Rating: ★★★★½

Pros:

  • Excellent build design and fit for any selection of camera equipment
  • Protects bag contents magnificently
  • Shoulder strap is easily adjustable and can be upgraded with add-ons
  • High customization with camera equipment placement

Cons:

  • No top strap for easy grabbing one-handed
  • Camera bag zipper makes it very difficult to quickly pull out a camera for a shot
  • Extra pockets not very roomy

Good camera bags are hard to find, especially if you’re an on-the-go photographer who has plenty of expensive equipment and needs to be able to lug it around efficiently and safely. That means if it can’t be too heavy or too light; it can’t be too big or too small; it has to be just right. And, if you’re a burling photographer who must snap and send photos ASAP, that bag needs space for camera equipment, a laptop, cables, and more.

Thus, the Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Messenger.

Timbuk2 – a company based in San Francisco that specializes in messenger bags for bike riders, style aficionados, and anyone using the latest tech gear – made the Snoop Camera Messenger with a simple goal in mind: give photographers what they need most. That is room for multiple bodies, a handful of lenses, room to secure a laptop, and all in a lightweight case with strong protection.

The Snoop has two ways of closing the front flap, velcro and buckle straps

Let’s start with the camera portion. I tested the medium Snoop, which has enough space for, well, just about any assortment of camera equipment. It can fit two camera bodies with four lenses at once, or one body with a large flash attachment and 4-5 lenses, or one body and six lenses. The Snoop has a bag inside the messenger bag which holds the camera equipment for easy storage (as seen in the picture below) with removable walls to match your assortment of equipment. Or you can remove it entirely and fill the three-gallon space with anything. It worked well for carrying a load of books to the local library.

This second bag fits snug as a bug in the Snoop, but it’s not easy to put in or take out. That’s because it’s nearly 1:1 with the larger bag so there is minimal space between the two, which helps protect expensive equipment within. Less room to move around, less shake. Remember, the Snoop has to work for bike riders, so every bit is designed with hard movements in mind. I’ve found the bag-in-a-bag design brilliant in all but one regard: the zipper system is not suited for speed. With a camera fully secured and zipped up, it’s next to impossible to rip out any camera before missing a shot, mostly because the zippers are so loose and hard to open quickly.

Even without a camera in the bag, there is still plenty of unused space to fill

However, when considering protection or versatility with thousands of dollars in question (and possibly livelihoods), protection supersedes everything. There are effectively three layers of protection that the Snoop offers: a weather-proof outer layer, the zippered middle layer, and tightly cushioned inner layer. After three weeks of heavy walking, occasional biking, some bag throwing and plenty of car riding, I’m completely satisfied with the level of protection by the Snoop. None of my equipment – camera or otherwise – has been harmed in my testing. And when I say throwing, I mean literally.

What’s equally important to protection is comfort. Once again, the Snoop is made for bikers, so it has to remain comfortable in the worst conditions. While I’m not a biker, I did ride around briefly to try it out for myself as well as walked all around Santa Monica, Downtown LA and other areas. Comfort really is the most important thing when you’re carrying anywhere from 15-25 pounds of equipment. I stuffed my test Snoop with my Nikon D7000, two zoom lenses (18-105mm, 55-200mm), two primes (50mm 1.8, 30mm 1.4), an extension tube, a 3lb laptop, 3-ring binder, some pens and cables, and at least one variable item. Sometimes I carried my iPad along as well with the SD-Card adapter, or the Samsung Galaxy Tablet, or even the Nikon P100 as a pseudo second body. With all that equipment, I could walk for a mile and not have any aches. I did switch sides because one shoulder got tired, but that’s all.

The front “Napoleon” style pockets are too thin…good for cellphones and credit cards, but little else

This is accomplished through a simple strap system that makes it easy for wearers to literally snap on and off. The Snoop’s strap is made to fit perfectly, and doesn’t require users to always find that sweet spot. As someone who’s walked around a few expos and shows, hitting milestones in dozens of miles daily, all while taking the bag on and off for meetings or switching shoulders, finding the best position to wear the bag consistently is not impossible. It is, however, insane. Timbuk2’s solution is ingenious: keep the sweet spot with a lock mechanism that snaps open whenever you want. One simple buckle solves everything.

Let’s get back to stuffing the bag. It’s almost like a Thanksgiving turkey…there’s really no end to what you can fit in it. I put all my camera equipment, laptop, paperwork and folders, two tablets, a second camera, and still I had space. But more importantly, I felt comfortable that my dearest and most precious cargo was secure. I’ve spent years trying to find something this good.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns though. As an LA resident, my life and work often revolves around my car, so I don’t sling a bag across my shoulder as much as I throw it into my trunk or passenger seat. Doing so is surprisingly difficult, especially if you pack heavy. Because there’s no top strap on the Snoop, there’s no easy way to hold onto the bag except when wearing it. The camera bag-in-a-bag has a strap, why doesn’t the entire Snoop? One lousy strap could make a world of difference.

The Snoop Camera Messenger can be a very fat bag when packed fully. The gold add-on is the Beer Candy bottle opener that was given to press at CES earlier this year. More strap accessories are available directly from Timbuk2

The “Napoleon” style pockets are also convenient, but too flat. If packing plenty of equipment like me, those front pockets will be crushed so much that only the thinnest objects will fit without causing a ruckus. I hefted the Snoop around with the Smartfish Whirl Mini in that front pocket, and it stuck out more than Waldo in the arctic tundra.  These are clearly intended to hold wallets, phones, perhaps small cameras and other thin things, but no larger pockets are available on the bag.

When discussing camera bags, the one we need is reliable as Lassie. The Snoop Camera Messenger is tough as nails and provides excellent security for all of your equipment. It’s customizable, giving users options like how to seal the bag (Velcro straps or buckles) to storing camera equipment or something else entirely. The Snoop isn’t quick for pictures, nor is it easy to handle when not strapped to your back. However, there is no bag that offers the security, reliability and peace-of-mind like the Snoop Camera Messenger, while also looking so damn good.

The Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Messenger is available for purchase from Amazon for $108-140.



James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.