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24 May 2016
Two problems with camera bags seem to never get solved. The first is a bag (just) big enough to carry a computer and a camera kit. The second is a bag that doesn't break the bank. Adorama's 24/7 Traffic Messenger Bag promised to address both issues so we grabbed a review unit.
The Messenger Bag is only one design in the 24/7 Traffic Collection. We detailed the line-up at launch in November 2015. The Messenger is the largest bag in the collection.
Here's a three-minute product overview with Marcin Lewandowski of the Traffic Collection:
The Collection does accommodate a wide variety of gear. And if, for example, you don't like the camera insert of the Messenger Bag, you might replace it with small bag from the Collection.
HOW MUCH AGAIN?
Let's address the second issue we raised about camera bags first. Cost. You can easily spend well into three figures to get a well-made bag. And even then you'll be happy to get five years of regular use out of it before it begins to tatter.
The Messenger Bag lists for $79.95 but has been discounted to $39.95.
That's news. And if it's too big for you, you'll be happy to know it's the most expensive bag in the collection.
At that price there are certainly some economies at play in the design and materials. But we suspect they may not bother most people. Many bags -- particularly the high end ones -- are simply over-designed for their typical use.
The job, after all, is to safely and comfortably carry what you need from here to there and back again.
So what do the specifications tell us about how well the Messenger Bag can do that?
27/7 TRAFFIC MESSENGER BAG SPECIFICATIONS Design Messenger bag with unique backpack strap
14-inch tablet/computer compartment
Built-in rain cover
Accessories Internal camera bag with inserts
Organizer mesh pouch
Memory card holder
Internal Volume 106.85 oz. Dimensions 7-7/8 x 10-5/8 x 20-1//8 inches WxHxL Weight 2.36 lbs.
On the drawing board, that looks pretty good. There's room for a 13-inch laptop in a protective sleeve; a dSLR with a vacation zoom, strobe and some small accessories; more lenses; a tablet in the outside pocket; and more.
Let's take the tour.
While the Messenger Bag resembles other messenger style camera bags it does feature one peculiar design trait you will immediately notice. The shoulder strap is a backpack strap.
Shoulder Strap. It's not removable (one of the design concessions to cost) with a heavily padded and thick shoulder pad nearly as long as the bag itself attached to one top corner and the nearly two-inch wide adjustable fabric strap attached to the other top corner.
The padded strap doesn't slide to the middle, as you might expect. Instead you wear the bag like a backpack, riding on your back from the top of your shoulder.
That means, of course, that the bottom of the bag ends up on your left side, although pointing down if you wear the strap across your body on your left shoulder (which is about the only way you can wear it, although Adorama suggests it can be worn on and not just across your shoulder).
We worried a bit about losing contents because you put them in with the bottom of the bag on the ground but carry them with the bottom of the bag facing left so the opening is on the right. That was especially worrisome with a computer packed away, even though there is a small retaining strap on that compartment.
Handle. There is a small handle at the top of the bag with is useful for carrying it by hand. The strap is just too awkward for that task. The handle is fabric folded over and covered in a rubber wrap used elsewhere on the bag that reminds us of those rubber street crossing signage. It seems sprayed on with a fabric texture.
Our only gripe with the handle is that there's no padding (considering the weight the bag would carry) and it isn't wide enough for a telescoping roller's handle to slip through to make it easy to transport both through an airport.
Colors. As a fan of the San Francisco Giants, we have no beef with the black bag and its orange trim and interior. And, frankly, the orange isn't pervasive enough to suggest team colors, although I wouldn't take this to Chavez Ravine.
If you do find yourself in Chavez Ravine with this bag, though, you can point out that Adorama refers to the trim color as tangerine, not orange.
Camera Bag. The camera bag is something of a built-in organizer for your camera. It is a bag, though, with a zipper on top and a fabric pull as wide as your hand but no pockets.
Inside, it has two adjustable dividers that folder halfway down to form three interior compartments large enough for a dSLR and a strobe. You can carry extra lenses (in a wrap) alongside this bag in the main compartment but it's a tight fit for dSLR lenses bigger than wide angle primes.
Organizer Pouch. The mesh pouch is a 5x7-inch bean-shaped bag with fabric handles sown into each end and a zipper running down the middle rather than the side.
It has a bit of body to it to protect the internal components, which was a nice touch. The mesh also is tight enough to prevent anything (like the end of a cable) from slipping out. In fact, there are two meshes: the tight mesh lining and the open, more ventilated mesh inside it.
Rain Cover. The rain cover provides a cushion for the bag to sit on when not in use. When you pull apart the two tabs in its opening, you can pull the cover out but it stays attached to the bag.
That actually makes it easy to pull it over the top corners and the bottom corners to protect everything but the part that rides against your back from water. If you're able to shield the top of the bag from getting water into that space as you walk or ride around, that will do the job even in a downpour.
Memory Card Holder. The memory card holder is a black felt pouch big enough for one CompactFlash or SD card. It is sewn into a plastic frame that functions like a large paper clip to ride in an interior pocket of the bag.
We found it superfluous, frankly. Especially in bad weather, we'd be carrying multiple cards in a waterproof case tucked into a pocket of the bag.
