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Road Tests

WaterField Cargo Camera Bag Review


WaterField Cargo Camera Bag Review

by , January 26, 2023
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Waterfield is a company that I’ve admired from afar and I know that they are favourites of some of our more business travel focused readers. Naturally, as a photographer and carry gear writer, I was intrigued when I saw the Cargo Camera bag for the first time. It ticked a lot of boxes on my checklist: heritage materials (check), clean design (check), and camouflage for camera gear (check). Not only that, it came to be from a very unique community design process! However, as we all know, things can look different in person than they do on paper, how would this camera bag fare? Let’s dive into the Waterfield Cargo Camera Bag.




  • Name: Cargo Camera Bag
  • Brand: WaterField
  • Format: Camera Sling
  • Measurement: 12.5" x 5" x 8.5"
  • Capacity: 8.7L
  • Weight: 2.8lbs (1270g)
  • Zippers: YKK Aquqguard
  • Material: Waxed Canvas and Leather
  • PriceUS$379+


Who It Suits

If you like high quality heritage materials (like leather and waxed cotton) this is a sumptuous bag. Paired with a modern design, excellent hardware, and great functionality, this could be a good camera bag for you if you run with a smaller camera kit. Oh, and they’re made right here in the USA!


Who It Doesn’t

If you need to bring every lens and accessory under the sun for your photography work, this doesn’t hold the most. Also, while protective, it is a big bag. Its rectangular shape isn’t the sleekest.

Heritage Materials, Modern Construction

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of holding a Waterfield bag or accessory, you’ll know what I mean when I say they are “luxe”. They are premium products, made for the discerning customer and they are made very well at that. Made in San Francisco, the Cargo Camera bag comes in two sizes, full (8.7L) and compact (5.2L). I’ve been testing the full, but both are made from the same mix of materials, namely waxed canvas and full grain leather (there is also a 1050D ballistic nylon variant). We all know that this is a match made in heaven for carry, and it certainly shows here. YKK Aquaguard zippers compliment the hearty body materials and help to keep your expensive contents safe whatever the weather, mine even survived a steep drop into a snow bank and survived without any ingress!



All of the hardwear is custom made (including the lockable zippers) and has subtle Waterfield branding, the bag itself only has a small laser etched logo on the top. I really like this muted and subtle look, it’s very under the radar and I appreciate that in most bags, let alone a camera one.



The front lid is a beautiful all leather panel that continues to get better with use, mine is already showing some nice battle scars from its three month life. On the front of this panel there is a zip pocket that runs almost the full width of the bag. While it does have some volume (it is pleated on the rear side) I’ve found it to be most useful as a spot for my kindle, wallet, or notebook.



When you put anything larger there it makes the front flap stick out from the main body quite significantly. There is also a slip pocket underneath this main flap with a nice magnetic closure, but I’ve not found it to be needed that much, particularly with the useful front pocket. That said, it’s a good home for a magazine, newspaper, larger notebook or other low profile item that you may carry.



There is a removable shoulder strap which is well padded and has a good level of give, providing support and a little flex when carrying. Your shoulder will be happy! On the rear of the bag you'll also find some breathable mesh, and a simple grab handle-cum-luggage-passthrough. This works well in practice, but I do wish it was a little beefier in line with the rest of the bag.



You’ll also find a tripod attachment system at the base of the bag, this works well and is easily adjustable, along with strap keepers to maintain that clean silhouette.



Personally, I don’t usually carry a tripod when taking a small kit like this, but the attachment loops work just as well for a jacket or umbrella.




Internally, a glorious gold coloured lining awaits which not only looks great thanks to the diamond patterning, but it is also very functional, the light colour makes it easy to see your contents and grab them quickly. Inside the main compartment you will immediately find the camera insert  (more on that later) which is attached by two fidlock magnets.



You can take the insert in and out as you need. On the “front” wall of the bag, you have five zippered organisation pockets. These are truly useful, they aren’t just pockets for the sake of it and they hold everything I need for a day's shooting: batteries, card reader, strap, etc. etc. They can also work nicely for EDC as they are split into two rows. The bottom row has two larger pockets, while the top row has three slightly smaller ones. These pockets are mesh meaning you can see what is in the pocket without opening them, seemingly a small detail, but something that makes a big difference in use.


