Domke F-832 Review
The Domke F832 is one of Domke's lesser-known bags. According to Domke this is the medium-sized satchel; the
F-831 and the F-833 are the smaller and larger versions, respectively. I haven't had this bag very long, but I'll try to be as thorough as possible.
I'll start off by saying this is a big bag. It is so big it can hold my D700 with my 80-200 f/2.8 attached to it! And you can place that combo vertically or horizontally inside the bag, with room to spare. There aren't too many satchel/courier bags that can handle such a combo--the Retrospective satchel/courier bags are the only others that come to mind.
As you can see from the images below there's no zipper that closes the bag. It's just a simple flap that's held closed by velcro. Despite the lack of a zipper the gear stays dry in light rain. That's the beauty of the Domke Ruggedwear series of bags--they're very water resistant. I personally wouldn't push my luck in a downpour because as the images above show the sides at the top could let in some water, especially if it's windy.
Hook and loop at the back of the bag.
Hook and loop at the front of the bag.
Inside the bag are two brown strips of velcro. You can see one up top, there's another one across from it. Together they secure the inserts that come with the bag. Although the bag is padded (a rare move from Domke) and you could just throw your gear in there, I much prefer to have everything inside the inserts and the inserts inside the bag; the inserts take up some space in the bag, but they'll keep your gear safer and prevent it from jostling around.
D700 with 80-200 f/2.8 attached and in horizontal orientation.
D700 with 80-200 f/2.8 attached and in vertical orientation.
There's a big size difference between my everyday bag and the F-832!!!
Compared to my everyday bag the F-832 has so much room that it dwarfs my F5-XC. My F5-XC is capable of holding my D700, my 80-200 f/2.8, my 20-35mm f/2.8, and either a flash or my 135mm f/2 AIS. (I usually only have the 20-35 or the 135 attached--there's no way I can squeeze the 80-200 f/2.8 while it's attached to the D700!)
Like many of Domke's canvas bags the F-832 comes in two basic flavors: plain black canvas and Domke's Ruggedwear (which is just a fancy term for waxed sail cloth). This review is for the Ruggedwear (waxed sail cloth) version of the bag, and as I mentioned it's water resistant.
To some this wax is problematic, especially if you're the kind of person who wants to wax this regularly and right before a shoot. If you wax it ahead of time and use a hair dryer or let it dry out, and then go shooting you probably won't run into the sticky finger/wax-on-my-gear situation that others have mentioned about the Ruggedwear style of bags.
As I mentioned this bag is huge, so huge I imagine this bag would be uncomfortable to use as an everyday bag. I can't see myself using it for when we head outside for a picnic, or when we go camping, or drive around town. It's too big and impractical for everyday use. And it's certainly not a bag for street shooting simply because of its enormous size--you'd kind of stand out in a crowd and probably bump into a few people or things by carrying it.
I've always believed that a bag needs to get out of the way and not make your photography more difficult. If anything it should make it easier. That's one reason I prefer satchel-type bags over backpacks for 95% of the work I do. Backpacks can get cumbersome and make getting at your gear slow--satchels can be more convenient depending on how you arrange them; however, were I hiking mountains or trekking the globe I would much prefer a backpack. Each has their uses, and you need to consider what each bag offers your shooting style.
The padded inserts, the wax, and the bags, alonside my D700 with an 80-200 f/2.8 attached.
A whole bunch of space for a ton of gear!
The amount of gear the F-832 can carry is massive, and it can get heavy! Here's a list of what I got in the picture below: 135mm f/2 AIS, 105mm f/2.5, TC-200, 85mm f/1.4, 20mm f/4, 28mm f/3.5, 50mm f/1.8, 20-35 f/2.8, 55mm f/3.5 w/pn-11 attached, N70, FM, Olympus Pen EE, Amazon Kindle, and my D700. I forgot to take out the batteries, the MB-D10, and the cables and cards from the small pocket behind the flap, so there's a little more that's not in the picture. I could have also squeezed another D700 in there, but I'd really be pushing the limits of the bag and my shoulder!
This setup got heavy and cumbersome to carry around.
I don't know of many people who need to carry this amount of gear for a simple photoshoot, but I do know there are times when I'd like to carry my zooms, my flash, and a couple of cameras. My little F5-XC satchel won't handle that, and I doubt the F-831 would (it's just taller than my F5-XC, not wider). The F-832 will definately handle all that gear, and as shown above it'll accommodate much, much more.
To my way of thinking the F-832 is a bag you take on an intentional and planned photo shoot where you'll need access to more gear than you'd normally carry. It's not a bag for photojournalists or wedding photographers who need quick access to their gear; it seems more suited to photographers who take their time, who plan things out, who carry out a vision with their tools, those who have the time and the patience to put down their bag (within sight, of course!) so they can switch lenses, add a flash, or change a filter (or three or four) without the pressure that comes with fast moving events or subjects. In many ways this is an artist's bag, a bag more suited for those photographers who aren't in a hurry or under pressure to meet an evening deadline.
