The search for the perfect camera bag is never really over. For some people it’s like watches or sunglasses where you get a new one each year or season. Female camera bags have been quite popular over the last few years and there are several brands that focus specifically on female camera bags. I go through the news of the photo world on a daily basis and a few months ago ran into this really cool company out of Singapore called Aide de Camp. It was the first time I really wanted to try out a women’s bag. So I emailed the team that runs the brand and they shipped this Madison bag to me for review. Here are my thoughts.
I love camera bags that have a bit of that “stealth mode” vibe. They are convenient to use, but don’t scream to everyone that a photographer is present. This Madison bag is definitely tailored more to the dress or city look. You can pull it off in other situations as well, but it’s not an outdoor hiking bag. Because of the materials used, the bag is very light when empty. I love the use of nylon and some really clever decisions on the magnetized outside pockets, zippers, and camera insert. Having the look is great, but being able to use the bag with minimal effort, such as opening a zipper with one hand, is a big deal for female shooters. Shoulder pad that comes with the bag has all the right elements, such as stretchy middle part for comfort and quick locks that can easily remove the strap. I’d love to see a leather version of this bag. I think the size is just right to add a variation with leather and still keep the weight reasonable.
In a way, this Madison bag resembles Michael Kors bags, but at the same time has some unique features that are very specific to Aide De Camp. For example, side pockets are probably my favorite thing on this bag. They are spacy, easy to get into, don’t add any bulk, and snap closed in no time. To be honest, I haven’t carried a purse in a while since my camera bag is always my daily carry, so it was interesting to get used again to the proper female fashion for a few weeks. Overall, I think this size works great for me in terms of how much stuff I can fit it, weight, and the look of the bag when I carry it.
Since this is a female camera bag, there are a few important things for ladies that need to be mentioned. The big thing for me is that the bag stays conveniently open without showing everything that is inside. The material is quite soft so nothing is moving much after you place the bag on the ground how you want it.
The camera insert is made of the light beige padded material, so it is very easy to go through your gear and find what you need. The second big compartment for personal items is pretty dark, still making it relatively easy to find things. Camera insert is removable, for all those occasions when you want more space for other things. I think it makes perfect sense. It’s not very quick to remove the padding since it’s pretty snug inside, but it can definitely be done in a minute or two. Padding is one of the best ones I’ve seen in the camera bags. It’s thick enough, gentle to the gear so you don’t worry about scratches, and velcro backing is very solid so each sections keeps the shape and stays in place.
I think this is one of the biggest bags in the lineup, but this bag will not fit paper or laptops. I tried putting papers in and maybe width is ok, but the pages start to curl up and you end up with messy out of share client shoot contracts and other documents. My 13″ MacBook is definitely a no-go inside this bag. I tried putting my 70-200 lens inside and here are some photos of how that looks. It’s a bit challenging to close the bag when the lens is inside by itself, not attached to the camera body. And then things get a little worse and you need to rearrange your space to fit your kit with larger lenses than standard zoom, something like 24-70mm.
Overall, I think this bag has more positive functional features and I’d focus more on those knowing that you might need to bring your paper binder or folio for documents. I’m definitely pumped about the camera padding.
The best thing about the bags we love immediately is how quickly we get comfortable with carrying and using those bags. Usually you need to “break in” a bag, so it doesn’t interrupt your usual flow. You remember where things are at, you can access them quickly, your gear is organized and easy to grab, and essentials are in the side pockets for immediate use whenever needed. I think this is the key for a bag – to become your convenient carry that feels like you’ve owned it for years.
Madison camera bag, at least for me, had that quick adaptation period. I don’t change bags often, even though I do a lot of reviews. But I can tell you it’s normal for me to feel a bit weird about a new bag for weeks. This one somehow got me in just several days.
When I was looking on Aide de Camp website, I liked the wide base of this bag. It’s got a bit of that duffel bag vibe without being too big. To me wide space means quicker access to more gear and better visibility of what is inside. I am irritated when I cannot find what I need in split second. Madison bag takes care of that. Zippers are very nice on this bag and I had a very pleasant time when I opened and closed the bag. Zippers are smooth, quick, and don’t have much resistance when you pull the tabs.
The bag tends to be heavy when fully loaded. Even though on its own it is super light, it all depends on how much you want to carry around. I loaded up a7R with 24-70, a7R II with 50mm Loxia, 70-200 lens, and my RX100IV. I added my battery cases, memory card case, and some personal items and it felt like too much. So even though the camera section let’s you carry all this, I’d restrain myself from bringing too much gear.
Comfortable handles are always when people search for in a perfect bag. I used the longer shoulder strap more than the shorter two. I think it’s just something I am more used to. I really liked the flexible stretchy material that’s in the middle of the long strap. I think it’s somewhat similar to what Custom SLR uses on their products. It helps with weight distribution and is more gentle on your shoulder. It’s nice to pick this bag up and place it on the surface over and over again.
This bag is definitely a first for me. I never had a female camera bag and waited quite a long time before giving this bag category a try. Madison is a very nice and well-priced camera bag, retailing at $233 USD. There are many features and little design decisions that will make you enjoy a bag like this or maybe pick another bag from Aide de Camp lineup. I asked Sandy about doing something special for everyone who reads this review, and I got a promo code ASILDAXADC for free standard shipping in the US that you can use for the next few weeks, until March 12, when you place an order on Aide de Camp website. Personally, I wouldn’t want a large bag just to fit my laptop there. I also wouldn’t want a smaller option just because two camera bodies are a norm for me now. So Madison is my sweet spot. It always starts with personal preferences.