Photography is as much art as it is science, which is why photographers tend to put a lot of thought into their camera bag. It needs to be protective first and foremost — but beyond carrying your camera and lenses, it must also be a part of your canvas, enabling your best shooting. Filson has always understood that need for balancing utility with inspiration. The Seattle company’s clothes and luggage are built to hold up through years of abuse while transmitting a certain nostalgia for the pioneering days when no one had heard of “beard oil” and wool was popular the first time around. In a recent collaboration with two legendary photojournalists, Filson translated this well-known design brief to camera bags and got it right.
Magnum is a photography cooperative founded in 1947 by, among others, the late Henri Cartier-Bresson, patriarch of modern photojournalism. The four bags in the Filson x Magnum collection were created with the design input of two of Magnum’s current members, Steve McCurry (of “Afghan Girl” fame) and David Alan Harvey. While many co-branded collaborations are mere exercises in marketing and logo swaps, Magnum is an exclusive club of shooters known for high standards; so when they lend their name to a line of camera bags, it’s not a partnership to be taken lightly. This is no Eddie Bauer-edition Ford Bronco. The quality of the Filson Magnum camera bags goes well beyond the special-edition Magnum patch sewn on the inside of the top flap.
There are four bags in Filson’s Magnum line: the McCurry Tote and Sportsman bags, and the Harvey Backpack and Messenger Bag. Each is designed for a certain style of photographer. McCurry likes bigger bags and multiple lenses and thus, the two bags in his name will simply carry more. The Sportsman is classic Filson, not unlike a weekend travel or hunter’s kit bag. The Tote is more along the lines of the popular style favored by trendy urbanites, with simple grab handles and a cavernous interior. Harvey is a minimalist and his two bags are small and unobtrusive, designed to fly under the radar in sketchy environs — a messenger-style shoulder bag and a retro-styled backpack.
All four bags are made from Filson’s trademark heavy cotton canvas and lined with nylon. They shed water well, resist abrasion and look better with age. The zippers are massive, snag-free YKKs with long leather pulls. Pockets are intuitively placed — some snap button, some zipped, some open bellows-style — with a variety that suits the different gadgets and accessories a serious photographer is apt to carry. Inside the main compartments, there are removable padded nylon dividers that can be configured to hold camera bodies and lenses. Depending on which bag you choose out of the series, you can haul anything from a couple of mirrorless compacts with smaller lenses up to a pro SLR body and 300-millimeter safari cannon.
These bags beg to be thrown in the backseat of a Land Rover headed for points unknown. They also buck the trend towards small, light and disposable. These are heavy bags that imbue a sense of quality, not unlike a good metal-chassis SLR or mechanical wristwatch. While other camera bags come and go, these are ones your grandkids will find in your attic, pockets still full of rolls of undeveloped film (or memory cards if you prefer), prompting them to remark on what a life you lived.
Made In: U.S.A.
Materials: 8-ounce tempered-finish cotton or 15-ounce oil finish tin cloth