Gadling Gear Review: Acme Made Camera Bags

Camera bags from Acme Made are stylish and functionalOne of my biggest concerns when traveling is making sure that my expensive camera gear is well protected from harm. In the hustle and bustle of packing, rushing to the airport and flying to our eventual destination, a lot can happen to our photography equipment, even when it remains in our possession. There is nothing worse than embarking on that trip of a lifetime only to find your camera isn’t working when you arrive.

A good camera bag not only helps prevent accidental damage to our gear but also keeps us well organized too. Carrying extra lenses, memory cards, external flashes and other photography equipment can be a bulky and cumbersome affair, but a good bag can lighten the load and make it easy to find all of those important items when you need them. A well-organized photographer is less likely to miss the important shots and do a better job of capturing the moment.

New camera bags from Acme Made offer travelers the protection and organization they need in stylish and distinctive packages. Their Montgomery Street line of packs have a retro look with modern sensibilities that allow them to stand out in the crowd without sacrificing function for form. Here’s a look at three of these bags that were designed with the traveling photographer in mind.

Montgomery Street Backpack ($99.99)
The largest entry into the Montgomery Street line-up is the Backpack, a versatile bag with plenty of room for just about everything you’ll want to take with you when traveling. Designed for carrying a DSLR or the increasingly popular compact system cameras (CSC), this pack offers well-padded compartments and pockets for camera bodies, lenses and more. A dedicated laptop sleeve is perfect for carrying a 13-inch MacBook, ultrabook or tablet, while organizational pockets hold travel essentials such as a smartphone, passport and other important items.

Putting this bag to the test in the field left me very impressed with its overall quality. It is built with fabrics designed to resist the wear and tear that comes along with travel, while still managing to provide ample protection for all of the important gear inside. Magnetic snaps and high-quality zippers seal up pockets and compartments nicely, while Acme’s FlexFold System allows users to adjust and expand the interior to their needs. When not in use, the Backpack also folds down to a compact size, making it easy to store and transport. The Backpack is capable of carrying a CSC camera and two extra lenses or one DSLR and a single additional lens. That makes it a perfect choice for most travelers but could be a bit too confining for those with more photography gear. This won’t be a problem for most, however, and when you add in the ability to carry a laptop or tablet – as well as all the cables, batteries and chargers you’ll need for the road – you end up with a pack that performs above and beyond expectations.

Those who like to travel light and are looking for a stylish, compact bag will absolutely love the Montgomery Street Backpack. It provides ample storage space for plenty of gear and its versatile nature ensures that it can accompany us on many different travel adventures.

Montgomery Street Courier ($79.99)
Camera bags from Acme MadeAcme Made’s Montgomery Street Courier shares much in common with the larger Backpack. There is a distinct look about it that quickly identifies both bags as being part of the same line and their feature sets are very similar. The Courier is capable of carrying mostly the same load as its larger counterpart, offering room for a compact camera system body and two extra lenses or a DSLR and one additional lens. It also offers organizational pockets for travel documents, a smartphone and other items that you’ll want to keep close at hand. This bag even includes the FlexFold System, which makes it a breeze to expand the interior to hold more items when necessary.

But the Courier is designed to be a smaller camera bag than the Backpack and as such, some compromises had to be made. The biggest difference is that the Courier doesn’t have enough space for a laptop. It does include a quilted sleeve with enough room for a tablet such as an iPad, but travelers using this bag will need to leave their laptops at home.

The other main difference between the two bags is that the Courier is a sling pack designed to be worn over the shoulder. This adds a level of accessibility that isn’t found in a backpack, as it is easy to grab a camera, lens or new memory card without ever taking the bag off. This makes it a very convenient option for travelers, who often need to access their photography equipment and other gear on a moment’s notice.

The Courier is made from the same high-quality materials as the Backpack and features the same zippers and magnetic snaps as well. For all intents and purposes, it resembles the larger bag in every way, just in a scaled-down fashion and with a shoulder sling. This makes it a great, yet uncompromising, alternative.

Montgomery Street Kit Bag ($59.99)
Montgomery Street Kit bag from Acme MadeFor the ultimate in compact camera packs, the Montgomery Street Kit Bag is the way to go. While it doesn’t look exactly like the Backpack or Courier, the family resemblance is still undeniable. Like those other bags, the Kit Bag is made of tough, durable fabrics that are designed to weather the challenges of travel and stay attractive and stylish for years to come. The interior is lined with quilted fabrics to protect its contents and the twin zippers that run along the stop are smooth and easy to operate.

