(above photo by James Greenoff)
Camera bags are annoying. I remain unconvinced that it’s actually possible for any camera bag to come close to ideal for any given person for all or even most shooting circumstances. That aside from the fact that really, they’re all just a means to an end and ultimately I don’t think it’s too far a stretch to suggest that anyone who has to carry one would prefer not to if they could get away with it. For me personally, this is compounded by the fact that I’m a bit of a fussy person – I find things like bags and camera straps a physical annoyance. They always feel like they’re in the way, and I very rarely find them comfortable to wear.
Yet despite me having these opinions and feelings, having used this bag I now concede that some camera bags are probably better than others. As despite initial reservations about this particular bag – I’d say the Cosyspeed Camslinger bag is definitely one that fits into that “better than others” category.
I like poking my nose in to things! Not so long ago I poked my nose into a thing called Beers & Cameras. B&C is a little camera meet-up that was happening apparently with some regularity in San Diego. Cutting a long story short, I now run Beers & Cameras Worcester. This might seem irrelevant, but it’s through the running of this little meet-up – and indeed it’s connection to the one in San Diego – that I was gifted the CosySpeed Camslinger bag.
I mention this mostly to highlight the point that I didn’t buy the Cosyspeed Camslinger myself; that is to say, I didn’t actually make the choice to own it. This particular fact is especially relevant, because I don’t think I would have chosen it either. Which is of greater significance to this review, because had I not been given it, I believe I would have missed out on what has transpired to be a very handy bit of kit, specifically for when I’m at work!
Why I might not have chosen this bag
There was a fashion in the late 80’s, maybe early 90’s for what we in the UK called the “Bum Bag”. I think those of you reading from across the pond call them “Fanny Packs” – which if you’re English and have a puerile sense of humour, is quite funny. Anyway, the late 80’s and early 90’s was a cruel era for fashion, and perhaps due to my age in those years, many fashions from that era have been lumped into a big box of no-go. The “bum bag” being one of those.
When I first saw the Camslinger, in all honesty I just saw a bum bag, and by that merit was initially a little uncertain that I could pull it off without looking like a bit of an 80’s reject. It is in fact this prejudice that would have put me off buying it. I know for a fact that had I seen it in a shop on a bag buying mission I’d have written it off for this reason straight away.
Now, at this point, I should add I’m not known for my knowledge about fashion. In fact, those closest to me (Tom, I’m looking at you) will find the mere fact that I’m talking about fashion pretty bloody amusing. But then, this whole section of my review only really exists as means of a build up to the punch line:
“Fashionable or not this bag is very practical”
This is something I quite vividly remember my Dad saying to me as a kid – and like most things I remember his saying to me – he was right.
I realised two things as soon as I put aside my prejudices about 1980’s casual wear, and actually tried the thing on. The first was that it’s not really that much like a bum bag anyway. The second was that it actually strongly answers a a few issues I’ve had with equivalent bags before…
My specific need
Pretty much this whole website is based around the fact that my key preference for cameras is that they are a small and easy to carry size. As much as possible I try to avoid the carrying of superfluous kit. I don’t like being weighed down with kit, so 9 times out of 10 I will carry a single camera/lens combo either in my pocket or on the end of a strap across my chest. Unfortunately, this preference isn’t always possible, especially when I’m at work.
There’s simply no escaping from the fact that the likes of the sort of on-site photography I shoot for work requires me to shoot with multiple focal length lenses. Usually an 85mm and 35mm with one camera covers it, though sometimes I shoot with two cameras and add the 50mm and 28mm to that. This doesn’t sound like much kit, but even with the one camera two lens set up, when the 35mm is mounted on my Sony, I need somewhere else to store the very much un-pocketable 85mm Batis. Up until recently, this had been in a Crumpler shoulder bag.
The strapless advantage
The problem with shoulder bags is that I find them really annoying when used with cameras with shoulder straps. Everything has a habit of getting tangled together. This is especially noticeable when picking up and or putting the kit down, but I also find issue when I’m swapping lenses. If the bag has flung itself round my back I find the multiple straps to interact with each other in a fairly annoying way.
Additionally to this, having both camera and bag over one shoulder puts an uneven weight onto me that over the course of a day gives me back ache. One of the reasons I like lightweight gear is down to the fact that I am very prone to back aches and pains.
