When my favourite, inexpensive, canvas camera bag died – after decades of use – I went on a quest to find its replacement. I bought a Tamrac Messenger, a top quality bag which was a little fancier than what I had been using, but offering far more protection for my gear. It would not only carry my camera gear, but also a small laptop, so was like a combo camera bag/briefcase. Perfect for my needs at the time. I got some great use out of it. A year ago, while visiting another city, I took a wander through a camera store and found and bought a bag more like my original, a Domke F3 Super Compact. It is exactly large enough to hold my basic gear and little else. Perfect for my needs now and into the foreseeable future.
I don’t think there are any “bad” bags; they just may not suit your needs. Too small. Too big. A layout which doesn’t quite “work” for you . . .
I have a huge bag which will carry just about every bit of gear I own, an old Lowepro Magnum 35. I use it primarily for storage now, but it also has lasted decades. Today, it is far more bag than I need, far too large for daily use. Heck, I probably couldn’t lift it if it was full!
I also have a Kata backpack which has seen quite a bit of use because of its extra storage space (for things like bottled water) when venturing further afield.
Canadian distributor Gentec sent me Tamrac’s Rally 5 bag for a looksee. The bag will hold a DSLR, lenses, accessories, and a small laptop. It’s fairly slim yet well padded, with a zippered front pocket and an open back pocket, as well as mesh side pockets, so there’s space for all manner of bits and pieces. Looks good, too. I think it hits a sweet spot – not too big, not too small – and could prove to be the perfect bag for the photographer on your Christmas list.