An Ode to the Domke F-3XB

My trusty Domke F-3XB camera bag with the new 5D Mark II

Christmas brought the new Canon EOS 5D Mark II to my camera collection. I’m looking forward to exercising its 1080p video and high ISO capabilities. In addition, I’m pleased by its reduction in size of my current 1D-series cameras. For the past six years, I’ve been stuffing my cameras into a Domke F-3XB bag.

The F-3XB is made primarily from ballistic nylon (unlike the F-3X, which is made from cotton canvas) and can hold a surprising amount of gear. As you can see in the photos below, my F-3XB has seen much usage over the years. It’s not as worn as this guy’s F-3, but it’s getting there. The shoulder strap has started to fray so much so that I’ve taped it up with gaffer tape. There’s a hole at the bottom of the left side pocket; once again, gaffer tape came in to save the day.

The lack of padding in most Domke bags is what makes it able to hold so much gear. This is why many people have praised them as being excellent bags to work out of.

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I used to wonder why Eric’s bag always looked bigger than mine until I realized that he had the larger Domke F-4AF bag. A 1D body + attached lens fits in the F-3XB, but it’s tight. With the new 5D Mark II, there’s now plenty of room for the camera, an attached lens, and a couple of extra lenses. And, because the 5D is much lighter than the 1D, the bag feels much better on my shoulder. I still might pick up an F-4AF in the future once I can no longer patch up the F-3XB. I may also get the backpack strap, which will make the bag much more comfortable on a long day of shooting. Until then, the F-3XB remains my favorite Domke bag, and the one that I turn to most often when running out the door. For Domke lovers, there’s a new forum on Tiffen’s (the owners of Domke) website. Jim Domke even posts there from time to time!

It’s been awhile since we had a bag night at COBA. Perhaps it’s time to organize a session for the first meeting of 2009 in February.


Update December 30, 2008: Sean left a comment on my site to check out the F-6. I’m going to have to go to a camera shop to see this in person. From photos that I’ve seen on the web, the F-6 looks like a shorter, but longer version of the F-3 without the side pockets. I have a four-section padded insert from my Domke J-1 and it manages to fill up the main compartment of my F-3XB. In the photo to the right, the space that’s to the left and right of the insert in the F-6 is about the same amount of space in the F-3’s side pockets. It’s a nice looking bag, and can be purchased for under $80, unlike the F-3, F-4, and F-2, which are all over $100.

Like I said, I’m going to have to check these bags out at a camera store in the future. Maybe the best decision is to own all of the bags!

Update #2 December 30, 2008: I caved in. I found someone local selling a Domke F-2 in ballistic nylon for a price I couldn’t refuse. It’s smaller than my J-1 bag and wider than my F-3XB bag. In the end, having the side pockets pushed me to get the F-2B instead of the F-6.

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6 thoughts on “An Ode to the Domke F-3XB

  1. DaHamster

    Please share your 5D Mark II 1080p experience with us. Thank you and happy 2009!

  2. Sean Harding

    I’ve always loved my Domke bags. I had an F-3X (I’m pretty sure) about 15 years ago, but I ended up giving it to a friend. I still have a black canvas F-2 that I’ve been using since about the same time. Awesome bag. I have a black F-6 that’s been getting a lot of use lately, when I want to travel lighter (and I also have a Mountainsmith Cairn that I use a lot). Great stuff.

  3. I really like the side pockets on the F-3 bags, and that’s why I’m looking at the F-4 for my next bag. The F-6 looks to be great, but it lacks the side pockets. Then again, with the side pockets, it might be an F-2, which is a little bit bigger than I would like.

  4. “I used to wonder why Eric’s bag always looked bigger than mine”




  5. Adam, I just sold an F-2. It wasn’t quite compatible with 1D bodies, so I found that I never used it…

  6. Gallant

    Thanks for these great pics! After seeing your homage to the F-3X I ended up buying the Domke F-2 ballistic nylon bag. These were the best pics I found online to help me decide between the F-2 and the F-3 since I could not find a local dealer. So far I’ve had it for a few months and I love the bag. Hopefully it will wear out over time and look as cool as your bags. Also, I bought the Domke shoulder strap thing but did not like it since I tend to sling the bag over my shoulder like a messenger bag. So I found the worked better as it was more flexible which let me move it around more.

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