Long Term Review: Filson Camera Field Bag

Review of Filson Camera Field Bag Style #70147

This bag represents just one of no less than seven previous offerings from this collaborative design effort between several Magnum photographers and the iconic American luggage manufacturer Filson. Although the similarly sized Harvey Messenger Bag has gotten the most attention, for a comprehensive system using smaller lenses and camera bodies such as a micro 4/3 or Leica M system there’s a lot to like in the Filson Camera bag. Sadly, Filson abandoned this line of bags after about a year. You can still pick them up used and as unsold stock.

I had particular requirements for my bag. I wanted a smaller bag, light in weight. I wanted a bag that looked nice, but not too nice. I didn’t want the bag to scream “CAMERA BAG!” I didn’t want a zip closure. I didn’t want a heavily padded bag. I wanted something that was low profile for walking around in the street. I wanted to be able to carry as many as 7 or 8 Leica M mount lenses, a requirement that knocked a lot of other bags out of the running. I looked at all of the usual brands, e.g., Billingham, Crumpler, Domke, Lowepro, Thinktank Photo, Tamrac, Timbuk2. I also looked at some of the less well known brands, such as Wotancraft, Black Label, HoldFast, and Ona. I even purchased a Wotancraft Scout model bag, which came up a little short for my needs in the end. I was all set to purchase another bag when I heard Filson would be introducing several bags. So I waited a few extra months, and ordered this bag directly from Filson the first week it was available online.

The bag has a very understated look. Otter green and tan colors are available. It’s constructed in the United States from cotton oil-finish tin cloth and twill, with leather details. The metal snaps and buckles are brass. The great thing about these bags is that they are just so subtle in appearance, particularly the dark “otter” green. They don’t look out of place in an urban environment where you don’t want attention drawn to the bag. At the same time, they would be well received at a formal, sophisticated event. I can wear it with blue jeans and a T-shirt or with a sports coat and tie.

The strap is unpadded, but a it’s wide and comfortable. Most of the time, I’ll take my camera and 3 or 4 lenses, but I have no problems with this strap carrying my full Leica kit for a full day. Included in the full kit: Leica M, 21 Elmarit, 24 Elmarit, 28 Summicron, 35 Summilux, 50 Summilux, 75 Summicron, 90 Summicron, 135 Apo-Telyt. Also included are a handful of ND filters, Leica EVF, spare battery, and SF-24D flash. Fully loaded, the full kit tips the scales at just under 12 pounds, bag included. Typically I wear the strap across my body, and do the same thing with the camera. I find this more secure and stable than wearing them just draped over my shoulder.

For larger DSLR camera systems, the bag is big enough to easily fit a 5DIII with one lens attached and a couple of other pro zooms. It easily holds my 5DIII with a Zeiss 50 Makro, Canon 24-70 mkII, and Canon 70-200/2.8 (just). With those 3 lenses, the bag starts to get heavier than I like. The depth would be easily able to accomodate a full Pro body such as a 1ds3 or 1Dx. It will easily carry my Leica SL with the huge 24-90 lens and a few Leica M lenses. The 90-280 lens, not surprisingly won’tfit.

If one were so inclined, a tablet will easily fit in the rear pocket. Indeed, an 11 inch Macbook Air will fit, but not particularly well. The larger Harvey Messenger will fit a regular size notebook in an internal padded pocket.

The bag measures 15 inches long, 11 inches high, and 4.5 inches deep (excluding depth of external pockets).

Pros:
-Includes 4 interior slots, making it a bit more flexible than the Harvey Messenger.
-Snap closure flap, which I find faster than a buckle closure.
-Build quality
-soft, non rigid construction makes the bag hang very naturally and comfortably.
-narrow profile

Cons:
-Not sure why manufacturers like to put unsealable open pockets on the ends of bags, especially when they aren’t big enough to hold much. Sure enough, this bag has one of these useless constructs on each end. Personally, I can’t come up with a use for them; they aren’t big enough for a water bottle. I guess you could put a small to medium size flash head in these pockets, or something I don’t mind losing at some random point.
-Minimal padding. Personally, I consider this an asset, but some might not.
-Top cover design could be improved to assure an effortless water resistant closure
-Won’t accomodate a notebook. Again, not a concern or interest for me.

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