. I can fit my whole backpack in it and not have to worry. It also works great for unexpected downpours!

Hope that helps. Barrie

Lisa added:

Hi Sharon,

Last but not least, I'll toss out to you how I manage the parks. First, I bring along a college guy with lots of muscles to carry things. OK, perhaps not. Depending on how much equipment I'm carrying I take one of 2 backpacks. My larger backpack is from Canon and sadly they don't make them anymore. However it fits one body with a lens, a 2nd lens, flash, battery pack, 2 chargers, lots of batteries, filters, a point and shoot, a memory card wallet, and a camcorder. I should probably toss in a bottle of Advil because that much stuff leads to backaches.

My smaller backpack, a Tamrac Travel Pack 71 Model 5371, holds 1 body with a lens, the 2nd lens, my flash, 2 chargers, filters, batteries, and a battery pack. Then I've got my point and shoot in a case.

I have my camera around my neck unless I'm on a jerky ride like Dinosaur or something that might get it wet like Splash Mountain. You'll find that you'll have one hand on the camera most of the time so you're far less likely to bump it on something.

Like Barrie, when my camera bag is too big for the mesh pockets on attractions, I place it on the floor with one leg through a strap. I also try to keep it a few inches off the floor by suspending it between my legs. Photographers are a strange lot, I know.

I hope we haven't overwhelmed you. Feel free to ask more questions if you have any.

Keep Shooting,

Okay, both Barrie and Lisa indicated I had already gave Sharon my opinion and here it is:


I carry my digital SLR camera around my neck most of the time while at Walt Disney World. If it's not around my neck, it's back in the room.

Rides: All of Disney's thrill rides (ie., Tower of Terror, Space Mountain, Rock'n Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest for examples) have mesh bags to put lose items in and this is where I'll store my camera while I ride.

Bags: There are lots of camera bags, backpacks and waist (fanny) packs available. A handy website is which have photos and reviews of all types of camera bags. Personally, I use a Mickey Mouse fanny pack to carry an extra battery for the camera, lens cleaning cloth, extra memory cards, a 50mm lens and a flash unit while carrying my camera with a zoom lens around my neck.

Lockers: All Disney parks have lockers you can rent. They require $10 deposit (you get $5 back when you return the key) for the day. You can store your camera while doing all the thrill rides if that makes you more comfortable.

Has my camera been knocked around at times? Yes, but I am very careful. Still, after 5 years and about a dozen trips to Walt Disney World, it's working great!

There is an alternative you might want to check out called the R-Strap. I've never used one but have it on my "to buy" list. From what I read, you either like it or you don't. Maybe you will.


As you can see, I don't really use something designed for photographic equipment. Sharon's question made me question my current Mickey Mouse solution. With no dividors, my lens and flash often rub and bang into each other. I went searching for something better but still small and which goes around my waist. I am not a fan of backpacks or over the shoulder bags. Have tried both in the past. Like a camera, a way to carry a camera is a personal decision. We all work differently.

What I found was a company called Think Tank Photo. This company is run by photographers and have designed their photo equipment carrying products with them in mind. They tend to be on the pricey side. Their products are built to take the punishment we put them through. Not saying we are careless but stuff happens when walking around themeparks with thousands of other guests, hiking through woods or at family events.

I choose the Think Tank Photo Speed Demon Belt Pack. The Speed Demon incorporates the use of "Skin" components, of which, I added their Skin 75 Pop Down which can hold a large zoom lens. This component will come in handy at sporting events and zoos.

The Speed Demon is very comfortable and lightweight with my 50mm, 11-16mm zoom, speedlight, flash bounce accessory, memory cards, extra batteries for camera and flash, grey card, pens, notebook, lens cloth, and a small blower. Lots of pockets and zippered areas for organization. It even has an attached raincoat to come out and cover the pack in case of sudden rains. Another cool feature is the zipper on top of the bag. It gives easy access to the large bag area with padded compartments where I can reach in and pull out a lens or flash fast without having to unzip the entire bag.

I could substitute a lens or the speedlight in the Speed Demon for my camera if I wanted to. I still like having the camera around my neck so I am always ready to take a picture.