Pockets. There are no water bottle mesh holders on this bag, which makes sense since it changes orientation 90 degrees from packing to wearing. But there are plenty of other pockets.
On the front, there is a set of three shallow and open pockets above a deeper zippered pocket. We're not sure what you would carry in the open pockets, particularly since they are not secure as you change the bag's orientation.
On the back there is an 8.5 x 13 inch pocket with a partial 8.5-inch long zipper that fits a full-size table, although it would be riding against your back.
Inside is the 13-inch wide computer compartment fronted by pen and pad organizers and the memory card pocket inside that. The rest is open.
Zippers. There are two kinds of zippers on the Messenger Bag but all of them use the same black teeth.
The main compartment is sealed by a zipper with two metal handles so you can zip from either or both ends. The front outside compartment also uses a metal-handled zipper. So there are three of them.
The various bags and other zippers on the bag use a tie whose know is covered by a rubber seal. Which is fine, even preferred, because these handles rub against either your back or other items packed into the bag.
Stitching, Padding. A visual inspection of the bag's stitching didn't reveal and irregularities as you sometimes see in cheap leather goods.
The walls of the bag are padded as is the interior divider for the computer section. We prefer to pack our 13-inch laptop in a sleeve for added protection and this bag accommodates that as well.
We've always found messenger bags to be more enticing than they are practical. They promise to hold everything and ride conveniently on your back. But if you can get everything in, it's a chore to carry them. And if you can't get everything in, what's the point?
We have a large leather messenger bag and another very sturdy bag. They share a common trait: we've never used. The leather will hold everything but we can only carry it about five feet. The sturdy bag can't even fit a 13-inch laptop.
The last time we took to the air, we used a smaller expandable briefcase to carry our 13-inch laptop, external drives and a mirrorless camera which we had to break down (take the lens off) to fit. But it worked and we were able to keep the collection under our seat instead of the overhead bin.
We could fit that into this messenger bag with room to spare and maybe even get it under the seat, too. Hard to say, though. The problem is that 20-inch length. Many airplanes only fit 18-inch bags.
But we were hoping we could upgrade our travel kit to a dSLR. And that required a compromise.
The 13-inch laptop fits with no problem, even in a protective sleeve (because you can't be too careful). That leaves a lot of shallow pockets and the big camera case.
You could leave the camera case at home in favor of wraps, of course. That will gain you a little more room. It's a bit tough to use the camera case merely because the top of the bag is narrower than the bottom so taking it in and out is a problem.
We couldn't carry our Nikon D300 with an 18-200mm lens attached in the camera case when our laptop was already in the bag. It just wouldn't zipper shut. We could break it down but then we'd have to assemble the camera to shoot.
This almost makes us think the Lowe Pro dSLR video pack is the answer to our problems. It takes a 13-inch laptop (barely) on the flat side and on the bottom of the hump it has a side door for a dSLR the size of our D300 with a long zoom attached, so you can swing it around, open it and pull out your camera. There's still room upstairs in the hump for more gear like chargers and external drives.
But it's not going to fix under the seat in front of you. And we're not happy about they way some people shove their bags into overhead storage or how airlines often require checking overhead bags at the gate when capacity has been overrun.
A smaller dSLR like the Canon Rebel wouldn't be a problem in this bag. And a mirrorless setup would not have to be broken down. But in the end we were a little disappointed in what would not fit in this large bag and how we probably couldn't fly with it.
It's important to point out that this bag is not designed to be used when you are actually shooting. It's luggage. You are transporting your studio.
You can, of course, take your camera out of the bag and walk around shooting but you can't conveniently holster your camera with a messenger bag. For that, take a look at the Sling Bag.
We did manage to load the 25/7 Messenger Bag with a pretty complete working kit including eveything from a small router to a laptop to external storage. Pretty much everything you would need on an extended trip. Here's what we put in it.
In the Camera bag:
- A Gossen light meter
- A Canon Rebel with 18-55mm kit lens
Alongside the Camera bag:
- An 18-200mm zoom
- A spare filter
- A lens pen
- A spare card in the Card holder
- Kingston MobileLite G2 remote router, charger
- A power adapter for the laptop (below)
In the laptop compartment:
- A 13-inch MacBook Pro
- In an Incase protective sleeve
In the Accessories bag:
- USB cable to charge the camera battery
- USB thumbdrives for duplicate storage
For a day trip we wouldn't need to bring recharging items or the small router. And we could save some space by eliminating the laptop protective sleeve.
It takes some puzzling solving skill to pack so much in such tight quarters. But it can be done. And, we found, we could lift the bag and wear it comfortably on our back.
Which may also be the way to avoid having to check it at the gate. Rumor has it that flight attendants look for rollers not backpacks.
Adorama's 24/7 Traffic Messenger Bag lists for $79.95 and is currently discounted to $39.95.
It's hard to quibble about an $80 bag that includes so many nice touches like the camera bag and laptop compartment. If nothing else, it gives you a nice Plan B to consider when packing for a trip or a shoot.
We had not problem with the design or construction in general. It held up well over a few weeks of bashing around the bunker.
The one feature we did not like was the shoulder strap sewn into the bag. It just wasn't flexible enough to use over the shoulder unless you really let out the strap and then you have no padding. You really have to use it across your chest.
So a qualified recommendation of two corners for this messenger bag.