Choosing a camera bag is an import decision that all photographers must make. The amount of bag choices on the market can be downright dizzying though. I recently had the chance to upgrade my camera bag to to the Tilopa by f-stop and have shared my initial thoughts below.
If you’ve spent some time photographing the out doors, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of f-stop bags. They make high end gear that is aimed at landscape and adventure photographers and are essentially the Cadillac of camera bags.
Bag Size and setup
The Tilopa is a 50 liter bag which has plenty of space to store your camera gear and more, yet it is small enough to carry onto most air lines. Unlike many camera bags, f- stop bags make use of internal camera units (ICUs) that come in nine different sizes. The large and XL ICUs make perfect companions for the Tilopa and do a nice job of filling out the main compartment while leaving enough space in the side pockets for spare gear, and a few layers of clothing.
My current setup utilizes the XL ICU which allows me to carry my camera with any one of my lenses attached. This is important because I want to be ready to shoot as soon as I open my bag. The ICU has enough room to store a spare body, two other lenses, my tele extender, extension tubes, and my massive collection of filters.
f-stop makes a host of accessories to help you customize your bag including packing cells, straps and filter holders. Since my previous bag utilized clear pouches, I have found that clear zipper bags are a great way to organize small loose items while still allowing me to see exactly what’s inside.
Build and features
f-stop bags look more like a hiking pack than a camera bag. Their trim design allows them to rest comfortably on you back during long trips without pulling on your shoulders too hard. There are plenty of cinch straps to add additional items while each shoulder strap has a heavy duty D ring that can be used attach a water bottle or GPS device.
Since the pack is designed for outdoor photographers, there is a built in bladder pouch to store your water. Although this feature is super useful, I generally shy away from storing water next to my camera gear unless it is in a waterproof sack. f-stop makes a waterproof hydration sleeve for those who need to store water inside their pack.
Third party gear pouches can be added to the waist belt via molle straps for quick access of essential items such as batteries, filters, lenses, or even additional water bottles.
The rear loading zipper allows the bag to be placed on the ground face down while giving you full access to your gear. This means your back will stay clean and dry when shooting in adverse weather. It only takes shooting in wet conditions once to realize the importance of a well thought out bag. The rear access point means that your gear is 100% secure even in the unlikely event that the main zipper fails.
A heavy duty zipper on the top of the bag gives additional access to your spare gear, while the brain serves as a great place to store smaller items such as intervalometers, memory cards, blowers, and lens cloths.
f-stop bags are built for diehard photographers who want a bag that is durable enough to withstand constant contact with the outdoors. I’m rough on my gear and I need a bag that is going to stand up to constant abuse. At the end of the day, the Tilopa is probably the most rugged bag on the market and the ICU system certainly makes it the most customizable. Take the ICU out and you have a great day pack or even a small overnight backpack.