My Quest for the Perfect Camera Bag

My quest for the perfect camera bag continues, and as you may have guessed this post is about yet another bag I’ve purchased recently. One thing I have realised on my quest for the perfect camera bag, and I may have said this before, is that there is no perfect bag for all occasions. I have several bags and possible more than I should but all of them serve specific purposes

Anyone that has more than a passing interest in photography will be familiar with the struggle that is finding the perfect camera bag. Most of you will have more bags than is healthy, I know I certainly do. It’s hard to explain to people (particularly my partner) why you need more than one although she may have a point given the number of bags I seem to have accumulated. They do all have their place though, well most of them. I could possibly ditch a couple of them.

The reason you need more than one and that there is no single bag perfect for all occasions is that depending on what you’re doing, you’ll be carrying differing amounts of gear. I wouldn’t take a 50l hiking backpack if I’m only going to walk around a city for a day where photography isn’t my main goal. For the same reason, I’m not going to take a small day pack if I need room for my DSLR, a couple of extra lenses, filters, and various other accessories along with additional layers of clothing.

Enter the Shimoda Action X series backpacks.

I’ve had my eye on the Shimoda Action series bags since they were originally announced on Kickstarter last year. They received quite a lot of hype when launched, albeit not as much as the Peak Design bags, and since the first pre-release versions went out to some professional photographers that I follow on various social media platforms, they been getting really positive reviews.

The Action X series were originally going to be available from December 2019 for Kickstarter backers and March for general release. That was before Covid-19 wreaked havoc on the world and put a stop to almost everything. I’ve been watching the Kickstarter updates and keeping an eye on the larger retailer’s websites for stock being available. I finally found a UK based retailer with stock at the beginning of July. Ironically, the company I found with stock wasn’t a camera store or an authorised Shimoda stockist, but a retailer of mountain sports equipment called Absolute Snow that I happened to find through google shopping. I was sceptical at first, wondering how they had managed to get their hands on them before even B&H Photo in New York had them in stock. I carefully sifted through reviews looking for any warning signs that it may be a fraudulent site, but I found none. Once I was comfortable with the site, I hit the button and parted with my hard-earned cash in exchange for an Action X50 starter kit.

I had debated long and hard about which size of pack to go for. For me, it was a choice between the Action X30 and the Action X50 and there really wasn’t a huge size different between the two. Given that most of the backpacks I currently own are between thirty and forty litres and I often find myself running out of space, I opted for the larger of the two. You have a choice of two colours for the bag. The usual option of black, or a more unusual option of army green. Nearly all of the camera bags I already own are black and given that I’m often photographing wildlife, I thought the green might blend in a little better. I also like the fact that a green backpack doesn’t immediately scream “Camera bag full of expensive equipment, please steal me!”.

Shimoda Action X series backpack specifications
Action X Backpack Specifications

There were other benefits to going with the larger pack. The first being the compatible core units. The X50 can take both the medium and large DSLR core units whereas the X30 can only take the medium mirrorless core unit. I opted for the medium DSLR core unit to get me started. I can then either get a large DSLR core unit if I need more space or I can add an additional small core unit to when required to give me some flexibility.

I’ve only had this bag a couple of weeks and I’m yet to use it in anger, but so far, I’m impressed by the capacity and flexibility it gives.

What made this bag so appealing to me?

Like I said earlier, I follow several professional photographers on social media who have been using this bag for several months and feeding back to Shimoda on what they liked and what they didn’t. I’ve seen them using it in a variety of situations out in the real world and it seemed to work really well and be really flexible. A couple of those photographers also did reviews on the backpack which were incredibly positive. Everyone has some small detail about the bag they don’t like or feel could be improved on, but these were just small niggles and certainly nothing that would put me off buying the bag.

What I like about the Action X50

I love the interchangeable core units; they give me more flexibility when it comes to the different amounts of gear I need to carry. None of my previous camera bags have used this system. I also love the roll top and the extra space it can provide for other stuff like additional clothing, food, or other non-photography related gear.

The bag is also extremely comfortable, again I’ve only carried it for short periods with a modest amount of gear in it, but it fits well, and the weight distribution is really good.

Did I mention the space? This bag has so much storage I doubt I would be able to lift it if I filled it to capacity. There are so many different pockets and storage pockets that the configuration possibilities are endless.

The build quality is excellent, and this thing feels like it will last for years. The zips have a solid feel to them, and everything appears to be double stitched. I have yet to test the waterproofing on this bag, but all the reviews I’ve seen indicate this won’t be a problem, even without the rain cover that is sold as an optional extra.

What I don’t like about the Action X50

In all honesty, currently not much. As I said earlier in the article, I haven’t really used this bag in anger yet. I’ve only taken it out on a few short trips. I have found a couple of minor niggles, some of which have also been mentioned by other photographers. I was also surprised by the size of the Action X50, it’s a little larger than I expected even though I did measure it out against my current pack.

The first thing I struggled with was setting up the core insert. It comes with plenty of dividers in the default configuration and I only wanted to set it up to carry one camera body and three lenses but I really struggled to find a configuration that allowed me to do this without wasting too much space. After three or four attempts I’ve got a configuration that works for me, but I still can’t say I’m 100% happy with it. As I use the bag more, I’m sure I will keep changing and tweaking things.

The other thing I find annoying is the magnetic clip on the waist belt. This has been pointed out by a couple of other photographers. To gain access to the main compartment, you need to release a small magnetic clip that connects the belt to the main body of the bag. If you don’t do this, the zip cannot travel all the way around the back panel, and you are unable to fold it open. I understand the need to for the strap and the additional support it provides but having to keep clipping and unclipping it is a minor annoyance.

I’m sure there will be other minute details that I either don’t like or find annoying once I use the bag more. Look out for another long-term review once I’ve been using the bag for a few months.

My Final Verdict

I’ve waited a long time to get my hands on one of these bags, and so far I’m not disappointed. If you’re on the lookout for a bag that can do more than just protect your gear, then you could do a lot worse than give the Shimoda Action X series of bags a try. Don’t let the price tag put you off, I think it’s worth every penny. I’m hoping this bag ends my quest for the perfect camera bag.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read this article. If you want any further information or want to ask me any questions, drop me a comment below.

Until next time, have a good one!

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