Camera Functionality

This is where camera bags are either good or bad. I’ve tested and used plenty of them, and while the designs and features can sound excellent and promise you the world, the reality is that when you are shooting (either personally or professionally) time is of the essence in a lot of photography situations. You don’t want to be fumbling around with an “innovative” opening to get to your camera as the moment fades in front of you.



The Cargo Camera bag delivers in this aspect, and it delivers very well. Its excellent functionality is focused around two key things; the opening, and the insert.



The opening is top down and the bag drops open to an approximately 45º degree angle, this is marvellous to use as it gives you full access to your cameras and lenses. In my experience, narrow openings are cumbersome and can lead to damage or drops as you try to squeeze a piece of equipment out in a hurry. Not only does the angled opening give you direct access to the camera insert, but it also gives you easy access to the aforementioned organisation pockets. Whatever accessories you decide to store in there are now easily accessible as you shoot. I love this system, and I’ve become rather fond of it for shooting on the go. It feels like a James Bond gadget as this attractive bag made from leather and canvas drops open to reveal a workshop. 



The other benefit to this angled opening is you can shoot from the hip without taking your bag off to open up and get full access etc. This is particularly useful if you’re planning to use this for street photography and the like, because your studio is moving with you. The bag sits at your hip (or waist) nicely and you can shoot freely and uninhibited. That feels like it should be a non-negotiable for any camera bag, but Waterfield have really set the standard with this access, I wish all my camera bags had this level of access. The design choice of keeping the top leather flap attached to the front of the bag means that this also falls away when opening, so you don’t have to wrestle with it to get into your bag, this is a common battle I’ve had with camera messenger bags, even my favourites, and this opening feels like a real solution.



The camera insert itself feels just as luxurious as the rest of the bag. It is made from a mix of foam padding, a soft microfibre lining, and the same gold exterior as the main bag’s lining. The dividers themselves are attached, but they are floating which allows you to adjust your carry as necessary based on your loadout. Each divider moves just under an inch either way, giving you great flexibility.  Don’t get me wrong, this won’t work for every camera set up, you certainly aren’t going to fit a large telephoto attached to a body in this bag, but it isn’t designed for that either. I’ve comfortably fit a few different combinations, but most regularly I carry a Mirrorless with lens, secondary lens, rocket blower, and a fixed lens camera. I could replace that secondary camera with another lens, or even another mirrorless body with a lens (depending on lens size). Outside of telephoto lenses, I’ve comfortably fit all manner of primes, including larger ones like a 135mm or 12-24mm zoom.


The shape. Now this isn’t a deal breaker for me, but you couldn’t call this a svelte bag. It is a well protected cube, and while it is refined with excellent finishing, it still sits almost six inches off your body. There have been quite a few occasions where the bag has caught the corner of a table or a wall as I’ve been passing through, in those moments I’ve been thankful for the hearty materials and the good padding! 


The Cargo Camera bag is unlikely to solve your camera carry solutions if you’re a professional shooter with a large selection of kit. This is an addition to my quiver, and one that I like very much, but it isn’t going to be my one and only because of the volume of gear that I need to take to shoots on a regular basis.


This is a luxury item, but a functional one at that. The minimalist design will appeal to many, but the refined exterior is supported by excellent guts. I don’t believe that this is the camera bag for everyone, but I do think it is a very well designed and thoughtful camera bag. That should be no surprise based on Waterfield’s previous offerings, but nonetheless it is refreshing in a crowded marketplace. I love the concept of the community design process, and I hope that continues for this Cargo line. I would love to see V2 have a spot for a tablet, as a photographer on the move that’s an essential tool for me and would elevate this bag from one that I like to use to a “must carry”. I think Waterfield are onto something here with the Cargo, and if you’re looking for a modern luxury camera bag, this is a top tier option.

The Breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Geek (Performance)

Space & Access

Style (Design)

Look & Feel
Build, Materials & Hardware

Stoke (Experience)

Warranty & Support
Brand experience
X Factor

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