How do you find the perfect camera bag? You build it, one piece at a time.
For the last two years I’ve been designing and field testing shoulder bags in order to create a camera bag designed by an actual photographer. It is a process that no company could compete with because it takes time … a lot of time, money, and patience. My goal was to create a bag that would fulfill our multi-dimensional lives.
For me, it goes to the studio, to the airport, and shooting across the globe so my bag needs to pull triple duty. Finding a bag on the market that fulfilled all those needs was impossible.
I switched between carry ons, travel briefcases, and shoulder bags. It was a tiresome process which seemed solvable. What I really wanted was a shoulder bag, but I needed to make a laundry list of changes to get one right.
Rebuilding a classic is nothing new. The car industry does it all the time. There are companies like Singer, who take perfectly good Porsches, pull them apart, tweak every possible inch, and then put them back together. That is exactly what this process felt like.
The base for the A\MARELLI Camera Bag came from Chapman Bags in the UK. They are well known for their hunting and fishing bags. British made, their bags are made to last. But as photographers, artists, and aspiring creatives, we have slightly different requirements than a fisherman … and the bag needed to reflect that.
Here is a list of the things that make me crazy about the over-padded, designed-by-committee, camera bags on the market.
They are too boxy.
Most camera bags feel like lunch boxes slung around your hip. They are too square, overly padded, and made of increasingly cheap fabrics intended to look like the real deal.
They are huge.
The philosophy of most bags is to design them like Texan BBQ, which is to say huge. There is nothing that will drain your energy faster than carrying a huge, heavy bag.
Most bags are throw away items. They are designed to fail, so that you buy another one.
While some companies want you to believe that proprietary hardware is a good thing, it is not. What it really means is that when a clasp breaks, no one can fix it. I wanted to use universal buttons and clasps so that anyone with a sewing machine can keep your bag running forever. And Chapman will repair anything they made, which is an added bonus.
Poor strap design
A strap should not end at the top of the bag. It should wrap all the way around to cradle the load from the bottom. But again, this is an area where most companies cut corners to save money – good for them, bad for the photographer.
Velcro: the enemy of the moment
Camera bags should open silently. There’s nothing like being in a quiet space and hearing the tear of velcro. It is a guaranteed way to spoil the decisive moment. A good bag should open and close without a sound, just as James Bond would have wanted it.
Not sure how to say this politely, but I think most camera bags are ugly. Without naming any names, my personal opinion is that most bags on the market are tragic to look at. They are the last thing I want to wear with either a T-shirt or a nice Italian sport coat. I wanted a bag that I could take to the studio, hop a plane to Sri Lanka, or go to a watch collectors dinner downtown without needing to change bags.
Fabric: 24 ounce pinhead canvas. This is the kind of material that explorers like Ernest Shackleton brought to the South Pole at the beginning of the century. It is tough, waterproof canvas strong enough for every trip, but soft enough that the bag moulds to your body when you wear it.
Shoulder strap: I designed the bag with a canvas strap, strong enough to restrain a charging elephant. It wraps all the way around the bag, supporting the load properly from the bottom and adding an extra layer of bottom protection without adding any of those leather patches or “feet” that other companies use. The strap is thick and wide so it does not need an extra shoulder pad. Form follows function so you can sling it across your body or set it on the ground without a second thought.
Padded laptop compartment: There is a separate padded compartment for a 13” Macbook Pro or equivalently-sized laptop, which is essential for editing on the road or trips to the studio.
Space for everything: The front pockets will hold smaller cameras vertically – everything up to Leica M bodies with Summicron lenses – while the main compartment will hold Summilux lenses, SL bodies, or DSLRs. No matter if you are gearing up for a long trip or just want to take a quick walk for a few shots, it can adjust to your needs.
Padding options: While I don’t use padding, I know that some of you do. This is why the interior main section has velcro loop strips so you can drop your existing padded dividers into the bag. During the development phase someone asked me, “Why not just add the padding too?”
I explained, “As photographers we tend to accumulate bags and every bag comes with padding. Since I have a stock of padded dividers, it does not make sense to make another round. This keeps the price lower and recycles padding pieces that otherwise collect dust.”
• Length 15½” / Height 11” / Depth 4½” (Standard)
• Length 41 cm / Height 28 cm / Depth 11½ cm (Metric)
• 24 oz. waterproof pinhead canvas in Olive Green
• Vegetable-tanned leather in Whiskey Brown
• Extra long canvas shoulder strap made from military grade webbing, full wrap around
• Solid brass hardware
• Quick release leather flap closure for easy access
• Two front bellows pockets (fits M bodies with 50 mm Summicron or similar)
• One internal zipper pocket (for pens, SD cards, and other bits and bobs)
• Two internal slip pockets (each with enough space to fit a large cellphone)
• Padded laptop compartment with leather closure (Macbook Pro 13” or similar)
• Rear slip pocket
• Leather reinforced seams
• British twill lining throughout
• Embossed leather A\M logo
The first production run is only 50 bags, so place your orders quickly. It is recommended to have your order placed by September 1.
They will be ready to ship in the middle of October.
To order your A\MARELLI Camera bag please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the information below, then I will send you a PayPal request for $399 USD.
In your initial email please include your:
• Shipping Address
• Contact Phone Number
• Email Address associated with your PayPal account
For European customers, Chapman will ship to you directly. You will buy the bag from me, and I will hand over the list to Chapman. They will send you a separate PayPal request for shipping directly and you’ll get much better shipping rates than if the bags came through New York City first.
For customers based in North America, you will buy the bag from me directly, and these bags will ship from my studio or will be available for pick up if you are local to NYC.
I’d love to see where you take your bag, so if you have a chance, take a picture of you and the bag while you are out shooting. It can be at the office or on a cliff in Patagonia … whatever adventure you see fit. I look forward to seeing your bags!
And thank you all again, as I know many of you have been eagerly awaiting these bags!