Timbuk2 is a company that has earned a lot of respect in world of carrying bags. Their messenger bags have a fanatical following. But until very recently, they did not make carrying solutions specifically for cameras. That hasn’t stopped many people from modifying their Timbuk2 bags to accommodate their cameras. All over the web are instruction guides and product lists for which one could hack their bags. Even Timbuk2 has a page dedicated hacking their bags with Domke inserts. So when Timbuk2 announced their first bag designed for carrying camera equipment (not just hacked), there was a lot of talk among the photography community. Timbuk2, who is known for their quality and durable bags, is finally making a camera bag? We had to get our hands on one. The bag is the Snoop Camera Messenger bag, and Timbuk2 was kind enough to provide one for the purpose of our review.
The Overall Design
The Snoop Camera Messenger is designed to be an inconspicuous bag. From the outside, it doesn’t appear to be any different than a typical messenger bag. This is a great concept for those who carry their camera (and a few lenses and accessories) daily or for those who don’t want to draw attention to their gear. The bag comes in two sizes, a small and a medium. The dimensions of each are as follows:
Small: 15.90″ (40.39 cm) wide, 9.65″ (24.51 cm) high, 4.72″ (11.99 cm) deep, 2.16 pounds (0.98 kg)
Medium: 19.30″ (49.02 cm) wide, 10.43″ ( 26.49 cm) high, 7.87″ (19.99 cm) deep, 2.57 pounds (1.17 kg)
Besides the dimensional and capacity differences, there aren’t many differences between the bags. The bag we reviewed is the small version. But this review can certainly be considered accurate for both sizes.
The Snoop is a top-loading satchel with a large flap that covers the top and outside face of the bag when closed. The flap can be fastened by two clip-straps on either end of the bag. Alternatively, the lip of the bag is covered with Velcro, and there are two Velcro strips on the face of the bag for easy closing. The bag comes with two Velcro straps that can be used to cover the Velcro in case you are not a fan of the Velcro.
As for accessory pockets, there are plenty of options. The face of the bag has three top-loading zippered pockets – one of which is clear for easy viewing – and an open pocket for quick access to thin items like a small journal or filters or otherwise.. The clear pocket serves well as a media pocket – but I chose not to use it. At times, I kept my bag pretty full; and so the bottom edge of the clear pocket became visible during those times, showing off my media. With the media showing to the watchful eye, it somewhat defeated the purpose of an otherwise incognito bag. There is also an additional side-loading zippered pocket – a “Napoleon” pocket (you access it by sticking your left hand under the flap) – that can actually be accessed with the flap closed and tightened. This pocket worked well as depository for my train schedules, tickets and other things I needed to access quickly and easily.
Inside the main chamber is a removable padded camera insert. The insert is designed to be easily removed when you don’t need to carry all your camera gear and you need some extra space. The top zippers entirely closed and there is a little loop of webbing on the back so it can simply be lifted out with everything inside. The inside of the insert is entirely covered with a fleece-like material. This protects the camera, of course, but also provides an unlimited number of locations to which the dividers can be fastened. The bag comes with four dividers: Two tall ones and two short ones. I believe the tall dividers are intended to divide the bag from front to back and the short ones are intended to go between them from left-to-right. The short dividers would be ideal for protecting your lens while mounted to the SLR camera – the indent of the grip would rest on the top of the divider. The only minor problem is that the short divers are longer, so it tends to push out the walls of the bag. I would have liked to have seen an extra fold in the divider so that I could use it in a front-to-back configuration without any distorting the shape of the bag or the divider. For the record, I chose to use this configuration regardless, but it did sometimes make it difficult to put things in the front pockets, or use their zippers.
Inside the lip of the bag is a long Velcro flap. This can be inserted into the camera insert to hold it in place. This also renders the zipper of the insert unusable – which is fine for most. I chose not to use the flap at all. The insert seems to stay inside the bag quite well without, and I liked having the extra storage space. The sliver of space between the bag and the insert was a great place for me to keep my filter wallet and my journal.