So, thanks Sharon for your question. It helped me find a better way to carry and protect my photo equipment. Hope the suggestions given above help you if you are looking for a new camera bag accessory.

January 18, 2008

Picture This! Mailbag: AllEars Photographers Answer Your Questions

Once in awhile, we'd like to share with you some of the questions we receive from our dear readers here on the Picture This! Blog. We find them challenging and we hope you find them informative.

Becky asked:

I know for film lenses, there is a conversion of 1.5x's if used on a digital SLR. If a person bought a DX lens, is there still a conversion or would an 18mm really be an 18mm?

Scott answered:

While Nikon DX lenses are built for the smaller digital sensors, they are still referred to in 35mm ranges. I guess it's easier for marketing? As an example, my 18-200mm VR zoom lens is equivalent to a 27-300mm full frame, note 35mm, camera lens. So, if you have a 50mm lens that would turn into a 75mm on a Nikon DX digital camera body.

Additional Information: You hear the term "crop factor" and "full-frame" when referring to different digital SLR cameras. Cropped means the image sensor is smaller than the traditional 35mm. Nikon SLRs are a 1.5x crop (meaning you muliply by 1.5 the focal length of the lens to get it's 35mm equivalent). Full-frame camera sensors are a full 35mm and have no crop multiplier. Examples of these cameras are the Canon 5D and Nikon D3. For more information, go to this link: Crop Factor Explained

Connie asked:

Please can you explain the "Rule of Thirds" in a very elementary way. To quote Denzel Washington from Phildaelphia. "Explain it to me like a 6 year old".

Barrie answered:

Hi Connie - the simplest way to follow the rule of thirds is to just make a point of not putting your subject in the center of the frame.

You can practice like this:

  1. Focus on something in the middle of your frame, the way you normally would.
  2. Hold the shutter release button halfway down.
  3. Move your camera slightly down and to the right until your subject falls somewhere (about halfway) between the center and the upper left corner. It doesn't have to be exact - wherever it looks best to you is perfect.
  4. Now move your camera again so the subject is halfway between the center and the bottom left corner. Next, try moving it towards the corners on the right hand side.
  5. When you find a spot that looks good to you, click the shutter release all the way down.

Laura asked:

I have been reading the Picture This blog since it started because I had
hopes of one day soon owning an SLR camera and I thought I would get a head start on my learning (I've always owned point and shoots--my current being a Canon Powershot 500). Last week I finally got my first SLR (Olympus Evolt 410). I'm realizing what a different world the SLRs are compared to the point and shoot cameras and I am really lost!

I've never taken a photography class, but majored in graphic design so I'm pretty proficient with shot layouts and Photoshop. My question is, since I have no background working with a 'real' [note: dSLR] camera, what books and/or resources should I use to help educate myself? I am much more of a visual learner than I am a reading learner. I'm going to WDW at the end of January and I'd like to have learned enough to be able to bring my new camera with me.

Lisa suggested:

A DVD tutorial on the Olympus Evolt E-410

Olympus' webpage for the Evolt E-410 with introduction video

Barrie suggested:

Hi Laura - I am the kind of person that learns new things from books. I learned all my computer skills that way, reading those big 4 inch software how-to books. I have had a heck of a time learning photography that way though. I've read many books but these are the ones I've learned the most from:

This one is really good, recommended by pretty much everyone.

Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera by Bryan Peterson

This one, and the next one, are great beginner books. They're very easy reads. The one below is coming out next week I think. [note: It is now available.]

The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby

The Digital Photography Book, Volume 2 by Scott Kelby

Scott suggested:

Here's a nice blog article on digital SLR exposure:

Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed - The Good Kind of Threesome

Yeah, the blog title is a bit interesting to say the least but it's very informative. :-)

We hope you like this feature and if you have any questions about digital photography, in general, or at Walt Disney World, in particular, just send us a comment via the link you'll find just below our articles. Thank you for reading!

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Picture This! in the Picture This! Mailbag category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Photographic Innoventions - Scott's Blog is the previous category.

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