The world of camera and gear brands is not that huge. There is only a handful of companies who shape the look, feel, and functionality of what we use. Last year there was a bit of anomaly with the crazy spike of attention to one gear brand – Peak Design out of San Francisco. They launched a Kickstarter campaign that I’m pretty sure every other photographers heard about. Today I am reviewing the product they launched. The hype slowly starting to go away and we can really focus on what this bag does differently and why it was so successful across the board.
Peak Design is no stranger to crowdfunding. They’ve done it in the past and they have a consistent success record when it comes to getting new products to the market. It was interesting for me to see how they’ll respond to my emails and messages and how quickly I can arrange to get the bag in my hands. A lot of companies struggle with growth and customer support and you can always tell when things are going downhill. Not with these guys.. The bigger they grow, the more attention they pay to customer service and social aspect of nurturing the fan base. Ok, just wanted to say this as we all know it’s easy to mess up a customer’s experience…
I know there are about a hundred other reviews of this bag. And that’s fine, I am wanted o see the bag for myself anyway. I’ll start by saying that this bag is definitely out of the ordinary. Not everyone goes to such extreme as defining the future of padding materials, shapes, and use cases. When the bag arrives, the stylish packaging definitely makes an impression. It’s perfectly alighed with what you’ll find inside. You pull out the messenger bag and you have this pretty light and sturdy-shaped object in your hands. It looks more like a very modern cycling bag and that makes sense knowing that San Fransisco and quite a few of the fashion-oriented photographers love to ride bikes.
Personally, I am not used to bags of this size. I carry a 13″ laptop and that is usually as big as my bags get. To me the 15″ back compartment was lightly too big, also because I do not have a huge back. To the touch all the materials feel incredible. I can imagine how many hours of work and sourcing of all these fabrics went into production. There is not one thing that feels out of place when it comes to choice of materials. But also you need to keep in mind that not every bag is for everyone and that when everyone says this is a perfect bag – you need to make that decision for yourself and filter all the excitement from others. I am saying this because some of the features don’t really fit my normal use case scenarious and workflows. The top zipper is not necessary for me. The side pockets have straps for ccyling, which again I rarely do. I am used to big front pockets with easy acess and again it was an adjustment to start using this bag. But the point is that for someone it’s a perfect match for what they need.
When you open the bag (mine is brown), you’ll be greeted with the warm beige tones of the interior with light blue stitching – classy! The front compartment is zipped and can be widely opened to access all the little mesh sections colored with green and red for everyone with frequent battery misplacements. Picking up a dead batery from your bag in the most critical time of the shoot can be easily avoided if you stick to these color codes and keep charged battery in green pockets and dead ones in red. I can’t say this front pocket is huge, it’s meant for small accessories and didn’t fit all the stuff I typically carry with me. I started putting my wallet and memory card case in the main section after a few uses of the bag.
The main section has a U shape where the top is wider than the bottom. I found it to be handy. I can definitely fit more stuff than in my Billingham Hadley Pro. But because the bag is somewheat long and narrow, you’ll need to keep playing with velcro dividers until you find your perfect combo. I had a DJI Osmo in a case, Hassleblad 500c with 90mm Planar, Sony a6300 and RX100IV, and all my little accessories in the bag. It all fit with no problem. DJI was a bit tights at the top, but not to a point where I couldn’t lock the bag. Also, I think the front lock is much more convenient than the quick access zipper on top. The front lock is very easy to use and very secure. There are three tiers of how snug you want the bag to close and I’m always somewhere in the middle.
Inside there is also a pocket for some flat documents and maybe a passport and outside there is a laptop pocket with another zipper. Overall, there are many compartments you can play with if you want to, but it’s not necessary to use them all. I love that it’s always easy to find stuff inside thanks to the light interior. The dividers need a special mention. I love how the bottom of them is made, that they can take any shape, and that even being slim they are unbelievably sturgy and scratch free. You get three of them with the bag. I usually am pretty upset with the dividers in most camera bags. They are flimsy, lose shape, etc.. Peak Design possibly defined the future of camera dividers and their clever approach will make more companies rethink how they treat the inner compartments for all future bags.
In the daily use the bag was comfortable, but I had a bit of a hard time adjusting from my previous setup because this one was so unusual. I also think I loaded up too much gear and the bag became heeavy to carry with me all day long. When you put the bag on the ground, it stays in place and doesn’t start falling on any sides. The shoulder strap is convenient and is just like my favorite Slide strap they make. There are different levels of adjustments and even though there is no should pad that’s sliding, the shoulder is definitely more reinforced and has nonslip strips. The bottom of the bag is rubberized and placing the bag in the sand makes no damage. The internal compartment does not have a zipper, so the bag is not fully waterproof, but I don’t think this was ever the goal. I think for typical daily use there are all the needed security precautions.
The Field Pouch was something else I wanted to try out of the Peak Design lineup. It’s a mini version of the bag and is pretty versatile in how you can use it. It has a belt loop, attachments for a camera strap, nice internal mesh pockets, and it’s big enough to carry 24-70mm Sony FE lens with the CaptureLENS clip attached (allows for easy switch of lenses on camera body). It’s a nice addition to the big bag, but I think it is better suited to be a completely standalone product for any small items you want to organize well when you travel and pack for trips.
Peak Design is here to stay and I am excited to see future products they will come up with. I think we’re just beginning to see what their team can do and it’s great that they have their focus in all the right places – get customer feedback, provide fantastic service and customer experiences, and use unconventional materials that will lead the future of camera bag design and accessories.