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Photo Vests: Do You Use Them?

March 4, 2010

I received this question from a reader earlier this week.  I’m not a vest user and couldn’t answer the question for him.  So, I told him I’d post it here for all of you to read and hopefully a couple of you can share your thoughts.

Here’s his question:

“I was in Yosemite this weekend shooting phenomenal sights, and since it was cold I was wearing my parka.  I very soon discovered that there are no pockets that will hold anything larger than a pack of gum, let alone a wide angle lens and some Cokin filters.  So, I need a photo vest but have no idea what to buy and where to buy it.  I don’t know if they are summer-ized or winter-ized, but I suspect they are all season and I will still need my parka in cold weather.  That is OK.  I just need something that will hold lenses, filters, toilet paper, etc.”

If you have a solution to his problem I invite you to post your response in the comments section.  Looking forward to reading what ya’ll come up with!

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2010 9:18 am

    I tried to use a photo vest years ago when I was starting out in photography, because I knew that many pros used and loved their vests. And I thought “that’s what the pros do.” It should be really useful with all the pockets everywhere, right? And they do look pretty cool – or at least photographer-cool, if that isn’t an oxymoron. 😉

    I had a Domke Photogs Vest which is a really nice product. It took me about a year, but I finally figured out that vests just don’t work well, for me. I didn’t like carrying all my equipment in the vest – lenses, filters, and camera rattling, jiggling and swaying all over the place. I didn’t like using it in combination with my shoulder bag because (and this seems silly, but…) I couldn’t remember where things were. Is that lens in the bag or a pocket? Did I put that filter here, there or in the bag? Where’s my cable release? I like things all in one place and where I can see them at a glance. I didn’t even like using it with my backpack (which I almost always use). It wasn’t comfortable under the shoulder and waist straps, even when it was empty.

    So as with most other pieces of photography equipment, it really comes down to what works for you personally. For me? Vest = Fail.

  2. March 4, 2010 10:46 am

    Hey Bret!
    I own only a motorcycle driving (actually riding… lol) license, so I have a major issue (I suspect I can share this issue with most photographers who trek out there) with capacity and carrying solutions!
    Currently I found the perfect answer to my problems! A Sliplock pouch (Lowepro makes them as well) in combination with filter pouches (Lee for the GND filters), the sliplock attaches nicely on any Lowepro bag which utilizes the holder system, it has AW for weather protection (so no worries for the equipment in there) and the larger of the series (50 and 60AW) can carry a load of stuff!
    In my 50AW I carry my GND filter holder (Hitech, 100mm system) with the lens adaptor, all of my GND filters (8 GND 100mm x 150mm) my whibal card, a spare battery (since reaching my gear in the backpack in the field ain’t always easy), my 77mm CPL case (when I need to remove my CPL) 2 microfiber cloths and finally my Canon remote control!
    I believe this sliplock is the best purchase I ever made! it attaches nicely (if you have a backpack that uses also the waistbelt and has holders on it its even better) and its way quick!
    I am also considering getting an additional and keeping it aside if I need it, also a lens pouch for keeping handy the 70-200 f/4 when on the field would be my next purchase 🙂

    • March 5, 2010 1:47 am

      Totally off-topic but what kind of motorcycle do you ride, Kostas?

  3. March 4, 2010 11:01 am

    Hey Bret,

    A photo company I used to work for was really big about giving us logo clothing items every year as a sort of Christmas bonus. One year it was a really nice photo vest and when I was shooting 4X5 it was invaluable. Lots of places to stash film holders, loupes, tape measures, all the gizmos you need to shoot 4X5 in the field. But since converting to a DSLR about 6 years ago I have all my gear with me in a backpack and the vest has been hanging in the closet. The design is big enough to fit over a jacket unless the person wearing it is XXXL. Shoot me an address and I’ll be happy to mail it to someone. They can try it out and if it works, send me a couple bucks. If not, send the vest back.

    • March 6, 2010 10:07 am

      These are great comments and very helpful. I would love to try Bill’s vest and will be happy to send him something for it. Can you have him contact me at my email address and then I can give him my address?

      Many thanks, Bret, for this posting. What a great group!

  4. March 4, 2010 11:38 am

    Absolutely! I use a vest at least 95% of the time because I consider it an important part of my field “workflow”. I use an old Domke and often use the larger pockets for carrying lenses ,particularly if I don’t want to carry a pack . If I don’t want to carry a backpack, I often use it along with a small fanny pack I keep in front at my waist.
    As Bill said, I started using it consistently when I shot 4×5 and now just find it extremely use for organizing things for fast and efficient field shooting.

  5. Jack Garrett permalink
    March 4, 2010 2:58 pm

    About 10 years ago I bought a combination jacket/vest from LL Bean (they no longer have it) and it was awesome…I still have it and use it a lot. The sleeves had zippers under the armpit and were removable on warm days. Like Steven just said, I have found it to be invaluable. I always use the same pockets for filters, CF Cards, cleaners and a lens or two so I know where everything is. I still have my backpack for all the big stuff but if I need a filter in a hurry I know right where it is.

  6. March 5, 2010 1:47 am

    You guys are awesome! Thanks for the detailed responses. Lots of fantastic information here.

  7. Bill Brennan permalink
    March 5, 2010 11:29 am

    Hi Bret, I have been using a “fanny pack” from Mountainsmith. Has enough room for an extra lens plus cards, a sandwich and water bottle. It is quite versatile and works for me.

    Bill Brennan

  8. March 7, 2010 3:01 am

    Frank: Really glad you got some good responses and found the topic helpful. Thanks to you for suggesting it!

  9. March 7, 2010 12:09 pm

    I found this very helpful and just bought my new Domke phototog vest at B&H. Thanks to all!!!

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