You might suggest wearing the bag over the other shoulder to my camera, but I’ve tried this so many times to no avail. In fact almost every time I use my shoulder bag I end up wearing it this way due to neck or back ache. The problem is, it interacts with the camera strap even worse! The Cosyspeed Camslinger solves this problem entirely. The strap goes round you waste which completely removes the issues of shoulder straps interacting with each other.
Low slung bag
Another apparently well thought out design feature of the Camslinger is what – for the sake not having any better words – I am calling its “low slung bag”. Rather than the top of the bag being attached to the top of the strap, the bag hangs off the bottom of the strap.
On the face of it, this might not seem like much, but what it means is that if you a scruffy bugger like me, your untucked shirt sits over the top of the strap with the bag hanging below. Purely for security purposes this means that the locking buckle would be even harder to undo by some would-be bag snatcher, but beyond that, it also makes the bag comfortable to wear and use.
Not having to have the strap over outerwear just so you can access it makes for a bag that – without wanting to talk to much about fashion – feels like it’s not too, well, bum baggy too… It just sorta hangs on your hip, almost as if it’s a shoulder bag, but without the shoulder strap.
Thanks to the wide strap, it’s also very comfortable. I’ve done a couple of full day events with it fully loaded, and not really found it irritating to carry at all. And I am very easily irritated by things about my person.
The buckle top advantage
The next big advantage over the my old Crumpler bag is the way the top of the bag closes. The Crumpler has a long zip that goes all the way around the top of the bag and slightly down the front. In theory this is fine, but in practice I just end up leaving it open for quick access. The main issue being, I end up walking round with a zip top bag whose zip top unzips itself more and more over the course of the event. This isn’t really an issue most of the time as it doesn’t often decide to flap open, but it does sometimes and when it does it feels like my stuff might fall out.
The design of the flap top of the Camslinger is the other way round. The top of it hangs over the front edge so it’s natural state is closed. The bag has a bit of rigidity to it too, including the lid. This means that even if you don’t buckle it, it stays adequately shut.
Finally, since I guess the bag’s name comes from the colloquial ‘gunslinger’, it would be remiss to not mention its quick access credentials. The bags low slung nature, the waist strap, the natural position on the hip. It’s all a bit of a nod to some sort of weapon holster. Fair enough too, really. It does all add up to a bag that feels quick and easy to access!
So what don’t I like?
The buckle, for a start. I know it’s supposed to be secure both from coming undone and I guess being pulled undone by some rouge bag grabbing opportunist. But, well, it’s a faff to open for me too.
I’ve also found that once you do the buckle up, if you want to rotate the bag around yourself, it tries to rotate your clothes with it. I wear mine on top of my jeans – trying to adjust it once on, well, quite literally I get my knickers in a twist! To adjust it, it needs to be undone via the annoying clip, moved, then re-clipped.
The fact that it comes with a waterproof cover bugged me too. Something else to carry, something to lose (I’ve lost it already). I’d rather the bag be water resistant, and looking at its design I’m not sure why it wouldn’t be easy to make a minor change to make it more water resistant…?
Finally, the little finger strap thing… “what the… is this thing?” was my initial reaction, and frankly I stand by that… not for me either! All this said, I’m not going to lose sleep over any of these things – none of them are serious enough issues for me to write the thing off, not by any stretch.
So there we have it… I can’t say I ever thought I’d review a bag on here. Can’t stand the damn things! Or, maybe I can… I’m not saying this bag has made me rethink my entire distaste for camera bags – that would require some sort of personality transplant. But, what’s especially relevant about my lingering distaste for bags is that this particular one has managed to exist in my presence and not annoy me persistently on any occasion I have been out with it.
This is quite a big deal for me – my previous Crumpler bag, and all the other similar bags that came before it, have annoyed me a great deal throughout the time I’ve owned and used them. This is so much the case that I’d previously resigned myself to the idea it was simply impossible for me to find a camera bag that worked for me. Previous choices of bag were completely based on an essential need, and I just put up with how uncomfortable or how impractical they were in the assumption that there wasn’t anything out there that would do a better job.
Then the Cosyspeed Camslinger came along. I must admit, I still don’t use this bag outside of my work, but when I am at work I find it to work for me and provide me with a place to put my spare lens or lenses without irritating me (much). In fact, I’d even go as far to say that if the Cosyspeed Camslinger is categorically “better than others” by my measure, by the measure of normal people it’s probably really quite good!