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Building a m43 lens case out of a lunchbox

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by johnvanatta, Aug 8, 2014.

  1. johnvanatta

    johnvanatta Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Aug 5, 2014
    Oakland, CA
    Although I was delighted by the size of my new m43 lenses, I wasn't able to find anything commercially I was happy with to transport them around. I'd been using Lowepro/Tamrac zippered pouches on the DSLR side and was pretty happy with them, but nothing they make was well sized for m43. Everything I tried was too fat and even the smallest sizes were too big for small lenses like the Oly 45/1.8. Plus, individual pouches seemed overkill for such small objects. But I didn't want a standalone bag, I wanted something to throw in my normal backpacks.

    Then I had an idea. A soft-sided lunchbox is about the right size to hold 4 lenses, already water resistant, and cheap too. I bought a nice bright blue version from LL Bean, which seems to be a bit better constructed than the slightly cheaper ones at Target. This one, if you're curious: http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/70705?page=lunch-box

    With some foam scraps I had laying around, it was time for craft hour.

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    Using the pink eggshell foam on the bottom keeps the lenses in place pretty well and should provide plenty of protection on the bottom. This is designed to go inside a larger pack, after all. I decided to add an extra layer of padding around the sides too, to make things really durable. The gray foam is rigid so it adds crush resistance as well. Everything is trim-able with scissors so the fit is quite good.
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    After adding a few spacers, things are looking snug. Here's one loadout, my day short-range hiking and travel kit. Oly 12-40, Panny 25, Oly 45, and Oly 60 macro. Not visible are two spare batteries snuck inside the lens hood of the 25. Love the lens but the hood on that is a bit of an odd design choice :/
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    And here's the config I'm considering taking to Greece in a few weeks. Swapped the 60 for the 12/2. I'm thinking it could be handy inside churches.
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    I've left the spacers loose for now as I start field trials. If they slide around too much I'll pin them with a toothpick then slather in gorilla glue. Really happy with how this turned out, it feels very sturdy, fits great in a backpack, and has enough padding to take the key role of small-of-the-back-backpack-item. Plus the color is nice, black is easy but it's also easy to set down and walk away from inadvertently. And it never hurts to be less obvious about carrying around two grand in glass :) 

    As for the camera itself, it fits in at the cost of two lenses. For an ultralight kit I may consider it, but I like the lenscoat body coats; since my camera is usually chest or shoulder mounted, it can get special arrangements.
    • Like Like x 15
  2. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    DIY is often a lot better than shop bought.
  3. WendyK

    WendyK Super Moderator

    Feb 28, 2014
    Northern Virginia

    FYI we got a nearly identical LLBean lunchbox for my son back when he was about to start kindergarten. He takes his lunch to school and summer camps every day, so it is in constant use. We JUST retired it after 10 years - my son is about to start his sophomore year in high school. The lunch box is still fully functional and structurally sound, but I can no longer get out all the stains/dirt in the laundry so he didn't want to carry it any more.
  4. fortwodriver

    fortwodriver Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 15, 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Love this! These lunch boxes, as WendyK said, seem to last forever. I've got one that must be 15 years old. The top section held a thermos (it now holds a small Catadioptric lens) and the bottom section holds four Takumar lenses and my Pentax Spotmatic.
  5. Ross the fiddler

    Ross the fiddler Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I don't know why I looked at this thread because storage of lenses are one thing, but in use accessibility as well as protection is another & this does not seem so ideal for actual use. I think I'll stick to my camera specific purpose bags with Velcro edged dividers instead. I know not all bags suit all situations, but that just means some thought should go into ones needs before buying, but even then........
  6. johnvanatta

    johnvanatta Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Aug 5, 2014
    Oakland, CA
    Thanks for the comments everyone. Good to know the lunchbox has a durable pedigree.

    As for accessibility, it definitely doesn't solve the problem of having to take the backpack off to change lenses. I really haven't seen any solution to this problem I like though. The photo backpacks with side access look like they'd be good for shooting an event, but not so good for hiking. And I'll automatically reject anything that puts all the weight on one shoulder for health reasons. Maybe someone will come up a solution to what looks to me like a near-impossible problem someday. At least the 12-40/2.8 is so amazingly good that it can live on the camera most of the time, reducing lens changes :) 

    I didn't see any bag inserts like the one I built available commercially but maybe one is out there. Adding velcro rails would be a fun further modification, if my loadouts really change a lot I might go for it.
  7. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I think your solution is pretty good for what you need. I don't think that anyone makes a proper camera bag to suite mirrorless cameras. Everything is a derivative of DSLR bags with very minor mods. Mirrorless cameras don't require deep bags, but ones that are shallow. That's why my bag is one designed for video cameras.
  8. alex66

    alex66 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jul 23, 2010
    The best bags I have tried for our cameras are ones that were are traditionally used by rangefinder users, my Billingham Hadley works well as an example, its not much good for a DSLR though. I like this lunch box solution, though I thought it was going to be a hard case. DIY always gets a thumbs up from me, I have in the past made useful lens pouches and bag liners from laptop neoprene sleeves from pound shops. Anyhow nice job :2thumbs:
  9. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    If you want cheap and cheerful lens pouches for placing in a camera bag (or anywhere for that matter), use neoprene drink holders, they are perfect for this sort of task.
    • Like Like x 2
  10. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    The closest camera bag I could find is the Domke 700-53B F-5XC. This lunch box looks like a great solution. Thanks for posting this John.
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