The shoulder strap features an interesting design. Often, with messenger style bags, you would find a detachable strap with hardware between the strap and the bag. The Snoop, like many of Timbuk2’s bags, stitches the strap directly to the bag. This has a few advantages. First of all, this design offers fewer potential points of failure. The system also feels quite sturdy as the straps don’t twist or flex while walking about. And the system is also significantly quieter in use than any bag with extra hardware. But with such a system, there is always the question of adjustment. Timbuk2’s answer is the the “True Fit Cam Buckle”. It is a heavy-duty plastic friction lock buckle that sits on one side of the bag. Using the cam buckle, you can adjust the strap however tight you’d like to carry it. If you have trouble getting in and out of the bag, you can simply squeeze the cam and the two parts of the buckle separate, giving you extra room to get the bag on or off your person. I really liked this approach, and I especially liked the sturdy feel of the heavy-duty straps. For added comfort, the strap has a removable shoulder pad (Timbuk2 offers pads with different fabrics for more customization).
The Snoop has a number of other features worth mentioning. On the bottom of the bag are two straps that can be used to carry a tripod or some additional accessories. Unfortunately, these straps are permanently fastened to the bag. When not in use, the straps tend to get in the way. On rare occasions, they got caught up on things. I’m not a fan of loose straps, so I would like to be able to remove them when I don’t need them. There is also an additional stabilizer strap that comes with the bag that can be clipped onto either side of the bag and worn about the waist. I never used it, but cyclists can use it for extra stability while cycling across town.
What Fits In The Bag
The Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Messenger Bag will certainly accommodate a decent volume of gear. Let me remind you that the bag we reviewed was the small version. The larger bag would of course accommodate more, but the small version still holds quite a lot. Here is what I was carrying regularly with the Snoop Camera Messenger:
- Nikon D80 (a mid-sized SLR)
- 18-135mm Zoom Lens (mounted)
- 50mm prime lens
- Lensbaby Composer with aperture ring kit
- Nikon SB-600 Flash
- Kindle E-Reader (Incidentally, in a sleeve also made by Timbuk2)
- Lens Filters (in my filter wallet)
- Full Sized Book (roughly 9″x11″)
- Remote Trigger
- My Journal with Pen
- Various cleaning tools
It’s fair to say that there would still be room for some more small items. I didn’t fully utilize the accessory pockets. As I mentioned above, I chose not to use the media pocket as I considered it to be a showcase for whatever was in the pocket. I do wish some of the accessory pockets were a little more spacious. I just don’t have too many things that would fit into those pockets if only because of the depth (or lack thereof).
Featuring the countless experience, durability and quality that Timbuk2 is known for, I expect the Snoop Camera Messenger to quickly become a favorite. I especially expect street photographer’s to fall in love with the bag. It’s comfortable to carry, easy to get to your gear quickly and it offers a good deal of security and protection. The messenger design is of course a big appeal. I am drawn to inconspicuous bag designs – after all, who would want to advertise their camera gear to the public? Many of the bags we’ve reviewed are fairly inconspicuous. But the messenger – in general – concept is probably one of the best. Timbuk2 has a slight advantage here: The company is not known for equipment bags – camera or otherwise – and so none would suspect a Timbuk2 bag to carry a camera. This is of course going to change slowly over time, especially if the company continues to introduce camera bags. But the designs will continue to be simple and will likely remain inconspicuous.
As a day bag, this is a great solution. To be a great day bag, it needs to not only carry your camera gear, but some other things as well. This bag has no troubles doing just that and it would certainly serve well for those who would need to mix work with play. If you are like me and you prefer to carry some extra gear (read: more than you need), the medium sized bag is probably going to be the most appropriate. But the small bag will perfect for most users.
Bottom line: We loved the bag.
Things We Liked
- Inconspicuous – It doesn’t look like a camera bag, so no one suspects you’re carrying valuable gear.
- Removable Camera Insert – Easily remove the camera chamber when you need more book space.
- Tripod straps on the bottom of bag to carry a small tripod or other equipment.
- Sewn-in Shoulder Strap – I personally am not a fan of hardware on messenger bags. Single sewn-in strap means simpler design and fewer points of failure.
- “Napoleon Pocket” – easy access things without opening the main flap.
- “Slash Pocket” – a reserved space for notebooks, magazines or otherwise behind your camera insert.
- Cam Buckle – easily remove the strap even if you like to wear it tight (very convenient for bicycle commuters).
Things We Didn’t Like
- Divider system is somewhat limited.
- Tripod straps aren’t removable.
- Media Pocket is clear, and sometimes peaks out below the flap