This small camera bag is especially useful for CSC cameras, providing space for a body and two lenses. It’ll also hold a DSLR body and a single lens as well, although larger zoom lenses may be a bit cramped. Exterior pockets can accommodate a smartphone and passport, although unsurprisingly there isn’t much room for anything else.

Although the Kit Bag does come with a shoulder strap, I found this pack worked best inside another bag. It is perfect for storing camera equipment when checking luggage or for safe storage inside a larger backpack. It is the perfect option for those who don’t carry a lot of camera gear with them when they travel, but still want a bag to keep things safe and organized.

All three of these camera bags are excellent choices for travelers looking to take their precious camera gear with them on the road. They are all affordable, extremely well made and provide plenty of versatility. Serious photographers will want one of each as part of their gear options but all three are individually outstanding as well. Each fits its own niche and you can’t go wrong with any of the bags in the Montgomery Street lineup.

[Photo Credit: Acme Made]
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Gadling Gear Review: Booq Python Courier Camera Bag

The Booq Python courer bagAs digital SLR cameras continue to grow in popularity, new buyers will inevitably be looking to purchase a good travel bag to protect their investment. A high-quality camera bag not only allows them to tote their gear around safely, but also keeps it well organized and close at hand. It doesn’t hurt if that bag provides a healthy dose of versatility and happens to look great too.

The Python courier from Booq certainly meets that description and then some. This sling bag is made of high-quality ballistic nylon that is both water resistant and incredibly durable. In fact, everything about this pack screams quality, including the thick interior padding, rugged buckles and seat-belt style nylon shoulder strap. The result is a camera bag that should securely and comfortably carry all of your camera gear for many years to come.

While the Python’s exterior is certainly impressive, Booq hasn’t skimped in any way on the interior either. The cavernous main pocket has plenty of room for a digital SLR body with an attached lens, as well as up to four more additional lenses. Adjustable padded panels give the pocket a measure of customizability to accommodate a variety of different equipment sizes. A second internal organizational pocket keeps other items, such as spare batteries, memory cards and pens, neatly in place, while a handy clip ensures you won’t misplace your keys while traveling either.

A third pocket on the back of the bag features a water-repellant zipper and is large enough to comfortably carry an iPad, MacBook Air or other tablet or small laptop. Those devices have become indispensable tools for professional photographers and travelers alike and the inclusion of this well-padded, extra pocket is a nice touch on the part of Booq. I found that while testing this pack, having this extra pocket actually made it possible for the Python to serve as my carry-on bag. With plenty of room not only for my camera gear and iPad, but also an iPod, smartphone, earbuds and just about everything else I needed for a trip, I generally didn’t see the need to carry anything else.The Booq PythonBooq’s attention to design extends to the look of the Python as well. At first glance you wouldn’t suspect that this is a camera pack at all, as its general outward appearance resembles that of any traditional messenger bag. In fact, the Python can actually become a full-blown courier pack when needed. The inner padding that serves to protect and organize camera bodies and lenses can actually be completely removed to allow other items to be stored inside. That means that this pack can pull double duty, acting as a workbag for day-to-day use and a tough camera bag when on the road.

I found the Python to simply be a joy to use. It is as comfortable and durable as any camera bag I’ve ever put to the test and far more organized than simply throwing your lenses and SLR body into a daypack, which is often my typical modus operandi. Booq has a legendary reputation for creating high-quality products and this bag more than lived up to that reputation. Not only have they created a bag that looks great and provides plenty of versatility, but it is also logically designed for ease of use as well. While I personally prefer a backpack for most of my travels, this is a sling pack that definitely won me over and has me reconsidering my options for future trips.

I’d be remiss in writing this review if I didn’t mention Booq’s Terralinq program. Each of the company’s bags comes with its own unique serial number ID and bar code displayed on a metal label somewhere on the pack. When the bag is registered with Booq, that serial number can be used to connect an owner with his or her gear in the event that it becomes lost or stolen in the future. Of course, we all hope that we never need such service, but it is nice to know it is available just in case.

If there is a knock on any of the products offered by Booq it is likely their price. The Python retails for $179.95, which definitely puts it at the higher end of most camera bags on the market. But much like the various options for buying luggage for your travels, you often get what you pay for. Anyone who has ever purchased cheap luggage knows that it typically doesn’t last long and you end up replacing it sooner rather than later. The same holds true for a bag like this one. The Python is likely to last you a lifetime, while a less expensive bag will show the wear and tear of travel much sooner. Besides, after spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on your camera equipment, don’t you want to protect it with the best bag possible? Yes, the Python by Booq is more expensive than some of its competitors, but it is also worth it in every way.

