Fstoppers Reviews the Porteen Gear Camera Bag

Fstoppers Reviews the Porteen Gear Camera Bag

So, it's kind of a running joke in the office whenever we see an email about a bag that someone wants us to review: "Wow! Do you think it will hold all the things!?" Because let's be real, a camera bag is just that: a bag to hold your camera and other gear. I've used the same cheap camera backpack for about five years now, and it was starting to look a little raggedy. So, much to my surprise (and chagrin), I found a camera bag that I, dare I say it, loved, the Medium Long Bag from Porteen Gear<--break->

Can we all agree most camera bags are pretty ugly? That's impossible with Porteen Gear; I literally spent almost two hours (willingly, because it's so much fun) designing my own unique bag. Also, I spent two hours because I'm your stereotypical female, and I designed three different bags and couldn't decide. But I digress. That's right, you can design and choose which leathers and fabrics you want for your new bag. The options are seemingly limitless. 

My original choice

I was in touch with Robyn Porteen throughout the whole process, and she is awesome. She started Porteen Gear back in 2010, and all of the bags are handmade in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I sent her my design of the bag, and she was able to help me choose a different interior color since my bag actually had a lot of blue and not the green that I had chosen. Customer service through the roof! 

This bag is perfect for me. When I shoot, I have a very basic setup, and I'm generally shooting with two different lenses: a Canon 100-400mm and my Canon nifty fifty (which I lovingly call my bouncy ball lens because of how many times I've dropped it). The Porteen Gear Medium Long bag has three sections within the main compartment that are stitched to be moved around to create the space you need. This was great for me as the majority of my shooting these days is filming surfers, so I keep my 100-400mm on my body. I could easily fit the camera with lens attached and still have plenty of room for two more lenses and batteries. For when I am traveling, I keep all three sections set up just for extra safety.  There is also a pocket in the main compartment that a small tablet or notebook could fit in that closes together with Velcro. The actual bag dimensions are 14" x 6" x 8.5".

Because I shoot at the beach a lot, Robyn suggested I upgrade and add dust flaps, and I am glad she did, because the first day I brought it to the beach, a friend snuck up behind me and startled me, and me being the klutz I am, I dropped the bag on the side. But no sand got in, and nothing was damaged! If I can use a bag and nothing gets broken, that's saying a lot. It's a messenger bag, so there is a buckle that keeps the main flap down, and there are three pockets when you lift the flap, one zippered, perfect for memory cards or business cards; you could even fit a small tablet in the zippered pouch. I also added another upgrade of antique brass hardware, 'cause it's pretty! 

Dust flaps for extra protection from the sand

The bag is made out of waxed canvas (again, a win for me and my sandy shooting conditions) and also beautiful leather and tapestry. I seriously cannot stop gushing about the look of the bag, and it's really cool when people compliment it, 'cause I get to say: "Oh, this old thing? Yeah, I designed it." The awesome large shoulder strap is super sturdy. At first, I was not sure why you would need such a large shoulder pad, but after lugging around gear, you'll be thankful that it doesn't cut into your shoulder: it's very comfortable! 

There is one last pocket on the back of the bag where I could easily throw my lens cap or keys and phone for quick access. There's an option for a luggage sleeve if you don't want the back pocket, so it can easily fit on the handle of larger luggage while you travel. 

My Porteen Gear bag with the upgrades cost $195 USD. Within the design your own bag shop, there are six different bags to choose from and another six different flaps, so I think it is safe to say you won't find another bag like the one you design. If you don't fancy yourself a designer, Porteen Gear also sells premade bags, plus some really beautiful camera straps (matching bag and camera strap anyone?) and other backpacks, so at least go take a peek and play around; you may be more of a designer than you thought! 

What I Liked 

  • Super stylish and I got to pick everything to make it exactly how I wanted 
  • Plenty of pockets
  • Waxed canvas easily repels sand and water
  • Amazing quality leather makes the bag look that much sharper
  • Dust flaps for extra protection
  • Swiveling inner compartment, no annoying Velcro dividers to deal with or lose
  • Super comfy shoulder strap

What Could Be Improved

  • I think it might be interesting to add a buckle to the shoulder strap for ease of use
  • Wider pocket on back for a laptop (but then again, I got a smaller bag)

Porteen Gear is constantly introducing new leathers and fabrics to their store (also they have an awesome selection of vegan leathers!), and I also just saw they've created a new camera bag that converts into a backpack... Oh no, here comes my G.A.S. Be sure to check them out, and if you have any questions, leave them in the comments below! 

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7 Comments

Michael Aubrey's picture

I've been using a Porteen Gear Bag for five years. They started on Etsy, but eventually moved to their own independent site. It's a super great bag and has worn well over the years.

Can't recommend Porteen Gear higher!

Me to my wife: I just found something that satisfies two of your obsessions: stuff from Etsy (Michael commented this started on Etsy) and your search for a camera bag you love
Wife: *jaw drop*

Motti Bembaron's picture

It looks like a really nice bag but a bit pricey. However, many camera bags are much more expensive and not so attractive.

PS. Just realized that even the large format is a fairly small. My Tenba is around 16" x 6" x 11" and I think this is a good size for a camera body with a medium lens mounted, another kens and a flash.

I find one common problem to ALL those camera bags which is actually a big deal to me: size and weight. And since I didn't yet find a "camera bag" that solves it properly, I sometimes wonder if it is just me.

For transporting your stuff, there are plenty of options and that's fine. Where there is a gap is for "ACTIVE SHOOTING camera bags". I mean a messenger type bag that is SMALL & LIGHT into which you can carry your lenses, speedlights, gels, etc ... WHILE shooting say for weddings, scouting, events, ... In those cases, you don't need your computer (and plenty other stuff) which can stay elsewhere in another bag or on a desk. You don't even need to be able to place your camera in that bag ! You don't need extra thickness for protection anywhere since you are carrying the bag and not throwing it around.

What you need is a single compartment messenger bag, SMALL & LIGHT, with (non-padded yet rigid) dividers you can move. And plenty of pockets in front and side. So for the moment, my solution is DIY from a regular leather bag and custom dividers with velcro.

Any thoughts ? Or better a link to a product I just described that is not DIY ?

Cheers

Nursultan Tulyakbay's picture

Have you looked at lowepro lately? They have lots of bags that fit that description. PLus the all have some modular features to them so you can add extra lens pouches and such.

Lowepro has always been a brand I ran away form just because of what I explained above. They were making exclusively heavy padded stuff, often very unbalanced when on your shoulders, plus screaming "camera bag to steal here". Still, I will keep an open mind, follow your tip and have a look. That would be very good news if they expanded their product line to more practical things ;-) Thanks !

There's about a thousand bags out there that only have three compartments. Make me a 6-8 compartment bag for my wedding photos, and we'll talk. For now, this is more of the same. At least it's not a backpack, I guess.