I rarely review something that wasn't explicitly designed for photography, but occasionally I find something so awesome that is also useful for photographers that I feel compelled to share the secret. In this case, the secret is the Cambridge Satchel Company - a small business in Cambridge, England that specializes in leather bags.
My dilemma was clear. I have a medium format Rolleiflex camera that I want to carry around and travel with, but I like to do so semi-discreetly. Carrying an obvious camera bag in an urban environment is a good way to get robbed, and I try to avoid making myself a target. All of my camera bags are bigger and designed for a multi-lens dSLR system, not for a small medium format camera. I also wanted to be able to carry some extra goodies - my wallet, phone, extra film, etc, but most camera bags are just too big and bulky for a small selection of accessories. Oh, and I've got a tendency to be rough on gear, so it needed to be durable. (and good looking always helps)
With my criteria laid out, I set out on a semi-quest for a bag. I say semi-quest because I did not think I'd be able to find something in person and assumed I'd have to resort to the internet to find a good bag for my needs; however, a recent journey through Cambridge offered more than a few urban street photographs. I found myself outside the Cambridge Satchel Company looking into their windows and thinking "maybe, just maybe"....
After walking around and eyeing the bags in stock, I found one I thought my suit my needs. It was a dark brown leather medium expedition satchel and was already broken in as the store demo, so I wouldn't feel guilty about beating it up by making it a camera bag! The bag is just thick enough to hold the Rolleiflex and has lots of extra space for those accessories without being too bulky. In fact, this bag will be perfect as a dual purpose carry on + camera bag because there are pockets for passports, iPad, and lots of goodies with the camera. This particular bag included quick release clasps, which I rather liked over the traditional buckles. In use, these buckles are easy to unhinge when the bag was slung behind my back.
A comfortable and wide shoulder strap make it the sort of bag I can carry all day. The strap is a heavy duty fabric and wide enough to distribute the weight of the bag comfortably along my shoulder.
I paid a little extra to get my initials engraved in the bag and left feeling excited and ready to take the bag for a spin...... it didn't wait long! The next day it was time for a 5 mile walk around a historical English estate. The bag performed spectacularly!
There is plenty of space for the camera and all the accessories I could need for a day of discreet walking around. The bag fit tight to my body and didn't flop around, which is a big pet peeve with so many other bags. It also allowed easy access to my gear and, with the thick leather, should tolerate a lifetime of abuse!
Unfortunately, the Satchel I purchased won't do much for my digital photography - it's too small to consider carrying my dSLR and lenses, but for this medium format camera or a smaller 35mm / rangefinder / compact camera, it would perform wonderfully.
You can visit the Cambridge Satchel Company online at http://www.cambridgesatchel.com/. Here's a link to the bag I purchased (the Medium Expedition).