Crumpler Mild Enthusiast (Medium) Bag Review
Crumpler started their business making messenger bags for local cyclists, and still focuses on making durable and portable messenger, camera, laptop and tech bags, and even luggage. Their Mild Enthusiast series of camera bags is perfect for the photographer looking to carry everything they need for a day's worth of shooting in a compact, easy to access bag. The small and medium sizes are actually designed to be worn as both a sling or around the waist, making them attractive choices for travel or event photography (more on that later), whereas the large size is designed strictly as a sling bag. This review looks at the medium size bag, which was designed to hold a DSLR and 2 lenses.
The Mild Enthusiast looks a lot like most messenger style bags, only they have replaced the flap with a zipper. The single strap is made from wide webbing, and has a buckle in the middle that allows the bag to be worn around the waist as well as over the shoulder. The strap adjusts from both sides of the buckle, letting you adjust it so the buckle doesn't dig into anything when slung over your shoulder. There's an elastic band around each side of the strap to hold the excess webbing so it doesn't flap around or get caught on anything. This is especially important when wearing the bag around your waist, as there is a lot of strap left over after cinching it tight. Notably absent is some type of padding for the shoulder, but the minimalist nature of this bag means that the webbing should be sufficient for all but the heaviest of camera/lens combinations. The bag itself is made of water resistant materials, and while you probably don't want to carry it around in the rain all day it does offer some protection until you can get somewhere dry. Also, unlike some camera bags, this one sits upright pretty well when you set it down, so you don't have to worry about it falling over.
The camera pocket is accessed through a clamshell-style double zipper. The clamshell design allows quick and easy access without worrying about dumping your gear. Crumpler added eyelets to the zipper pulls, allowing you to attach a luggage lock to it when not in use. This gives you a little bit of protection from would-be thieves in a crowd, or if you have to leave your bag at the front of a shop. The main camera pocket features a removable reposition-able (hook and loop) divider and is designed to hold a DSLR with a lens attached and a spare lens. The interior of the bag is made from bright red brushed nylon, protecting your gear and making it easy to spot little bits and pieces at the bottom of the bag. In the back of the main compartment is a full width accessory pocket, which is fairly thin but can hold manuals, documents, and some thinner accessories. There are two small accessory pockets as well, which are good for things like memory cards, a pen, business cards, your phone, etc. The fact that these pockets are positioned behind your gear means that they can be hard to get to with your camera and lenses in place, and you may need to remove some gear to access them, a bit of a concern. On the front of the camera pocket (inside the main zipper) is a small zippered accessory pocket, which can hold bulkier items like spare batteries, a lens cloth, cables, or even film if that's your thing.
The back of the bag hosts a zippered pocket that is large enough to hold an iPad or other tablet (you might even be able to slip a tiny netbook or ultrabook into it). This is also a good place for a map/thin guide book if you're traveling. The front of the bag features a few accessory loops of webbing (which appear to be the same as the strap material), giving you somewhere to clip your keys or a water bottle. The bag is available in the standard black/grey, or a more “retro” looking beech/black.
What Fits in the Bag
The Mild Enthusiast (Medium) is designed for a DSLR and 2 lens setup. I actually managed to fit a flash and two remote triggers in as well, but it got pretty cramped and I wouldn't recommend doing so for daily use. Here's everything I managed to stuff into the bag:
- Nikon D70 DSLR body
- 18-70mm zoom (attached to body)
- Nikon 50mm f/1.8
- LumaPro LP160 flash
- (2) Cactus V5 remote flash triggers
- Pens, Lens Pen
- Camera Manual
- Spare memory card
- Spare camera battery, AA and AAA batteries
- Remote camera release
- LED flashlight
- Polarizing and ND filters
- Moleskine notebook
Again, for general walking around I would recommend a second lens OR a flash, but because the 50 is so small I was able to stack it all in there together. Of course, this setup made it extremely hard to get to the accessory pockets, and I fared much better when the bag wasn't overloaded. I also recommend paring down your accessories to only the bare essentials, as it will make carrying and using this bag much more comfortable.
The Mild Enthusiast is a great small bag designed for light day use. If you're the type of photographer who likes to haul everything around with them, this is not the bag for you. I found it very comfortable to wear around all day, and it's well designed for quick access to your gear. Part of the tradeoff is that there isn't a lot of accessory space. I was able to fit most of my “essential” kit of a spare battery, memory cards, lens pen, etc, but I wasn't able to find a good spot for a bulb blower. I shouldn't need one for just wandering around, but I've grown pretty attached to having mine with me, so that was a little hard to let go. If you're not as neurotic as I am, this is probably not an issue. Despite the lack of padding on the strap, I didn't have any issues with it digging into my shoulder. I also tried wearing the bag as a waist pack, and found that comfortable as well. I wouldn't go buy a waist bag for myself, but having the option can come in handy. For travel photographers or hikers, being able to wear the bag as a waist pack and then sling a backpack over your shoulders lets you carry your camera comfortably while on the move and still gives you easy access, something most “day bag” camera backpacks don't do very well. If you're heading out for a day of walking around a city and don't plan on shooting the whole time, locking the zipper pocket and wearing the bag behind you on your waist can save your shoulders some discomfort and leave you feeling secure about your gear while you wander. Some event photographers might like the option of combining the waist pack with a sling camera strap, using the bag to hold lenses for quick changes.
The bag is extremely low profile, which makes wearing it in public a bit of a joy compared with the more bulky messenger style bag I typically use. Usually, when I'm walking through a group of people, I have to keep a hand on my bag behind me to make sure it doesn't inadvertently swing into someone. The Mild Enthusiast hugs my back, and lets me slip through a crowd without worry.
As I said above, I was able to cram a DSLR, two lenses and my flash/triggers into the bag, along with a bunch of extra accessories. However, this took all the fun out of using the bag, and I highly recommend a much more streamlined setup for daily use. I was much happier just carrying a camera and 2 lenses, and ditched the filters and remotes that I don't use except in very specific situations (like when I'm shooting moving water with a tripod). I actually view this bag as the next step above just slinging the camera strap over your shoulder and heading out – it gives you a little more room for an extra lens and some essentials to keep you shooting all day without weighing you down.
The Crumpler Mild Enthusiast probably isn't going to be your only camera bag, but it makes a great small bag for light day use. The bag is well designed and constructed, and aside from some potential issues getting to the accessory pockets depending on what you have packed, it's easy to get to your gear even while wearing the bag. The option to clip it around your waist is a pretty unique feature that opens up some interesting possibilities for travel and event photography, and can save you from buying a sling and a waist bag.
As of this writing, the Mild Enthusiast (Medium) is available for $110USD (crumpler.com)
Things we liked
- Small compact design
- Large textured zipper pulls for easy access
- Easily converts from a sling bag to a waist pack, giving you essentially two bags in one
Things we didn't
- Location of the accessory pockets behind the gear can make them hard to access