The bag is padded in the front by the front pocket. It is padded at the back. And though it's not technically padded at the bottom it comes with a thick insert that protects your gear at the bottom of the bag.
The only places where it's not padded are at the top (the main flap) and on the sides. The inserts that come with the bag are padded, so I don't see the lack of padding on the sides as a big deal. You can always add padding to the sides if you feel there's not enough, but that seems a bit like overkill. As for the top, well you could add foam or something to the top of the bag, but then that kind of defeats the purpose of having a satchel-style bag!
As far as I know this is the most padded Domke bag short of the F2 with a Siesta insert. I have the Siesta insert for the F2 and it's nowhere near as firm/protective as the foam that comes with the F-832.
For comparison, my F5XC came with no padding (well, it had about a 1/16" thick layer of polyurethane which did nothing to protect my gear); I actually had to add padding to keep my gear safe with that bag. With the F-832 I don't feel I have a need to add extra padding anywhere. It feels that secure. If the bag fell off my shoulder or if I lowered it too quickly to the ground I wouldn't be too worried because that bottom insert is thick. It's a semi-rigid insert with foam that's 1/2" thick! Add to that the thin layer from the soft main insert (the ones with the velcro) and it's one padded bag at the bottom!
There's plenty of padding to go around!
The bag inside, unlike the F5XC, is covered in nylon (that's the green you see inside the bag). Attached to the nylon are large velcro strips. These strips are what hold the padded inserts that actually hold your gear. The inserts are all fabric inside (a Domke tradition), which means that you can use some of the smaller, flexible inserts (i.e. dividers/organizers) and modify them to suit your taste and needs.
The longer divider/organizer is capable of folding into U and L shapes so you can accommodate more gear in the bag. As far as I can tell they are the same type of insert (just with more padding) as those that come with the F5XC. I will have to experiment with that, but my guess is you can customize this bag quite a bit with additional Domke dividers/organizers.
The bag also comes with Domke's 2" gripper strap, a much larger version of their traditional 1" and 1.5" gripper straps. Considering the amount of gear this thing can carry it was wise of the bag designers to use a wider strap. It's comfortable, as comfortable as the other gripper straps in Domke's lineup.
That 2" gripper strap is necessary because of how heavy this bag can become.
Below are a few more pictures of the bag's features:
The padded Domke inserts.
A YKK Zipper!
The small pocket behind the flap.
Finally, this bag (like all the F-8xx series bags) has a wide strap at the back so you can place it on top of a rolling suitcase. If you travel around with plenty of gear, this bag is great. What this means is you don't have to carry it on your shoulder--just place it over the luggage pull handle and roll it along with the rest of your belongings. This is nice because if you have plenty of gear you're travelling with it'll save your shoulder.
Just for the fun of it I decided to test out the Ruggedwear in the shower...It looks like it soaked through. I opened the flap and everything was dry. Then I took some paper towels, dried it up and a couple of minutes later it looked like it hadn't even been drenched on! Love this stuff! I also took it to an outdoor rock concert that took place in the rain and my gear was perfectly dry. Domke knows how to make bags that last!
Drenched from shooting at an outdoor concert!
My gear was perfectly dry.
It's a big bag. It's handy to have what you need at your finger tips, but it can get heavy if you plan to take too much. It's big, but not overly huge--the F-833 is even larger! It really looks like a messenger/courier bag, and not just another satchel. If you travel this bag is a God-send. You can carry so much with you and it's still carry-on-sized. In fact, I think Domke realized this and added the feature at the back that allows you to carry the bag strapped to your luggage. The bag is probably Domke's most padded satchel/courier bag, and it's one that I will be using for my more artistic endeavors, those photo shoots that require planning, time, and gear--more gear than I can fit into my Domke F5-XC (which is my everyday bag). I would highly recommend this bag if you're an artistic type of photographer; I believe those who consider themselves concept photographers and those photographers who need to carry several zooms/primes and flash gear or those photographers who use Medium Format gear would appreciate the size of the bag.
Tons of room
Lots of ways to customize the inserts (and other Domke organizers/dividers will work in there!)
Pocket in front of bag is great and can fit a 13.3" notebook (or any current tablet)
Ruggedwear is water-resistant
Padded very well
Wide 2" strap is comfortable
Can fit so much gear!
Bottom is super padded
Can get heavy with too much gear
No zipper to access bottom of the bag
Pocket behind the front flap is too small and not easily organized
No padding on the sides (though the main inserts are padded)
Wax can become a problem is you don't follow instructions