A couple of months ago the thought crept into my mind that it was time to get a more suitable camera bag for my needs. Oddly enough I have only ever had two or three camera bags, one of which was a small, single camera crumpler and the other a small Lowepro backpack. The problem I was coming up against was that I found myself carrying two or sometimes three different bags around with me from day to day. One for my essential camera gear, one for my simple small day to day things like an iPad, notebooks, etc. and one for my work needs like my laptop, tools, cables and other such things. Problem was that more often than not it was the cameras that were getting left behind and while I always at least had my small rangefinder on hand I often wished I had my 5D or other cameras for different things that would come up to shoot.
When I first started to look into getting a new bag I thought I wanted something that could carry everything all at once. I researched all of the big camera backpacks on the market and was close to jumping in but was quickly grounded when it was suggested to me that maybe I don’t really need to have everything with me all the time. Perhaps its best to split work and casual needs into a couple of bags because more often than not I don’t need both sets of gear at once. Once I let the idea settle in I realized I could do all I needed with a nice simple photo bag that was also capable of carrying a few other everyday needs like my iPad, notebooks and pens.
This made the search a bit more simple and I narrowed it down and decided to get one that I had my eye on for quite some time. The Ari Marcopoulos Camera Bag made by Incase which was co-designed with the bags namesake. Clumsy name aside, after measuring it out and deciding it appeared to be big enough for my needs I jumped in.
The first thing I noticed when loading my gear in for the first time was that it felt smaller than I thought it would be. I was used to using a slightly larger lowepro backpack for my camera gear. After considering the size of the bag versus what I felt I really needed to carry from day to day I found that its humble size helped me fully realize that I don’t need to go full tilt with camera gear every day. What I narrowed it down to still may seem like a lot to some but it’s just enough for me to feel prepared to pull out a camera of choice at a moments notice. As of this writing the photo below shows what I am carrying inside at the moment. It varies a little depending on the day but this is a pretty typical set up.
After spending some time with the bag I can see why it may have cost so much for such a simple, mid sized bag, it’s the details. A lot of thought seemed to have gone into the details of how it was assembled such as reinforced stitching all over the place, plenty of cushy padding, and different types of fabric to best accommodate each part of the bag. For instance, there is a nice soft furry fabric liner for both the iPad area as well as the spot designed to accommodate a small point and shoot camera. I usually stray away from products that have been over engineered to the point where they feel contrived but I feel this bag manages to hold steady to that important balance between cleverness, usability, and style.
The attention to detail where the internal organization is concerned is very specific and planned to the point where the only logical places to store your different gear is exactly where it was designed to be stored (such as your main camera body with lens fitting only in the middle slot). This is because that while the interior section dividers are secured with velcro, and are able to be removed if you choose to do so, they can not be placed wherever you please inside the bag because most of the interior is a simple padded nylon fabric. This limits your options if you are the type that feels the need to be overly specific with such things but for me the design intentions worked out perfectly.
The ambidextrous nature of the strap design was a huge plus in my eyes as I greatly prefer having the strap rest on my left shoulder where many sling type camera bags force it onto your right. Once it is pulled tight across your chest it fits really comfortably. The strap also features a clever design that makes it quick and easy to tighten and loosen the bag on your back as needed with a simple pull and while did take a little getting used to I found this to be a really handy feature on a camera bag. Speaking of the feel of the bag while worn, I have a fairly wide frame and this bag suits me well. My brother, who has a tall, slim build couldn’t get as comfortable in the bag as it fit a little too big for him. This is something to take in consideration if you are someone with a smaller build but may not be true for everyone, just wanted to mention it.
When I pull the strap to fit lower the bag can be pulled around in front of me and sit open which makes for a great work surface. This is because of the way the zipper opening pulls back some of the fabric of the front of the bag leaving its overall profile slightly curved when closed. The fabric then does not simply bunch up at the opening, it sits open in more of a ‘V’ shaped opening which makes it easy to get to what I need. With many messenger style bags the weight of the bag will pull the main opening closed leaving it a bit more difficult to easily get things in and out of the bag. This already came in handy recently during a trip to a lake nearby. I had waded out 20 feet or so into the water and was able to confidently have the bag open by my side where I was able to change out cameras and gear without any struggle and left me not worried about dropping anything into the water.
One last little thing I wanted to toss in here about its physical features was the fact that there are a couple of straps on the bottom of the bag for a tripod or jacket should you need them. Also, as you will see in the photo below, there is a subtle grey scale screen printed on the back side of the bag, most likely a random idea from the photographer that ended up in the design. I am thankful they decided to simply leave it hidden on the back side of the bag.
There is a nice zippered space inside the bag behind the main camera compartment where you can store a notebook/papers and has a dedicated sleeve designed specifically for an iPad but any small tablet or device similar in size would fit in there just fine. I was actually surprised at how much I could comfortably fit in this section of the bad but if I stuff it too full it does eat into the space within the bag overall.
Of course, a perfect bag does not exist and there are a couple of things that I didn’t really care for personally. On the front of the bag there is a small flap held down with a magnet and behind the flap is a small zipped access point to the inside of the bag where they made space for a small point and shoot. While this is a handy feature that I have used a couple of times I feel the zipper opening there under the flap is not quite long enough and I have to put more effort into digging my little XA2 out than I would like. I do sometimes miss having a place to put a water bottle but I have gotten used to this and on occasion I will shove one in the bag above the cameras, not ideal, but it works. There is also a rain fly that is stuffed into a hidden bottom pocket which is great and all but the fly has a weird face printed on it that they added supposedly as a design feature from the photographer they collaborated with on the bag but to me its just a bit to ugly for its own good and clashes horribly with the otherwise wonderfully minimal appearance. This can be remedied by flipping the fly inside out but this does leave the stitching exposed.
My solution for this was to simply head to a local camping store and buy a bottle of Tectron water repellent. The bag is a heavy canvas material which appears to be as close to 18 percent grey as they could manage to make it, another clever design detail, but this does leave it fairly open to attract dirt and stains so I felt better after adding a couple of coats of the repellent which left water rolling right off it’s surface and has over the last couple of months kept it cleaner than I feel it would have been otherwise.
Overall I feel it was well worth the money spent and I can see getting a lot of use out of this great bag assuming it stands the test of time and heavy use which is always the deciding factor of any bags true vitality. I have no reason to believe I wont get a few good years out of it. I have already grown to miss it when I don’t have it around and it has proven to be a fantastic companion to my every day and allowed me to keep shooting along side my often hectic life. I can easily recommend anyone looking for a new camera bag to give this a go. You can find more information on the bag on its dedicated page on the Incase website here.
If you have any questions more specific about the bag I can do my best to answer them so feel free to leave any in the comments below. Also, after a couple of requests, I added the top image in the review as a desktop for anyone interested.