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Packing Your Cameras & Lenses Properly : Do Not Attach Your Camera & Lens

Web: www.stevenfrischling.com — E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

16/09/2008 – Packing Your Cameras & Lenses Properly : Do Not Attach Your Camera & Lens

For some reason photographers like to pack their lenses attached to their camera bodies. For some even stranger reason photographers seem to pack their longer, heavier, lenses attached to their camera bodies. Why do photographers pack this way? I have no idea.

When you pack your equipment you should think of Sir Isaac Newton and his theory that an object in motion will remain in motion until something stops the motion. Another way to look at this is that that a force of impact on your camera will need to dissipate that force.

Newton’s theory looks something like this: Invalid request error occurred.

So what does this mean for photographers when they pack their 70-200f2.8 attached to their Nikon D700 body? It means that if your bag should sustain an impact the force through your camera, or through your lens, will transfer from one object to the next, often damaging the weakest link. What is usually the weakest link between a camera and a lens? The mount!

If your bag is dropped, knocked, hit, or otherwise ‘whacked’ your camera body can be spun one way while your lens is spun another way. The result of this impact is you torquing the two mounts significantly damaging both your camera and your lens.

If you pack your body and your lens separately the twisting motion of the camera body and the lens are only felt by the body and the lens individually. The impact dissipates into the padding of the bag. Since neither your camera body or your lens is attached to the bag there is no damage to either the camera or the lens.

I have heard many photographers say, “If my camera is attached to my lens then I can act faster to capture the photo.” I have news for you, if you need to put your backpack down, open the flap and remove your camera and lens kit……….you’ve already ‘missed the moment.’

I have spent years covering news and fast paced situations and I can’t think of a single moment where I thought, “if only my camera and lens were attached in my bag I might have captured that image.”

Fleeting moments happen non-stop. You’ll see photos all day long if you’re looking, and if that is your intention you need to travel with your cameras out, on your shoulders, ready to shoot.

When you pack your equipment you need to pack it securely. Pack your gear relatively snug so it does not bounce. You need to maximize your space in small area of a bag, backpack or rolling case.

Not only does traveling with your lens attached to your camera significantly increase the chances of damaging your camera equipment while traveling, but it also decreases your packing flexibility. When you pack your camera body and your lenses detached from each other you increase the space in your bag to pack more effectively. By having each item separate you are no longer packing ‘around a camera-lens combo,’ you are free to stand lenses up, stack lenses, lay lenses down, adjust the location of our camera body within the bag.

All of these elements make for a safer and more practical way to pack your equipment.

Happy Flying!


  1. “I can’t think of a single moment where I thought, “if only my camera and lens were attached in my bag I might have captured that image.””

    Even if there was such a moment, Murphy’s law (an immutable part of the fabric of the universe) states that “The wrong lens will be attached” (photographer’s corollary). This will cause even more loss of moment than if no lens was attached.

  2. This makes so much sense! I’m running now to my camera bag to dismount the lens. Note, to do this you need to be sure to have a body cap and lens end cap.

  3. I think a lot of camera bags “force you” to leave the lens attached to the body…Just look at all the “professional” Lowepro backpacks (minus the Stealth AW). Every single model has the padded dividers rigidly arranged in the main compartment. i.e.http://products.lowepro.com/product/Pro-Trekker-AW-II,2001,14.htm

    Sure the dividers have velcro, but the fuzzy stuff is only sewn in very few spots, basically an all or nothing configuration. Other companies like Think tank are smart enough to make it fuzzy all around 🙂

  4. Benjamin,

    Companies make some bags that are fully Velcro, but Think Tank does a great job of making the interior of their bags ‘all Velcro.”

    Mountainsmith does a great job of this as well with the Parallax,the Odyssey and the Traverse, as well as the Flightpath and interior ‘cubes’ of the Correspondent (although they have many photos of bodies attached to longer lenses while packed on their site).

    What is worse is the bags showing longer lenses attached, and suspended, while packed horizontally in shoulder bags.

    Happy Flying


  5. Fish,

    I didn’t know that Mountainsmith bags had velcro everywhere. We don’t have them up here in Canada…not that i know of anyway. I don’t usually buy a bag sight unseen/touched. But the next time I’m in need of something different I might give Mountainsmith a shot.


  6. Benjamin,

    You’re in luck, you can purchase Mountainsmith from Mountainsmith or from other excellent online retailer such as the Kittery Trading Post (www.kitterytradingpost.com), so I buy from online and in their store in Kittery, Maine.

    Happy Flying!


  7. Packing camera bodies detached from lenses is logical. Not so much for safety sake – since my camera gear is always in a carry-on bag and I am the only one who will handle it, but because it is easier to pack the gear this way and I can make better use of the space in my carry-on bag.

    Since I am no longer shooting professionally, I do not need the abundance of gear that I once traveled with. This is good since airlines have become stingy about carry-on baggage. In fact, China Airlines has a 5 kilogram (11 pounds) limit on carry-on bags for economy class travelers. This forces me to be both frugal with my selection of equipment and judicious in the selection of the carry on bag.

    I no longer use my Lowepro Roller bag for international flights. Even though the size of the bag conforms to the limits of most carriers; the empty weight of almost 9 pounds leaves very little weight for the gear packed in in.

    I am now using a Lowepro Mini trekker which weighs less than two pounds empty. I can pack my 2 bodies, three lenses, two flash units plus the various needed accessories such as CF cards and still be under the 11 pound limit. If push came to shove, I could always remove a camera body and carry it around my neck as I checked in and then replace it it the Trekker afterwards.

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