Bundling accessories with a purchase is a common sales technique in the camera world. While lenses, extra batteries and memory cards will always sweeten the deal, the camera bags that come in these "bargains" are downright sad. Poor quality, worse design and always with a dose of goofy yellow bungee cord on the outside lead these bags to scream, “expensive gear inside, please steal,” while doing no favors to the owner either.
And most camera bag options on the market that you’re expected to pay for don't fare much better. For any improvements in design and functionality, there's often a trade off for style and anonymity. Other lifestyle brands like Poler and Incase have tried to break the curse of the camera bag, but no one has succeeded quite like Nixon has, with the new JJF Camera Bag.
Part of the John John Florence Capsule, the sleek backpack is the Encinitas-based brand's answer to your photography travel prayers. In addition to starring in the most mind-melting surf flick of the decade, Florence is a major photography nerd and self-described Leica-fanatic. He collects analog, digital and medium format cameras, and even built his own DIY large format wooden camera. And though photography is a serious hobby, he has no intentions of going pro (at the moment). Still, the North Shore native carries his cameras come with him wherever he goes. So his signature bag was designed to make traveling with cameras easy and safe, while keeping a low profile.
The 17-liter PU-coated canvas bag looks like any other classically styled, well-built backpack from the outside. To the unknowing eye, you're lugging around a bunch of junk just like anyone else, not thousands of dollars of precious gear. Two main compartments separate the bag in half. The lower portion is all business. A quick external zip reveals an adjustable foam divider system where the bulk of the gear lives. With enough room for a full-sized DSLR body and two lenses, or multiple smaller cameras, the padding can be configured to accommodate different setups. Professionals won't be able to stash all of their glass in the compartment, but the bag is a great pro daytripper.
Above, in the main compartment, you'll find a general purpose area for stashing accessories, chargers, GoPros, film and memory cards. There's enough space here to drop a longer lens in lengthwise, but you're on your own for padding. The design of the bag aims to prevent a lot of top weight from bearing down on your gear, so this shouldn’t be a major concern. A quick access front pocket is the perfect spot to stash a point-and-shoot for street photography.
Along the natural curve of the pack is a discrete, dedicated laptop pocket. Thinner computers like the Macbook Air work best here, but a Macbook Pro also fits snuggly and doesn't effect the fit of the bag. The icing on the cake though for frequent travelers is the semi-hidden pocket along the back padding that is perfectly sized for the included travel wallet. It's a nice bonus and helps keeps organization and security in check when traveling.
The exterior PU coated canvas is far from totally waterproof, but the burly material can handle a rain shower without an issue. Construction throughout the bag is notably solid, especially the zippers. Larger teeth and oversized pulls make these easy to operate with one hand. The paracord tabs might be a bit loud style-wise for some, but the material can come in handy and is easily removed.
As a travel backpack for the enthusiast photographer, the bag offers pretty much everything you need and more. While pros will find this bag is best used when limited gear is needed.
Overall, the JJF Camera Bag from Nixon is a worthy investment for dedicated hobbyists and pros that prefer to travel fast and light. Subdued styling and solid construction make the bag stand-out from the crowd while considered design makes the bag easy and enjoyable to use. At $150 the bag isn't cheap, but neither is your photo gear. So treat it right.