Filson and Magnum Field Camera Bag Review

Filson and Magnum, first impressions…

Before I begin my review let’s talk about who Filson and Magnum are and what they represent.

Filson has been around since 1897 and has gained a world wide reputation for providing clothing and accessories that can withstand the harshest of outdoor environments. It all started with the Yukon gold rush where CC Filson quickly became the go to outfitter to the men and women who were heading North to strike it rich. Back in those days clothing wasn’t about fashion, it was about surviving the brutal conditions in Alaska. By using the finest materials and craftsmanship available Filson made clothing that met that challenge head on and then some. Today that tradition lives on with a wide range of clothing and accessories for the serious outdoorsman or woman no matter where their adventure may take them.

Magnum was founded in 1947 by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and David “Chim” Seymour. These four formed Magnum to allow them and the fine photographers who would follow the ability to work outside the formulas of magazine journalism. The agency, initially based in Paris and New York and more recently adding offices in London and Tokyo, departed from conventional practice in two fairly radical ways. It was founded as a co-operative in which the staff, including co-founders Maria Eisner and Rita Vandivert, would support rather than direct the photographers. Copyright would be held by the authors of the imagery, not by the magazines that published the work. This meant that a photographer could decide to cover a famine somewhere, publish the pictures in “Life” magazine, and the agency could then sell the photographs to magazines in other countries, such as Paris Match and Picture Post, giving the photographers the means to work on projects that particularly inspired them even without an assignment. Today Magnum Photos is considered to be one of if not the most prestigious photo agencies in the world. Co collaborators David Alan Harvey and Steve McCurry are world renowned Magnum photographers who have practiced their craft in some of the harshest conditions around.

Is it any wonder that Filson reached out to Magnum and these two photographers when it came time to make a durable no nonsense line of camera bags?

The camera bag for my test…

is the Filson and Magnum Camera Field Bag style number 70147.

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At first glance it looks like the venerable field bag that I’ve used for several decades on countless outdoor adventures. I’ve lugged around everything from fishing and hunting gear, lunch and cameras all over the place in all kinds of conditions without any issue. So far so good.

Once I started handling the filson and Magnum bag the first thing I noticed was it’s made from oiled tin cloth instead of the heavy duty waxed twill fabric that my field bag is made of. Personally that’s not a big deal to me. I have coats made from oiled tin cloth and been out in wet and rainy conditions all day long and stayed dry. I have no doubt that this Filson and Magnum camera bag will resist rain just as well. The big thing is it weighs a whole lot less which can be a big deal out in the field.

Like my old trusty field bag this camera bag has those two big bellows pockets on the front of the bag. Those will come in real handy for things like spare batteries, a cable release, cell phone, wallet or whatever else one might use them for. The flap is still held closed by two bridle leather straps. Nice touch.  The Filson and Magnum bag can also be opened and closed quickly by using the snaps instead of unbuckling the straps. As a photographer’s bag this little feature is an important one and shows the attention to detail though the design process. Another little detail but a very important one is the gusseting along the inner edge of the bag mouth near the flap. When the flap is closed the gusseting form a rain gutter which directs the water away from the mouth of the bag instead of into it. Generally speaking camera gear and water are not friends at all. This little design element is another example of how well co designers Harvey and McCurry know about what it takes to protect gear.

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A couple of shots showing the side and rear pockets of the Filson and Magnum Field Camera Bag that can be used for water bottles, stashing a notebook, map or a newspaper. In typical Filson style the edge of the storm flap is trimmed in bridle leather. Brass hardware for the strap assembly and more bridle leather add not only durability but finish the bag in a traditional unobtrusive yet elegant look that’s become iconic to Filson bags and luggage.

It really is a camera bag…

From all outward appearances this camera bag looks more like a messenger bag from days gone by. That’s something that was also thought about by Filson and Magnum. The goal was to make a camera bag that didn’t look like one. That deters theft and in certain circumstances you really don’t want anyone to know that you’re a photographer. Once you open it up though it’s really obvious what it is.

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A padded interior with adjustable dividers that you can set up anyway you want for any particular assignment you may be out and about on.  This is another example of what happens when two well known photographers are part of the design process. One of the things that a working field photographer worries about is gear protection. Between the highly weather resistant exterior and a well thought out, simplistically designed padded interior there isn’t much to worry about. Another nice little design feature is the zippered flap pocket. I can think of a few things that would be good to stash in that pocket. A passport or maybe some cash?

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A couple of cameras with lenses attached, a couple of spare lenses and some film and I’m ready to head out and take some pics. Down and dirty quick and easy. Just the way I like it.

Final thoughts for now…

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It’s loaded up and ready to go. So now the big question is what do I think about the Filson and Magnum Field Camera Bag? Well simply put I think it’s an excellent bag that I could use out in the field without worrying about weather or looking like a photographer. I’m no stranger to Filson quality and what their clothing and bags can go through. Plain and simply I’m out in some of the harshest weather conditions year round and the last thing I want to worry about is staying warm and dry. Same goes for the equipment I bring out in the field. It needs to be protected from the elements. Whether that means a gun, fly rod or camera gear doesn’t matter to me. After nearly 30 years of using Filson gear out in the wild I’ve learned it’s gear I can trust.

Now they’ve come up with a line of camera bags that I can certainly get on board with. McCurry and Harvey from Magnum did an excellent job in regard to their design input. I look for little things like the rain gutter design on the storm flap. Cutting out unnecessary weight while maintaining integrity and durability. Keeping the interior simple yet well organized and adjustable while adding more protection with just enough padding where it’s needed. I like pockets but believe it or not you can have too many of them on a bag and make no mistake. That can be a huge problem when out on assignment trying to cover a quickly deteriorating and dangerous situation. During those times I have more important things to worry about than looking for a battery or ram card in a bag with 47 pockets. So all in all did Filson and the guys from Magnum do a good job on what they set out to do?

It certainly appears that way to me. Of course that means the fun part of my review and testing is about to happen. Rubber meets the road time and the true test of any product is in using it instead of talking about it. Now all I need is an isolated tornadic supercell thunderstorm, a good ice storm, or blizzard…

Stay tuned right here at Crane’s Country Store as the adventure continues.

 

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