The photo gear bag market is saturated with so many options of style and size that new products within this space really need to come out swinging with never-been-better looks and features in order to catch interest. The California-based company Booq, most known for their line of laptop bags and Apple product cases and covers, recently released the Python Catch shoulder-carry camera bag into this market. In this review I'll share my experience with the Python Catch and uncover what features it offers that separates itself from the competition.
My original interest in testing this bag out was from the simplistic monochrome style and attractive moderate size (judging a book by its cover, one might say). The all-gray exterior fabric is produced by Bionic and is made from a specialty blend of 47 percent recycled PET (plastic bottles) and 53 percent cotton. Other than being environmentally conscious, which is always a plus, it adds slightly pronounced smoothness and rigidity. In addition, the performance blend is weather-resistant and makes an ideal choice for a bag housing your valuable electronics.
Having the Python Catch out during the occasional rain shower is no big deal. Water seems to sit on top of the fabric and is very resistant to soaking in. The zippers, which are the weak point of weather resistance in most bags, are detailed with fabric that is stitched onto the teeth. Having fabric that covers zippers is common, but I really like the way Booq executes this with the direct stitching. It solves the frustrating problem of those loose cover flaps that can get caught in the zipper piece, which I’m sure everyone has experienced several times. The bag also comes with a nice rain cover included, but it’s nice to see that it doesn’t need to be immediately relied upon at the first falling sprinkle.
Further examining the outside, the Python Catch is a messenger-style bag with an over-the-top flap. On the backside there is a zippered enclosure which fits up to a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro. My beefy 2009 13-inch MacBook was tested to fit, but I mainly used this cushioned slot for carrying an iPad. There’s also a convenient luggage trolley strap on the back for securing the bag while traveling and a non-padded loop handle above for carrying the bag temporarily.
Each side of the Python Catch has a deep open pocket with soft nylon interior lining, great for throwing in a phone, flat packaged snack, or whatever else you want instant access to.
At the front of the bag is a spacious zippered organizer with two open pockets and two pen/pencil holders. Within this compartment there is also another large zippered pocket for miscellaneous items. A nice little detail inside here is the detachable key ring buckle you can add to your key set so you always have easy access to them while using the bag. On the outside of the front organizer there is a big non-removable metal lost-and-found tag. It instructs a would-be finder of a lost bag, “If found, please visit Terralinq.com.” Terralinq is a service by Booq where you can register your bag on the website with the printed serial number. If you end up losing your bag, it’s just another way someone in good faith may attempt to get in touch with you to return it. It would be a nice touch if the tag was easier to remove for the cynics out there since it serves no other purpose and is fairly ugly (at first I assumed it was magnetic with the flap that overlaps it, but that’s not the case).
Finally, lifting up and looking under the top flap there’s… nothing? Wait, what? This is a weirdest point of the bag’s design for me. It’s a flap-style bag, but it isn’t really utilizing the flap at all in the traditional way. To get inside the main compartment, it’s not by going under the flap, rather it’s through the zippered access on the top-back edge of the bag. It makes getting to your gear quicker, since there’s no flap to raise, but it still just seems so odd. The flap itself acts as sort of a pocket with zippered access from the back, and is where the rain cover was stored during shipping.
Inside the main compartment you will find soft, heavily padded walls lining the outside. On one of the narrow ends is one large pocket, and the other side has two smaller divided pockets perfectly sized for memory card holders or small camera batteries. Under the flap there’s a zipper that runs full width and gives you access to two transparent compartments. Flatter tools and items fit well into them, for example my X-Rite ColorChecker Passport was a perfect match for the size. The bag comes with a number of dense, removable, shiftable dividers. The tall vertical divider pieces are designed to allow for multi-story tiers to be created thanks to adding Velcro midway as well as at the top. This helps immensely with optimizing the amount of gear you can carry safely. One big downside of the dividers is I found them to be very weak in sticking to the outer walls. A little bit of sideways weight will far too easily begin to peel them off. However, once you have a nicely filled out bag it’s not too much of an issue since everything is braced against everything else and the dividers don’t have the mobility to peel.
What I Liked:
- Comes with a five-year warranty.
- The amount of padding makes me feel comfortable with my gear inside.
- Carries quite a load, and comfortably. Booq advertises it as carrying one or two DSLRs, up to four lenses, and a 15” Retina MacBook Pro.
- Weather-resistant exterior, plus comes with a rain cover.
- Zippers and pulls feel tough.
- Fairly slim yet comfy shoulder pad.
- I’m obsessed with gray everything… so obviously the color.
What Could Be Improved:
- Shoulder strap is annoying to unwind. I do prefer other bag designs of having a metal ring attached to the bag, and then the shoulder strap is attached to the ring allowing it to rotate around and not get twisted up. The Python Catch has one side of the strap stitched directly to the bag and the other attached to a size adjustment loop.
- Base of the bag could be stiffer to prevent tip overs.
- Interior dividers attach weakly to the outer walls.
Coming in at $295 through their online store, I think the Python Catch is fairly priced. It seems to match the price point of other shoulder bags that are attempting to combine strong utility with fashionable looks, such as the ONA Union Street bag. Overall I believe Booq, who’s been making computer bags for over a decade, has created a strong performer with the Python Catch. It is not without a few faults, but it’s very obvious to see they understand the core importance of protecting the cargo and designing a camera bag to be subtly elegant on the outside. I look forward to seeing what else Booq can come up with for its camera-focused Python line.