When I first started taking photographs it was just a hobby, so all I needed was my camera and a spare battery. Now it’s my profession, I have a lot more kit to haul about and I never seem to have the right bag to carry it all in. Each time I bought a new bit of equipment I’d realise the camera bag I had was no longer suitable and off I went shopping again. In fact, I’ve bought five different bags in the last couple of years (I dread to think how much that adds up to).
Recently, it got to the point where I was carrying a handbag, a laptop case and a compact camera bag – that’s three different bags, which is ridiculous. So I went on a hunt for one bag that could fit everything in. You’d think with a budget of £100 it would be easy to find a camera bag that could fit my needs. But I assure you it isn’t… I went everywhere too – Clock Tower Cameras in Brighton, Jessops, Currys and all the way out to Parks in Burgess Hill (a specialist pro camera shop).
Luckily, just as I was about to give up hope and just a few days before I was due to leave for a commission in Latin America, Calumet Photographic came to the rescue, offering me the chance to review something of my choice from their online store.
After a quick search of the website, which was nice and easy to navigate, I found a bag that looked to be perfect and was confirmed as “in stock” and available for free next working day delivery. Could this all be too good to be true, let’s find out?
Camera Bag Review
- Product: Calumet Pro Series 740 Medium Backpack
- Capacity: 1-2 DSLRs with 2-3 lenses, flash and accessories.
- RRP: £119
- Where to buy: Calumet Photographic’s Camera Bag Range
My first camera bag requirement was it had to be a backpack with two decent padded straps. I already have a Lowepro slingshot camera bag but when it’s packed full of equipment it’s pretty heavy and the weight on one shoulder isn’t practical for carrying long distances.
As I have 5 different lenses, plus a flash gun, I needed all my equipment to fit comfortably in it. I also really wanted a compartment big enough for my 15-inch MacBook, with padding for protection – not much to ask, right? To make the search harder still, I was due to travel across Latin America during the rainy season, so it was essential this dream bag had some sort of waterproofing system in there too.
The Calumet Pro Series 740 Medium Backpack appeared to tick all the boxes and unlike other camera bags I’ve bought (and swiftly returned), it wasn’t the size of a house. But how did my new camera bag perform after two months on the road? I can tell you in one word, splendidly. There were a couple of things that weren’t perfect but overall it was a solid buy that doubled up as a great day pack too and I haven’t found anything better on the market in the same price range.
Functionality & Design: 5/5
Access-wise it’s nice and easy to get into with a durable YKK zip on the front, with ergonomically designed grip pulls that slide all the way round the outside, allowing you access to the whole bag easily. There’s also a very handy quick access accessory compartment on one side, which can store memory cards, extra batteries, pens, USB as well as a phone or wallet. On the front, you also have a tripod/monopod accessory pouch with an adjustable locking accessory strap. At the back there’s a padded compartment that fits either my 15″ MacBook Pro or an iPad 4 (with a case). One of the best functions of the bag though is the adjustable (velcro) interior divider system that accommodates longer lenses or a flash gun and allows you to split the bag’s use for camera equipment or, other more everyday items.
Everything I can fit into the backpack by adjusting the velcro dividers
(slide the arrow on the image across to see before & after)
Considering this is a bag that’s travelled across nine different countries, in boats, planes, buses and tuk tuks – in use almost every day – it survived extraordinarily well. With the exterior made from an abrasion and tear-resistant Nylon, the only significant wear and tear I noticed was to the water bottle pouches on the sides (the elastic started to pop out) but I did squeeze bottles a little too large for the pouches in there, so granted that’s my fault. One of the straps across the chest also came off when I pulled it too hard. Luckily the upper chest strap is more for extra support than the main carrying function so it’s not too big a problem. The strap looks like it’s meant to be detachable but the plastic clip that attaches to the piping on the bag has absolutely no give in it so I haven’t been able to re attach it myself.
Considering how much gear (and weight) you can fill this bag with, it’s very comfortable with the weight evenly distributed across your body thanks to the fully adjustable suspension system which includes a removable waist belt. On the days I hiked with it and it was incredibly humid, I was also thankful for the airflow this provided. When we were travelling between destinations I also had my main backpack to carry too, so my camera bag would either go on my front or I’d hold it by the padded strap – again it’s the little details like this that show the thought that has gone into its design.
The true test of protection came when I arrived in Ometepe in Nicaragua. Pretty much as soon as we climbed off the boat the heavens opened and the downpour didn’t let up until we were in our hostel. Cue time to test out the water-resistant rain fly. We actually got lost on trying to find our hostel, so instead of a short walk from the harbour, it ended up with us wandering around the island for more than half an hour and getting drenched. The good news though, everything inside the bag – camera, iPhone, lenses and iPad – stayed 100% dry.
- High quality / durable design
- Interchangeable compartments & lots of pockets
- Full protection for my camera & laptop (i.e. rainproof)
- Price was slightly over my shopping budget (but worth the investment)
- It’s more practical than stylish
- The chest strap is impossible to re-attach once it has come off
The Calumet Pro 740 is multi-functional backpack fitting all my equipment in it without any trouble, whilst offering proper protection from bumps and bashes, as well wet weather conditions. The bag also comes in three sizes, the medium which I road tested, the Calumet Pro 580 (smaller) version and the Calumet Pro 1330 (larger) version. If you have a fair bit of photography equipment or even plan to buy more items in the future, I would invest in a bag like this that gives you plenty of room to add items as you build up equipment. I’d never heard of or, shopped at Calumet before this but now I have had a good experience, it’ll definitely be top of my list the next time I need photography equipment.
*Disclosure: Calumet sent me the camera bag to review in exchange for a fair and honest review. Words however, are ALL my own.
Would you be interested in a post with my food photography tips next? If the answer is yes, leave me a comment below and if there’s interest, I’ll write one.