This is a bag for the females, the girls, the chicks, the ladies. This is a bag made for women. Women photographers. It’s chic and practical, light but resistant, and most of all, adapts to your needs. It’s a great offer for the urban shooter. The very fact that it exists shows how much the photography sector has evolved in the last years.
Women have been involved in photography since the beginning, but those were exceptions to the rule. You have heard of the saying, “Behind every great man there is a great woman,” right? They were the wives who printed for their famous husbands, discussed the possible evolutions of the first wooden boxes (Constance Talbot, Anna Atkins) and gave patronage (Queen Victoria) and incentive for a new science to outgrow its commercial application to become an art form (Frances Benjamin Johnston). Happily, a few decades later, came into the light, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman, Annie Leibovitz, and Ellen von Unwerth (to name a few). 21st century status: even if men have the upper hand by numbers and income, photography has opened up to the fairer sex. Lets not discuss the percentages. Lets not complain that it could be better. Ladies, let's enjoy and celebrate the fact that the retail sector is producing photography accessories just for us! It is the most vivid statement that women photographers are making waves; they have become a market worth attending to.
The Valencia bag is here! Well apparently it has been for a little while, I just discovered it only recently. I have had many bags to put my photography gear in. When I got my first camera it was the small one with a strap, when I was a full-time assistant it was the belt bag, when I started shooting on location it was the military back-pack with its thousand clipable pouches, and when I started traveling it was the roller-included armored suitcase. They all came and still come in handy, each has its advantages. I don’t believe there is one bag that can fulfill all my expectations. But the Valencia bag, signed by Aide de Camp, comes close to becoming my favorite Mary Poppins bag for the urban jungle. It comes in black or sable brown. I got the latter. Some key points below.
A two-bag option in one. How many times have you had a camera bag either too big or too small, depending on your assignments? I have stopped counting. The Valencia has an inner pouch that can be used as an organizer, or a dedicated camera bag with its own carrying straps. This option is always there, you do not have to decide in advance. My fickle feminine nature as well as the nature of the business of photography has been attended to.
This is not exclusively a camera bag; it has the look of a handbag. You can grab it for meetings with a client or any other social event, whether they serve beer or champagne. You will finally not need to explain your profession when the pretty people eye the horror dangling from your shoulders. My flat mate, a self-proclaimed, bag-addicted socialite female wanted to “borrow” (understand “steal”) it from me the moment I got the parcel. Happily I had a review to do, now that it is out I might have to resort to hiding it, or always wearing it. Sorry I digress, the point is, it is a bag that will satisfy the fashionista in you.
The bag is made of water resistant nylon exterior, and leather trim and details. It is not light, it’s super light. I tried weighing it but my old-school apparatus did not seem to detect that something was hanging on its hook.
The bag might be feather light, but I managed to pack 14 kilograms of equipment in there, and nothing cracked or even grunted. I did not do a tugging war with it yet but when you look closely at the stitching and the details, you feel pretty confident you won’t need gaffer any time soon.
Enough inner and outer pockets for the little things. Sure my 511 Army backpack has more (all 21 of them), and it is great until you literally loose something in your back pack and find it after a month. Well now at least I have two sets of keys to my flat, and I figured out that my neighbor is not a psychopath after all since he let me sleep on his couch for a night (the socialite flat mate was, as expected, at a party). Digressing again – its just one of those days. The Valencia also features a pocket that becomes a trolley sleeve so when you are changing terminals or waiting for your train you can strap it to your rolling suitcase and avoid an unwanted gym session when jet lag is getting the best of you.
The small bag holds in the padded pouch the essentials of the mainstream photographer; a body, two medium sized lenses (28-70mm and a 100mm Macro for example), battery, charger, cards, and card reader. I also added my two phones, my wallet, my flashlight, a foldable MacGyver object, and sunglasses. Put that bag in the bigger bag and you can add an extra 15 inch laptop with its charger, iPad, a small document holder or notepad, a hard drive, a light meter, and an eye-viewer (Check out the video, they did a better job at packing more things then I did).
All of that would be basic camera gear for a studio shoot for me. For those who got carried away when I said “Mary Poppins” earlier, sorry to disappoint you. You might not be able to stash your 4x5 Sinar kit in there. Let’s keep it real. But it can do the trick for a weekend get-away in style.
The combination of all these elements makes the Valencia a weapon of choice for the travelers. First of all you can cheat the baggage allowance of air companies. Yeah, I realize that raising this point is morally questionable and my mamma would be disappointed with me, but lets face it: the actual regulations are a nightmare for the photographer. The last time I flew with Air Emirates, they weighed my carry on (the army backpack) and refused to take into account the nature of my profession. I was allowed seven kilograms on board of the plane but was boasting sixteen. They said they accept, without weighing it, a “female purse” but the bigger carry-on bag has to go on the scale. I had to hide my laptop in my pants, batteries in my socks and use all the pockets in my clothes to stash the excess weight and get checked-in. If I had the Valencia at that time, the heaviest would be in my cheeky “female purse” and I would have avoided the weird looks from the security guys. Moreover the fact that the Valencia has the exterior look of a normal bag is a godsend when you want to avoid the tourist stigma and/or potentially getting mugged for your equipment. Granted, if you are walking in the slums with more gold around your neck than Mr. T, the Valencia won’t save you, but you get the general drift. Thieves are less adamant to get you if they don’t know what they are taking risks for.
No bag is perfect. This one is best suited for urban scenarios than trekking up Mount Kilimanjaro. But that is not a default, it is merely its nature. I have found two minuses worth mentioning so far. The first is that this bag is on the expensive side. 369 dollars. Quality, versatility, and style has its price. The second is the material: what should not be an issue in the black version of the Valencia, could be one for the brown. The nylon exterior is smooth, sleek and a bit shiny, which is great when you put the smaller bag in the bigger one, it just slides in there without any drama. Nevertheless, I do wonder if it will stain. I am very gifted in the two left feet department. I guess all my focus is used up on my shoots, which results in me finding very creative ways, every day, to spill mocha lattes or anything that has potential to damage materials. The only way to find out would be to gingerly throw some greasy potato chips, and see if the bag is stain resistant. But if you don’t mind, I have a busy schedule tomorrow and would prefer to enjoy my Valencia one more day. Yes I know, I have no journalistic integrity.
To check out the technical specifications, visit the Aide de Camp website and browse through their other offers.