As a photographer, the quest for the “perfect camera bag” is a never-ending one. I think that part of it is the fact that we have to buy a bag to actually see what it’s like in-person, since there are very few stores which have all of the good, unique brands in stock. And as woman I feel like I’m always having to buy a bag that was designed for a man so my bag collection is filled with a bunch of ugly black camera backpacks and messenger bags.
So when I came across the Kelly Moore B-Hobo bag I did what I usually do before buying something online: I read the reviews. The majority of the reviews on this bag were very good, so I went ahead and bought it.
The reason I got this bag was so that I could take my camera with me everywhere. One thing that is burned into my brain is from Jay Maisel—he is always preaching to photographers that we should take our camera with us everywhere we go. Well, I don’t really want to lug an ugly, clunky camera bag with me, sling a camera on my shoulder, or have an extraneous amount of gear with me at all time (talk about heavy). Instead, I’m happy with my Canon 5DMkIII and a 40mm or 50mm lens. So my ideal purse would be something that can always carry the following:
- Camera and lens (Canon 5DMkIII with RRS L-Bracket attached and 40mm f/2.8 lens)
- Business cards
- Girly things (lip gloss, etc.)
- Misc accessories
Overall this bag works for this scenario. I’m glad I have the 40mm pancake lens, because it reduces the amount of “bulk” that a larger lens, even a simple 50mm, adds. This bag is very narrow so there’s not a lot of room to add a camera plus lens without it pushing front part of the bag out unnaturally.
You’ll also notice that my iPhone is not in the side slot, which is where it would be ideal to place it. I can squeeze it into the side pocket, but I almost always have some sort of case on my phone and the pocket seems to be designed specifically for an iPhone (or smart phone) with no case around it (sigh). If I put my phone-with-case in it, it is squeezed in so tight that it pulls the case off. Granted, I use a Mophie battery case, so it’s larger than most, but I’ve tried it with the iPhone bumper and it doesn’t fit very comfortably.
And, for comparison, here’s what it looks like when I stick a little bit more gear inside of it:
Ultimately, I can use this as I wanted to. It works for my “one camera with tiny lens” scenario. But I’m pretty sure that the bag is intended for pro photogrpahers with more than one lens, possibly a flash as well, and also the normal stuff we girls want to carry with us, too. But even with just the one camera/lens scenario, the bag ends up getting pretty heavy and hurts your shoulder if you’re walking around with it a lot. I have found that you can really only fit one pro camera body and two other main items, such as two pro lenses or a lens and a flash. That’s about it. You might be able to cram a few more pieces of gear inside, but you’ll just add bulk and weight, and there’s not enough padding for more stuff so you’re stacking things on top of each other.
Here’s my overall assessment of this bag:
- Very stylish bag.
- Nice padding inside of the bag on the bottom and back, and internal separators (FYI, no padding on the inside-front of the bag).
- Easily holds a small camera/lens combination with other purse stuff.
- Comes in a variety of very cute colors (I totally wish I got the lavender one instead!).
- Two ways to carry the bag: “messenger” style to hang at your hip, or over one shoulder like a normal purse.
- Easily holds an iPad, Kindle or small laptop (such as a Netbook or MacBook Air)
- Overall it’s a super cute, very nice purse that can hold a few pieces of very light camera equipment (I don’t use it as a “camera bag”, but as a daily purse to carry normal stuff).
- Cannot carry very much camera gear without becoming uncomfortably heavy. Does camera gear actually fit in the bag? Yes, if does. But the straps are not padded well enough to make comfortable to carry it around with all that gear.
- Even if you can carry all the gear you want, you’ll end up with very little room to put other stuff (wallet, misc purse things, phone, etc.)
- Too narrow for a camera with (even a small) lens attached. It gets really bulgy and doesn’t have a nice form when you stuff it full. The only exception to this is a tiny pancake lens, like the Canon 40mm.
- The cell-phone pockets on either side are useless, unless you still use a flip-phone or a phone (like the iPhone) without a case. If you’re like most people and have a smartphone (iPhone or Android device) and any type of case then don’t even dream of putting your phone in here. You could probably use these pockets for lip gloss or a spot to hold a pen.
- Outside material feels somewhat cheap. I’m used to it now, but when I first got it it was not what I was expecting.
Would I recommend this bag?
I would not recommend this to a working professional photographer to use as a “real” camera bag. Personally I want something that I can use as a day bag to hold one camera and a few lenses, but this doesn’t cut it even for that type of setup. I would recommend this to anyone who wants a stylish, beautiful purse with extra padding and a good choice of color who wants to also carry one small camera/lens with them. The Kelly Moore lineup has several other types of bags as well … I’ve never used the other ones so I can’t speak to those, but I would consider another style of bag to try out and maybe use as a purse.
Do you still use the bag?
At the time of writing this post, yes, I do. This bag ended up becoming a very nicely padded “normal” purse that can hold everything I carry on a regular bases, plus a camera, but I find myself rarely taking the camera with me because it’s pretty heavy (the strap is really not suitable for weight). I’ll stick my Lytro or a compact camera in it on a daily basis, and on special occasions I’ll stuff my SLR with a small lens in it, too. I also like using this purse as my “laptop bag”, so to speak. I have an 11-inch MacBook Air and the back pocket holds it very easily. I would even consider getting another one to use the way I use mine now.
Would it work for professional photographers when on-assignment or photographing for a client?
In my professional opinion, no. However, it really depends on how much gear you use and what your method is. If you plan on carrying your camera body separately, this bag may work well for holding your extra lenses. But the straps are thin and not comfortable once you start adding any type of weight to it (like a few pro lenses or a camera body, for example).
Would you recommend this bag to other photographers?
If they don’t plan on using it as a serious camera bag, then yes, I would. It makes a great purse with all the padding and can still easily hold an iPad or small laptop (it fits my MacBook Air quite nicely). If they want something that will hold a camera body, a few lenses and some accessories, then I would definitely not recommend it.
Do you recommend another similar purse/camera-bag to photographers?
So far I haven’t found anything that would work, but I also haven’t tried very many out. If there was a store filled with girl-purse-camera-bags then I might get lucky, but for now I’m going to have to stick with my “function over form” style of bag. Comfort is extremely important to me when working and traveling, and I would never sacrifice that for a cute design. (With that said, if you want a wonderful, comfortable and functional camera bag, I recommend that you go with ThinkTank.)
To sum it all up, I’m still looking for the “perfect bag”. I do like this bag, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t think it works for a pro photographer in most shooting environments. My main camera bag right now is a ThinkTank Shapeshifter, which I love and works well (comfy and holds all of my gear). It’s black, and ugly (sorry ThinkTank … but don’t worry I still love ya!) but it works. :I also use a ThinkTank Retrospective 10 for day-travel, it comes in a few different colors (I have the Pine color and LOVE it) and the padding on the strap is super cushy and comfortable.
Comfort and practicality will always outweigh style for me, but it doesn’t hurt a girl to try. So, when I do come across the perfect bag for a photographer that is comfortable and functional and I don’t feel I have to compromise with an ungly “guy” bag then I promise that you all will be the first to know.