When I wrote my initial review of the X100s I said I was going to try and get out more to take photos but unfortunately I've just not been able to. This will change. But until then, here is a review of the Domke F-5XB.
Many people suffer from 'analysis paralysis' - the crippling inability to make a decision without first analysing and over-thinking ever minute detail. I suffer from this greatly when planning to purchase items. Whether it be clothes, gifts for other people, home accessories etc. etc. If there is a choice between similar items, then I can guarantee I'll spend hours on the internet weighing up the pros and cons of each. It's really annoying. But strangely, also quite fun. So when I sold all my DSLR gear and ordered the X100s, I started an epic online search for a new camera bag. After countless hours reading reviews product specifications I settled for the Domke F-5XB (Rugged Wear model).
The American made F-5XB measures 10″ wide 4.5″ deep and 7.25″ high. It has a velcro fastening flap with an external slip pocket for cleaning cloths and other small, flat items. When I took the bag with me to Barcelona I shoved a metro map in there as it was quick to access.
Open the flap and there is dual YKK zipper with large pull tabs. Inside the bag there is another (padded) pocket which can be used to store memory cards, money and other smallish items. The zipper feels great, it's smooth and the large tabs make it easy to open, especially when wearing gloves.
The main compartment is fully padded with soft material and has two padded velcro dividers which can be positioned (or removed) as necessary. The main compartment is large enough to hold my X100S (with lens hood and tripod mount attached), cleaning pen, ND filters and Cokin filter adapter, spare batteries, wallet, iPod & headphones, sunglasses case, a bag of nuts and even the Fuji battery charger and cable. The bag may look small but I was surprised at how much I could comfortably fit inside it. I've also managed to store a Hybrid Gorillapod just under the main flap when the zipper is closed!
You also have the ability to attach the bag to your belt if you so wish.
Another nice feature of the bag is the adjustable strap. The length is perfect. Not too short and not too long. The last thing you want is a bag that slaps against your thigh when walking or running. I position it just behind me on my hip and swing it round when needed. The best feature about the strap though, which is also unique to Domke's camera straps, is the rubber material woven into the side of the strap that rests on your shoulder. From a distance it looks like a decorative feature, but the rubber is there to stop the strap from sliding off your shoulder. I walked around the bag all day for several days on my trip to Barcelona and not once did the strap slide off my shoulder when walking at a quick pace. It's a great idea.
The size and style of the bag is what first attracted me. I was looking for something small enough to make me want to carry it around locally and abroad with ease, but also big enough for me to carry items that I'd need throughout the day. The bag comes in 5 different versions (black canvas, brown canvas, olive canvas, sand canvas and Rugged Wear). I decided to settle for the Rugged Wear model. It is made form breathable cotton canvas and has a kind of...erm...rugged look to it. This version of the bag also comes with a tin of wax that you can apply to the bag and then heat slightly to make it waterproof. Again, a nice additional extra. The bag cost me about £75. You might think that's expensive for a small bag but it's made to an extremely high standard and I have full confidence that it will serve me well for many years to come. It's worth every penny.
I've highlighted the features and what I like about the bag, but is there anything I dislike? Honestly, not really. If I had to pick something then it would be the velcro fastening and the strap attachments. I like being silent when wandering around and the metallic strap attachments clink around slightly. The attachments are strong and secure though. I'll be making them silent with a little duct tape soon. It's nothing major, I'm just being picky. The velcro (not that this is a bad thing!) is very secure. It takes some effort to open the main flap and is quite noisy. Again, I'm going to stick a bit of duct tape on the velcro to reduce the noise but to still keep everything secure. Both of these things are really minor and can be addressed. It's no fault of the bag, just my personal preference.
Although I love the Domke F-5XB, I have ordered a new bag (Think Tank Retrospective 7 - review to follow) as I need something slightly larger to hold all of the items mentioned earlier but also my iPad, book and a spare shirt. What I intend to do on trips is to carry the Retrospective 7 with me on flights, but have the F-5XB in my hold luggage to use during the day. I have no need to carry an iPod and book around with me all day, just for long journey's where I also want my camera to hand.
In conclusion, I love the Domke F-5XB and would recommend it to anyone looking for a camera bag to suit street and travel photography or general everyday use. It's unassuming and doesn't scream 'I'm carrying expensive gear!' I also feel it compliments cameras like the X100s as it can be used without sparking too much unwanted attention. Without doubt, it's the best camera bag I've ever owned.
If you have any questions about the bag then feel free to leave a comment.