Domke Lovin’

A sand coloured Domke F-7 came into my life two weeks ago.

I had been looking for a big camera bag for months, as my existing bags were getting too small to cope with my working gear, with one of them also splitting some seams. So I was after a replacement with the following requirements:

  • Big enough to hold all my weekend working gear in one bag
  • Side pockets allowing for easy access to frequently used items like memory cards and batteries – I’ve owned a few bags in this time and none of them have pockets that are quickly and easily accessible.
  • Tough – i kick, drag and generally mistreat my bags woefully. The ones made of nylon don’t last very long.
  • Simple – I am easily confused by the compartment “systems” that some manufacturers have, which extend bag capacity to suit or allow you to turn it into a pantry that balances petrie dishes if desired. I wanted a bag that simply holds stuff; none of this innovative shaping and accessing of upper, lower compartments, hideaway flaps etc. The last thing I want to do when I’m working is stop and think “now how do i get to my batteries now that the bag’s wrong way up?” All too hard!

Enter Domke. 

At that point I already owned a Domke F-6 for walking around with one camera body and a couple of prime lenses. I like it very much for its no nonsense configuration and the fact that it’s tough as anything, if a bit small. So I had great expectations for the F-7 when I finally bit the bullet and bought it after six months of deliberation.

Here’s a shot of everything in the bag:

Gear list in above photo:

  • D7000 body
  • D700 body
  • 70-200 f2.8
  • 24-70 f2.8
  • 50 f1.4
  • 35 f2
  • 24 f2.8
  • Spare batteries for both bodies
  • SB-900
  • Lots of AA batteries for the flash (in Nikon battery boxes)
  • Memory cards in ThinkTank Pixel Pocket Rocket and spares in individual cases
  • Wallet
  • Pen
  • Lumiquest Softbox (square white thing in the bottom right corner)

I could fit in more if I needed to, but this is optimum for me, as I can pull stuff out and put other stuff in on the fly without having to worry about whether everything will fit.

And the first photo is what it looks like when everything is packed up.

I was assisting at a wedding today; it was the first real “user experience” test that this bag has been put through, and it passed with flying colours. The open pockets store my memory cards and batteries, these being the two things I frequently need at short notice during a shoot. One velcro-flapped side pocket holds my personal stuff – wallet, phone, keys. The other side pocket held used batteries today, only because I couldn’t think of anything else to put in it.

I like that:

  1. I can get to all the pockets fast without having to unhook the flap to the main compartment.
  2. Removable, velcro dividers for organising gear are really sticky, and stay in place
  3. It has a nice thick shoulder strap so nothing is cutting into my skin
  4. It suits me to a T, usage wise.
  5. Thick, tough canvas

What I wasn’t prepared for:

  • The sheer weight of all that gear packed into one bag. At a guess, it’d weigh around 10 kilos, give or take a couple. This is the first time I’ve spent a whole day carrying all my usual gear around with me – previously I’d dash to the car to change the contents in the F-6. It’s super convenient though!
  • How to pack it so I can fit in the 70-200 attached to a body, as it won’t fit “face down”. I ended up carrying the camera with zoom on one shoulder, and the bag on the other. Have to work on this.

I’d like to get another F-7, or maybe an F-1x. Every single piece of photography gear I own, save the tripod,  should fit right into these two bags should I need to pick them up and bugger off in a hurry (say, if National Geographic comes calling).

Generally, I’m really happy with the F-7. I’ve never written gear reviews before, but I’m particularly thrilled about this bag, as I’ve never found one, whether for photography or general use, that suits my strange usage habits before – I hate the fuss factor and do-everything-for-you element that newer bags tend to have. I find them unpleasant/frustrating to use, because I have to consciously think about how I am using them particularly when I don’t want to be doing so. The F-7 though was built for me: chuck-gear-and-run. Love it.


  1. Brian Miller says:

    Dude, you’ve got a lot of gear! ;)

    1. charlene says:

      And this is packing light – most of the wedding shooters I work for pack more than this.

  2. Dodgee Bruce says:

    whoa, thats a lot of batteries for one day! or even a weekend, i must be doing it wrong…must buy more gear!!

    1. charlene says:

      Haha, I don’t use them all Bruce. Usually just the 2, or 3 at the most, depending on how long my day is. But I always bring them all just in case. Bonus for the Nikon shooters I work with – we’ve had batteries failing en masse before so it’s always handy to have lots of spares.

  3. I’ve heard great things about Domke, but never seen their bags before. Good to see they live up to their reputation! (And it’s always important to be prepared for that all important National Geographic call *g*)

    1. charlene says:

      Indeed! You won’t find me keeping Nat Geo waiting :D

      There are lots of people who love Domke bags and quite a few that hate them. I’ve come to the conclusion it’s one of those Ford vs Holden arguments. But I’m really happy my Domkes so far!

  4. katie leigh says:

    nice! i want to get domke inserts for a backpack because i find that having everything lugged on one shoulder turns me into a hunchback. i haven’t found an actual camera bag backpack that looks the part. domke bags are pretty sexy, i’m jealous of all your stuff! :):)

    1. charlene says:

      Ona make some nice bags: although they are a bit pricey. F-stop, Kata etc make backpacks, though they look like camera bags.

      Don’t be jealous. I worked early mornings, late nights and weekends at another job for years to afford this stuff. I’m still recovering from it!

  5. That is a beautiful bag, I love canvas bags and my little Domke is great. This is huge however, walking around working on a wedding all day with this filled with — I’ll guess – 10 kilos of gear, now that must kill your back! Cannot be good for you, I would don a backpack even though I know they’re not as handy and quickly accessible.

    1. I’m so clever…good guess, just noticed you already wrote 10 kilos in the article.

      1. charlene says:

        Hehehehe, I weighed in again on Friday with similar gear (just one or two things more) and all up, it’s about 12 kilos. Yes, not very good for back, esp as have been nursing a lower back injury… which I thought had healed. Ugh. Hello, 3 days of nauseating headache. As convenient as this is, I may have to re-strategize my working bags for the sake of my poor back.

  6. Amanda says:

    I love canvas bags, too, and have been eyeing the domkes for several years. you and I have a lot of the same requirements for bags!
    for shooting on the fly, weddings, etc. I would much rather use a shoulder bag (for easy access) but the weight thing discourages me – I always end up bringing less gear because of it.

    There is no one bag that can do it all, but the domke looks pretty awesome. I think my ideal bag trifecta would be a domke or thinktank retrospective for jobs, the Kenti for hiking and travelling and an Ona for everyday use. man, it never ends, eh? :)

    1. charlene says:

      Yup, the weight’s a killer if you have to cart it around all day on the shoulder, which I appear to have done on both jobs I’ve worked since getting this bag. As I replied to Flemming above, I may have to rethink my single-bag strategy.

      Spot on with the trifecta :D We really do have the same requirements for bags eh?

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