Camera Bag Review: Swissgear Zinc Messenger Bag

I’ll be talking about my most recent purchase today. A Wenger Swissgear Zinc DSLR Camera Messenger Bag also known as “The ZINC” per their labeling.

Here is an overview video I made:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzyE87mVmGE

The true source of this bag is “Avenues in Leather, Inc” in Tinton Falls, NJ who appears to have licensed the Swiss Army trademark.

First off, let me describe where and why I bought this bag. It was a local purchase at Best Buy, the local big-box electronics retailer, which I tend to avoid. In my search for an understated bag that I could fit a camera+lens and additional two lenses in, I noticed this bag on Best Buy’s website as being available in the store. The price was around $60, which was on the borderline of being overpriced, but I’ll attribute that to “Swiss Army” licensing costs, warranty, and paying more to buy locally. I specifically bought this bag because it doesn’t look like a camera bag and it had just the right amount of space inside for the trip I have coming up soon.

Bag attributes:
– Exterior Dimensions of 15″ length x 4.75″ width x 11.5″ height.
– Compartment Dimensions of 13″ length x 4″ width x 8″ height.
– The gray exterior material feels similar to the material that Dickies uses in their clothing. This is a good thing as it should hopefully be strong and resistant to scrapes.
– Limited Lifetime Warranty (excludes various things such as normal wear and tear)
– SKU number GA-7866-02F00
– Made in China

As you can see from the image above, it has space for around 3 camera related items. It comes with 3 movable panels (two large), that have sections of Velcro to hold them to the bag. This is pretty standard issue with camera bags. I did notice the Velcro in this bag doesn’t bond as strong as my other camera bags, but that’s actually a good thing as it makes moving the panels easier. The bag has two padded side flaps that can either be additional side padding or additional top padding depending on how you arrange them. I think those padded side panel flaps are a great idea, especially in a messenger style bag.

Additional compartments:
– The back has an open paneled sleeve for presumably papers or maybe a lens cloth.
– The main flap has a zippered sleeve for filters or other small items.
– A large zippered side pouch for a battery charger or similar.
– A quick access padded side pouch for a cell phone or similar.
– A large zippered compartment with various sleeves and one key clip.

In the image above, I have a Pentax K10D + FA 50mm f1.4 lens, Pentax D-FA 100mm WR Macro lens, and a Pentax DA 14mm f2.8 lens in the bag. They all fit comfortable without having to force anything in there. Both lenses on the sides have their hoods attached. As I mentioned before, this layout and size is one of the major reasons I bought the bag. Just enough space for my needs.

What I like about the bag:
– The bag is an understated design and doesn’t look like a standard camera bag. When traveling I think it’s important to keep your equipment understated and less noticeable. So just seeing a basic gray messenger bag won’t scream (expensive) camera gear.
– The size is perfect for a camera+lens and two additional lenses.
– The materials appear to be good quality, especially the exterior material.
– A nice number of functional compartments.
– Zippers appear to be high quality.
– The bag is light weight yet provides good padding to equipment in the main compartment.

What I’m not too fond of:
– The strap is not detachable, which isn’t a big issue, but I would have liked to see more material used in the connection between the strap and bag as it feels like only two layers of material.
– The strap padding is rounded, which doesn’t fit with the way I use messenger style bags. I prefer to have the flap opening resting against my body, but the strap padding is rounded for the opposite layout. So with a strap that can’t be replaced and curved padding it forces me to use the bag a certain way that isn’t what I normally do.
– I would have liked to see a piece of Velcro in addition to the two plastic clasps to hold the main flap to the bag when the cover is down.
– The handle, as with the strap, is laid out to be used in a specific way (eg. closer to the plastic clasps than the back of the bag). This puts additional stress on the plastic clasps if I were to use the handle (keep in mind that heavy expensive camera gear is in the bag).
– The main compartment can’t really protect the gear from rain due to the standard messenger bag design. Those padding flaps might help if they are covering the top of the bag though.

Conclusion:
Overall I like more about the bag than I dislike. It accomplishes my main goals in size, look, and functionality. While I’m not fond of the strap, handle layout, and only having two plastic clasps to hold the main flap to the bag body, those components are sufficient. The exterior material is nice, the color and look are a good level of understatement (I don’t want my bag to scream camera gear), and the camera specific features such as main compartment padding and additional padding flaps are top notch. While I feel $60 retail price is a bit expensive, I rarely see a bag in this layout and exterior look, so it was worth the price in that regard.

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