Eric L. Woods

Camera Bag Review: BAGSMART DSLR Backpack

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This is my first camera bag review. I have purchased an embarrassing number of camera bags over the years. Camera bags are typically just utilitarian contraptions that evoke no emotion whatsoever. This bag changed that a bit.

Most often I have a bad track record when it comes to loosening my wallet when it comes to ancillary items. Like memory cards my bag decisions were largely driven by cost. What is the least amount of money I can spend to meet my minimum requirements. This changed first with my memory cards after an SD Card went south on me. Messenger bags were ruled out since any change in gear usually required emptying some if not all of the bag on a flat surface. After a string of clearance bags I thought I had beat the system with an AmazonBasics camera baclpack. (Not the exact bag I purchased but it seems to be that bags mildly facelifted successor.) Worked just fine for a while, and had some nice touches…

  • Plenty of room for a good amount of gear.
  • Plenty of dividers provided so you could configure it to your liking.
  • Roomy laptop pocket.
  • Nothing to write home about aesthetically but it did not embarrass itself either.
  • Did not necessarily look like a camera bag.
  • Initially the build seemed fine.
  • All for less than $50.

…but over time issues arose.

  • Having to lay the bag down and open it all the way up to access gear got old fast.
  • Opening was on the top of the bag with no security measures so someone could theoretically walk up behind you and dump the contents fairly swiftly. So friendly environs only.
  • Over a year or so the bag lost some of its divider and structural integrity. Started to have more of a structured sack feel.
  • The laptop compartment slot in the camera opening flap with only a Velcro strap holding it in place did not instill confidence so it was never used.
  • A few strap attachment points started to fray slightly.

I was not upset. At this price point it bought me a year or so without having to make a serious camera bag investment. I still use the bag to this day. Downgraded to a strobe/flash bag I find it a perfect fit for that purpose.

With this I decided to step up my budget a bit. Nothing too crazy. After some research I decided to pick up the <deep breath> Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II Camera and Laptop Backpack… (Black) when I caught it on sale at B&H. A great bag. Just about perfect save for one thing but we’ll get to that. First the highlights.

  • Even more space to fit even more gear.
  • More dividers of varying construction including dividers with pockets in them.
  • No aesthetic excuses here. This is one good looking bag.
  • Much better build. Far larger improvement than the relatively modest price difference would indicate. Hard shell components that really exudes confidence that your gear will be well protected. Much better straps.
  • Great padding on the part that faces your back to make the bag more comfortable.
  • Main opening on the part of the bag facing your back allowing no access to the bag’s contents when you have it on.
  • Over a year or so the bag feels just as solid as the day it arrived.
  • The laptop compartment compartment has a proper zipped enclosure.
  • Added side zipped access to retrieve a camera from each side without having to lay the bag flat to expose all the contents to the world like the AmazonBasics bag above.
  • Comes with a rather novel accessory attachment system that I have made absolutely no use of..

Best bag I have ever owned by far. Excellent in every measure.

So what gives? What’s not to like? I was planning a trip to NYC and a photo walk was on the books.

Yours truly on the left.

And well…

  • It’s large capacity worked against it for this purpose. If I used this bag I would want to bring everything including the kitchen sink. Not the move when I will be spending many hours on foot with this strapped to my back.
  • This bag looks like a fancy pants camera bag trying to pretend that it is not a fancy pants camera bag.

An efficient bag, but it left me unmoved. What to do?

The Phoblographer to the rescue. They published an article about a bag and they pretty much had me at the title:

Less Than $65 and Great! The BAGSMART Camera Backpack Review

I mean. What else do I need to know? It is:

  • Less than $65.
  • A camera backpack.
  • A product that includes the word “SMART” in all caps.
  • Great!

I pretended to read a few sentences and then went ahead and ordered one before finally going back and finishing the review. It is actually $59 now. What is there to lose?

Well I received it in time for my trip and swiftly confirmed that there was absolutely nothing to lose. Was even packaged nicely.

BAGSMART Blog Review Photos

It was every bit as nice as the review had led me to believe it would be and then some. It was a smash hit on the trip. The run down.

  • While nowhere near as large as the Lowepro it absorbs an impressive amount of kit when pressed. I had to dial it back a bit since that was not my intention. My configuration below.
  • Plenty of quality dividers for the purpose.
  • This is the best looking bag I have owned.
BAGSMART Blog Review Photos
  • Far better built than the AmazonBasics bag for only a little more spend. A different class of bag than the Lowepro but I would have never guessed that this bag cost a fraction of the price.
BAGSMART Blog Review Photos
  • Adequate padding on the back to make it a comfortable all day bag.
  • Bag access is split in two parts.
    • Main opening does face backwards, but the zipper can be secured via a built in hook.
    • Secondary compartment on top is secured by a drawstring, under a flap with a strap. Suffice it to say nefarious access is limited.
BAGSMART Blog Review Photos
  • After a rather rugged day out and about in for hours in NYC I am fully confident that this bag will hold up well.
  • The laptop compartment compartment has a proper zipped enclosure. I used it to carry extra flat bits like camera straps and such.
  • Like the Lowepro there is side zipped access to retrieve a camera from one side instead of two this time. Came in quite handy and the zipper can be hooked instead of the main compartment zipper. Would have been nice to have been given two hooks so you would not have to choose which zipper to secure, but this is a very small thing in the grand scheme barely worth mentioning at this price point. Another look at the Amazon listing revealed that you are meant to hook both zippers at the same time via the pull handles rather than the overlapping loops pictured above… There is some manner of juvenile joke there that I will leave be and move on.

I really liked the more conventional part of the camera bag that came with dividers. Looks small but absorbed an impressive amount of gear. This became the standard storage part of the camera bag. While this bag could definitely be used for DSLR gear I believe newer, more compact mirrorless systems really shine here.

BAGSMART Blog Review Photos

Camera compartment roll call:

But I will admit it. The top open drawstring pocket gave me pause.

BAGSMART Blog Review Photos

Meant as a general purpose compartment there are no dividers here. What to do? I am not proud to say that this lack of packaging restrictions set me into an analysis paralysis packaging tailspin. It could be used for anything.

Do I pack a film cameras and some vintage lenses?

Do I pack a big Bertha medium format camera (which this compartment absorbed with ease surprisngly)?

Do I pack a small strobe and some flashes?

Tried everything listed above and it all fit with ease. Then I remembered. The main compartment did not have room to absorb AF primes I wanted to bring comfortably. And these lenses come with cases so dividers would not be needed. And that left room for a flash, a trigger, and a small gimbal camera that went on a price I could not refuse sale that I have yet to review. And so we landed on this.

BAGSMART Blog Review Photos

And again. All in a bag that looks like this without looking the least bit stressed.

BAGSMART Blog Review Photos

I did not mention this above since I had no plans of making use of them in NYC, but this bag also accommodates a tripod on one side and a pocket on the other side or you can use the pockets on each side. For this trip I decided on a sleeker profile by not using these external open pockets.

Conclusion

I have never said these words before, but I wholly recommend this camera bag. After all as billed in the review mentioned above it is:

  • Less than $65.
  • A camera backpack.
  • A product that includes the word “SMART” in all caps.
  • Great!

Happy shooting… bagging? That does not sound right. Let’s just stick with this being a great bag and wrap it up here.

My favorite bag yet.

-ELW

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