The incredible shrinking computer bag–Part One

In my never ending search for the smallest, lightest gear that will do the job, I’ve been helped by the folks at Think Tank Photo and their rolling carryons. Now, I don’t use these for my camera gear (I don’t have the time to repack my stuff into a shoulder bag once on location, so I just carry it in one!), but I find them enormously useful as computer bags. With my normal setup of a black  13″ Macbook (tricked out with a 500GB HD and 4GB of RAM from Otherworld Computing ) and two 320 GB, 7200 rpm firewire/USB harddrives from  G-Tech or Weibetech and all the assorted chargers, adapters, connectors, sensor cleaners, etc. etc. (oh yeah, digital has “simplified” our lives as traveling photographers!), a photo vest, plus a spare D90 body and a couple of backup lenses, the Airport International V2.0 has been my roller of choice.

prod-photo-aint2This bag is shallow enough to fit into a lot of regional aircraft’s overheads, but it’s still biggish for fussy European airline’s carryon rules, especially if you have a camera bag, however small and discreet, in addition to the roller.  But how to make it smaller? Well it’s no good to carry a smaller bag if the gear inside is the same size….you can’t cram 6 gallons of water into a 4 gallon jug. So the secret is to make the stuff inside a bit smaller. But how?

Enter the so-called netbooks.

Yes, those tiny, PC (or Linux) driven, cheap, awful-looking 8″ screened, pieces of junk that no serious photographer (certainly not a Mac person) would touch with a 10 foot pole.  I hate mine, and yet strangely (cue up the violins and dial in more diffusion filter), I think I love it too…

For $350 I took a flyer on an Asus Aspire with 1GB of RAM and a 160GB harddrive. I got it with Windows instead of Linux so I could use my cellular modem with it.  It has three USB ports, a VGA output, Ethernet port, a built-in SD card reader that’s fast as blazes, excellent wireless capability, and an earphone jack. Are you listening Apple; maker of the one USB-port-only Macbook Air, (the “world’s best $3000 second laptop” as one waggish photo magazine editor dubbed it in a conversation over lunch recently), and taker away of Firewire 400 ports on the new Macbooks. Guess what, the net book weighs 2lbs. too…and while it may not be as pretty as the Macbook Air, it sure is more useful and has a smaller footprint to boot. Oh, um, and did I mention that it’s about 1/6th the price?

Working with this netbook has allowed me to go one size smaller in the Think Tank line, to the Airport AirStream . Check out the difference in size between the two bags, computers, and peripheral drives (which I’ll discuss in Part Two of this post).  It makes a huge difference when you’re trying to sneak two carryons onto, say, Air Berzerkistan, where the flight attendants are all ex-KGB hospitality experts, and they take their carryon rules real seriously…

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To be continued…..

This entry was posted in Photo Gear, Travel.

11 Comments

  1. Roberto May 15, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    Looking forward to reading the part 2 !

  2. Joe (Interested in Photography) May 16, 2009 at 7:54 am #

    Hi. I am totally new about Internet and blogging. I just serve around to see what other people have. I am professional photograpf by my self and first discorvery now the possibilities here.

  3. Nick May 18, 2009 at 8:34 am #

    I just got a netbook as well, an Asus 1000HE. It’s fantastic. My brick of a laptop is relegated to surfing while on the couch watching TV. I plan on putting a 500gig drive in the netbook when I have some time, and it will totally obviate any need for a photo tank like the Epsons. I don’t plan on using it for any editing, but it runs Lightroom 2.0, so I can organize and make quick jpegs if I want. The display is quite good as well- the profile results graph with the Gretag EyeOne wasn’t great, but the picutres don’t look that different from my better desktop display.

    The only reason not to have a netbook instead of a laptop as a photographer is if you are going to seriously edit on your laptop in the field.

    • Bob May 18, 2009 at 8:39 am #

      Nick: Well, there might be one more reason…Mac isn’t making a net book yet, and as much as I try, can’t warm up to Windows enough to consider using my netbook as my fulltime travel laptop. But, even in the NY Times today there’s a piece on the juggernaut that the netbook market is becoming, so who knows?!

  4. Nick May 18, 2009 at 8:36 am #

    Sorry, I use the X-Rite i1 to profile, not sure where I got that Gretag thing.

  5. Nick May 18, 2009 at 8:51 am #

    Considering how much time you spend on the road, that’s a great testimony to the Mac OS. Granted, you have a 13.3″ Macbook in that picture and I have a 3 year old basic consumer 15.4″ Dell, but there’s such a difference in pack weight and space available that it’s a total no brainer for me.

  6. mk May 18, 2009 at 7:57 pm #

    I try to think of my Lowe Pro backpack, 15″ Dell, and camera gear as yet another way to get a decent workout while on the road! ;^}

    • Bob May 18, 2009 at 8:04 pm #

      Michael: I like the way you think…a glass half full approach! BK

  7. Nick May 19, 2009 at 11:08 pm #

    Computer bag+ Camera equipment + Bryce Canyon at 9000 feet= no need for a cardiac stress test when you get home.

    • Bob May 20, 2009 at 7:00 am #

      Yes, that’s the new “do or die” school of cardiology!

  8. Dave Hutchinson May 29, 2009 at 7:30 am #

    Hi Bob! Lynn and I are just back from 2 weeks in South Africa. I also bought an 8 inch netbook (HP) for the trip. Those South African Airways carry-on rules are a killer! I carried two media wallets to download my photos..an 80 GB Smart Disk Flash Trax XT (no longer manufactured since Smart Disk was sold to Verbatim) and a 500 GB Hyperdrive Colorspace. Both drives performed flawlessly. But, it is a handicap to not be able to spend some time with the photos on the netbook due to it’s limited capacity (Great for e-maila nd the internet though). South Africa Airways was not concerned with my 16 kilos of photo equipment on the trip from Washington Dullesto Jo’burg. Their carry-on rule is 8 kilos, however they did get a little testy with me on the return trip from Jo’burg to JFK. I told them that my carry-on was all photo equipment which was not going into the belly of the plane. They reluctantly allowed me to carry my stuff on the plane.

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