I have been on the hunt for the perfect camera bag for years. I wanted a bag that was as attractive as any of my everyday handbags but would hold my work camera (a beefy Nikon D800 with a 24-70mm lens) along with some other essentials, SD cards, spare batteries, business cards, etc. As a professional photographer who works events and weddings I wanted something prettier than a generic polyester camera bag. I also carry my camera back and forth to work down the street all the time - I don't want to make it really obvious I have expensive equipment.
Leather camera bags can be so expensive (we're talking hundreds £££) and I can't justify the expense when I know I can buy leather handbags for a fraction of the price. I may have finally found my ideal bag with the help of the internet. Although it's not sold as a camera bag, as soon as I spotted it I knew it could work. It's a fantastic shape with a deep base. This tan/orange/brown satchel style handbag is from the eBay seller Arvinchan_Shop, it's real leather and is priced at an affordable £39.99. It's available in nine beautiful colours. You can shop this exact bag here! The seller ships worldwide and my bag arrived well packaged at my UK address within a fortnight, way before its estimated arrival date, even though it was coming from Hong Kong.
So why is this the perfect bag for photographers?
The dimensions are: height 25cm, length 24cm, depth 10cm and this bag will fit a full-frame DSLR camera body (without a battery grip) and one lens. It's a bit of a squeeze for my Nikon D800 depth wise. I could have done with an extra couple of cms but because the leather is soft it does accommodate a chunky camera. I'm also hoping the leather might stretch and relax over time. If you own a smaller cropped-sensor DSLR camera there might even be room for an extra lens too! There's room for my purse, phone, keys and photography essentials. It's not a bag for those of you who need to carry a lot of photography equipment and may need 2 or more lenses for a shoot. But for a day trip, travelling and getting around with your favourite camera in tow, it's a lovely size.
Inside the bag are two zipped pockets, two open pockets and one 'phone pocket' (but not suited to any phone made after 2014, there's no way my iPhone 6 is getting in there!) I use that pocket to hold a spare camera battery instead. There's a zipped pocket on the outside of the bag where I store SD cards. Plenty of space for bits and pieces, it's easy to keep things safe. The handle on top with its gold metal hardware feels strong. The straps are half leather and half canvas. At first I was a bit disappointed they weren't completely leather but actually being canvas on one side gives the strap more grip, meaning the bag won't slip off your shoulder as easily.
The leather is soft and has a slight shine to it. I can see it getting scratched and rubbed with regular use, as you'd expect from any leather bag, but only time will tell. I opted for 'brown' which is more of a orange-tan colour but very true to the photos on the eBay listing. What I liked most is that it can be worn as a backpack or as a shoulder bag. It comes with two straps and you can decide how to carry it. Being able to spread the weight over two shoulders is fantastic especially if you're going on a long walk or day trip.
Ideally I'd invest in some soft padded lining, which you'll find inside most standard camera bags. They protect your gear from bumps. You can buy camera bag inserts but I'm not sure there will be enough room for thick padding. I'm going to have a think about designing something myself to custom fit the bag.
I love the look of my new handbag/backpack and would happily use it as just that too. If you're a photography enthusiast or a professional and are looking for a fashionable 'non-camera' camera bag I'd recommend you give this a go. Ditch the boring and obvious 'traditional' camera bags!