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The bag in question is the Brenthaven BX2 Messenger Bag, part of their BX2 lineup. Seattle based Brenthaven is most widely known for their laptop and phone cases and other accessories but has recently beefed up their camera offerings. This bag looks bulky and cumbersome in the promotional videos, but is that way for a reason; it fits a lot of camera gear in a very secure manner. Not only that, the bag is versatile and highly usable.
Let me point out this bag’s biggest flaw first; it does not have a good place to store memory cards. For me this is a must. Bags from other manufacturers, like LowePro and Tenba, seem to always find a location to make card storage easy. Just a pouch or two would have helped. There is a felt lined pocket but I want my cards easy to find and use.
What makes this bag my favorite are two things: 1) The excellent foam padding to keep my camera secure and 2) The fact that I can carry a full sized DSLR with battery grip and long lens. Let’s start with the padding.
Brenthaven calls their special padding BX2. It lines the bottom of the bag and is not your average camera bag foam. Think instead of a memory foam pillow or bed. It’s spongy to a point which helps absorb shock. Not only is the bottom extremely well padded, all the sides and lid have some type of padding (the more traditional foam, it seems). And it is thicker than an average bag, helping me feel secure in beating this bag around as I do when traveling.
Another feature I appreciate about this bag is the top zipper. At first I believed this was in place to access a pocket inside the flap. But it turns out this is simply a pass through zipper allowing for access to bag contents without unbuckling the entire flap. It’s a simple change but has been very helpful, such as when wanting to access my laptop while pulling the bag from under a crowded airplane seat. Or wanting to grab my camera. It’s quicker than opening the bag fully.
Inside the main compartment is the normal velcro dividers as well as a well padded section for a laptop, complete with closure tab. The padding in the laptop section is thick on all sides and will fit a 15” laptop. Also on the inside is a felt lined pouch with a handy key chain strap, complete with flashlight. A nice touch to help find items inside the cavernous bag.
The bag can hold a full-sized DSLR as I mentioned even with a longer lens, like a 70-200mm f/2.8. It can either fit sideways or straight down, thanks to the soft BX2 padding in the bottom. There is still room for another lens, flash and accessories, such a filters.
The front outside of the bag is simply business. Pen holders, two pouches for filters or notepads and a zippered pocket perfect for paperwork or a tablet, in case the laptop is just too cumbersome. On the sides of the bag are two pockets, one for small items with a zipper (which is the right size for the include rain cover, those Seattle people know about rain protection) and a simple flap pocket on the other side. I found this second pocket to be annoying in that there are only two dots of velcro and they don’t hold the pocket closed well enough when a small Moleskin notebook is inside.
The bag does do away with an angst I have against messenger bags. With only one strap, the bag can tend to swing forward while bending forward to take a photo. Brenthaven handles this by including a second strap that works as something of a seat-belt to hold the bag in place. It does not need to be worn at all times and clips away nicely on the main shoulder strap.
On the bottom of the bag is one of the most robust fabrics I have seen used on a bag like this. It is also slip resistant and cleans up easily.
One other item I don’t like on this bag are the zippers. This is certainly an area Brenthaven can improve and they should look to the zippers f-Stop uses on their bags. These zippers aren’t horrible, but they aren’t as smooth as I know they can be. This is a more refined bag and it deserves better zippers. The top zipper is easy enough to open but often needs two hands because of the dust/weather flap used to keep bag contents clean.
This really has become my favorite messenger bag after trying half a dozen. It’s size is slightly larger, but doesn’t feel cumbersome on my back, with a padded section on the main strap to help ease weight and friction. That size is perfect for my larger camera and another lens (Note: I was able to easily fit both the Sigma DP2 Merrill and Pentax 645D I recently tested). The inside can be a little tight when both a laptop and full-sized DSLR are used, but it works well.
I am 6’1” and this bag is well proportioned to me. If you are sizable shorter, this bag may seem big on you and I would suggest trying it out before buying online. Otherwise, this is the messenger bag I will gladly be referring friends and students to if they like the messenger bag profile.
Get a price on the Brenthaven BX2 Camera Messenger Bag at Amazon.