Photographers are some of the most demanding carry users out there. Not only are they hauling thousands of dollars of gear, they are also reaching for random bits in a hurry, and in a whole mix of environments.
Timbuk2 recently offered us one of their Snoop Camera Messengers for review, and we jumped at the chance to see how it would hold up to picky photog’s who demand a lot from their gear. Enter our picky photog carryologist Brian Park…
Brian: I’ve been carrying the Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Messenger around for a few months now. It’s a medium sized messenger with a padded camera compartment and a laptop stash pocket, so I’ve been bringing it on smaller scale shoots, or just when I’m out and about and want a camera with me. It’s the bag that comes with me when I’m taking a computer to a café.
Normally I chuck in a DSLR with a lens attached, a second lens, a Macbook Pro, a notebook, some memory cards, and some chargers; however, the Medium sized one I’ve got could take lots more than that. It even has tripod straps on the bottom of it. More importantly, photographer Jason Headley notes that it also “fits an 8-pack of beer quite well for the trips back from the liquor store.”
The construction on this thing is amazing. I’ve been treating this bag poorly for a few months now and it’s showing almost no signs of wear. The things that need double stitching are double stitched, and the nylon they use feels like it could withstand a nuclear explosion. It’s also got a waterproof lining, so it should keep your gear dry when it’s drizzling. Sure, it could be better looking (I need all the help I can get), but it’s understated and doesn’t scream “I’ve got expensive shit in here, steal me!”
It’s obvious that a lot of thought has been put into the design of this bag. Some notable features include:
- A shoulder strap buckle that is amazingly intuitive and can be released quickly for easily getting the bag on and off (see photo above).
- Velcro-silencers for those who want to just use buckles and avoid all the loud Velcro noises (I’m talking to you, students who are always late to class).
- A “Napoleon” side pocket you can get into without opening the messenger; perfect for keys and other stuff you need quick access to.
- Nice little stash pockets for your memory cards, and one clear pocket for easy sorting and finding stuff.
Unfortunately, as with most camera bags, there are some significant issues with the bag’s design. When you look at the photo of how they suggest you pack your gear into the medium-sized Snoop, it becomes clear that they designed it as a messenger bag to carry camera gear, without considering the limitations of messenger bags. If you need to carry two bodies, three lenses, a laptop and a tripod around you should be using a backpack; you cannot stuff that much stuff into the Snoop without killing your shoulders. I have to resist the urge to bring more stuff with me all the time, and I suspect most photographers are the same.
The Snoop also doesn’t capitalize on the advantages of using a messenger bag to carry camera gear. In their suggested packing photo they’re storing their camera body without a lens, but why bother carrying a messenger if there is no quick access? Instead, you need to unclip the messenger, tear open the Velcro flap, unzip the camera compartment, fish around the strangely laid out padding until you find your camera and then pull it out just in time to miss whatever shot you wanted to get. It takes even longer if you have to pack your camera body without a lens attached. Sure, a backpack would take as long, but why ignore the messenger bag format’s inherent advantages?
My two other complains are fairly minor. First, the shoulder strap feels like it’s made of razor blades. I appreciate that they wanted it as strong as possible, but I’ve actually drawn blood getting it on and off. Second, everyone who tried the bag for more than a few minutes wished for a handle on top of the bag for moving it around.
So, to summarise…
- Very well made
- Quality materials
- Understated looks
- Great messenger features
- Inexpensive (or at least great value)
- Messenger format not suitable for lots of gear
- Not as easy-access as it should be
- Very sharp shoulder strap
- No grab handle
Ultimately, if you are looking for a high quality messenger bag, and also carry a laptop and a little bit of camera gear, then this is a great option. However, if you’re looking for a camera bag that happens to be a messenger, skip it and just buy a proper camera bag.
Ed’s other note: Thanks to Timbuk2 for the bag. It’s been great getting to know more of their range.