It seems that every week a new camera bag hits the market, and while the majority are stylish and functional they all have one unifying trait. They all seem remarkably masculine in appearance. Whether this is a reflection on the industry of photography as a whole (seeing as men outnumber women) the fact of the matter is that there isn't a whole lot of selection for women... until now. Introducing, the Cologne camera bag/purse by Pompidoo.
While Pompidoo isn't exactly new to the camera bag market (they've been around for about five years), I was still very excited when I learned about them and their fashion forward thinking when it comes to supporting women photographers. I reached out to the company and they were kind enough to send me their most popular bag, the Cologne, to try out. The bag is handmade from Lativa and was relatively fast arriving despite it being delivered from overseas. It arrived in its package safely wrapped in a protective outer bag that many higher-end purse companies do.
The bag is handmade with European Bovine leather and is very soft to the touch and supple. I'm not a huge leather connoisseur by any means, but my best-friend Amanda was with me when I received the bag and said it smelled delightful as far as a leather purse goes. I'll take her word for it. The stitching is sturdy and looks like that even with normal wear it is going to last me quite awhile (I tend to go through purses pretty quickly). The bag's zippers work smoothly and the hardware on the bag is solid. The interior lining of the bag is actually very pretty compared to other fashion purses on the market. The dividers are all interchangeable to accommodate your camera gear and can be removed entirely using Velcro to switch from a camera bag to an everyday female purse. There's one internal pocket (great for hiding my passport and a small wallet), a leather side pocket (meant for a mobile phone), one exterior pocket on the back of the purse and two pockets on the exterior front of the bag.
So, the biggest question when doing a camera bag review is probably, 'How much equipment can it hold?', and the Cologne doesn't disappoint. I was able to comfortably fit my Canon 5D MkIII (with battery grip), Canon 85mm f/1.2 II, Canon 17-40mm f/4, along with a few extra batteries, a hoodloupe, a pack of memory cards, my large wallet, an iPhone 5s, various makeup supplies, hairbrush, an iPad mini (with case), and a whole slew of little odds and ends (pens, tissues, miscellaneous girlie stuff). All in all I was quite surprised with how much gear and normal everyday supplies I was able to stuff in the bag neatly. Everything is easily accessible through various interior and exterior pockets and a large side panel. Even with the bag fully loaded with gear and other non-essentials it's still comfortable to carry around on your shoulder without having to constantly readjust it.
I do like the fact that the bag on the outside looks like a normal purse and doesn't scream "Steal me, I have camera gear inside," like most camera bags do. It easy and comfortable to wear around during the day, although I will admit that I prefer to sling my purses and camera bags over my shoulder and across my midsection while shooting, so that I don't have to set my bag on the ground during a natural light, outdoor photoshoot. The bag is on the larger end, which seems to be a big trend right now in purses. When I take the bag out, whether on a shoot, an evening event, or just to the grocery store I do get several compliments on it, and when I mention that it's a camera bag they always react with astonishment. It's a great icebreaker when meeting potential clients, I've recently learned through their reactions to the bag.
The bag comes in eight different colors to fit any personality, and I chose the dark blue bag since I tend to wear a lot of darker blues, blacks and purples in my wardrobe. The price I find to be pretty fair considering the high-grade leather used and size of the bag. The Cologne will run you $299 on its website. Pompidoo also has three other handbags made for women to choose from if the Cologne doesn't fit your style for whatever reason, and don't worry boys Pompidoo also has a bag just for you, as well, that you can check out on their website called the Amsterdam. I myself will probably be ordering the Amsterdam myself here in the future for my boyfriend and his own camera equipment.
Special thanks to Lesley Villarreal for modeling with the bag for me.