Travel Smarter 2012: The best gear for your 2012 travels

Bad gear is dead weight, you might as well toss it right into that bin with the stuff that the TSA says you can’t take on the plane. A bag that has cheap zippers, clothing that doesn’t dry quickly when you’ve washed it in the hotel room sink, refillable bottles that don’t stay shut and ooze shampoo all over the shirt you packed especially for that client meeting… Packing smart is just, well, it’s smart. After a year of gear, I’ve got some ideas about what works well for me, but also, I polled friends and readers for the smartest in new gear. And some of it? Wow, smart stuff.

Bits and Pieces

TSA sized squeeze bottles: Essential and clever, good qualities in a travel companion. You can get the last of your favorite shampoo out because they’re squeezable. And refillable.

Solid shampoo: Lush Cosmetics makes a whole line of shampoos that you’ll be able to take on the plane without grief. There’s a solid conditioner too. Admittedly not new, but smart, indeed.

Gadgets

Kindle Fire
:
Readers love these things, and now that Amazon has updated the Kindle to include wifi, it’s a whole lot more than just a portable library. Browse the web, send email, watch movies, it’s a complete entertainment system that weighs about the same as a single paperback book.Morhpie Juice Pack Air: It’s a case and an extended battery. That means you don’t have to dig around in your bag to find the extra battery when your trying to Instragram your dinner and the phone dies.

Ear buds: Last year I got a pair of Senneheisser ear buds, iPhone compatible, and they almost made me give up my bulky noise cancelling headphones. They sound great and because they’ve got three sizes of pads for the buds, I was able to get a fit that isolates a surprising amount of noise. I’m sorely tempted by the Sennheisser IE 60, but the 250.00 price tag keeps me from pulling the trigger.

Panasonic Lumix :20x optical zoom in a pocket camera, HD video, a sophisticated range of settings, and great image quality, even in low light. A fantastic travel camera, I can’t recommend this thing enough. Panasonic keeps improving it, every year, and it’s been worth the upgrades. Stellar.

Shoes and Clothes

Wool, wool, wool: SmartWool and Icebreaker both make incredibly versatile lines of clothing — skirts in a very light knit that wash well and look great, sweaters that are stylish enough to wear out but perform extremely well in the outdoors… it’s expensive stuff, but I have pieces in my wardrobe that are over ten years old and still look great.

Barefoot style shoes: I’m a skeptic, but well traveled outdoors fitness types say they swear by Skeletoes from Fila. “Hiked in the mud, went to the beach, then went to dinner…” Okay, a casual dinner, to be sure.

Born Stowaway Flats
: Enough padding for serious sightseeing, and dressy enough for making it through the fancy dinner you hadn’t quite packed for. These flats pack down to tiny, so you can absolutely find room in your bag.

Luggage

Gregory Alpaca Rolling Duffel: No contest, this is my favorite new bag, the best thing I’ve seen in luggage in recent history. A duffel that’s a roller bag that you can actually carry as a backpack, and yes, it comes in carry on size.

Tom Bihn’s Brain Bag: All of Tom Bihn’s bags share an obsessive attention to detail, from the tie ons to the hardware to the compartments perfectly designed to hold just that one thing. The Brain Bag is for your laptop — and all that other electronica your dragging around. Configure it the way it works best for you.

Mission Workshop Vandal Backpack
: Sometimes, you just want a cool, stylish pack for day outings. The Vandal pack is weatherproof, expandable, and yeah, it fits your 15 inch MacBook. Plus, it comes in green. Sharp.

Osprey Transporter 60
: Not everything has to be a backpack. Osprey’s Transporter line comes with a harness so you can carry it as a backpack if you absolutely have to, but it’s also a top notch duffel. Weekends, road trips, short hops… a great all purpose duffel.

[flickr image via brewbooks]

Is the MacBook Air a traveler’s dream come true?

Here’s the short answer: nope. On the upside, its form is absolutely revolutionary. At 3/4th of an inch at its thickest and just 0.16 inches at its thinnest, the MacBook Air is skinnier than anything manufactured by its competitors (such as Sony’s Vaio line).

But here’s the rub. You might as well just get an iPhone. An iPhone will let you do essentially the same tasks: watch videos, check email, browse pictures, and listen to your music.

And there’s one critical feature the iPhone has over the new MacBook for travelers. With the iPhone’s AT&T data line, you can get unlimited Internet from anywhere in the world (but outside of the states prepare to pay for costly roaming fees). That’s something you can’t do with the MacBook. As mobile as its form is, the MacBook is still tethered to those WiFi networks–which are soooo 2003, wouldn’t you say?

Having said that, Apple, I’d love to promote the Air if you’d just send me one. Please?