For Women Photographers: Review of the Madison Camera Bag by Aide de Camp

For Women Photographers: Review of the Madison Camera Bag by Aide de Camp

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Last weekend, I went out on a photo date with Madison, and came home swooning. In a world where camera bags largely take the form of backpacks, shoulder sling bags, and messenger bags, finding a vessel to transport camera gear is notoriously difficult for women who would rather carry something that appears more feminine.

That is the problem identified by Michele Ng, a former marketing executive who founded Aide de Camp with the intent of producing attractive camera bags for busy and active women. The result is a collection of bags that, on the surface, resemble purses or totes that a woman would be proud to flaunt on her shoulder, yet on the inside are padded and structured to keep expensive camera gear safe. I took Madison, one of Aide de Camp’s flagship bags, on a test run and was very pleasantly surprised with the results.

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Impressive from the get-go

Aide de Camp’s products impress from the moment you open their packaging. Instead of the distinctly unstylish cardboard and bubble wrapped items we’ve come to expect from most other retailers, the Madison camera bag arrived at my doorstep in a sturdy black cardboard box and black fabric pouch, both totally solid enough to reuse in other ways. It was like unwrapping a Christmas present, and it set the tone for the pretty, yet functional, product inside.

fashionable camera bag

Surprisingly large

Madison’s approximate dimensions are 14.5″W x 8.5″H x 8″D, making it a pretty sizable shoulder bag, as pictured below with a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 in the frame as a reference to its size. The bag has two main compartments; one with a thickly padded, removable camera insert box, and the other with thinner compartments for holding everyday items such as a wallet, tablet, e-reader, etc.

The spacious, easily accessible, secondary pocket was a definite perk as many other camera bags seem to add extra pockets as an afterthought, making them impossibly thin and difficult to access. Also, the removable insert is sold on its own item on Aide de Camp’s website, making it easy to convert just about any spacious bag into a camera bag. Given the fact that Madison, and most Aide de Camp bags, come with a removable camera insert, this bag could easily double as a weekend or overnight bag.

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Fits more gear than you would expect

Given Madison’s ample size, it should come as no surprise that you can pack almost all of your essential camera gear in this bag. The bag’s website promised that both mirrorless camera systems and small DSLR cameras could fit, yet I was amazed when even my larger Canon 5D Mark III with a 50mm f/1.4 lens attached was able to comfortably sit in Madison’s camera insert box without feeling too cramped. I was also able to put a Canon 580 EXII flash, a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8, and Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens in the camera section of the bag and zip it up without too much of a hassle, although the telephoto lens was just barely able to fit. Even with the camera section fully maxed out, the secondary pocket was still pretty spacious and I could easily slip a tablet, e-reader, and other essential items in with no problem.

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Made of premium materials

After unwrapping Madison, I was struck by how solidly built the bag was, while at the same time maintaining a sleek, rich appearance. Madison’s exterior is composed of water-resistant lightweight nylon along with genuine leather handles and trim, and 14-karat gold plated zippers. The bag itself has two short 9″ long handles, but it also comes with an optional cross body strap that is adjustable from 34-53 inches in length.

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Only one feature to be wary of

For all of Madison’s fashionable and practical features, there is one glaring detail that is hard to notice: the bag’s straps are not padded, making it not very ergonomic if you were to pack the bag with heavy camera gear. In that sense, it’s wise to follow Aide de Camp’s recommendation and only put mirrorless or compact DSLR camera gear in this bag if you plan to carry it for a long time.

Over to you

Do you think there’s a demand for camera bags that appear more feminine and fashionable? If so, would you give Madison a try? Have you tried other similar brands? What did you think?

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Madison Camera Bag by Aide de Camp
Author Rating
4.5

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Suzi Pratt is an internationally published Seattle event and food photographer. Her photos appear regularly in Eater and Getty Images. She is also a blogger who teaches others how to run a successful photography business.

  • Christine

    Why is everything black this year? Plus this bag looks like a man’s bag… Sorry, I’ll have to give it a miss and wait until something nicer comes along. I can buy a regular black bag for the same price and it will hold more.

  • Donna J

    Not to be a downer but a camera bag that looks like a handbag is nothing new- there are many out there.
    I’ve been searching for the perfect camera bag for years but I don’t think this is it.

  • Donna

    Sorry for my negative comment below, rereading it now I think I was having a bad day. I took another look and this really is a nice looking bag – thanks for the review!

  • Clare

    I have this bag and I love it. It has travelled with me to USA, Europe and Sth America and can easily carry my camera body and several lenses, also a MacBook Air or my iPad with no issues at all. When I am on holiday and being a tourist it’s all I carry for a day out. I slip my wallet and a map in the other zipped compartment. It fits in an overhead compartment on a plane and doesn’t scream “I am a camera bag”.

  • VSB

    Padded straps for a camera bag are a necessity and I would not pay $300 for the Madison without that basic, ergonomic feature being included. For me, especially when traveling with heavy gear, comfort trumps fashion.

  • No problem, Donna! I think we all have different ideas of style–I admit I tend to prefer more masculine looking bags myself 😉

  • Good call on color. Perhaps because it looks a little more nondescript and less of a target when traveling with lots of gear in the bag. But anyway, to each their own!

  • Emilie

    I’m going to sound harsh there, and apologise in advance for it but, what’s the deal about looking feminine as a photographer these days? Is it that important? Is it that big of a deal? Does it make your images better? Not to mention,I find it quite offensive as a woman, to be pressurized into conforming to a certain idea of femininity, even in photography,which is my safe space normally. So yeah,I feel quite conflicted about that. Also, what if a man wants to carry that bag? Can he not? 🙂
    That’s it, I’m very very sorry for that rant, it’s not against you in particular, more against things that will hardly ever change in our society.
    On a brighter note that bag DOES indeed seem quite awesome, not because it’s hypothetical feminine value, but more because it doesn’t scream “OBVIOUS CAMERA BAG FULL OF EXPENSIVE GEAR”…. which is an undeniable asset when you have to travel =)

  • Nancy Jo Adams

    I have a very similar bag but more along the safari or outdoorsy version than the fashionable version. My only caveat is the metal zippers….they worry me putting my camera lenses and camera body into the bag. That is my only dislike with my bag.

  • me

    14 karat plated zips….really?

  • Barbara Grafton Daniels

    I don’t want to spend that much for a camera bag. I needed something and found a sturdy purse and then order a padded camera insert. It is just right for my camera and equipment.

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